Posted in Automotive
What to Look for in a New Four Wheel Drive
In Australia, Four Wheel Drive (4WD) vehicles are becoming increasing popular for backcountry camping and off-roading. If you are a first time 4WD buyer, then it can be hard to know what type of car and what features will be best for driving in the outback, so here are some tips for finding the right one for you.
Types of 4WD
Before you start looking at individual cars, you should know about the different types of 4WD vehicles that are available to you. Each one of the following types has specific uses, so you can decide which one will suit your purposes best:
1. 4WD. These vehicles have a drivetrain that allows all four wheels to receive power from the engine simultaneously, and they can be switched manually from 2WD to 4WD for driving in low traction conditions such as dirt, gravel and mud. These are the best for the serious off-roader who wants complete control.
2. AWD. All wheel drive was introduced to describe vehicles that can drive with all four wheels on normal roads without experiencing poor control and excessive tyre and drivetrain wear. These vehicles not only make good recreational vehicles, but can also drive well in the city.
3. Soft Roader. These vehicles have the AWD traction enhancement, but lack the low-range gearing, driveline and suspension strength, and underbody protection of a true 4WD vehicle. Still, the higher ground clearance, more robust tyre design and longer suspension makes them better for leaving the pavement than regular sedans, as long as you stick to some semblance of formed road.
4. Crossover. These cars are a new category of AWD that use body components that make for a lighter weight and more fuel-efficient vehicle. Essentially, these are best for city driving, and are basically passenger vehicles that look like a 4WD, so will cost you less on car insurance and maintenance in the long run, but won’t give you an off-roading advantage.
The load capacity is an important feature to consider when buying a new car, especially one that you will use for off-roading. There are many 4WDs out there that actually aren’t suitable for carrying a load while outback touring. Vehicles such as Land Cruisers are purpose-build heavy-load carriers and are probably the best you can get for serious off-roading. Keep in mind, however, that there are heaps of modifications, customs and options that are available in just about any 4WD model, so you may be able to modify a vehicle to suit your needs.
The main choices you have for fuel is diesel or petrol. While petrol engines are more responsive and have the most power, they are also more explosive and prone to stalling in water crossings. Diesel is the most commonly used fuel in the outback as it doesn’t ignite as quickly and the engines generally require less maintenance.
Another decision you will have to make before your purchase is whether you want a manual or automatic transmission. Generally, manual transmissions are preferred because they use less fuel, provide excellent braking on steep descents or when towing heavy loads, and are more useful for rocking out of bogs.
Some people like automatic transmissions for their smooth operation and because they are better for going uphill, but they do require a lot more breaking on the descent, which wears out the brakes quickly. Some people who can’t decide opt for a tiptronic transmission instead, which is essentially an automatic transmission that the driver can override and drive as a manual.