While it was exciting for us to have a bunch of new – not just updated – cars to test in 2015, the Ford Everest was just too good, winning the 4x4 Of The Year title.
As the week wore on and we sat down around the campfire each night to reflect, it became obvious that the Everest was winning favour with our judges. All the comments about it were positive, but so too were many comments about the other cars on test.
Interestingly, the only updated car in the group, the Toyota Prado, was also hard to fault and no-one had a bad thing to say about it. In reality, there were no duds in the group and every one of them was in the running for the top award.
Regardless of how much judges might say they like a car, or not, during a week, that isn’t how the winner is determined. Each of the judges, seven of them this year, scored each of the vehicles according to five 4X4OTY criteria, to give each car a score out of 50. It’s black and white – if the judges are fair dinkum, what they like or don’t like shouldn’t come in to the equation. What works, and what doesn’t work, is what matters. When the judge’s scores are compiled, we add them up to find the winner.
The Everest scored 259 points out of a possible 350, the Prado was close behind with 250 points, and The Hilux scored 244 points in total. Five of our seven judges scored the Everest highest, while the Hilux and Prado topped one judge’s score each.
Even though we had a bumper crop of new 4x4s, it was disappointing to find that very few of them raised the bar – by introducing new technology to the segment or taking the lead away from established class favourites – in their selected category. None of the new utes have had full-time 4x4 or the latest electronic safety systems introduced to their ranges. In some cases these things are available in other markets, but the manufacturers have chosen not to give them to Australian drivers.
The tech and features in the Everest might not be all new, but the new model has brought these features down to a more affordable price point so that more Australian families can drive in safer, more capable 4x4 cars.
Ford has done a stellar job to refine the Ranger’s powertrain to suit the Everest and put it in a wagon body that stands up to the best in the class. The Everest has given buyers another alternative in the 4x4 wagon market and it’s one that is worthy of their consideration. It is a car that the engineers of Ford Australia can be proud of.
To be in contention for the 4X4OTY title a four-wheel drive had to be all-new or have major upgrades, and 2015 bred a bumper crop of vehicles for us to consider. 4x4 one-tonne utes were the hottest property on the market, with all the big names being either replaced with new models or heavily revised. These included Australia’s best-selling 4x4, the Toyota Hilux, which was also the most anticipated new model release of the year. There was no question about the Hilux making our list of finalists.
Five of our six finalists were new models, with two of those bringing all-new nameplates to the 4x4 fold – the Ford Everest and Toyota Fortuna. This was refreshing after a period of decline in new ‘real’ 4x4s and, while they’re not proper 4x4s like 70 Series Cruisers, old-school Patrols, or Jeep Wranglers, anything with low range and half-decent ability is okay in this era. The Toyota Prado was the only ‘old’ vehicle here but joined the finalists thanks to the inclusion of a new engine and gearbox, and it proved it’s still a handy tool to have in the shed.
To be in contention for the 4X4OTY title a vehicle must be all-new or have major upgrades such as a new powertrain and/or improved technology.
The field was split 50:50 between utes and wagons this year. Toyota’s Hilux, Mitsubishi’s Triton and Nissan’s Navara were all-new models, while others in the 4x4 ute class, such as Mazda’s BT-50 and Ford’s Ranger, have had only minor updates and didn’t qualify for contention.
An interesting point about this year’s finalists is they all have decent price points; no big-dollar pavement pounders made the field this time and the top ticket price was just $62,000, for the Prado, placing all of these rides in the budget of most new 4x4 buyers.
The one significant new luxury 4x4 from 2015 was the Range Rover Hybrid and, while its manufacturer, Land Rover, claims the hybrid is off-road capable, the benefits of any hybrid powertrain are only felt in urban driving and not when touring or off road. Any of the pure diesel powertrains are still a better call for the off-roading Rangie buyer.
So, with the field of finalists set, we reigned in our panel of expert road testers and took off for a week of tough evaluation. As always, the vehicles were not judged against each other, but against the established 4X4OTY criteria. This is what allows us to test utes alongside wagons, and luxury 4x4s against affordable family rides.
The 4x4OTY criteria
VALUE FOR MONEY is judged according to a vehicle’s equipment level, safety features and price relative to its direct competitors. Just because a vehicle has a high price doesn’t mean it’s not good value – in the same way a cheap car isn’t always good value.
BREAKING NEW GROUND refers to advancements in technology and design –how a vehicle has raised the bar in its class to take 4x4s to a higher level is judged. If a vehicle has the latest safety features, worthy engine technology or an advanced driveline, it will score well here.
BUILT TOUGH refers to how strong a vehicle is and how well it will cope with the rigours of tough off-road driving environments. Will it be up to the task or fall apart at the first hurdle?
BUSHABILITY is how well a vehicle is equipped for off-road travel. Suitability of the standard tyres for rough roads, touring range, available accessories and underbody protection are just some of the factors considered here. Is this a vehicle you would chose to drive around Australia the rough way, or is it best left to the suburbs?
DOING THE JOB is judged according to a vehicle’s design brief. Does a luxury vehicle have all the latest in comfort and convenience features and do they work in the real world? How well a ute carries a load, or a seven seater accommodates a family will all come in to play here.
Our judges’ final scores
MORE 4X4 OF THE YEAR
HOME: 4X4 OF THE YEAR 2016
On the shortlist for 4X4OTY 2016 were the Hilux, Triton, Fortuner, Prado, Navara and Everest.
The six best 4x4 vehicles of 2015 battling it out to be crowned 4x4 Of The Year 2016.
Only one of the six best 4x4s from 2015 can be crowned 4x4 Of The Year 2016
4X4 OF THE YEAR HOME
Finding Australia's Best 4x4s