We've all heard about it: pulling the rug out from international travel has caused Australian tourists to look inward. Not spiritually, but geographically. Places like Aspen and the Andes might be out of reach at the moment, but domestic travel is shaping up to boom over the next twelve months for many Australians.
However, public transport like trains, planes and buses are on the nose these days as well, even if your nose is hiding under mask. So with money saved on things flights, passports and visas, Australians are buying up as many four-wheel drives as they can get their hands on.
While bargains might be a little harder to find when demand is running so hot, there are still some decent deals on offer in the marketplace. We wrap up some of the better and more popular options out there.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
Guide: $45,990-$59,990 driveaway
Mitsubishi has always played a strong value card with their Triton and Pajero Sport four-wheel drives, and they’ve sharpened the pencil with driveaway deals across the range of their ute-turned wagon.
Using the Triton as a base, the Pajero Sport gets a shortened wheelbase, coil-sprung rear-end and room for seven aboard across three rows. It keeps the same 2.4-litre turbo-diesel engine (133kW, 430Nm), but gets an eight-speed automatic transmission and the versatile Super Select II four-wheel drive system across the range.
Along with sharp prices, the Pajero Sport is also reasonably well loaded with kit across the range. GLX ($45,990 driveaway) makes do with five seats and no locking rear differential; you’ll need to get up to GLS specification for such things. At that spec, you can look at either five ($52,490) or seven ($53,990) seats, which feels like the sweet spot in the range.
Or, go right to the top of town with an Exceed for $59,990 drive-away. This gets you unique features of a digital instrument cluster, 360-degree camera, TomTom navigation, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and parking sensors front and rear. However, at sixty grand, that value proposition does begin to erode away.
Guide: $46,990-$56,990 driveaway
Currently in runout mode as Isuzu makes way for an all-new MU-X some time around late 2021, Isuzu is another manufacturer taking a slice out of their pricing on the current model Isuzu MU-X, and are throwing in a towbar, trailer harness and brake controller for good measure.
While it’s undoubtedly aged since first landing in 2013, the MU-X is a solid and venerable option for those wanting seven seats, plenty of interior space and a good dose of off-road ability. The MU-X is a particularly good option for towing as well, thanks to the verging-on-legendary three-litre ‘4JJ1’ diesel engine under the bonnet.
Although the outputs of 130kW and 430Nm seems meagre, it's proof that you can't rate a vehicle's performance from a piece of paper. Torque is readily available everywhere, and makes for a sense of effortlessness when towing.
This runs through an equally unflappable six-speed manual or automatic transmission, with part-time 4X4 and low-range. Unfortunately, the MU-X misses out on a locking differential in all grades, and the traction control system isn’t great either.
In this case, it's recommended to look at the lower and middle specifications of MU-X for the best bang-for-buck. A 4X4 LS-M specification costs $46,990 driveaway, and plays to the utilitarian strengths of the model. Alloy wheels grow from 16-inch to 18-inch for LS-U, and the touchscreen grows to 8.0-inches, but it misses Apple Carplay and Android Auto.
If such technology is very important to you, then consider the newly-added Onyx Edition MU-X. Along with darkened and blacked-out exterior touches, this also gets a new 6.8-inch infotainment display which, although is smaller, now mirrors Apple and Android smartphones. However, it’s markedly more expensive, with an offer of $56,990 driveaway, for a soon-to-be-updated vehicle.
Guide: $60,990-$73,190 before on-road costs
While the Everest cannot compete on price with other ute-based 4X4 wagons, Ford’s own take on the family off-roader looks more at the LandCruiser Prado as the nemesis. And it is a little bigger than other offerings, with a 4903mm length and 2850mm wheelbase.
With a 4X4 range starting from $60,990 driveaway for the mid-spec Trend with a 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel, you’re looking effectively at a free on-road costs deal through the Ford website.
Up-spec to the two-litre 'BiTurbo' engine and ten-speed gearbox for $1500, and also consider the blacked-out Sport specification for an additional $3,000. Howver, upgrades beyond black 20-inch wheels and exterior garnishings are little, so we reckon it’s not worth the extra spend.
However, the Everest Titanium adds in things like Active Park Assist, blind spot monitoring, a panoramic sunroof and lashings of chrome on the exterior. Compared to the retail price of $73,190 before on-road costs, it’s currently available for $70,990 driveaway.
Don’t forget about the Holden Trailblazer, which despite never competing with segment leaders for popularity, is a good option with some strong points. Most of all, that 2.8-litre turbo diesel, making 147kW and 500Nm running gutsily through a six-speed automatic gearbox for solid performance. While there is no locking rear differential, the limited slip diff brings some benefits to on-road and off-road driving.
Holden isn’t listing any vehicles for sale on the website any more, so reference points of pricing and deals are few and far between. However, online classifieds do point towards a fast-dwindling supply of Trailblazers still available. As part of Holden’s departure and stock clearance, dealers have been able to slash prices of their models significantly, so there might be a real bargain lurking amongst these models if you search.
The base LT specification will be particularly sharp, at the bottom of the pile. Going up to LTZ gets a larger infotainment display, climate control and heated seats. Z71 sits at the top, but is more of an exercise in garnishes than anything else. We'd recommend LTZ or LT being the smarter option.
Guide: $51,490-$61,990 driveaway
The true automotive definition of oldie-but-a-goodie, the Mitsubishi Pajero is finally hanging up it’s well-worn boots with production ending in 2021. Despite having 14-year-old bones (more than a lifetime in automotive terms), the Pajero is still a comfortable and competent 4X4.
This is thanks to the original, groundbreaking design: independent all-round suspension and a monocoque construction. This reduction in unsprung mass – significant when compared to live-axle 4WDs – along with a much more rigid body, yielded big improvements to the Pajero’s ride and handling characteristics.
The four-cylinder diesel engine, uncharacteristically big at 3.2 litres, makes a respectable 141kW at 3800rpm and 441Nm at 2000rpm. It’s not enough to set the world on fire, especially with only five forward ratios to ply through. However, it's a solid improvement.
The Super Select 4WD system, allowing the flexibility of two- and four-wheel drive on the blacktop, and off-roading is accommodated with a proper low-range transfer case. With 225mm of ground clearance and a 700mm wading depth, the Pajero is a capable, if not wowing, off-roader.
Currently, Mitsubishi offers the Pajero GLX at $51,490 driveaway, which is alluring considering the size. Spend up, and the range-topping Exceed asks for $61,990. However, you’ll have to live without the modern safety equipment and tech that is increasingly common, thanks to the Pajero’s age.
While deals might not be so forthcoming in this part of the world, we know that some are happy to spend up for the latest-and-greatest of new and updated models. Here are a few options:
Land Rover Defender
Land Rover’s new Defender has certainly made a stir amongst enthusiasts with it’s all-new mechanicals, but good news is that unlike the old Defender, this new model is safe and ergonomically comfortable enough to be considered as a family car.
While you can choose it as a five or seven seater with an option third row, the Defender has a unique and quirky option of a jump seat up-front. This means it’s a six seater across two rows, with a front middle seat that is surprisingly comfortable for adults.
Lining up for a new Defender isn’t an exercise in bargain hunting, because demand has outstripped initial supply. It’s going to be worth waiting as well, because Land Rover is rolling out bigger, more powerful diesel drivetrains for the 2021 year: three-litre diesel engines will replace the current two-litre offerings, along with a new P300 two-litre petrol engine. Making 221kW and 400Nm, this will also serve to be the new entry point in the range.
The Defender 110 will start from $74,500 before on-road costs, with the 'X' specification pushing the British off-roader to the dizzying heights of $135,590, before on-road costs and additional options.
Toyota Fortuner and LandCruiser Prado
Following on from the recent major update of the Hilux ute, Toyota’s 4X4 wagons, the Fortuner and LandCruiser Prado have also been updated with a more powerful variant of the 2.8-litre turbo diesel engine. Now making 150kW and 500Nm, it’s a solid improvement of 20kW and 50Nm over the previous incarnation.
There are some improvements inside too, with changes to specifications and the introduction of Apple Carplay and Android Auto across the range. These new models also get the latest iteration of Toyota's diesel particulate filter (DPF) technology, which promises to be less problematic than earlier renditions.
Unfortunately, the bump under the bonnet has also netted a bump on the sticker as well, with Toyota jacking up prices across the board. Toyota isn't listing any offers through their website at the moment, so you're looking at pricing starting from around $53,000 driveaway for a Fortuner GX, all the way up to around $94,000 for a Prado Kakadu, although these numbers will vary according to your dealer and location.