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Four flavours of 4WD
Four flavours of 4WD

Each year the team here at NZ4WD magazine (OK, me, Editor Ross MacKay!) strives to come up with an interesting, readable and perhaps most importantly, relevant, multi-vehicle comparison test for our summer annual.

The idea this time was to break away from the usual ‘apples vs apples’ concept and instead see what ‘apples vs oranges’ produced.

The reason was elegantly simple and based on my own observation of the car and motorcycle scenes. Engineers, for instance, love logic. And marketers love putting us poor, hapless consumers in boxes. Yet most of us are slaves to our hearts not our heads.

Fortunately, because this is a magazine dedicated to four-wheel-drives and four-wheeling I wanted to look at what I ended up tagging as the ‘Four flavours’ of modern 4WD. Again, this is something I’ve been mulling about for some time.

Some of my more hard-core and hidebound readers might pooh, pooh the idea but there is now way more both to the technology and market than ‘ladder-frames ‘n levers.’

Mitsubishi’s new Pajero Sport sevens-seater is a perfect example of a comfortable, robust on-demand, low range-equipped seven-seater 4WD station wagon so it was the first vehicle I booked.

Second was the Mazda BT-50 GSX 4WD, because turbo-diesel double cab utes are now outselling conventional passenger cars, third a ‘typical’ medium size AWD SUV, Toyota’s top-selling RAV4.

Finally, I wanted a ‘car’ and though all sorts of manufacturers build part-time, on-demand models I didn’t think a true ‘Kiwi’ sample would have been complete without a Subaru, so I asked for and got a top-of-the-line 3.6-litre boxer six Outback.

As I stressed at the start of this story I never intended there to be one winner in this ‘Four flavours’ comparo. Rather I wanted to highlight the pros and cons of each for those currently grappling with the ‘what-to-buy-next’ conundrum.’

If our day-long drive across a range of surfaces and traffic conditions proved anything, it was how close, dynamically-speaking, each example was.

Mazda BT-50 – The Brodie Retallick of the bunch, tall, muscular but light on its feet and as comfortable in town as on the farm. Wellside tray is both a feature and a limitation.

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport – Family-friendly favourite with all the bells and whistles and broadest dynamic ability in terms of serious off-road activity. Leader in the value-for-money stakes but not as refined as the others.

Subaru Outback 3.6 R Premium – Proof that there are two ways to skin a cat when it comes to AWD versatility. The Porsche Cayenne of crossovers without the price premium.

Toyota RAV4 2.5 GXL petrol – Great all-round grocery-getter/kid’s taxi whether you live in Karori or Kurow!

To read the full story in 2017 NZ4WD Annual & Buyer’s Guide go to (December 12) or purchase your own hard copy at the Adrenalin store

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