Buying a 4x4 can be a bit of a minefield. New models and even new makes seem to come along all the time, and there are a lot of technical options that the average driver may not be familiar with. 4x4s are an even bigger investment than other vehicles, which means you need to think even more carefully about which one you’ll buy, so here are some things to bear in mind if you’re thinking about it.
There’s one question you need to ask yourself before you buy, and it will point you to the answers to every other question you have. That is: “Why am I buying a 4x4?” Do you want a car for general town driving that can handle it when the weather gets especially bad? Is it the feeling of security? Or do you regularly handle rough terrain?
Unless you plan to spend the better part of your time on rugged country roads, or off the road entirely, then you want a vehicle with a two-wheel drive option—switching to two wheel drive where you can will save you a lot on fuel. Vehicles with the ‘shift on the fly’ feature are especially good, since you can make the change while driving.
What you plan to use your 4x4 for will also determine what the best kind of suspension is; leaf packs or leaf springs will help with carrying heavy weights but if this is not a concern you will probably want to go with coil springs for the smoother ride they provide. Some factors, like the approach and departure angles (at which the car can safely drive onto or off of obstacles) will only matter if you plan to do some serious off-roading.
If you plan to do a little of everything, compact SUVs like the Nissan Qashqai are good general purpose 4x4s; they can carry a lot of passengers and luggage, and handle some rough terrain. If you have very specific needs you should seek a more tailored solution.
The last piece of advice I will offer is to have some direct contact with the vehicle; driving a 4x4 feels different and you want to be sure you’re comfortable with it before you commit. On top of that they are very complex machines, so a full inspection is a must. With that in mind, happy shopping and best of luck.
© Tom Ollerenshaw 2016