Four wheel drive comparison test by klutzfu45


									                          Four wheel drive comparison test

                                       June 2003

Test cars;

Mitsubishi Pajero               Hyundai Terracan              Jeep Cherokee
Kia Sorento                     Toyota Prado                  Nissan Pathfinder

                                   STAR RATINGS

                                     Mitsubishi              Toyota               Hyundai
                                      Pajero                  Prado               Terracan
Cabin access ease                      ***                     ***                  ***
Presentation & Features                ***                    ****                   **
Comfort & Space                       * * * **               *****                 ****
Performance                            ****                  *****                  ***
Economy                                ***                    ****                  ***
Ride & Handling                        ****                   ****                 ****
Towing                                 ****                  *****                 ****
OVERALL                               ****                  ****½                 ***½

                                        Kia                Jeep Cherokee            Nissan
                                      Sorento                Renegade             Pathfinder
Cabin access ease                      ****                    ****                 ****
Presentation & Features                ***                      **                   ***
Comfort & Space                        ***                      **                    **
Performance                            ***                    *****                   **
Economy                                ***                      **                   ***
Ride & Handling                         **                     ****                 ****
Towing                                 ***                     ****                  ***
OVERALL                                ***                   ***½                   ***

EXCELLENT                 GOOD             ACCEPTABLE                FAIR             POOR

    *****                 ****                      * **              **                   *

RACV Public Policy Department           July 2003                                  Page1
Road test report                                                                  Litera


The mid size 4wd, as typified by the six vehicles in this comparison test, are the most
popular 4wd choice with families and couples looking for one vehicle that will suit a
wide variety of applications. These vehicles are increasingly viewed as the new family
wagon, adapting easily to the rough and tumble of a busy family life or facilitating the
desire to spend more time on recreational activities. They offer a variety of clever
design features such as additional seating and load versatility. Their heavy-duty
construction, tough suspension and large wheels equip them well for the riggers of
touring on outback roads, towing the boat or caravan and visiting otherwise
inaccessible locations like Frazer island. With the high expectations of the average
new car buyer in mind, they also need to be suitably comfortable, accommodating and
generally car like in their finish and presentation, but they are a compromise.

It is fair to say that used as a daily commuter, none of out test vehicles could
sufficiently disguise their imposing size or bulk, or the associated vision and parking
difficulties which make them feel like lumbering giants around town. Prospective
owners also need to examine the additional operating and maintenance costs that
come with such a large and heavy vehicle. Yet for many, their combination of
attributes cannot be found in any regular 2wd wagon and once you’re clear of the city
lights on those long corrugated dirt roads, well, they just seem to make a lot more

In keeping with the predominant buyer preference we selected the petrol engine and
automatic transmission version of each model and as it turns out this meant all V6
engine models. While our test cars vary a little in model specification, the price range
listed in the specification table indicates the entry-level list price for the same V6
engine. With automatic transmissions fitted the entry-level price range is from
$37,950 for the Kia to $48,790 for the Mitsubishi. These vehicles are often chosen for
their towing abilities so we spent our first week testing their composure while hauling
a regular caravan around, and then embarked on a typical destination style trip
through the sandy tracks of the states north-west to spend some considerable time
behind the wheel.

DESTINATION; Mungo National Park

Following the typical 4wd-touring theme we decided to spend a fair amount of our
time on country highways unmade dirt roads and national park tracks. Our
destination, the currently topical Lake Mungo National Park, an ancient Aboriginal
camp site about 100 km into NSW from Mildura. We headed strait up the Calder
highway from Melbourne on recently completed freeway bypasses now extending
well beyond Kyneton, and on through the recovering rural landscape of central
Victoria to Ouyen. The green carpeted rolling hills of the Mallee wheat belt provided
an unexpected welcoming sight thanks to some regular showers as opposed to any
decent rain. From Ouyen we followed the 4wd trip “Murray Sunset National Park,” as
presented in Ron Moons book Discover Australia by 4wd. Instructions take you west
from Ouyen on the Mallee highway to the railway siding of Linga then North on sand
tracks through the heart of the park, with it’s stunning colours of salt crusted Pink
Lakes and original stands of Mallee scrub. Overnight in Mildura at the curiously
meandering Grand Hotel and for the food buff a chance to indulge at Steffano’s

RACV Public Policy Department          July 2003                                  Page2
Road test report                                                                 Litera

renowned restaurant tucked away in the cellar. Mildura has everything you are likely
to need for venturing into relatively sparse country so we packed a hearty lunch into
the esky to be savoured at one of the formal picnic areas on the lake Mungo drive.
The 100 km odd drive to the lake is on a wide occasionally rough or corrugated but
certainly not difficult road, you can take the Falcon or Commodore. There the original
station farmyards greet you, with a superbly preserved shearing shed, and shearers
quarters accommodation there’s also a fair dinkum visitor centre complete with
interactive displays as well as an amazing presentation of ancient Aboriginal life. A
90 km self drive tour on a formed track takes you across the dry lakebed to the Walls
of china sand dunes and via several picnic areas in the natural scrub on a loop back to
the centre. From Lake Mungo we headed southeast through the sparse dry Lake
District on the northern side of the Murray and eventually on to river town of Echuca.
If you’re not roughing it we can recommend Oscar W restaurant at the Port of Echuca
and for the car buff a visit to the National Holden museum is not to be missed. From
Echuca it is an easy run back to Melbourne with time to take in some of the superb
Victorian country towns.

RACV Public Policy Department          July 2003                                 Page3
Road test report                                                                    Litera

Kia Sorento;

Launched in February 2003 the attractively priced 3.5 litre Sorento offers a modern
stylish body design which somewhat disguises the competent underlying off-road
equipment. With a full chassis, dual range transmission, independent front suspension
and five link live rear axle. It has the specification to tackle the rough stuff although
underneath there is only basic light gauge protection for vulnerable components.

Cabin access is very good thanks to an effective door and sill design, the seat height is
easy to step into and inside there is good use of storage spaces. Drivers sit somewhat
upright in a relatively short, firm seat with flat seat backs and basic travel and squab
angle adjustments only. Travel adjustment is insufficient for taller people. Headroom
is also marginal. Up front the dash is simple and functional if a little glitzy in its
presentation and while instrumentation and switchgear is generally easy to use, it
lacks the precision of fine graduations or crisp operation. Most annoying are split
functions like the cruise control on/off dash switch, with steering wheel operating
buttons, and non-intuitive radio functions, which underlines the basic nature of the

Rear seats also offer good access and acceptable leg and headroom for the average
adult. There is a 2/3-split fold function and the seats fold flat to create a sizeable and
practical luggage area. A tailgate style rear door opens high enough to stand under and
some thought has gone into the load area with a cargo blind, power socket, 4 tie down
hooks, a washable floor mat and the full size spare mounted under the floor creating
an additional storage compartment. Three child seat anchorage points are located in
the floor directly behind the seat. In this company the Kia lines up with Jeep and
Nissan with modest overall dimensions with marginal seating and load space

On the road the Kia proved a mixed bag. While the engine performance is strong the
auto shifts up and down the gears more frequently in demanding driving conditions
with a subsequent detrimental effect on fuel ecconomy. The steering is exceptionally
light with less road feel, while the brakes feel quite heavy. A soft suspension and ride
set-up works well on the bitumen, but looms as a concern on corrugated dirt roads
where less control means it is more likely to jiggle and skip around. We also noted It
has less proficient dust sealing.

RACV Public Policy Department           July 2003                                   Page4
Road test report                                                                     Litera

Chrysler Jeep Cherokee Renegade;

February 2003 also saw the launch of the updated Jeep Cherokee in Sport, Renegade
and Limited variants of the 4-door wagon. Sitting on one of the shortest wheelbases,
the Jeep body is visually one of the smallest and is certainly the lightest of the group.
Equipped with a revised 3.7 litre V6 the Jeep is however a potent performer and
despite apparently punitive dimensions is a solid and capable tow vehicle.

The stocky looking Jeep cabin has short doors but a lower internal floor than the sill
lip and access is easy despite the smaller door opening. Headroom is marginal, but the
foot and leg space for drivers is something of a disaster. The 4wd transmission case
and floor are offset to the right, which in right hand drive markets destroys left foot
space and precludes a footrest. The seat is particularly short and there is only basic tilt
and travel adjustment. Instrumentation and secondary switches are generally clear and
easy to use, although there’s no cruise control, or steering wheel switches; the power
window controls are unfamiliar on the centre console and the radio is ordinary and
confusing. A shallow dash means a notably small glove box along with generally
limited storage space

Even shorter rear doors pose some entry or exit difficulties, and while the seating
position is generally comfortable your feet under the front seat are precariously close
to electronic components. There’s a 2/3-split fold rear seat and cushion tilts to provide
a hard flat floor. The three child seat anchorage points are well positioned on the seat
back so as not to impede load space. And there are four good tie-down hooks. The
tailgate is a two-piece affair, the glass tilts up and the door swings open. The full size
spare is mounted on the tailgate via a difficult and not secured two-bolt arrangement,
and the small boot has no extra storage space, and no cargo blind or protection. Jeep
appears to have opted for the funky but flimsy roof rack box incorporating high spot

On the road the Jeep revels in its performance flexibility, although at some expense to
fuel economy, but it is also well sorted in the suspension and despite its size is very
well controlled on poor dirt roads. It has serious heavy duty shielding underneath and
gives the feeling it will go almost anywhere. While the Jeep is commendably
equipped with items like side airbags it suffers from a lack of storage space, a foolish
locking fuel cap and a cheep and rattly trim fit out.

RACV Public Policy Department            July 2003                                   Page5
Road test report                                                                   Litera

Nissan Pathfinder

Pathfinder was last upgraded in October 2002. While its main attributes of car like
driving dynamics and simplistic dial up 4wd remain, its cabin is starting to show its
age, the 3.3 litre V6 is the least powerful of this group and it struggles under load.

The most obvious feature of the Pathfinder is the low roofline and shallow (floor to
roof) design of the cabin, which places a significant limit on headroom, particularly if
you option the sunroof. The advantage is a hip high seat and notably easy access,
without using the useless side step. In addition to the basic travel and rake adjustment
the drivers seat has a front or rear height tilt which aids comfort and legroom but
struggles to overcome a knees up attitude caused by the seats close mounting to the
floor. The effective function of crystal clear instruments and logical switches, along
with wheel-mounted cruise control, twin trip metres, a top sound system and a single
dial for 4wd help overcome the obvious age of the presentation.

Rear seat entry is reasonable if impeded somewhat by an intrusive wheel arch, while
rear seating has few saving graces. Headroom is equally poor, the seat is low so knees
are again well off the seat cushion and there’s no room for feet under the front seat.
Pathfinder’s rear compartment is similar to a typical two-wheel drive wagon. 2/3-split
fold seat, cushion tilt so the squab folds almost flat and nothing extra or unusual about
the modest load area. There are three rear lap/sash seatbelts, three floor mounted child
seat anchorages, a small storage tray and a full size spare mounted under the floor.

Our experiences with Pathfinder in previous tests has shown a more than capable off
road ability on serious 4wd tracks and this run reaffirmed it’s stability and control
over sand and corrugated back roads. Poor headlights were disconcerting. Pathfinder
is the most car-like of the group to drive; it sits slightly lower and suffers less body
roll in corners. Underneath there is a substantial transmission cross member, but
scarcely anything else in terms of shielding apart from a plastic engine under tray.
While Pathfinder remains familiar and easy to use it is ageing, its accommodation
package is compromised and it is down on performance.

RACV Public Policy Department           July 2003                                  Page6
Road test report                                                                   Litera

Mitsubishi Pajero

The NP model Pajero hit the roads in November 2002 bringing with it a range of
safety and mechanical upgrades over the NM model and continuing with the excellent
five-speed automatic. The option of tiptronic style manual gear shifting makes an
enormous difference to the responsiveness and smoothness of Mitsubishi’s V6, which
would otherwise struggle somewhat with modest power and torque outputs

With a high seating position like the Prado you find yourself stepping up to the drivers
seat, although with large doors and grab handles this is rarely a problem. The seat
itself is large and comfortable with front and rear tilt control in addition to the
standard travel and rake adjustment. There’s plenty of legroom and a good footrest
while headroom is best in class. Pajero’s dash presentation is not as sharp and modern
as Prado the instrumentation is not as easy to see and the controls, although logical
and simple to use, look dated. The large central information display has questionable
presence and value but useful storage compartments are in abundance, two glove
boxes and a large centre console bin.

Pajeros have always suffered from wheel arch intrusion into the rear door area so
entry and seat width are compromised. This aside the adaptability of the rear seat and
load area is commendable. The rear seat squab reclines, all seats fold flat to form a
bed, and a double fold of the rear seat provides a flat floor and a huge floor to roof
measurement. A seven-seat option is available with two rear child seats that disappear
completely into the floor. All seats have lap/sash belts and child seat anchorages are in
the floor behind the second seat row. A full size spare is locked to the large, heavy
and somewhat difficult to prop open rear door. Missing is the rear door mounted tool
kit fitted to previous models.

Pajero always feels capable with its solid design heritage and considerable abilities on
any type of road or track. It remains as useable and practical as ever with no glaring
limitations in its composure, stability and competence even on the worst tracks. Yet it
is no longer a ground breaking model, it’s engine is adequate but not leading, it
remains a safe bet for all round work and for interior space and practicality, but is let
down by a rapidly ageing interior. Apart from the unique five-speed auto, there’s also
no new advancement in clever technology.

RACV Public Policy Department           July 2003                                  Page7
Road test report                                                                    Litera

Hyundai Terracan

Hyundai launched the 3.5 litre V6 Terracan pronounced “Terra-karn” in November
2001 and stepped up from Santa-Fe into the serious 4wd market. Based on the
superseded Mitsubishi Pajero and with numerous modifications it proved to be
immediately competent and real value for money, particularly with its five year

The cabin is tall and square, most would suggest somewhat bland in appearance, but
generally accommodating in terms of space. Like the Toyota and Mitsubishi you step
easily up and into the high seating position where there is good head and legroom
available and enough space for a decent footrest. Regrettably, despite height/tilt
control, seat comfort is not as good, being firmer and with less basic shaping. Simple
instrumentation and easy to see and use column stalks are a treat, but secondary dash
switches are all over the place and the quality of many components like the climate
function buttons is questionable. The radio is also confusing.

Rear seating is equally accommodating with more than sufficient head and legroom as
well as plenty of foot space under the front seat. The rear squab reclines for additional
comfort, it has a 2/3 split fold for load variations and will double fold like the Pajero
to make available the full floor to roof load space. Child seat anchorages are in the
floor behind the seat. Terracan is a seven seater, however the two side mounted
rearmost child seats not only rob space, but also do not lock into the floor when in
use, causing some safety concerns. The hatch style rear door proved a handful with
poor damping, while a full size spare is tucked neatly under the floor.

Over a variety of adverse road conditions the Terracan acquitted itself surprisingly
well with good engine performance, a less fussy transmission than the similar
Sorento, and a stable and predictable manner on bad roads or when towing. On tracks
the substantial chassis and solid transmission cross member have good clearances, but
there is little other protection. The weakest aspect of the Terracan in this market is its
utilitarian cabin and body presentation. On the positive side it is a serious and capable
4wd, performing better than was expected, and at a budget price.

RACV Public Policy Department           July 2003                                   Page8
Road test report                                                                   Litera

Toyota Prado

In February 2003 with all the new 4wd models released, you might have thought the
competition would be close, that is until Toyota raised the bar with a new Prado. Its
powerful 4.0 litre V6 engine and silky precision perfect automatic, the clear focus on
consumer needs and the remarkably controlled ride and handling package set a new

Prado is a sizeable vehicle and you are always aware of the step up to the cabin, but
the door is large and access easy even if the side step never feels right. The seat is
well shaped, supportive and instantly comfortable despite only basic travel and recline
adjustments. There is plenty of head, leg and foot space, a nicely positioned steering
with a lot of tilt adjustment and excellent steering column stalks, cruise controls and
indeed all switchgear. There are also several massive storage compartments. This is a
driver’s environment with sharp instrumentation well positioned controls and with an
overall sense of logic and function.

A good cabin design means less wheel arch intrusion into the rear doors, so climbing
in and out is relatively easy and for adults the second seat space and comfort is equal
to the best. From here back you get a real sense of Toyota’s attention to detail. This is
an eight seater all with lap/sash belts, and with child seat anchorages on the back of
the second row. The full floor to roof load space is available with the centre seats
folded and the three-child rear seat tucked flat beneath the floor. The load space is big
and well thought out with steps to access the third row seats, luggage tie down hooks
and a tool kit. The full size spare is mounted conveniently on the large rear door,
unfortunately making it quite heavy. Good clearances and a rugged chassis with
extensive shielding of vital components guards against scraping damage. Good dust
sealing was also evident.

On the road the Prado delivers the most complete package. Its size and weight can
feel cumbersome around town but as a working vehicle it it’s all there, Engine
performance and transmission refinement, handling stability and ride control with
constant 4wd, plus well thought out cabin comfort and ergonomics. There’s even a
180-litre fuel tank providing a 1,000 km touring range so you don’t have to get out too

RACV Public Policy Department           July 2003                                  Page9
 Road test report                                                                   Litera

                            4X4 SPECIFICATION TABLE

                                 Mitsubishi Pajero         Toyota Prado            Hyundai
                                       GLS                    GXL                  Terracan
List price                       $55,590                $54,960               $ 40,870
Model price range                $45,790 - $65,990      $43,390 to $71,990    $37,880 to $46,870
Warranty                         3 year / 100,000 km    3 year / 100,000 km   5 year / 130,000 km
Service intervals                15,000 km              10,000 km             15,000 km
Automatic transmission           $3,000                 $2,600                $2,718
Air conditioning                 Std                    Std                   Std
Power steering                   Std                    Std                   Std
Central locking                  Std                    Std                   Std
Electric windows                 Std                    Std                   Std
Safety airbag Driver             Std                    Std                   Std
              Passenger          Std                    Std                   Std
              Side               Option                 NA                    NA
Lap sash belts all seats         Yes                    Yes                   No
Antilock Braking System          $ 2,000 option pack    Std                   Highlander only
Security system                  Immobiliser            Immobiliser           Immobiliser / Alarm
Alloy wheels                     Std                    Std                   Std
Sound system                     Single CD              6 in dash CD          Single CD

SPECIFICATION:                          Pajero           Prado                   Terracan
Engine capacity                  3.497 litre      3.995 litre               3.497 litres
Engine type                      V6 24-valve DOHC V6 24-valve DOHC          V6 24-valve
Maximum power @ RPM              140 kW @ 5,500         179 kW @ 5,200      145 kW @ 5,500
Maximum torque @ RPM             303 Nm @ 3,500         376 Nm @ 3,800      302 Nm @ 3,000
Transmission / driveline         5-speed automatic /    4-speed automatic / 4-speed automatic /
                                 Part-time 4WD          Constant 4WD        Part-time 4WD
                                 dual range             dual range.         dual range
Overall        l/100 km          13.3                   12.7                  13.0
Variation in normal use          11.3 to 16.7           11.5 to 16.9          11.8 to 15.9
Towing test L/100 km             20.0                   18.4                  22.8
Fuel tank capacity               90 litres              180 litres            75 litres
Fuel type                        Regular ULP            Regular ULP           Regular ULP
Manufacturers maximum
Braked trailer                   2,500 kg               2,500 kg              2,500 kg
Unbraked trailer                 750 kg                 750 kg                700 kg
Ball weight                      250 kg                 250 kg                200 kg

 RACV Public Policy Department              July 2003                             Page10
 Road test report                                                          Litera

     DIMENSIONS:                      Pajero                Prado         Terracan
Seating capacity                 7                    8               7
Kerb mass                        2,065 kg             2,110 kg        2027 kg
Length                           4,775 mm             4,850 mm        4,710 mm
Width                            1,875 mm             1,875 mm        1,860 mm
Height                           1,855 mm             1,865 mm        1,840 mm
Wheelbase                        2,780 mm             2,790 mm        2,750 mm
Tyres                            265/70 R16           265/65 R17      255/65 R16

       OFF ROAD                         Pajero                Prado        Terracan
Gross vehicle mass (GVM)         2,715 kg              2,850 kg        2,847 kg
Approach angle                   42 degrees            32 degrees      30 degrees
Departure angle                  24    “               27     “        25     “
Ramp over angle                  24.5 “                20     “        22     “
Ground clearance                 235 mm                220 mm          216 mm
Turning circle                   11.4 m                11.4 m          11.8 mm

 RACV Public Policy Department            July 2003                       Page11
 Road test report                                                                   Litera

                            4X4 SPECIFICATION TABLE

                                 Kia Sorento              Jeep Cherokee        Nissan Pathfinder
                                                            Renegade                  Ti
List price                       $37,950                $ 48,290              $48,490
Model price range                $37,950                $45,190 to $50,190    $41,490 to $48,490
Warranty                         3 year / 100,000 km    3 year / 60,000 km    3 year / 100,000 km
Service intervals                15,000 km              12,000 km             10,000 km
Automatic transmission           Std                    Std                   Std
Air conditioning                 Std                    Std                   Climate control
Power steering                   Std                    Std                   Std
Central locking                  Std                    Std                   Std
Electric windows                 Std                    Std                   Std
Safety airbag Driver             Std                    Std                   Std
              Passenger          Std                    Std                   Std
              Side               NA                     Std                   NA
Lap sash belts all seats         No                     Yes                   Yes
Antilock Braking System          Std                    $1,260 option         Std
Security system                  Immobiliser            Immobiliser           Immobiliser
Alloy wheels                     Std                    Std                   Std
Sound system                     Single CD              Single CD             6 in dash CD

SPECIFICATION:                   Sorento                      Cherokee            Pathfinder
Engine capacity                  3.497 litre            3.701 litre           3.275 litre
Engine type                      V6 24-valve DOHC       V6 12-valve SOHC      V6 12-valve SOHC
Maximum power @ RPM              145 kW @ 5,500         155 @ 5,200           125 kW @ 4,800
Maximum torque @ RPM             295 Nm @ 3,000         312 Nm @ 3,800        266 Nm @ 2,800
Transmission / driveline         4-speed automatic /    4-speed automatic /   4-speed automatic /
                                 Part-time 4WD          Part-time 4WD         Part-time 4WD
                                 dual range             dual range            dual range
Overall        L/100 km          13.4                   14.6                  13.3
Variation in normal use          12.3 to 16.4           13.1 to 16.7          12.3 to 14.9
Towing test L/100 km             24.2                   21.3                  19.3
Fuel tank capacity               80 litres              70 litres             79 litres
Fuel type                        Regular ULP            Regular ULP           Regular ULP
Manufacturers maximum
Braked trailer                   2,300 kg               2,268 kg              2,000 kg
Unbraked trailer                 750 kg                 750 kg                750 kg
Ball weight                      230 kg                 280 kg                200 kg

 RACV Public Policy Department              July 2003                             Page12
 Road test report                                                           Litera

     DIMENSIONS:                      Sorento             Cherokee        Pathfinder
Seating capacity                 5                    5                5
Kerb mass                        2,027 kg             1,856 kg         1,915 kg
Length                           4,567 mm             4,495 mm         4,640 mm
Width                            2,100 mm             1,819 mm         1,820 mm
Height                           1,810 mm             1,817 mm         1,725 mm
Wheelbase                        2,710 mm             2,649 mm         2,625 mm
Tyres                            245/70 R16           235/70 R16       245/70 R16

       OFF ROAD                        Sorento              Cherokee       Pathfinder
Gross vehicle mass (GVM)         2,560 kg              2,540 kg         2335 kg
Approach angle                   27.9 degrees          36.2 Degrees     33 Degrees
Departure angle                  26.4    “             21.1     “       28    “
Ramp over angle                  21.9    “             31.1     “       28    “
Ground clearance                 203 mm                203 mm           200 mm
Turning circle                   9.5 m                 12 m             11.4 m

 RACV Public Policy Department            July 2003                        Page13
Road test report                                                                     Litera

                                    4WD TOWING.

Medium to large 4WDs are big, strong, heavy vehicles with a high rated owing
capacity, and so its not surprising that this is one of the principal reasons for purchase.

From the number of tow-pack options ordered with new vehicles it is estimated that
more than 60 percent of the medium to large 4WD vehicles will wind up doing some
form of serious towing.

With this in mind, and with help from Jayco who lent us a superb tandem-Heritage
series caravan rated at 1,750 kg, we decided to see how our six 4WDs compared in
the towing stakes. Our towing test loop included stop/start city traffic, freeway
sections, winding mountain roads and with a couple of steep climbs and descents
thrown in for good measure.

Before starting out, it is essential to have the right towing set up. Make sure the
tow/hitch rating is high enough to take the load, trailer brakes are fitted if required (an
electrically operated unit is generally recommended) and for heavy loads a weight
distribution hitch is a good idea. According to the manufacturers, none of our 4WD
vehicles require any modification or additional equipment, such as extra oil coolers, to
tow their recommended maximum load.

All six of the medium size 4WD vehicles tested proved to be competent and capable
towing vehicles, but there were certainly some differences in the way they took to the
task and the ease with which it was accomplished.

First cab off the rank was the Nissan Pathfinder, as Jayco’s head office in Dandenong
is right next door. In isolation, the Pathfinder’s towing ability and the ease it hauled
the hefty 1,750 kg seemed good.

The Pathfinder is the baby of our group with the smallest engine capacity and lowest
towing weight limit. On our circuit take-offs were smooth but the small engine
worked hard and required plenty of revs to keep up the pace. Therefore there was
frequent gear changing and increased engine noise. Some buffeting from passing
trucks and the effect of crosswinds was also noticeable.

At the other end of the scale, Toyota’s Prado is the biggest vehicle and has a
powerful, technically sophisticated 4.0 litre engine. It was the least affected by the
extra weight behind and took most things in its stride. The quiet operation that
impressed in normal use didn’t change too much. Strong engine torque allows Prado
to easily keep pace with the traffic, even on steep hills the transmission was seldom
caught in the wrong gear and the vehicle stability was very good. By not having to be
worked as hard the big engine’s fuel consumption was the least effect by the extra

Like the Prado, the Mitsubishi Pajero has been a popular choice as a tow vehicle for a
long time. It feels solid on the road and does a good job, but it requires more driver
input. Wit less torque the 3.5 litre engine feels a little flatter in the mid-range. Long
throttle travel is noticeable and at times the automatic transmission can be slow to
respond. We found it significantly better to select the “Sports” shift and change gears

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Road test report                                                                  Litera

manually to smooth out the drive. Noise level was also slightly higher than in the

Jeep Cherokee is the vehicle that will pleasantly surprise many people with its strong,
surefooted tow ability. Even though the shape makes it look like a smaller vehicle, we
found it very stable, even in gusty crosswinds. The torque of the 3.7 litre engine and
the well-matched transmission were not far behind the performance of the Prado. The
engine, however, is not as “hi-tech” and this shows up in the higher fuel consumption.

The Hyundai Terracan does the job with very little fuss. The 3.5 litre powered vehicle
takes-off smoothly, the throttle has a progressive feel and the automatic transmission
responds well to easily maintain speed. On hills you are aware of the transmission
changing up and down regularly. Likewise, the engine noise on acceleration is
noticeable but not excessive. The suspension set up gives firm but well controlled ride
and it sits flat on the road and feels stable with the van behind.

Even though Kia Sorento has a similar engine and driveline to the Terracan, we found
the two vehicles did not drive or tow the same. The Sorento has a slightly shorter
wheelbase and generally has a softer suspension set up. It is not as well controlled and
the vehicle tends to move around more on the road. Despite the similarities in engines
the performance also doesn’t seem to be quite as well delivered. It did not take-off as
smoothly, a different throttle feel makes it harder to maintain speed, the transmission
calibrations appear more sensitive to load and gear changes were more frequent again
best demonstrated in the fuel consumption figures.

  TOWING             Mitsubishi Toyota Hyundai     Kia              Jeep         Nissan
                      Pajero    Prado  Terracan Sorento           Cherokee     Pathfinder
  Max. Load          2,500 kg 2,500 kg 2,500 kg 2,300 kg          2,268 kg      2,000 kg
 (Braked trailer)
  Max. Load           750 kg    750 kg       700 kg    750 kg      750 kg        750 kg
(Unbraked trailer)
Max Tow ball          250 kg    250 kg       200 kg    230 kg      280 kg        200 kg

  Towing test          20.0      18.4          22.8     24.2         21.3         19.3
     Fuel            L/100 km   L/100 km L/100 km L/100 km        L/100 km      L/100 km

Comment on fuel economy.

The fuel consumption readings taken during our two-week 4wd trial make interesting
reading. Take for example the fact that the largest, heaviest and most powerful
vehicle, the Prado, consistently used less fuel than the lightest and smallest engine
vehicle in the group, the Pathfinder. Similar questions arise with Terracan and
Sorento. With essentially identical engines and kerb mass why is there a difference in
fuel consumption. The answer lies in engine torque and transmission gearing. The
ability to pull the load or climb the hill without resorting to a lower gear and higher
engine revs. The more gear changing and the more the engine revs, the more fuel it
will use.

RACV Public Policy Department            July 2003                               Page15

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