They are Australia’s 20 best-selling dual-range 4X4s - but are they all worth your hard-earned dollar?
LAND ROVER DISCOVERY 4
The Discovery 4 looks a lot like its predecessor because when it arrived in late 2009 it carried over the body, chassis and much of the suspension and interior from the 2005 Discovery 3. So this quasi-new Discovery 4 has a smoother nose treatment and changes to suspension and steering, larger brakes, improved traction control and Terrain Response system, among myriad other detail changes. The Discovery 4 has an entry-level 2.7-litre turbo-diesel V6, a 3.0-litre bi-turbo-diesel and a 5.0-litre V8 petrol; the best of this bunch is the superb 3.0-litre diesel.
The plush-riding height-adjustable air suspension combined with flat cornering attitude and direct steering make the Disco an easy vehicle to steer around quickly. There are few vehicles that also make off-roading seem so easy – with its strong underbody and excellent ground clearance and off-road angles overlaid by excellent traction systems, even the steepest, slipperiest climbs are no big deal.
Only the use of 19-inch wheels – and a distinct lack of options for off-road rubber to match – tarnishes its off-road ability. The saving grace is the 2.7 which can be fitted with 17s.
With us since 2005, the second-generation ML is in its final months on the market with a third-generation model due mid-year. The ML only makes this list because of its optional Off-Road Pro Engineering package (which adds, among other things, a dual-range transmission) – an option few buyers tick. The engines available in conjunction with the dual-range option pack include two versions of the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel, a 3.5-litre V6 and a 5.5-litre petrol V8, all with a standard seven-speed auto. The pick is the ML 350 CDI: an absolute pearl of an engine, with ladles of torque piled on from low in the rev range, combined with eagerness to sweep the tacho across to maximum revs. This superb engine is matched by the excellent seven-speed auto.
The M-Class cabin is all class – although its column-shift gear wand and foot-operated park brake seem very last century. The ML handles well and, while it lacks the BMW X5’s sharpness on-road, with the off-road package it’ll leave the X5 for dead when the going gets tough. The only downside with the ML’s height-adjustable air suspension is that it can give a too-firm ride, especially when raised for off-road work.
… For the rest, pick up the latest issue of 4X4 Australia magazine. Out now!