2021 Dual-cab ute megatest: Performance and braking comparison

We test the acceleration and braking performance of 11 dual-cab 4x4 utes available in Australia from Mitsubishi, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Isuzu, Jeep, Mazda, Ssangyong and GWM

2021 Dual-Cab Ute mega test performance comparison
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Outright acceleration might not be a huge priority for dual-cab utes, but with many of these vehicles destined to carry or tow heavy loads, engine performance is still extremely important.

To determine the grunt of our competitors we’ll undertake two acceleration tests, a full-throttle run from standstill to 100km/h to measure outright acceleration performance and a 60-100km/h run designed to simulate overtaking performance.

In both instances we’ll count the best number from the three runs attempted, with each run completed in high-range four-wheel drive to prevent any possible traction loss from influencing the results.

Arguably even more important than how these utes accelerate is how they decelerate. To measure this we’ll conduct two braking tests, both from 100km/h to stop, using both wet and dry surfaces.

Judges and writing team: Scott Newman, Byron Mathioudakis, Louis Cordony, Evan Spence

Photography: Ellen Dewar, Alastair Brook, Cristian Brunelli

Catch the full series here

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Ford Ranger Raptor Wet Weather Handling
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To ensure consistency, each attempt will take place on the same piece of tarmac. However, while the dry braking figure will be the best achieved from three runs, the wet braking figure is an average of all three runs.

While every measure possible is taken to ensure a consistent surface, including re-wetting the surface after each vehicle, there is inevitably some inconsistency in a wet surface over a period of time so taking the average of the three runs is an attempt to mitigate any variation.

Finally, we’ll assess the acceleration of each contender from 20-60km/h when laden with a 500kg pallet and when towing Street Machine’s Turbo Taxi.

Arguably even more important than how these utes accelerate is how they decelerate.

GWM Ute Cannon-L – 5/10

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 GWM Ute Cannon Performance Test Timing
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Specifications
Engine:
2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, turbo
Power/Torque: 120kW/400Nm
Weight: 2045kg
Tyres: 265/60 R18 Cooper Discoverer HTS

The Times
0-100km/h: 11.38sec
60-100km/h: 6.7sec
100-0km/h: 43.37m (dry)
100-0km/h: 58.65m (wet)
20-60km/h (laden): 4.5sec
20-60km/h (towing): N/A

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 GWM Ute Cannon Performance Test
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At the risk of stating the obvious, the GWM Ute feels like a big vehicle propelled by a small motor. Which is exactly what it is.

But whereas the Ford Ranger’s 2.0-litre twin-turbo-diesel shrugs off its lack of capacity, GWM’s 2.0-litre single-turbo four-cylinder diesel produces just 120kW and 400Nm and has to use every one of them to motivate the Ute.

Given its paucity of power, the outright numbers are quite respectable, largely thanks to the smooth-shifting eight-speed auto making the most of the available grunt.

Unfortunately, dry braking performance is terrible with even its best effort sailing beyond 43m and its wet braking is little better, requiring almost 60m to come to a stop.

Equally unfortunate is the fact that the GWM is supplied without a tow bar so no figure could be recorded, and its laden 20-60km/h is a below-average 4.5sec.

Ssangyong Musso Ultimate XLV – 5/10

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Ssang Yong Musso Unlimited XLV Drive
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Specifications
Engine:
2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel, turbo
Power/Torque: 133kW/420Nm
Weight: 2170kg
Tyres: 255/60 R18 108H Nexen Npriz RH7

The Times
0-100km/h: 11.46sec
60-100km/h: 6.7sec
100-0km/h: 41.51m (dry)
100-0km/h: 56.78m (wet)
20-60km/h (laden): 4.2sec
20-60km/h (towing): 7.7sec

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Ssang Yong Musso Unlimited XLV Performance Testing
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The long-wheelbase XLV version of the Sssangyong Musso is b-i-g. Its size means plenty of weight, which the otherwise impressive 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel struggles to move in an enthusiastic manner.

There feels to be a solid spread of available grunt but the stopwatch reveals that nothing is happening in a hurry, its acceleration numbers lagging behind the GWM.

An eight-speed auto would help the engine keep in the meat of its torque band and improve acceleration (though it would also add even more weight).

Braking performance is OK, nothing more, taking more than 40m to stop from 100km/h in the dry and almost 57m in the wet.

The Musso shrugs off the 500kg load, taking 20-60km/h in 4.2sec, though there is some transmission shunt at low speed and towing from 20-60km/h slightly bettering the Navara at 7.7sec.

Mitsubishi Triton GLS – 5.5/10

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Mitubishi Triton GLS Handling
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Specifications
Engine:
2.4-litre four-cylinder diesel, turbo
Power/Torque: 133kW/430Nm
Weight: 1935kg
Tyres: 265/60 R18 110H Dunlop Grandtrek

The Times
0-100km/h: 11.36sec
60-100km/h: 6.0sec
100-0km/h: 38.95m (dry)
100-0km/h: 62.76m (wet)
20-60km/h (laden): 4.2sec
20-60km/h (towing): 8.2sec

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Mitubishi Triton GLS Wet Braking
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The Mitsubishi Triton displays why it was important to average the wet braking, as on its first run a particularly sodden surface leads to a complete lack of retardation and a whopping 76m needed to stop.

This run is ignored, but it just goes to show that in very poor road conditions even our testers’ wet braking distances can lengthen considerably. The Triton’s fortunes don’t improve much, taking an average of almost 63m to stop in the wet; it wears the same Dunlop Grandtrek tyres as the Ranger – coincidence?

Its dry deceleration is much more respectable, but acceleration isn’t a Triton strong suit. The on-paper figures of 133kW/430Nm from its comparatively small 2.4-litre four-cylinder diesel result in leisurely straight-line performance.

The engine doesn’t struggle to haul the Triton’s bulk but is happy to take its time doing so. Its roll-on acceleration is more competitive but it makes plenty of noise in the process, especially higher in the rev range.

Funnily enough, its performance is much more competitive when lugging loads, taking 4.2sec from 20-60km/h with 500kg aboard. Its 8.2sec towing effort is slow, but the powertrain feels unstressed.

Ford Ranger Raptor – 6/10

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Ford Ranger Raptor Performance Road Handling
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Specifications
Engine:
2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, twin-turbo
Power/Torque: 157kW/500Nm
Weight: 2332kg
Tyres: 285/70 R17 116/113S BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2

The Times
0-100km/h: 10.85sec
60-100km/h: 6.2sec
100-0km/h: 46.16m (dry)
100-0km/h: 61.45m (wet)
20-60km/h (laden): 4.2sec
20-60km/h (towing): 6.7sec

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Ford Ranger Raptor On Road Performance
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Can the Ford Ranger Raptor get a real engine, please? To be fair, the 2.0-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel is an impressive unit, but it’s out of its depth here.

The problem is that the Ranger Raptor doesn’t just weigh a tonne, it weighs more than 2.3 of them and despite the 10-speed auto’s best efforts at keeping the engine on song – evidenced by the respectable 6.2sec time from 60-100km/h – there is just too much mass.

This Ford Performance product might not be about outright acceleration, but it’s almost two seconds slower than the Ranger XLT with the same engine thanks to that extra weight and the rolling resistance of those massive BFGoodrich tyres.

Under braking those tyres also handicap the Ranger Raptor, with a truly appalling stopping distance of more than 46m in the dry and a 61.5m effort in the wet that’s little better. 

There’s little wrong with the Raptor’s laden performance, posting impressive figures, but that fancy coil rear-end doesn’t appreciate the added weight and sags significantly. 

Jeep Gladiator Rubicon – 6/10

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Jeep Gladiator On Road Test
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Specifications
Engine:
3.6-litre V6 petrol
Power/Torque: 209kW/347Nm
Weight: 2215kg
Tyres: 255/75 R17 111/1080 BFGoodrich Mud Terrain T/A KM230

The Times
0-100km/h: 9.18sec
60-100km/h: 5.2sec
100-0km/h: 44.2m (dry)
100-0km/h: 66m (wet)
20-60km/h (laden): 3.4sec
20-60km/h (towing): 6.3sec

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Jeep Gladiator Performance Test
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In a segment dominated by turbocharged four-cylinder diesels, a naturally aspirated petrol V6 is both a breath of fresh air and literal music to our ears.

Figures of 209kW/347Nm would be reasonable in a sportscar and they shift the massive Jeep Gladiator Rubicon well enough, accompanied by a howl that isn’t a million miles away from a Nissan 370Z.

Unfortunately, like the Ranger Raptor, the Gladiator Rubicon wears chunky BFGoodrich tyres and they result in diabolical braking performance.

Stopping from 100km/h in the dry takes more than 44m but in the wet the Jeep just sails across the surface like it's Teflon, taking 66m to come to a halt. That’s between 10-15m more than most other dual-cab utes and could be the difference between having a serious accident and avoiding one completely.

Its power makes itself known when laden with the quickest 20-60km/h of 3.4sec and second-quickest towing 20-60km/h of 6.3sec, but the Gladiator isn’t particularly comfortable doing so.

Nissan Navara ST-X – 6.5/10

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Nissan Navara ST X On Road Handling
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Specifications
Engine:
2.3-litre four-cylinder diesel, twin-turbo
Power/Torque: 140kW/450Nm
Weight: 2134kg
Tyres: 255/60 R18 108H Toyo Open Country

The Times
0-100km/h: 11.32sec
60-100km/h: 6.4sec
100-0km/h: 41.39m (dry)
100-0km/h: 55.68m (wet)
20-60km/h (laden): 4.4sec
20-60km/h (towing): 7.8sec

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Nissan Navara ST X Performance Acceleration Test
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If we weren’t timing this, the new Nissan Navara ST-X would’ve fared much better. It feels punchy; the 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesel isn’t overly powerful at 140kW/450Nm but the seven-speed automatic makes the most of it.

The engine revs keenly to almost 4500rpm, making the Navara feel really quite sprightly and its lacklustre figures all the more surprising. Still, it’s quite a pleasant experience, but is that preferable to a more rugged engine that’s more powerful?

Braking is quite poor, taking well over 40m to stop in the dry, though its mid-50m effort in the wet is more competitive. An unusual case, the Navara: the data is quite damning but from behind the wheel it’s much more impressive.

It struggles slightly under load, taking 4.4sec and 7.8sec from 20-60km/h when laden and towing respectively, numbers that are towards the tail end of the pack.

Mazda BT-50 Thunder – 7/10

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Mazda BT 50 Thunder Off Road Ride Drive
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Specifications
Engine:
3.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, turbo
Power/Torque: 140kW/450Nm
Weight: 2213kg
Tyres: 265/60 R18 110S Bridgestone Dueler H/T

The Times
0-100km/h: 10.84sec
60-100km/h: 6.3sec
100-0km/h: 38.82m (dry)
100-0km/h: 52.74m (wet)
20-60km/h (laden): 4.4sec
20-60km/h (towing): 7.3sec

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Mazda BT 50 Thunder Wet Braking
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Momentary confusion as I swear I just got out of the D-Max yet everything is the same, before remembering that the Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50 are identical under the skin (and above the skin in certain places). Such is life in the age of platform sharing.

As such, it too is powered by a 140kW/450Nm 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, but don’t think that means performance is identical.

Given engines, transmissions, wheels and tyres ARE identical, the various bits ‘n’ bobs Mazda has applied to this Thunder must weigh a fair bit as it tips the scales by 83kg over the Isuzu and takes almost 11sec to reach 100km/h. It’s slower from 60-100km/h than the D-Max, too.

The BT-50 shines under brakes, though, stopping well short of 40m in the dry and just over 50m in the wet, the smallest distance between the two figures of any of the utes tested.

Hefting those accessories also makes it a couple of tenths slower than the D-Max when laden but figures aside, the Mazda is relatively unburdened by its added weight.

Toyota HiLux Rugged X – 7/10

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Toyota Hilux Rugged X Drive
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Specifications
Engine:
2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel, turbo
Power/Torque: 150kW/500Nm
Weight: 2316kg
Tyres: 265/65 R17 112S AT25 Dunlop Grandtrek

The Times
0-100km/h: 10.7sec
60-100km/h: 5.8sec
100-0km/h: 39.7m (dry)
100-0km/h: 57.5m (wet)
20-60km/h (laden): 4.2sec
20-60km/h (towing): 7.2sec

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Toyota Hilux Rugged X Rear
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The flagship Rugged X is the heaviest of all Toyota HiLux variants but the newly uprated engine shrugs off the burden.

As an auto-only proposition, it receives the full 150kW/500Nm whack from the 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel, 80Nm more than with the manual available on lesser variants.

Granted, 0-100km/h in a shade under 11sec isn’t going to set too many hearts racing but combined with competitive overtaking acceleration the HiLux doesn’t seem short of grunt, feeling stronger than the numbers suggest.

Braking performance is average in the dry at a tick under 40m but on the poor side in the wet, requiring close to 60m to stop.

As when unladen, the HiLux’s figures of 4.2sec and 7.2sec from 20-60km/h when laden and towing respectively might not be too eye-popping, but the Toyota performs the tasks with relative ease.

Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain – 7.5/10

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Isuzu D Max X Terrain Performance
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Specifications
Engine:
3.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, turbo
Power/Torque: 140kW/450Nm
Weight: 2130kg
Tyres: 265/60 R18 110S Bridgestone Dueler H/T

The Times
0-100km/h: 10.1sec
60-100km/h: 6.0sec
100-0km/h: 38.44m (dry)
100-0km/h: 57.36m (wet)
20-60km/h (laden): 4.0sec
20-60km/h (towing): 6.9sec

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Isuzu D Max X Terrain Wet Braking
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The D-Max shoots off the line eagerly, even chirping its tyres. This enthusiasm doesn’t last, with acceleration tailing off as speeds increase, but the 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel offers respectable mid-range muscle.

It would benefit from more gears than its current six to exploit the engine’s relatively narrow power band. The noise is also a definite reminder of the Isuzu’s workhorse roots, with plenty of diesel clatter at all revs.

Braking performance is impressive for a vehicle like this, with a consistent and confidence-inspiring sub-40m dry stop. Wet braking is quite poor at more than 57m and on the final stop, some steering correction is required to keep the D-Max straight despite all electronic stability programs being activated.

With strong low- to mid-range torque, the D-Max loves to haul and records impressive 20-60km/h figures of 4.0sec laden and 6.9sec when towing.

Ford Ranger XLT Bi-Turbo – 7.5/10

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Ford Ranger XLT Wet Weather Handling
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Specifications
Engine:
2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, twin-turbo
Power/Torque: 157kW/500Nm
Weight: 2197kg
Tyres: 265/65 R17 112T Dunlop Grandtrek

The Times
0-100km/h: 8.93sec
60-100km/h: 5.0sec
100-0km/h: 42.06m (dry)
100-0km/h: 63.68m (wet)
20-60km/h (laden): 3.6sec
20-60km/h (towing): 6.0sec

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Ford Ranger XLT Performance
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The Ford Ranger XLT is definitely the sprinting star of our assembled group. Its engine may offer just two litres but a pair of turbos help produce a healthy 157kW and 500Nm, returning excellent acceleration results in all areas.

It makes a reasonably sporty noise as far as diesels go and there’s an impressive spread of torque but the star of the show has to be the 10-speed automatic, which always keeps the engine on song.

The figures prove the efficacy of this approach and the transmission does a good job of figuring out which of its myriad ratios it wants at any given moment.

Sadly, the Ranger blots its copybook with sub-standard braking. It wears similar all-terrain tyres to its rivals – in this case Dunlop Grandtreks – but takes more than 42m to come to a stop from 100km/h.

That figure blows out to almost 64m on a wet surface, a poor performance that prevents the Ranger XLT from being the clear performance leader.

Toyota HiLux SR5 – 7.5/10

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Toyota Hilux SR 5 On Road Review
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Specifications
Engine:
2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel, turbo
Power/Torque: 150kW/500Nm
Weight: 2383kg
Tyres: 265/60 R18 110H Bridgestone Dueler H/T 684

The Times
0-100km/h: 11.1sec
60-100km/h: 6.0sec
100-0km/h: 39.3m (dry)
100-0km/h: 52.66m (wet)
20-60km/h (laden): 4.5sec
20-60km/h (towing): 7.2sec

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Toyota Hilux SR 5 Drive Review
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The Toyota HiLux’s upgraded engine serves it well. The 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel now produces 150kW/500Nm (as an automatic; the manual is limited to 420Nm) and it feels every bit of it, pulling strongly through the rev range accompanied by an intense growl.

This particular SR5’s accelerative efforts are hampered somewhat by the significant weight of the steel tray, which adds almost 300kg to the HiLux’s mass.

Braking is an SR5 strong suit, with a sub-40m dry stop backed up by an impressive wet performance of just over 50m – the class of the field.

Like the Rugged X the SR5 is unflustered by hauling loads, though once again its figures suffer from the added weight. It might seem strange that this HiLux might top score when other utes were much quicker, but the score also takes into account that its impressive braking and its acceleration would be much more competitive when fitted with a standard tray.

Dual-cab ute performance testing summary

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 Isuzu D Max X Terrain Wet Weather Handling
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The Ford Ranger XLT would have walked this category if only it stopped as well as it went. Its poor braking is the only fly in the ointment of an otherwise dominant performance. 

Granted, it’s had plenty of development over its lifetime, but the fact that the oldest ute here has easily the most potent and refined drivetrain should have the other manufacturers looking at their feet sheepishly.

The D-Max/BT-50 twins are the best of the rest, the 3.0-litre turbodiesel doing no harm at all to Isuzu’s reputation of offering workhorse engines. But a word must go to the HiLux’s uprated powerplant, which is definitely a step in the right direction.

Jeep’s petrol-powered Gladiator does the numbers but it would seem reasonable to assume many would trade its outright grunt for the better efficiency and low-end torque of a decent diesel.

4 X 4 Australia Comparisons 2021 May 21 2021 Dual Cab Ute Comparison Gladiator
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Speaking of the Gladiator, both it and the Ranger Raptor are evidence of the detrimental effect that fitting aggressive off-road tyres has to the on-road behaviour of a dual-cab. Both displayed a disturbing lack of braking ability on wet and dry surfaces, so take this into account if you’ve modified your ute to go bush.

At the tail end of the field are the GWM Ute and Ssanyong Musso, whose small capacity engines suggest there is no replacement for displacement (Ford’s Bi-Turbo unit being the exception that proves the rule).

Mitsubishi’s Triton is also disappointing for both its lack of urge and noisy operation; Nissan’s Navara is little quicker but much more pleasant to drive.

 

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Associate Editor
Siteassets Authors Scott Newman
Scott Newman is associate editor of Motor, Australia’s leading performance motoring outlet.
 
Ellen Dewar
Photography
Alastair Brook
Photography
Cristian Brunelli
Photography

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