Hilux 4x4


Hardcore 4x4 vehicle

If you want to go bundu bashing, through a river or two, up some hills and down some hills, this is what you need.

The best way to spot these vehicles is to see if it have a low range and high range option. Most vehicles will have an extra gear lever where you select low and high range. But vehicles like the new Nissan Pathfinder selects it with a button. Ask the sales person or previous owner if the vehicle has a low range.

You will need low range to go up and down steep hills. You will need it for rock climbing and to get out of the sand when you get stuck.

A major advantage will be if the vehicle has one of the following installed:
1. a diff-lock or two, even three
2. or a traction control
3. or a limited slip diff (LSD)

A 4x4 vehicles without one of the above mentioned features will be very close to rather useless. Like a soft roader, without one of above you need only one or two wheels in the air or in mud and the vehicle will go nowhere, you will be stuck.

There are various types of hardcore 4x4 vehicles. You get normal bakkies, double cab bakkies (most popular type in South Africa) and station wagons (also called SUV)

The bakkies and double cabs are all OK. They normally have a low and high range and most of them nowadays have either a diff lock or traction control. There are two things people do not consider when buying these vehicles.
1. If you travel a gravel road and your luggage are in the back under the canopy, everything will be full of dust when you get to the other side. There are some canopies that pressurizes the loading area in order to prevent dust from coming in, but most of them don’t.
2. The leg space and height of the rear seats are limited in most cases. This is OK for children to drive in or for short trips. But when you take you mother in law on a trip through Namibia you will soon realize that it was not meant for adults on a long trip. The latest Toyota Double cab (2006) has very comfortable rear seats with lots of leg room.

The advantage is that you have a loading bin. If you need something where you can do overlanding trips, but the rest of the year you have to take away the garden rubbish or load a pack of cement or some tiles, then the double cab will work for you. Some people say it is useless because you do not have a car and you do not have a bakkie. For some people this is exactly why they buy it.

The Toyota Hilux Bakkies is most certainly the most popular and most reliable 4x4 vehicles around. There 4x4 abilities are very good, if they have a diff-lock installed. This vehicle can easily last you 300,000 or more kilometers.

You can get more information on these vehicles at http://www.hilux4x4.co.za/views


These are the lovely ones. These includes magnificent vehicles like the VW Touareg, Nissan Patrol and Land Cruisers. The Cruisers are the masters of the bush. They are very reliable, their off-road performance are suburb and they have a lot of space.

The new Toyota Prados are also very capable off-road vehicles. The traction control is a big plus and they have very good ground clearance. Unfortunately the tupperware is no good if you use it for long off-road trips.

Most of the new SUV vehicles with low range and high range will be able to take you as far as their ground clearance can go. With these machines you get two types. The permanent 4x4 like the Prado, Cruiser, Discovery, ML, etc and the one where you can select 4 wheel drive like the old cruisers, land rovers, Nissan Terrano, etc.
One major problem with your permanent 4 wheel drive vehicles like the Mercedes ML and Discoveries are that they need to have a differential in the gear box between the front and rear axles (central diff). This is needed because when you go around a corner your rear wheels takes a shorter route than your front wheels and the differential have to handle that difference in speed. The problem is that if one of the wheels loose traction the differential will send all power to that axle and that wheel. So lets say your left rear wheel is in the air, all the power will be directed to that wheel. No power to the front axle and no power to the right rear. You will be as stuck as with a normal car and the 4x4 will be useless. So if you buy a permanent four wheel drive vehicle it is very important that it has a central diff-lock. You can ask the dealer or see it on the transfer case gear lever (the small one) This gear lever will show “H”, “N” and “L”. In the case of a centre diff-lock it will show “H”, “H(L)”, “N”, “L(L)” . The (L) indicates the central diff lock. I know the new Prado and Land Cruiser has this function.

One thing I cannot understand is the use of the automatic gearbox in a 4x4 vehicle. There is nothing wrong when driving with the auto box. It will do sand driving and steep climbs better than a manual box. The main problem comes when you go down steep hills. When you go down a very steep decline you must engage first gear low range of the vehicle so that the engine power can offer resistance when going down the slope. If you apply the brake the vehicle will start to slide down with possible detrimental consequences. The automatic gearbox can not offer that resistance.

So if you intend to drive rough rocky terrains with your vehicles you must rather go for a manual vehicle. The VW Touareg has a feature where it will lock the automatic gearbox so that it acts like a normal manual box when driving in such conditions. If you do intend serious off road work make sure about this feature when you want to buy an automatic.

The latest Land Cruiser VX with traction control is absolutely marvelous. It comes with three diff-locks (front, rear and central).

With the cruisers you get a GX and VX. One of the main differences between the two is that the GX has a Solid Front Axle (SFA) and the VX has a Independent Front Suspension (IFS). There is a lot of speculation about which one is the best. In short, again it depends on your purpose with the vehicle:

  • If you are into the challenges various trails offer then the IFS will not work for you and you have to go for the SFA. The SFA will out perform the IFS on difficult trails and dune driving.
  • If you use your vehicle mostly for overlanding then the IFS will be suitable. It offers a more comfortable ride and will be able to take you from Cape Town to Cairo and back.

You can get more info on these vehicles at http://www.landcruiserclub.co.za/

The Nissan Patrol is not bad. It is very thirsty but the biggest disadvantage is that Nissan likes to shoot themselves in the foot for some reason. Parts on these vehicles (and the Terrano) are extremely expensive and you wait very very long for spares. I know a couple of guys who sold their Patrol because of the lack of service from Nissan. I sold my Terrano for the same reason.

You can get more info on the Nissans at http://www.nissan4x4.co.za

Diesel or Petrol

For off-road conditions a Diesel will do better because it has more power at low revs than high revs. This works great when climbing or driving sand, mud or snow. Its fuel consumption is better than petrol vehicles, so if you go far you need to take less extra fuel with. If you go up in Africa you might find it hard to find unleaded fuel everywhere, but you will always find diesel. The diesel might not always be clean in Africa, but at least you can get something.

Maintenance on Diesel engines are a bit higher than on Petrol engines, but the ease of driving and fuel consumption makes up for that.

Older diesel engines are not suitable for dune driving. The new era diesels are much better, but then again they need cleaner Diesel which might be a problem going up in Africa.

WARNING: One thing an older era diesel engine is not is a RACING ENGINE. If you drive your vehicle hard and fast, the diesel is not for you. It will not last very long, then you must rather go for a petrol vehicle. A diesel engine operates under much higher compression than a petrol engine. Thus the components are much heavier. High revolutions will damage the engine. On the other hand because a diesel engine runs at much lower revs than a petrol engine, it can last much longer than a petrol engine if used properly.

The latest diesels, like Toyota D4-D is something else. It does not mind revving a bit higher and the performance is amazing. In short you have the fuel consumption of 1300 but the performance of a V8.

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