All eight vehicles completed the 2000km test without major incident or problems, with tyre punctures and loose mudflaps being the only casualties.
Once the dust settled and the judges’ scores were in and tallied, the finishing order from the bottom up looked like this…
8th Place - SsangYong Rexton ELX
A well-put-together 4x4 family wagon with an excellent powertrain that would benefit greatly from a small lift and firmer springs and dampers, something not difficult to do. An off-road specific calibration of the electronic traction control is needed to make it a serious 4x4 contender, while a better thought-out third-row seat is needed for family duties.
7th Place - Mercedes-Benz X250d Progressive
Starting with what’s never been the best of the current utes, namely the Nissan Navara D23, Mercedes has done exceptionally well but still hasn’t produced a top-tier ute considering the asking price. It may be priced like a Mercedes-Benz, but it doesn’t perform like one. Hopefully the X-Class V6 will be better.
4x4 comparison: X350d v Amarok Ultimate 580
6th Place - HSV Colorado SportsCat+
The wheel/tyre package and suspension lift helps the SportsCat+ off-road, but HSV has concentrated on tightening the chassis for more of an on-road focus. A coarse powertrain, too, in this company.
5th Place - Mahindra Pik-Up S10
Despite the Pik-Up being the better-equipped S10 model, it’s still more crew-cab work truck than dual-cab 4x4 designed for recreational use. Nevertheless, it impressed everywhere and everyone. The single-cab version would be just the ticket as a budget farm ute.
4th Place - Ford Everest Trend
Wagons aren’t as functional as dual-cabs when you need to carry camping gear, recovery gear and fuel, which may have worked against the Everest in this company. Nevertheless, it offers impressive refinement, off-road capability, on-road dynamics and ride in a family-friendly package.
3rd Place - Volkswagen Amarok V6 Core
This is the driver’s car of this lot. Terrific performance, polished on-road dynamics, unsurpassed ease of operation and very capable off-road despite not having low range. Lots of performance potential with the engine, too, as even the factory tune (in other applications) is as strong as 220kW and 600Nm. Just not the thing if you want to tow a heavy camper trailer in the High Country.
2nd Place - Ford Ranger XLT
The Ranger’s new engine and gearbox is very impressive and brings new-found refinement, better fuel efficiency and a tad more performance than the 3.2; although, it can’t match the lazy 3.2-litre five-cylinder for charm or character. Suspension revisions that bring a more supple ride complement the refinement of the powertrain and make this a far more polished Ranger than its predecessor.
4x4 of the Year Winner - Ford Ranger Raptor
By not trying to be all things to all men, as all other dual-cabs try to be, the Raptor has come up with a winning formula based on a supple, well-controlled and sophisticated suspension. On any back road – the rougher the better – or any 4x4 track it works brilliantly and helps to make the Raptor an enormously fun-to-drive, competent and capable recreational 4x4 dual-cab.
It’s also proof that in the automotive world it’s always better to have more ‘chassis’ than ‘engine’. And while it’s not built for off-road racing, if there was a proper ‘production class’ (where you can only change tyres and brake linings beyond the mandatory safety mods) in something like the Finke Desert Race it would infinitely be better than any other showroom-stock 4x4.
More than anything else it’s a bold step into the world of task-specific factory customs, which is hopefully something we will see more of.
Judges' Total Scores
|Ford Ranger Raptor||308|
|Ford Ranger XLT||300|
|Volkswagen Amarok V6 Core||291|
|Ford Everest Trend||278|
|Mahindra Pik-Up S10||274|
|HSV Colorado SportsCat+||267|
|Mercedes-Benz X250d Progressive||255|
|SsangYong Rexton ELX||224|
*out of a possible total of 400