Which of these high-dollar 4x4 utes packs the best on-paper punch? Time to crunch some numbers...
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you can’t do a real comparison on vehicles unless you have them both in your possession, and you’re able to do back-to-back testing.
However, in lieu of that opportunity, you can run the numbers on a spec comparison. And while we’ve given the Jeep Gladiator a good test already (including off-road), I’m particularly keen to see how Jeep’s take on the 4x4 ute stands up against the rest of the segment.
To see where the Gladiator fares, we’ve headed to the top of the 4x4 ute gene pool. Our choices are showing to be both expensive and popular, and examples of what this once utilitarian-only segment has evolved into.
Starting with the newest and least expensive of the group, Nissan’s locally developed Navara N-Trek Warrior has a list price of $63,490 with a manual transmission, or $65,990 when you opt for automatic. Both of these are before on-road costs.
Jumping from the newest to the oldest, in more than one sense, is the Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series. Only available with a manual gearbox and priced as a cab-chassis, Toyota has a before on-roads price of $73,190 for the popular GXL specification.
Next is Jeep’s Gladiator, which has a list price of $76,450 in Rubicon trim. The Overland is a little cheaper, but the Rubicon’s off-road hardware makes it the most pointed for this comparison. There’s also an all-you-can-eat First Edition Gladiator, which is priced at $86,450.
Just pipping the Gladiator in dollars is Ford’s Ranger Raptor, automatic only and with an asking price of $76,490.
Why throw a basic ‘farm truck’ amongst these performance-oriented 4WDs? Because Australia is buying them up in droves. In fact, so far in 2020, the 79 Series LandCruiser (in single-cab and dual-cab formats) was more popular than many newer, safer and more techy competition: Volkswagen Amarok, Nissan Navara, Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50.
Plus, I reckon it’s interesting to see how a proper old-school 4x4 compares on paper to its newer competition.
Many mining enterprises, government bodies and private businesses are buying up 79 Series LandCruisers, sure. However, the sheer amount of highly modified double-cab 79s one sees around down and out in the bush tells you many are also bought for personal, emotional and aspirational reasons. And big, big dollars are being spent on them.
Size and dimensions
4x4 utes are all long by definition, but the longest here is Jeep’s new Gladiator at 5591mm. It’s got the longest wheelbase by a long margin, with 3488mm. Ford’s Ranger Raptor also stands out in this company.
Although the wheelbase is the same as a ‘normal’ Ranger, the huge width and track width hint at the kind of work Ford put into the special suspension and tyres.
The LandCruiser 79, on the other hand, has its old roots betrayed by a much narrower width and wheel track.
There’s a big disparity in numbers between front and rear; Toyota widened the front wheel track to accommodate the diesel V8 in 2007, but the rear was left unchanged. And despite being the narrowest, the LandCruiser’s old-school design leaves it as the highest of the group.
Nissan’s Navara N-Trek Warrior mostly mimics a Navara ST-X, although its larger tyres and modified suspension pump out the effective wheel track, width and height.
|Length (mm)||Width (mm)||Wheelbase (mm)||Wheel track (mm)||Height (mm)|
There’s only one non-diesel engine amongst this group. The Jeep Gladiator has a 3.6-litre ‘Pentastar’ petrol V6 under the bonnet, and if you want a diesel Gladiator, you’re fresh outta luck.
Running through an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, you’ve got 209kW at 6400rpm and 347Nm at 4100rpm available.
Like the rest of this group, the Gladiator has a part-time 4WD system with shift-on-the-fly and a low-range transfer case. Rubicon only gets better, with locking differentials at both ends and a disconnecting front swaybar.
Through a 4:1 transfer case and 4.1:1 diff ratios, the Gladiator shares a wonderfully low crawl ratio with the Wrangler Rubicon: 77:1. The Gladiator scores an ‘Off-Road+’ driving mode, along with a washable, front-facing ‘Trailcam’ camera.
Toyota’s LandCruiser wins the cylinder and displacement count, with 4.5 litres' worth of turbocharged diesel V8 under the bonnet. On-paper outputs are relatively meagre, with 151kW at 3400rpm and 430Nm at 1200–3200rpm. That’s a wonderfully low torque curve, however, suiting hard work and 4WDing alike. That engine braking helps the LandCruiser off-road, with a 2.488:1 transfer case and 3.909 diff gears leaving a 44.04:1 reduction in Toyota’s venerable workhorse.
The 70 Series LandCruiser is manual-only as well, with a five-speed transmission behind that diesel V8. If you opt for the GXL variant, there are locking front and rear differentials.
Ford's Ranger Raptor has the smallest engine in this comparison, but counters that with two turbochargers and the most torque. Running through a 10-speed automatic gearbox co-developed by Ford and GM, there is 157kW at 3750rpm and 500Nm at 1750–2000rpm.
There’s a locking rear differential, and a handful of off-road driving modes that tailor things like throttle, gearbox and traction-control tuning. The Ranger Raptor’s crawl ratio works out to be 47.601:1. And that’s good, because it’s got the tallest tyres in this comparison.
Like the Raptor, the Navara N-Trek Warrior shares a driveline directly with others in the range: a 2.3-litre turbocharged diesel, which makes 140kW at 3750rpm and 450Nm at 1500–2500rpm.
Running through a seven-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox, you’ve got a locking rear differential but no driving modes.
While the Navara has the same transfer case ratio as the Ranger (2.717:1), differences in the first and ring gears mean it has less reduction: 44.565:1.
The 79 Series LandCruiser has the biggest fuel tank and range by a fair margin, with 130L.
Both the Navara and Ranger Raptor have 80L tanks, but their diesel power will ensure a longer driving range than the Gladiator, with an 83L tank.
|Capacity||Type||Power (kW)||Torque (Nm)||Claimed econ (L/100km)|
|Gladiator Rubicon||3.6-litre||V6 petrol||209 @ 6400rpm||347 @ 4100rpm||12.4|
|LandCruiser 79||4.5-litre||V8 turbo diesel||151 @ 3400rpm||430 @ 1200–3200rpm||10.7|
|Navara Warrior||2.3-litre||I4 twin-turbo diesel||140 @ 3750rpm||450 @ 1500–2500rpm||7.0|
|Ranger Raptor||2.0-litre||I4 twin-turbo diesel||157 @ 3750rpm||500 @ 1750–2000rpm||8.2|
Tyres and clearance
Tyre diameter is a big deal for 4WDs, and these all fit larger-than-normal rubber in a quest for better clearance and traction off-road. The Gladiator’s 255/75R17 tyres are unfortunately watered down to American specification 285/70, being both shorter and narrower. Still, 32.1 inches of diameter is good.
What’s also good is the kind of tyre: the Gladiator’s BFGoodrich mud-terrain KM2 with light truck construction isn’t the latest and greatest from the American tyre brand, but it is the most aggressive in this comparison. Listed ground clearance for the Rubicon sits at 249mm.
These tyres are a similar diameter to Nissan’s Navara N-Trek Warrior, whose 275/70R17 numbers give more width and a similar 32-inch tyre diameter. Cooper’s light truck AT3s are employed, which are an all-terrain tyre.
Ford’s Ranger Raptor also uses BFGoodrich rubber, but the less aggressive KO2 all-terrains are used. They’re plenty big, even in this company: 285/70R17 works out to be 32.7 inches.
And finally, if you specify a 79 Series LandCruiser GXL (which is the best choice, because of the locking differentials), you get Dunlop Grandtrek all-terrains, with passenger construction and a 265/70R16.
Keeping the imperial theme going here, that's the smallest of the group: 30.6 inches.
Going for Workmate specification gives you narrower, taller tyres: 225/95R16 is a metric take on the old ‘cheesecutters’, which is a dark horse of diameter: nearly 33 inches.
|Approach||Rampover||Departure||Listed clearance (mm)||Wading (mm)|
|LandCruiser 79||33||Not listed||27||235||700|
Payloads and capabilities
One area where there is big disparity in this group is listed weights and payloads. Because these utes (bar the ’Cruiser) are aimed squarely at recreational 4WDing, they trade in some raw payload for more off-road ability and ride compliance.
With a 2205kg kerb weight and 3300kg GVM, you’ve got a solid 1095kg payload at the ready with a 79 Series LandCruiser. Although, it’s worth noting the 79 Series is sold and specced as a cab-chassis, so you’ll need to factor in some kind or tray or canopy on the back.
Next best in the payload race is Ford’s Ranger Raptor, with 748kg worth of payload. This is followed by Nissan’s Navara Warrior (724kg) and finally Jeep’s Gladiator Rubicon (620kg).
Those payload figures largely come down to suspension. And what hints at a sign of the times, two of these 4WD utes have third-party-branded shock absorbers from companies better known for their aftermarket work.
The biggest are the Ford Ranger Raptor shocks, which also pack the most hardcore technology. With a 63.5mm diameter and 46.6mm piston diameter, extra tech like internal bypassing and an internal floating piston makes for a very serious factory shock.
With independent front suspension, another unique factor is the Ranger Raptor’s Watt's linkage rear suspension. This gives a bit more control of the up/down movements of the rear axle.
Jeep’s Gladiator Rubicon also has Fox-branded suspension, although smaller and without the party tricks. These have a 51mm diameter, and combine with a unique combination of live axles, coil springs and locking differentials at both ends.
The Gladiator also uses time-honoured upper and lower control arms, along with a Panhard rod for lateral control. Compared to a Wrangler, the Gladiator uses rear suspension components adapted from the Ram 1500.
Nissan’s Navara also has coil springs all round, and the Warrior ups the ante with bigger shocks and taller and softer progressive-rate springs. They’re a twin-tube design, with a 17 per cent larger diameter shock and 35mm piston. The rear suspension uses a Panhard rod set-up, while the front is a mostly typical independent set-up.
Toyota’s LandCruiser has live axles front and rear, with coil springs and radius arms up front, and good old leaf springs in the rear. One big issue with the LandCruiser is the disparity in track width, with a 95mm narrower rear end. Suspension components are a bit more garden variety, with things like shock absorber body and piston diameters not readily published.
If anyone knows these details, let me know in the comments below.
|Kerb weight (kg)||GVM (kg)||Payload (kg)||Braked towing (kg)||GCM (kg)|
Safety and tech
It’s not all diff clearance and heavy kilos for these utes. How Australians are using these 4WDs dictates they need to be modern and safe transport contrivances, as well as tough off-roaders.
While the 79 Series LandCruiser did get a five-star ANCAP safety rating back in 2016, that only extends to the single-cab variant that received safety upgrades missing from the rest of the 70 Series models. The dual-cab 79 Series is technically untested. There’s only stability control, two airbags, simple radio with Bluetooth connectivity, and barely any driving aids aside from cruise control.
The Jeep Gladiator is also untested by ANCAP, but has a bit more going in terms of safety than the LandCruiser: blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision detection and autonomous emergency braking and rear cross-traffic alert. While the Wrangler only got three stars due to cabin deformation on impact, we’re not sure if the Gladiator has the same shortcomings.
The Gladiator’s infotainment is 8.4 inches, and has maps, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and digital radio included. There is also a 7.0-inch multifunction display in front of the driver.
The Ford Ranger Raptor gets a five-star ANCAP safety rating from the rest of the Ranger range in 2015 and benefits from picking up autonomous emergency braking in 2019. There’s also lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning and traffic sign recognition.
Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system is used, measuring 8.0 inches and with all of the latest digital accoutrements.
The Navara N-Trek Warrior also has a five-star ANCAP safety rating, along with the rest of the Navara range.
It’s lacking autonomous emergency braking, as well as blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. However, it does have a 360-degree camera.
Like a previous off-road spec comparison, trying to draw a winner from this is futile. It’s an interesting exercise, however, and shows some strengths and weaknesses of all of the models.
Stay tuned, though, because we’re keen to pit the new Gladiator against its key competition when possible.
Let us know what you think in the comments below, and which of these four 4x4s you’d prefer to have in your driveway.