What’s the Right Touring Vehicle for You?
Imagine for a moment, if someone else was paying for the vehicle and all the associated running costs, which vehicle would you choose? I’d pick a Range Rover Sport or an Audi Q7, for sure. But when it comes to deciding which vehicle is right for us, unfortunately we have to snap back to reality and realise the main consideration is affordability while at the same time being able to fulfil all our motor needs.
Chances are if you’re reading this article, you love travelling on the open road, and the ideal vehicle for that is a highly capable 4WD with good fuel economy and range, and high clearance. In the real world, there’s a vast deal of difference between what we want and what we can afford and what we can afford and what will live up to our expectations.
So how do you go about choosing the right vehicle for you? Below are some things to consider.
Your Travelling Needs
Before picking the right vehicle, it’s important to consider your own travelling needs above all else. For example, will you be travelling alone, with a partner, or with a family? If you’re always travelling alone or with a partner, a smaller touring vehicle could be the way to go, as you probably won’t need all that extra storage that a family requires. It’s also important to consider, will you always be towing a caravan, or do you enjoy camping as much or even more so? If camping is more your style, a smaller vehicle with less tow power could suit your needs more and cost less.
The most versatile car variety, the 4WD, has a multitude of uses, from being able to carry large loads of shopping and people to going offroad with ease. But with the ability to do so much comes a higher price tag and regular costly visits to the bowser. Especially when compared with smaller vehicles. There are other associated higher costs too, such as in NSW, for example, vehicle registration fees are calculated on GVM (gross vehicle mass), so something around the two-tonne mark is going to cost almost double the rego fee of something under a tonne. Insuring a larger vehicle is also more expensive. A random internet check found that it’s $100 per year more expensive to insure a Mitsubishi Pajero than a Suzuki Jimny of equivalent age. However, the Pajero is an eminently better touring vehicle. Not only can you put more gear in it, but its bigger fuel tank and diesel versus petrol engine will give it far better range. Plus, the larger vehicle is going to be more comfortable when driving long distances.
The A-list comprises the Range Rover Vogue and Sport (diesel variants only), Disco 4, Mitsubishi Pajero (what it lacks in wheel travel it makes up for with MATT — Mitsubishi All-Terrain Technology — a pack that includes traction and stability control), Nissan Patrol, Isuzu D-MAX and MU-X, Toyota FJ Cruiser, LandCruiser 300 Series and the Toyota Prado (if kitted out with traction control — not all of them were). With its magnificent wheel articulation, the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon is up there too, but loses points for less than brilliant fuel economy. Some of the utes can also be included on this list, such as the Patrol and Cruiser, Hilux, VW Amarok and Triton (if fitted with the MATT pack), but these also lose points because you have the added expense of fitting a canopy to make them secure tourers. Having said that, while they’re not designed as cross-country tourers, going down the ute path can be the far cheaper option.
LPG, Petrol or Diesel?
Another important consideration when buying a touring vehicle is the type of fuel it consumes. While LPG may be a lot cheaper than the alternatives, your range isn’t great and it’s very hard to come by once you’re out in the sticks.
The most popular fuel type, petrol, does come with a few caveats. For example, unleaded petrol is often not available (except by prior arrangement in some cases) at Aboriginal settlements. However, this isn’t as much of a problem as it was with the introduction of Opal (a low aromatic fuel that is a replacement for unleaded petrol) in some Aboriginal communities.
And then we have diesel, a popular choice for touring vehicles. After all, it has better engine braking for steep downhill runs thanks to a much higher compression ratio; potentially safer deep-water fording with no electricals to get wet; no chance of fuel vaporisation in the lines in extremely hot weather; greater range, and diesel’s higher flashpoint means that it can be carried in jerry cans in the vehicle without the danger of turning it into a fireball.
Interestingly enough, biofuels were what the inventor of the diesel engine, Rudolf Diesel, had in mind when he originally designed it in 1897. The German engineer saw it as an opportunity for countries — particularly developing ones — to stimulate agricultural production. Rudolf Diesel disappeared mysteriously while on a cross-Channel ferry heading for Great Britain (where he was to sign some contracts for using his engine) on 9 September 1913. His drowned body was found two days later. There are several theories of what happened, including suicide and murder by both the government and oil cartels, but no one really knows why he came off that ferry. Significantly, almost all diesel fuel has been petroleum-based ever since. Now it would seem a century later, his humanitarian dream is coming true.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, choosing the right vehicle is a very personal matter, as each person/family has individual needs, circumstances and budgets to consider. So, make sure you take the time to do some research to find the one that best suits your requirements and travel style without breaking the bank.
At Hema Maps, we strive to provide the most comprehensive and accurate maps and guides for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore Australia's natural wonders.
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