Winter wonders: NZ's top seven-seat SUVs that can actually go off-road
Search Driven for Ford Everest for sale
In a matter of weeks it’ll officially be winter, and thoughts might be turning to a properly capable seven-seat SUV for the school run during the week - and a bit of slush and/or snow work in the weekends.
The vast popularity of SUVs in recent years has meant that the genre has evolved more towards on-road use and comfort. Most modern SUVs simply aren’t made to go very far off-road; we’re talking light-duty off-tarmac driving at best. But there are still a few sturdy models, capable of hard-core off-roading. Here are the five top-selling seven-seaters that can still take some real punishment.
How much? $73,990-$79,990
The Ford Ranger is the top-selling ute in New Zealand (not to mention the top-selling vehicle overall), so it makes sense that Everest is the country’s most popular seven-seater with true off-road ability.
The two have plenty in common: similar look, a biturbo-diesel 2.0l engine with 10-speed automatic transmission and a proper low-range for mud-plugging.
The Everest is more sophisticated than the Ranger underneath, with full-time AWD and independent rear suspension for improved on-road comfort and handling (this is a common theme with ute-based SUVs), but make no mistake: it delivers when the going gets tough.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
How much? $58,990 (special offer)
And you thought SUVs all looked the same. We like the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport for its quirky styling, but also its value, equipment and capable off-road technology.
It’s not a terribly close relation of the full-size Pajero, despite the name; rather, it owes a lot to the current Triton ute.
The Sport is a pretty smooth on-road machine as well, thanks to its three-link rear suspension (again, more complex than its ute sibling), eight-speed transmission and Super Select AWD system.
But it’ll also follow the Triton into the great beyond – and carry six passengers in the process.
How much? $58,900-$62,990
Like all Holden models, the Trailblazer will soon be no more.
But this Colorado ute-based seven-seater (remember when it was called the “Colorado 7”?) has been a long-running and popular off-road wagon. It remains a strong seller – while stocks last, obviously – and it’s well worth considering, given there’s potential for a bargain and Holden has committed to a decade of servicing and support.
The 2.8l turbo-diesel engine is torquey (only six gears with this one though), the cabin is stylish while still being durable and it’ll really show up the more crossover-focused Acadia when there are rocks in the way.
Toyota Land Cruiser Prado
How much? $71,990-$92,990
Toyota’s SUV range is big enough that it divides then into soft and hard models. The hard-core off-road stuff includes the Hilux-based Fortuner, but that model is still outsold by the more upmarket, much more iconic Land Cruiser Prado.
It might be the smaller ’Cruiser (the massive 200-series sits above it), but the Prado is still one very serious off-road machine. It’s very traditional in some respects, but there’s plenty of tech as well: the top VX Limited has a Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, which combines greater on-road body control with increased axle articulation in off-road situations.
Range Rover Sport
How much? $149,900-$209,900
Yes, a bit of truly premium metal has made it onto the list.
Land Rover is legendary for making SUVs with astonishing off-road ability – without giving anything away in top-line luxury or comfort, especially with its Range Rover models.
The Range Rover Sport is no exception: it’s supremely talented in the rough and will wade its way to far-flung places while occupants are cosseted in leather goodness. Whether you want to scrape your $150k-plus SUV along rocks of wade through muddy rivers is another matter; but this kind of thing is what the brand still builds its reputation on.
Not your first thought when it comes to seven-seaters though? Well, unlike the full-size Range Rover, the Sport does indeed offer the option of third-row seating.