I’ll shortly be buying a dual-cab 4X4 ute as a Loaded4X4 project vehicle, well I will as soon as I can decide which one to buy. A frustrating month has been spent thoroughly researching the current crop of utes and I still haven’t managed to come up with a clear winner.
None of them tick all the boxes. Some of them are gob-smackingly over-priced and most of them are varying degrees of inadequate off the showroom floor. They’ll deal with moderate duty work or very basic off-roading, but as a general rule, anything more will require after-market parts and modifications.
I’ll write more about my search for the right Loaded4X4 project vehicle soon, but for now I’m going to list what I think sucks about the current crop of 4X4 dual-cab utes.
Now don’t think this means that I hate dual cab utes, I don’t. I just hate a bunch of things about them.
The 10 things I hate about 4X4 dual cab utes
1. Shit suspension. I’m not talking about the ride here (that’s a separate hate altogether), I’m talking about the rubbish manufacturers bolt underneath these buses to stop them sitting on their tyres. Stick you head under a Triton and you could be mistaken for thinking the shocks were fly-screen door closers. You’ll be lucky to get 20,000kms out of any of the shocks and springs fitted to these utes. Is that good enough when you are forking out anywhere from $35,000 to $60,000+?
2. Crap tyres. 4X4 utes as a general rule are fitted with cheap Highway Terrain (HT) tyres rather than a decent All Terrain (AT). These rubbish tyres will have no grip in the wet and they’ll last forever if you let them (a lifetime of surprises on every corner if you’re up for it). They offer no grip off-road and no hint of safety on-road. Yes, it’s another expensive ‘part’ that needs changing to make your new ute ‘serviceable’.
3. Crap tyres and they’re the wrong size. See the above pic? Something is crook in Tallarook with those tyres! Instead of running a sensible size – say a 265/75/16 or it’s 17” equivalent with around a 32″ diameter – manufacturers choose to downsize to a 30” or 31” diameter tyre for the Australian market. We then drive around with a speedo that is out (it’s calibrated for larger tyres in other markets) by close to 10 per-cent, which is allowed by law, but completely bloody stupid. You need to fit bigger tyres if you want an accurate speedo and wish to reclaim that inch of lost ground clearance under the diff pumpkin. I guess the saving grace is that you needed to change the tyres because they were crap, so fixing the speedo is a just a bonus, right?
4. Drum brakes. Can you believe that in this day and age, you can pay $60,000 plus for a 4X4 dual-cab ute, that compared to an equivalent wagon is, more expensive, missing half the back of the body and two seats, has leaf-sprung rear suspension (rather than a multi-link coil arrangement) and rear DRUM BRAKES! Land Rover was building utes with coil sprung live axle rears and disc brakes two decades ago.
5. Factory side steps. We’ve recently returned from a trip to the High Country with Ford’s XLT Ranger. The factory sidesteps reduce clearance by what must be close to four inches. Four inches is a hell of a lot for a 4X4 with a Ranger sized wheelbase. We may as well have been driving an AWD SUV. It’s a 4X4 so why not design a factory sidestep that offers clearance, protection and you guessed it…a step. It can’t be that bloody difficult can it?
6. Factory specials. You know how it goes, and it’s very popular with these utes. Right now there are at least two over-priced ‘specials’ on offer. Take a mid-spec ute, black out the wheels and the wheel arch flares, add a tonneau cover, a black nudge bar, a black sports bar, some matt black stick on vinyl bits, maybe a diff-lock (good!), give it a name like ‘sports’ or ‘FX’ or ‘Black Edition’ and flog it for more than the top-spec ute with all the fruit. The people who buy these ‘sticker specials’ must have lost their minds.
7. Factory accessories. Besides being ludicrously over-priced they are often poorly designed and butt-ugly in the extreme. Is it really that difficult to design good looking, legal, safe and desirable accessories? You’d have to have rocks in your head if you spend good money on this stuff. Go check out ARB and TJM.
8. Styling. Point me towards one seriously good looking ute, and don’t say “Ranger” because you’re wrong. There isn’t one. HiLux needs its lower jaw broken and realigned, Triton looks North Korean (has a hint of crazy), BT-50 South Korean, Ranger is a bland box, Amarok is a bland box with harder edges, Colorado has a hot body but a face like a smashed-crab and D-MAX, according to the designers, looks like a Killer Whale… If you squint and the light is right, the Navara might encourage a bit of trouser action, but only a bit. Thankfully we can fit bar work and larger tyres!
9. Plastic steering wheels. Circa $50,000 utes with plastic steering wheels! Almost as unbelievable as drum brakes.
10. Diff locks and Traction Control. The two should peacefully coexist. There is currently no such thing as a Traction Control system that is as good as a locking differential. For the money being asked, all of these utes should have a standard rear diff-lock across their 4X4 range and engaging the diff-lock should not kill the Traction Control. Why not leave the Traction Control working on the front wheels when the rear locker is engaged?
Now there’s a thought.