To be eligible for 4WD Of The Year, a vehicle has to be completely new that year, or significantly revised. By 'significantly revised' we mean a major mechanical change like a new engine or drivetrain, or a new body. Styling, equipment or interior facelifts don't cut the mustard.
To be eligible, the vehicle in question also has to have a full-size spare wheel either as standard, or available as an option. No full-size spare equals no start. On this count, the Peugeot 4007, Volvo XC60, Audi Q5 and Mitsubishi Outlander were all eliminated automatically.
That left a number of other soft-roaders that do come with a full-size spare to consider. These included the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe, Lexus RX350, Lexus RX400h and the Nissan Murano. The fact that so many new soft roaders didn't go down the space-saver route is good news but at the end of the day they are still soft roaders and with so many strong candidates among the ranks of the serious 4WDs, we couldn't warrant their inclusion.
The new 'serious' 4WDs included the Prado 150 Series, the Land Rover Discovery 4, the Range Rover Sport and Vogue, the new Land Rover Defender variants, the ML Series Triton, and the revised Jeep Wrangler. Further culling of the numbers saw the Wrangler and the Defender eliminated on the grounds that they are both variations on well-known themes while the Range Rover Vogue, with its new petrol 5.0-litre V8, was deemed to be too expensive in relation to the new Range Rover Sport with its new 3.0-litre TDV6.
In the end it came down to the Discovery 4 with its new TDV6 engine (in SE spec), the Range Rover Sport with the same engine (only one spec level), the top-spec ML Triton as this is the only model with all the new features as standard, and the Prado in both petrol and diesel guise. To us, these five vehicles represented an extremely strong field … a classic Land Rover verses Toyota battle with the wildcard Triton thrown in.
Find out which vehicle won in Australia’s leading offroad magazine, Overlander, on sale Wednesday Jan 27.