Six of the best : Dual cab 4x4 utes Oct/Nov

The humble ute has gone upmarket and now multitasks as a machine for work, play and transporting the family. Here’s our pick of six of the best dual cab 4x4s.

Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain Crew Cab

Isuzu has fired the first shot in the latest round of ute wars, with the launch in mid-August of its all-new D-Max. This is the third generation of the Japanese brand’s rugged and reliable workhorse, which has been taken upmarket in a bid to compete with more recreationally oriented rivals. A strong focus on tech and safety introduces new active and passive safety technologies, including knee and centre airbags among the standard eight airbags, with an Intelligent Driver Assistance System also standard across the range. Under the bonnet is a new 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine that delivers a gutsy 140kW/450Nm, accompanied by significant changes to the chassis and suspension aimed at improving ride and handling. There are three cabin types and four model variants in the handsomely styled range, but recreational buyers will be drawn to the upmarket X-Terrain, with its aero sports bar, roof rails, 18-inch alloys and roller tonneau cover. Shapely perforated leather-accented electric seats and a customisable 9.0-inch touchscreen lift the interior ambience of the X-Terrain, with Isuzu claiming its new ute is roomier and quieter than before. Remote engine start, smart keyless entry, push- button start, and walk-away door locking are some of the other new features the D-Max brings to the battle.

Engine: 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel (140kW/450Nm) 
Towing unbraked/braked: 750kg/3500kg
Price: $62,900 (MRLP)
Warranty: 6 years, 150,000km
Fuel Consumption: 8.0L/100km
Safety Rating: Not yet tested 

Mazda BT-50 GT Pickup

Beneath their individually styled skins, the Mazda BT-50 and Isuzu D-Max are conjoined twins. The latest in a long line of vehicular collaborations, Isuzu and Mazda have joined forces to share development costs on their new utes. Both brands have form in this space, with the Holden Rodeo and Colorado having previously been Isuzu-based, while Mazda’s BT-Series ute has long been built on shared underpinnings with Ford’s Courier and Ranger. Partnerships in the ute space are all the rage, with Nissan’s Navara and Mitsubishi’s Triton climbing into bed together, as are the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok. For now though, the D-Max and BT-50 are the first fruit of this new era of platform sharing, meaning the new Mazda gets all the mechanical and technical goodness of the D-Max, including its gutsy 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine, rugged off-road ability and 3500kg braked tow capacity. The exterior styling is distinctively Mazda, though, as is the interior design and fit-out, with the top-spec GT Pickup boasting a 9.0-inch colour touchscreen, premium leather, heated front seats, front and rear parking sensors, dual zone climate control and satellite navigation. On the safety front there’s eight airbags and a full suite of the latest advanced driver assistance technologies.

Engine: 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel (140kW/450Nm) 
Towing unbraked/braked: 750kg/3500kg
Price: $59,990 (MRLP)
Warranty: 5 years unlimited km
Fuel Consumption: 8.0L/100km
Safety Rating: Not yet tested 

Mazda BT-50

Toyota HiLux SR5+ 4x4 dual cab 

Facing an all-out new model assault from Isuzu and Mazda, plus updates to its arch-rival the Ford Ranger, Toyota wasn’t about to sit back and let someone cut the lunch of its market-leading HiLux. Despite this eighth-generation HiLux having only launched in 2015, the Japanese giant has boosted its competitiveness with a comprehensive mid-life update aimed at improving the ute’s performance, handling and looks. Toyota’s Australian design studio took the global lead on the exterior design, while local engineers had input into the engine, transmission and suspension. The updated 2.8-litre turbo diesel engine and six-speed auto deliver stronger performance and enhanced fuel consumption, while suspension and steering have both been improved. Now, as before, the SR5 Dual Cab 4x4 remains an excellent choice for recreational users, although an extra $2500 gets you into the new SR5+ which brings an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, heated front pews and leather-accented interior. The well-appointed interior features a new-look instrument pod and larger 8.0-inch multimedia screen with voice recognition, as well as Apple CarPlay. 

Engine: 2.8-litre four-cylinder (150kW/500Nm)
Towing unbraked/braked: 750kg/3500kg
Price: $62,420 (MRLP)
Warranty: 5 years unlimited km
Fuel Consumption: 7.9L/100km
Safety Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  ANCAP (2019)

2020 Toyota HiLux SR5

Nissan Navara  N-Trek Warrior

Despite regular and meaningful updates every year since the D23 Series was launched in mid-2015, Nissan’s Navara has been overshadowed by the selling power of Toyota’s HiLux and Ford’s Ranger. Last year, Nissan commissioned local automotive engineering outfit Premcar to give its Navara ST-X a makeover. The resulting Navara N-Trek and N-Trek Warrior are worthy of a place on the shopping list of any recreational buyer. Standard features include heated and electric leather seats, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple and Android connection plus satellite-navigation. To this the N-Trek adds a black sports bar, roof rails, side steps, tubliner and two-channel Utili-track system. The N-Trek Warrior adds a hoopless colour-matched bullbar, integrated LED light bar, underbody protection and embroidered front headrests. Both models are powered by the Navara’s decently effective 2.3-litre twin turbo diesel, hitched to a seven-speed auto, but Premcar has made significant changes to the N-Trek Warrior’s suspension, adding new springs and dampers plus larger diameter all-terrain tyres. Navara fails to offer newer safety features like autonomous emergency braking.

Engine: 2.3-litre twin turbo diesel (140kW/450Nm) 
Towing unbraked/braked: 750kg/3500kg
Price: $65,990 driveaway
Warranty: 5 years unlimited km
Fuel Consumption: 7.0L/100km
Safety Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  ANCAP (2015)

Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior

Volkswagen Amarok V6 Highline Black 580

Launched here in 2011, the Volkswagen Amarok is now approaching elder-statesman status in the 4x4 ute category. So much so, that an all-new Amarok is due in 2022. Until then, the German car maker seems focused on special edition models, while playing up the undoubted muscle of its class-leading turbo-diesel V6. Only the soon-to-be-discontinued Mercedes-Benz X350D has the grunt to go toe-to-toe with the higher output version of the Amarok V6. With top-spec versions boasting 190kW/580Nm and driving through an eight-speed auto, the Amarok holds a significant power advantage over even newer rivals like HiLux and D-Max. We’d opt for the Highline Black 580 as the most affordable way into the V6 range, but the Amarok has more bows in its quiver than a great engine. It’s regularly hailed as the class benchmark for ride, handling and all-round civility and is also a tough truck, with good load hauling and off-road ability. There’s no low-range gearing per se, but a selectable off-road mode and rear diff lock ensure traction aplenty in the tough stuff. Though good enough to achieve a five-star ANCAP rating in 2011, Amarok today lacks the latest safety features like adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and rear curtain airbags.

Engine: 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6 (190kW/580Nm)
Towing unbraked/braked: 750kg/3500kg
Price: $61,990 (MRLP)
Warranty: 5 years unlimited km
Fuel Consumption: 8.9L/100km
Safety Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  ANCAP (2011)

Volkswagen Amarok

Ford Ranger Wildtrack X

It takes some kind of ute to keep Toyota’s relentless HiLux off the top step of a sales podium, but Ford’s Ranger has managed to do just that, in the 4x4 category at least. That’s not a bad effort considering the Ford ute has been with us since 2011, with an all-new model just over the horizon in 2022. Ford hasn’t been resting on its laurels, delivering timely updates throughout the Ranger’s lifecycle. This includes the addition of autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and lane support systems in early 2019. Most recently the Blue Oval relaunched the popular Wildtrack X model which, for an extra $2k over the price of 
a base Wildtrack, adds bi-LED headlights, a powered roller-shutter, unique 18-inch alloys, wheel arch flares, nudge bar with LED light bar, and a snorkel. The dressed-up Wildtrack and Wildtrack X remain immensely popular with recreational 
users and can be had with either the original 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel, or the slightly more powerful but smaller, quicker and more fuel-efficient 2.0-litre twin turbo diesel. Both engines have their strengths but the latter comes with a 10-speed auto versus the six-speed unit
of the five-cylinder, which is enough to swing our support behind it.

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin turbo diesel  (157kW/500Nm) 
Towing unbraked/braked: 750kg/3500kg
Price: $67,790 (MRLP)
Warranty: 5-year unlimited km
Fuel Consumption: 7.4L/100km
Safety Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  ANCAP (2015)

2020 Ford Ranger Wildtrak X