The old reliables - upgrades to commercial 4WDs
Commercial 4WDs are evolving, but big changes are slow to come in a sector where practical functionality is key. If it ain't broke, why fix it? Aidan Timmons and Eddie Cunningham consider the latest upgrades
Published 21/09/2016 | 02:30
Like farming, the motor trade is constantly evolving. We now have electric cars, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and plug-in hybrid diesels. There is also a bevy of vehicle sizes to choose from, comprising miniature city cars to large SUV coupes, and every shape and style in between.
Aside from the conversion into two-seater commercials of some predominantly road-going SUVs, commercial 4WDs have stood their ground in the midst of this explosion in choice.
In true proverbial spirit, manufacturers have decided that, in the case of these vehicles it is a case of leaving well enough alone.
Apart from dressing the interior up with the latest in touchscreen software and adding a smattering of safety gadgetry that helps stabilise swaying trailers and automatically applying some braking pressure on steep descents, the functionality of these 4x4s remains relatively unchanged.
When transporting cattle feed and spare parts for broken machinery across tricky, off-camber, slippery, and uneven surfaces are the mainstay of your driving, only a commercial 4WD will do. If they're good enough for the Serengeti, they're good enough for Stradbally.
So, here is a list of the 4WD commercial options out there at this point in time.
Here we will focus solely on two-seat commercials in short and long-wheel base body types.
The Tucson replaces the popular ix35 and Hyundai has two commercial versions; a 1.7 litre 2WD and a 2.0 litre 4WD. These are probably better suited to on-road business users.
If we ignore the 2WD Comfort model, the prices for a Santa Fe commercial with off-road capabilities start at €41,995. That means it goes toe-to-toe with the market's best-selling models. All things considered, the appeal of the Santa Fé commercial is that it is primarily sold as a passenger SUV and so the equipment level in Executive trim is generous.
Its stable road manners make it better suited for someone with a scattered small holding and who spends more time on the road. With 471 NMs of torque it won't hang around and it has a generous payload of 773 Kgs. Automatic versions are available too. Hyundai say they currently don't stock commercial 4x4s but it is possible to order a Tucson or Santa Fé version. However, there is a wait of eight-to-10 weeks.
The Sorento performs similarly to the Santa Fé, and there is very little to separate the two. The Sorento carries a little less cargo but it has a bit more torque and can tow braked loads of up to 2.5 tonnes. There are three 4x4 variants to choose from. An entry level EX model comes in under €37,000 so there is a price advantage in Kia's favour, too. It's a solid machine with every bit as much on-road refinement as its other Korean cousin.
The Outlander is a serious value-for-money proposition. Not only do you get Mitsubishi's top-class four-wheel-drive system, but the Outlander can tow two tonnes, has a payload of 740kg and qualifies for VRT at €200, so it costs just €31,750. Like we say, serious value. And if that wasn't enough, it comes with five years' warranty. The 2.2 diesel engine has 150bhp and 380Nms of torque so it's no slouch either.
The Pajero is as old as the hills but that means it has experience on its side. The 3.2 litre diesel engine will outlive all of us and do it while towing 3.5 tons (LWB only). Cargo area dimensions are 1,700mm long and 1,300mm wide. The SWB has a payload of 741kgs, which jumps by 20pc to 845kgs for the LWB version.
The interior is not likely to set your pulses racing but what good is flashy switchgear if the jeep can't pull itself out of a bog? The Pajero also has Mitsubishi's Engine Brake Assist Control, which helps to stabilise the vehicle on sharp descents. Great all-rounder.
Not many people realise that one of the country's best-selling mid-size SUVs has a commercial equivalent but indeed the Qashqai has a player in this segment. The 4x4 versions are only available with Nissan's 1.6 litre diesel engine but this power unit is chain driven so it is smooth and refined. A shade over €30,000 will get you into an XE model with a price walk of just €1,500 to the better equipped SV model.
The X-Trail is bigger than the Qashqai and a four-wheel-drive SV model costs almost €38,000. It has a braked towing capacity of two tonnes and comes with front and rear parking sensors (great for avoiding hedgerows and knee-high stone walls), and cruise control.
The Yeti Sherpa is the commercial equivalent of the Czech brand's crossover/SUV. As with the Tucson, Qashqai and other smaller commercial 4WDs, this one appeals more to smaller operators whose off-road use is limited and heavy towing capacity is not required. Prices for a 2.0 litre diesel 150bhp Ambition model with 4WD comes in under €27,000. Buy the Outdoor model instead, though. It's the one to have if you go this route.
Many will remember the Rexton 2.7 (and lesser popular 2.9) from years gone by. They sold in pretty big numbers but the change in our economy and in the CO2 and VRT system meant that the Rexton II never quite carried the torch from its predecessor. Well, the Rexton is back and offers a tidy package with 4WD and lots of bottom end grunt from its 2.2 diesel engine; with 190 NMs of torque available from just 1,000 rpm. Braked towing capacity is 2,600kgs and it comes with heated leather seats as standard.
As with the return of the Rexton, the release of the Forester commercial might well have flown under many people's radars. The 2.0 litre diesel Boxer engine is silky smooth and can tow two tonnes. The front and rear overhangs are short and ground clearance is good enough for most uses. And when it comes to 4WD systems, Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is legendary. This is a good outside choice if you want something a little more discreet and car-like but with strong 4WD potential.
A thoroughbred workhorse in every way imaginable, the Land Cruiser has pedigree and form when it comes to lugging heavy loads, towing trailers and horse boxes, and generally performing all of the on and off-road duties required of it. When it comes to residual values, it is a top performer and SWB versions in the right colour and condition will be in high demand. This should keep the accountant happy.
As with other commercial 4WDs, most prefer the SWB because it makes life easier when towing and reversing trailers. Gone is the 3.0 litre diesel and in steps a new 2.8 D-4D in its place. Various supplementary safety systems enhance the normal traction control by stabilising the Cruiser on slippery bends and off-camber terrain.
As you can see there is a lot of choice. It is really a matter of making sure you pick the right one for you. Critical in this is the sort of work you anticipate.
Always buy something that will be more than comfortable with the heaviest tasks you envisage. Skimping on something smaller because it is less expensive is a waste of money if it's not up to the toughest job you can throw at it.
Also shop til you drop in comparing what you are getting for your money. We reckon the market has never been as competitive as it is right now. But as we always say when advising people about buying cars, the dealer is as important as the vehicle.
You want one who will be there for you when you urgently need repairs or parts - or a substitute to get you over a crisis. Saving a couple of hundred euro by purchasing 100km away may make financial sense in the short term but may represent a lot of wasted effort if they can't help you out when you most need it.