Best 4WD under $60K: Change of pace from Ford Falcon
My Ford Falcon FG does most of what I need. But after retiring we are visiting many national parks etc and the dirt tracks often are too rough for the Falcon. So I need a 4WD with at least 2500kg towing capacity - I've got a new van too. No need for seven seats (although that seems to be standard now) and would like a vehicle that's the most comfortable and easiest to drive. My budget is up to $60,000 new and I'd also consider a used vehicle with warranty left. Maybe something like Isuzu MU-X or Toyota Fortuner? I like the Kia Sorento but then the van would be right on the towing limit.
You're hauling reasonably heavy loads, so the options are restricted if you need space and off-road ability. The Kia may struggle on slippery and steeper dirt inclines.
The other issue to consider is how much load each engine is going to be under when towing and try to calculate fuel use accordingly, because it won't be close to the claimed consumption.
ISUZU MU-X LS-T, FROM $52,990 DRIVE-AWAY
The MU-X packs a 3.0-litre turbo diesel good for 130kW/430Nm with a six-speed auto. The eight-inch touchscreen comes with satnav and there are leather-highlighted seats, fog lights and 18-inch alloys. Despite the infotainment, the MU-X is at the durable rather than desirable end of the market in terms of interior quality but feels as if it was built to pull tree stumps, will tow 3000kg and has a five-year/130,000km warranty. Service intervals are every year or 10,000km and the first four visits will cost $1450.
Toyota Fortuner GXL, from $50,990 drive-away
Buy before the end of July and save nearly $10,000 on the mid-spec Fortuner's regular price. It still uses the same 2.8-litre turbo diesel (130kW/420Nm) paired with a six-speed auto with paddle shifters. Default kit includes a seven-inch infotainment screen, 17-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, privacy glass, rear diff lock and cruise control. Build quality is convincing, backed by a three-year warranty. Servicing is every six months or 10,000km and the first six trips are capped at $1440.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLS, from $51,000 drive-away
The mid-spec GLS is on special and still packs plenty of features. Standard equipment runs from a seven-inch screen with Android/Apple smartphone connectivity to a locking rear diff and 3100kg braked towing capacity. The 2.4-litre turbo diesel is the smallest of the trio, still producing 133kW/430Nm, and is hooked up to a highly capable eight-speed auto. There's a five-year warranty and service intervals are 12 months/15,000km with the first three trips capped at $1350. The interior is a step up from these rivals with piano black finishes, leather trimmed seats and an overall premium feel.
Ford Territory, from $53,000 drive-away
There are still examples of the 2016 Territory around at this price and it still rates as one of the best driving cars for gravel roads, as opposed to genuine bush trails. The 2.7-litre diesel - thirsty but willing with 140kW/440Nm - can haul 2700kg when fitted with the heavy duty towpack, though that puts the Ford perilously close to your weight limit. The interior is dated but well-built and the Titanium came with the roof-mounted 10.2-inch TV screen. Service intervals are 12 months/15,000km and the first three trips cost $1340.
The Territory edges too close to your tow limit, which makes Mitsubishi's Pajero Sport the best choice of this bunch. Beyond being the cheapest, it has the best servicing plus a comparable warranty. It is a utility knife and that's precisely what you want when you head outdoors.