The six vehicles vying for 4X4 Of The Year (4X4OTY) are here for one reason: they are the best all-new or significantly revised four-wheel drives from the last 12 months.
The vehicles here include two examples of Land Rover’s all-new Discovery, one with a four-cylinder diesel engine, one with a V6 diesel. Then there’s the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, a new addition to the Grand Cherokee range that’s been ‘factory customised’ for off-road duties. Also new is the Mercedes-Benz G-Class Professional 300, a ‘workhorse’ five-door wagon that’s new to the G-Wagen line-up.
Those four new 4x4s are joined by two other that are significantly revised. One is the Isuzu MU-X and the other the Haval H9, both of which have upgraded engines complemented by new automatic gearboxes.
These six vehicles come together by chance rather than design, as is the nature of what’s new in any one year, and from all corners of the globe – China, Germany, Japan, the UK and the USA.
Prices range from $45K to more than $110K, and, somewhat ironically, the most expensive vehicle here is in many ways the most basically equipped, while the least costly vehicle is in some ways the most lavishly equipped. This diversity is countered by the fact that they are all wagons and that there are no utes here, at a time when utes dominate the 4x4 market. Again, this is largely by chance.
Predictably, all but one has a diesel engine, three of them being 3.0-litre V6s, one a 3.0-litre four and the fifth a 2.0-litre four. All of these diesels have turbos of course, with the smallest of them – the 2.0-litre four – having a sophisticated bi-turbo arrangement, while all of the 3.0-litre diesels have a single turbo. Making it an all-turbo affair, the Haval H9’s 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder is also turbocharged.
In another sign of the times, all the engines are backed by automatic gearboxes with no fewer than four German ZF eight-speeders joined by an Aisin six-speed (in the MU-X) and an in-house five-speed in the G-Wagen. There’s commonality, too, in general design in the 4x4 systems, with five of the six being full-time and only the MU-X having a part-time arrangement.
This year our week-long 4X4OTY test procedure involved set-piece off-road, rocky trail driving, general long-distance touring on a variety of roads, seating tests (including the third-row where fitted), and under-bonnet and load-area inspections.
As ever, the 4X4OTY contenders are not judged against one another but against our five award criteria, listed below. Each of our judges (in blind voting) awards every vehicle points out of ten for each of the five criteria. All the points from all the judges are then tallied and the vehicle with the most number of points wins. It’s simple really.
The Judging Criteria
Value for money
What the vehicle offers rated against what it costs. Expensive vehicles can be good value just as cheap vehicles can be poor value.
Breaking new ground
To what extent does this vehicle introduce new and effective technology?
Each vehicle is rated on how well it is designed and built.
How practical is the vehicle off-road and away from service centres, and how easily can it be made more practical via aftermarket enhancement?
Doing the job
Simply, how well does the vehicle do the job it’s designed for?