It’s no secret that Australians love their utes. These days, light commercial utes like the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and Isuzu D-Max are moving beyond their traditional rural and tradesman roles thanks to improvements in safety, refinement and efficiency, and often being used as family transporters or adventure machines.
These versatile machines are generally available in either two or four-wheel drive, which can also be expressed as 2WD or 4WD, but most commonly as 4×2 and 4×4.
Most buyers opt for 4×4 models, outselling their 4×2 counterparts by nearly four to one. However, there are several key benefits to owning a 4×2 if you’re in the market.
“If it’s likely to stay on the tarmac or gravel, a 4×2 model is generally all you are going to need”
Many 4x4s never see a dirt road or anything more than a puddle, let alone go completely bush or cross a river, so it’s important to keep in mind how you plan to use the vehicle before buying.
If it’s likely to stay on the tarmac or gravel, a 4×2 model is generally all you are going to need.
The most obvious benefit is the cost – 4x2s are cheaper than 4x4s. A Ford Ranger XL Double Cab Ute High Ride 4×2 turbodiesel with an automatic transmission is priced from $36,990 while the same ute with in 4×4 is $45,890. The 4×4 is $8900, or 24 per cent more expensive than the 4×2.
With the Isuzu D-Max, the picture is similar. The 4×2 SX Crew Cab Ute High Ride automatic turbodiesel is priced at $36,500, while the 4×4 is priced at $45,000. The difference here is $8500, or 23 per cent.
Weight and payload capacity are also areas where 4x2s outshine 4x4s. The absence of additional drivetrain components needed to power all four wheels makes a 4×2 lighter on its feet.
Keeping with our examples, the 4×2 D-Max tips the scales at 1815kg, while the 4×4 is 115kg heavier at 2020kg.
The story is similar with the Ford, as the 4×2 Ranger has a kerb weight of 1929kg while the 4×4 comes in 105kg heaver at 2034kg.
The added benefit of having a lighter car comes in the form of how much you can throw in the back. It may seem counter-intuitive, but 4x2s often have a greater payload capacity than 4x4s.
The 4×2 D-Max can carry 1035kg worth of passengers and cargo, while the 4×4 falls a few house bricks short at 1020kg. The Ranger has a bigger disparity, with the 4×2 rated to carry 1271kg and the 4×4 falling short by over 100kg at 1166kg. This may not seem much, but it could be the difference between giving that burly mate a lift home legally or not. There are harsh penalties for overloading your vehicle by exceeding its rated payload.
The lesser mass of a 4×2 also brings marginal fuel efficiency benefits.
“Lower fuel consumption also means lower CO2 emissions, making a 4×2 the greener choice”
An average Australian motorist drives 15,000km each year. Assuming that a litre of diesel costs $1.50, covering that distance in a 7.9L/100km 4×2 D-Max turbodiesel auto will cost you $1777.50, with the 8.1L/100km 4×4 coming in $45 more expensive at $1822.50.
The savings are even greater for the Ford Ranger, with the 8.9L/100km 4×2 automatic costing $2002.50 and the 9.4L/100km 4×4 auto is $112.50 more expensive at $2115. It all adds up over the life of a vehicle.
The lower fuel consumption also means lower CO2 emissions, making a 4×2 the greener choice.
The benefits of a 4×2 don’t stop there, however. They are slightly less truck-like in their handling, and are also easier on consumables like brake pads and tyres.
“Save yourself a lot of money without compromising performance by sticking with a 4×2”
Even if you want a ute for towing, a 4×2 can still be considered. The Ranger has the same braked towing capacity for both its 4×2 and 4×4 models – 3500kg.
The 4×2 D-Max does fall short here however, with its 2500kg braked tow rating beaten by a full tonne by the 4×4’s 3500kg braked towing capacity.
A 4×4 is still generally better if you want to explore the parts of the world that have not been smoothed and paved. Four-wheel traction and low-range transmissions were built for traversing rocky slopes in the middle of nowhere.
But if your version of going off-road is a leafy driveway on a rainy afternoon, you can save yourself a lot of money without compromising performance by sticking with a 4×2.
This article originally appeared on CarsGuide.