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4x4 Of The Year 2017: The Testing Track

By Dean Mellor, Fraser Stronach and Ron Moon | Photos Ellen Dewar, 03 Mar 2017 4x4OTY

best 4x4 of the year 2017 testing track

A variety of weather made this year’s route through the Vic High Country harder and more challenging than normal.


A variety of weather made this year’s route through the Vic High Country harder and more challenging than normal.

FOLLOWING the first two days of testing on the variety of tracks, obstacles and creek crossings at the Melbourne 4x4 Training and Proving Ground, situated just outside Werribee on the seemingly flat, billiard-like plains, it was time to head for the mountains of Eastern Victoria.

drivingThis year our trip took us along the Princess Highway then north on good bitumen roads to the small mountain enclave of Dargo, which always makes a great base for exploring the hills and valleys that surround this mountain township. We didn’t linger long, (not even for a pot in the pub!) just long enough to top up with fuel and supplies before we pointed the convoy west and took Shortcut Track across to Wonnangatta River Road. We followed this road to the flat, grassy patch of ground bordering the river at Kingwell Bridge.

Not content to merely sit down and watch the river meander past we hit the surrounding trails, taking the rocky, steep and scrambly climb up Conway Track. Luckily the weather had been dry and the track, while rough, tough and dusty, wasn’t too slippery. Surprisingly, all the vehicles in the group reached the top with hardly a worry; for most vehicles that’s a testimony to how good traction control has become in the last few years.

driving on trailsThe next morning our route took us to Eaglevale and across the Wonnangatta River for the long climb to the top of Mt Cynthia, with the wind beating us mercilessly as the film crew and photographers worked tirelessly to get some action shots. It’s a pretty steep climb but the track is in good condition, so it’s a bit of a doddle. Once on the Wombat Spur track we cruised along effortlessly and, with the weather starting to spit rain, we headed down the very steep Herne Spur track. 

I hadn’t been on this track for years and, while it is still steep, it isn’t what it used to be.

river drivingWe then wandered up the valley, crossing the Wonnangatta River a few times before we got to the old historic Wonnangatta Station site and its big, old stand of trees. By now the spit of rain had turned to a steady drizzle and by the time we had lunch and headed off the rain was getting heavier. As we started the climb out of the valley on the Wonnangatta Track the rain became a deluge and very quickly the track became a running stream. Still, this is probably the easiest route into and out of the valley, linking up with East Riley Road before joining with the good but narrow dirt of the East Buffalo River Road.

Just when we thought we’d be in camp at a reasonable hour and in time to get organised, we came across nature’s roadblock, a fallen tree. Earlier we had to zig zag around a few fallen trees, but most had been cleared by work crews from 4WD Victoria and Parks Victoria before the official track opening a few weeks previously. Thanks to them for their huge and continual efforts.

campfireThat evening we pulled up at one of the pleasant little camps on the East Buffalo River, waking the next morning to a chorus of birds that were having a hard time competing with the full voice of the local kookaburras. A circuit of winding dirt roads capped off 2017’s 4X4OTY as we headed to the Hume Highway, some of us turning south while other judges turned north for places further afield.
A week of testing to find the best new 4WD released in 2016 was over – well, until we do it all again next year.


best 4x4 of the year 2017HOME: 4X4 OF THE YEAR 2017
The seven most interesting 4x4 vehicles of 2016 get together for a week to determine the 4x4 Of The Year.

best 4x4 of the year 2017 finalistsTHE FINALISTS
Meet the seven most interesting 4x4 vehicles of 2016 battling it out to be crowned 4x4 Of The Year.

best 4x4 of the year 2017 results THE RESULTS
Only one of the seven best 4x4s from 2016 can be crowned 4x4 Of The Year 2017

best 4x4 of the year4X4 OF THE YEAR HOME
Finding Australia's Best 4x4s