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Access Denied: The go-anywhere 4x4s perfect for exploring a wide brown land

Australia’s new car market offers a huge range of makes and models, but not every new car gets to explore Australia’s roads – or make new roads of their own. Here’s some of the better 4x4s we miss out on.

Call it envy, but knowing your neighbour has something does a lot to make you want the same.

The Australian new vehicle market plays host to close to 50 brands that sell cars, SUVs and utes at volume. Then there are van and light commercial brands, low-volume specialist sports car brands, and left-hand drive converters on top.

We’re spoilt for choice already. And of course, it’s not enough.

Amongst the cars that are locked out of Australia there’s a few that would no doubt do well here and knowing we miss out makes them all the more desirable.

In each instalment of Access Denied we’ll look at a different vehicle category, and the cars other countries get to enjoy. If you weren’t into tiny cars, perhaps these heavy-duty 4x4s are more your thing.

Unsurprisingly the Ford Bronco tops this list. Reviving an old nameplate but injecting plenty of current technology, the Bronco 4x4 is set to hit the North American market as a rival to the Jeep Wrangler.

A more mall-friendly Bronco Sport, with underpinnings shared with the Escape, but some additional off-road ability baked in, will also be offered. Missing out on it is probably no loss.

No, what Australia really deserves is the full-fledged two-door and four-door Bronco. It’s purpose built for rock crawls, mud runs, and in a country that prides itself on being the gateway to the great outdoors, the Bronco seems like a natural fit.

Tyres up to 35-inches, available locking diffs, a manual with a super-low crawler gear with an effective 94.75:1 reduction ratio, multiple terrain modes to get powertrain and stability to line up with conditions, up to 294mm of ground clearance… The specs look bloody good on these.

Like a Wrangler you can remove the roof and doors if you like, and while there’s no talk of diesel just yet, it’s hard to be mad with the choice of circa 200kW 2.3-litre turbo four, or just over 230kW from a 2.7-litre turbo V6.

While it might look back to basics, it’s understandable if something a little less complex might be on your radar.

Brazil has access to another short-wheelbase rock-hopper, also from the Ford stable, which is just as tempting.

Sold under the Troller brand, established in 1995 but part of the Ford empire since 2007, the original T4 took pretty clear inspiration from the Wrangler. Like the new Bronco the current car also shares key chassis components with the Ford Ranger but the two aren’t just the same chassis with a different body.

It’s maybe not what you’d call the most handsome 4x4, but capability is key with this one. With the Ranger’s 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel engine, and a choice of six-speed auto or manual transmission.

The 30-inch all-terrain rubber from factory could do with an upgrade, but 800mm wading depth, 51-degree approach and departure angles, and 227mm front axle, 208mm rear axle and 316mm underbody, clearances aren’t bad at all.

The bodywork is made from composite plastics for durability, the interior is trimmed in vinyl and the floor is covered in rubber to make it easier to hose out. There’s some concessions to comfort, like dual-zone AC, and a 6.75-inch touchscreen audio system by JBL with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but not much more.

Consider the T4 an educational tool to teach yourself the art of off-roading. There’s no disconnecting sway bars, no multi-terrain modes, and no terrain view cameras. There’s not even a locking diff, just a rear LSD (okay, less than ideal).

At the start of 2020, Troller showed off an upgraded TX4. Auto only, with steel bumpers, a snorkel, a rear locking differential and more serious Pirelli Scorpion MTR tyres.

Unfortunately Troller made the misguided decision to equip all TX4’s with a blue grille, bonnet, bumpers, and cant rails, paired with a choice of brown, green or silver body colours. That might need some attention before a local release.

A starting price in Brazil from the equivalent of AU$41,000 for the T4 makes most of its shortcomings forgivable, and if that’s not enough – just look at it, and maybe try not to look at the TX4 if you can help it.

You could be forgiven for a sense of deja vu with the next couple of cars on the list. Australia had them before, and would surely welcome them again.

Kicking things off, the LandCruiser 71 series. Shown here as sold in Dubai, these are not old, second-hand, or rebuilt cars. These are genuine 2020 models, and yes those are genuine 2020 decals.

The UAE spec might need a tweak for local conditions, but since these are the same as a Cruiser ute or wagon forward of the B-pillar there’s no reason a 4.5-litre turbo diesel V8 couldn’t take the place of the current 4.0-litre petrol V6.

There’s a prime opportunity to dust off the Bundera name for those that remember it and while much of the 71 series remains as it was when it debuted in the mid-1980s, the front guards, bonnet and grille have at least been spruced up.

While a 200 Series Sahara might be all about luxury, the Sahara 71 adds things like a two-inch suspension lift, steel bumper and winch, on-board air compressor, roof racks, heavy duty side steps and maybe a few luxuries, like a centre console with wireless charging and, uh… That’s about it, actually.

It's not just very short LandCruisers either, the UAE has access to 6x6 versions of the 79 series too. It seems somehow less necessary for Australia, but given how well the regular dual cab Cruiser does here, it would be hard to say no.

Of course a two door or six-wheel drive LandCruiser isn’t for everyone in the same way a new generation Y62 Patrol doesn’t spark joy in the hearts of rusted-on four-wheel drivers. Which brings us to our next re-introduction, also still offered in the UAE along with parts of Africa and Asia: The Y61 Patrol.

Undeniably more civil than the other stripped back two-door models on the list, with the option of a plush interior if you want it, but still offered in basic trims ready for hard work. The real advantage the Y61 has over its newer sibling is solid front and rear axles.

Hardened 4x4 fans simply won't have their off-road equipment any other way. It’s one of the features that’s kept the Wrangler popular and one that, slowly but surely, vehicles like the LandCruiser wagon and Land Rover Defender have moved away from.

Just like you remember it, the Patrol still comes with a choice of ZD30 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine (one that hasn’t got the full support of fans, admittedly) or the TB48DE 4.8-litre straight-six petrol.

What you don’t remember here are the wild two-tone paint schemes, crazy decals (again, what’s with those?), or two-door short wheelbase versions of the Y61 that Australia missed first time around.

Australia’s already had a shot at another seemingly indestructible and eternal off-roader and while you can’t buy one today maybe it’s time for a triumphant return. You may know it as the Lada Niva, though in 2020 it’s now simply the Lada 4x4.

While it might be quaint to think of this eastern European stalwart as an anachronism that’s impervious to the passing of time, modern Lada has a range of contemporary vehicles in it’s line-up including the utilitarian Largus wagon, the trendy Xray crossover, the rather handsome Vesta sedan and even a new-generation and much more modern five-door Niva SUV

The new Niva doesn’t seem too new, with a 54kW 1.7-litre eight-valve engine achieving 10.2L/100km. Why buy it though, when the glorious original Lada 4x4 is still available?

It’s a little more vibrant than the new model too, with 61kW from its engine and a much more thrifty 9.9L/100km consumption… Okay, baby steps.

Looking at the Lada 4x4, it’s as if time stood still. The body work is essentially the same as it was at launch in 1977 although attached parts like the grille, lights, and mirrors have all had revisions over the years.

You have a choice now too, chrome bumpers on the regular 4x4 or plastic bumpers on the 4x4 Urban.

If the three-door isn’t practical enough for you a five-door joined the range in 1995 and the two sell side by side retaining the independent front suspension, coil-spring five-link rigid rear axle layout, and worm and roller steering box that’s always been part of the Lada mystique.

The engine and body aren’t the big deal here though, it’s the almost zero-overhang bodywork that allows insane approach and departure angles, not to mention a real low-range transfer case and diff locks, which can make the three-lever interior look a little daunting for off-roaders used to modern twist-dial 4x4 setups.

Not everyone has an appetite for the great outdoors though, with that in mind next we’ll take a look at some of the more bonkers muscle cars in other markets.

Until then let us know in the comments if there’s other adventure-seekers you’d like to see here.

MORE: Access Denied – Tiny Cars
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