Double Appeal

Delivery Magazine looks at the variations in style and appeal for the dual-cab buyer

Five-seater utes fit the work’n’play hype best among all the conventional-cab one-tonners, but those with trays up back have real compromises if there are heavier loads to lug.

By far the most popular one-tonner configuration, these five-plus-fours (seats and doors) are variously dubbed Double, Dual or Crew Cabs depending on their maker’s marketing whim, and, in their latest generation, seriously rival passenger cars and SUVs in comforts, amenity and safety features.

Most are sold as utes (pickups, if you must), i.e., with factory tubs, but a limited range of low-to-mid-spec variants also land as cab/chassis, and are fitted with local trays or other special bodies, which, invariably, are longer, wider and higher-floored than tubs to avoid those intrusive wheel arches.

The ute brands mostly endorse a particular supplier’s tray, and in most cases specify moderate dimensions to err on the side of safety, especially when the rig is loaded close to its rated maximum. As ever, though, dealers and buyers often stray from the franchise brand’s endorsed local tray product, some pushing their luck with even longer and wider load decks.

Fortunately, Australian one-tonner drivers don’t lug 2.5 or 3.5 tonnes in such rigs, as happens in developing countries, although many buyers here believe they can tow these weights, sucked in by the bragging of the branCARS_UTES_Double-Cab-Nissan-Navarads locked in a tow-capacity arms race. In fact, Aussies rarely carry close to the 1.0-1.5 tonnes gross load capacity of these vehicles, as it’s more a load space issue rather than mass.

Just as well too, because when fitted with their endorsed tray bodies, their load deck lengths range between 76 and 87 percent ROH (rear overhang), and even more when the usually longer unendorsed trays are fitted. Worse still, around 80-90 percent of one-tonners are fitted with towbars, which, when used, can add between 250 kg and 350 kg cantilevered off the extreme end of the chassis via the towball.

Obviously then, if your load is heavy, it had better fit mostly on the front quarter of your load deck length – otherwise, stability, steering, braking and chassis integrity are severely compromised.

How so? Blame slack regulations that target large trucks but are nonsense when applied to this class of vehicle with relatively short wheelbases and longish noses, and especially these five-seat variants where their long four-door cabins shunt their load decks further back into overhang.

The one honourable exception is VW’s Transporter Dual Cab. Benefiting from its short bonneted, long (3.4 m) wheelbase (WB) configuration, the endorsed German-made but rarely imported alloy tray variant has only 55.7 percent of its 2.17 m load length in ROH. Also, its 1.94 m load width is unequalled, as is the 392 mm height (depth) of its sides (all others are 235–252mm). RLH (rear load height) of 902 mm is also lowest, thanks to its class-unique independent trailing A-arm/coil spring rear suspension. Non-van Transporters are mostly imported without tray bodies and are fitted up locally. One of the examples we sighted was a dropside tray from the same local supplier as for Amarok, for which the 2.26 m load floor length is a considerable 610 mm longer than almost all other brands in the class.

The next most acceptable for rear overhang purposes (ROH) (excepting the almost extinct Land Rover Defender 130 Crew Cab at 71 percent of its 1.7 m recommended tray length) are Mazda BT-50 and Navara D40, but both are way off at 76 percent ROH of their 1.65 m endorsed trays.

For Ranger, Ford endorses a different tray supplier than does Mazda for its BT-50 clone, and Ranger’s longer 1.785 m load length extends its ROH out to 78 percent. Ranger’s deck height is 975 mm, BT-50’s 960 mm.CARS_UTES_Double-Cab-VW-Amarok

Navara, BT-50 and Ranger all ride on 3.2 m-3.22 m wheelbases, but Toyota HiLux SR 4×4 Dual C/C’s tray also overhangs 78 percent, yet it has 115-135 mm less wheelbase (3.085 m) and a longer 1.82 m tray floor (stretched from the 1.65 m norm at the last facelift late 2011). One suspects the unavailability of legroom figures from Toyota might explain. HiLux’s 1.02 m deck height is also unnecessarily high.

Isuzu D-Max SX Crew Cab 4×4 and its now more distant chassis cousin, Colorado LX Crew Cab 2WD & 4WD, are at 80 percent ROH on their now 105 mm shorter 3.095 m WBs. Their deck heights are now 1.0 m, up around 60 mm due to overslung springs replacing the prior underslung leaf suspension.

Also with 1.65 m trays and 80 percent ROH are seven VW Amarok dual-cab/chassis variants, but they boast a 135 mm wider tray floor of 1.93 m thanks to their class-widest cab. Their deck height is disappointingly high at 1.026 m, despite leaf springs slung outboard beside, not under, the rails.

Old-style Landcruiser 70 (LC79) stretches ROH to 83.5 percent of its 1.82 m long tray load floor, despite a fairly long 3.18 m WB. However, the mass of its 4.5-litre V8 engine would counter this imbalance more than with the four-cylinder utes. The deck height, at well over a metre, needs high-heel work boots, the fat spare wheel underneath and twin tanks totalling 130 litres pushing up the floor height.

Two double-cab/chassis definitely not to load up carelessly are Mitsubishi Triton and Mahindra Pikup. Of their 1.65 m tray floor lengths, Triton’s ROH is nearly 85 percent (84.8) and the Pikup a concerning 87.3 percent, thanks to their short 3 m and 3.04 m wheelbases.

That leaves Great Wall V200/V240, Ssangyong Actyon and Foton Tunland, all of which aren’t imported in cab/chassis form currently, not that that stops dealers, nor buyers, from de-tubbing them and fitting trays. The Great Wall and Actyon versions, which have shortish 3.05 m and 3.06 m wheelbases respectively, seem to get 1.65 m trays. The Tunland’s 3.105 m WB may tempt some to try a 1.8 m tray.

A trail bike will fit diagonally in all trays, as described, with all three sides up. The exception here being the Transporter, which can easily mount trail bikes longitudinally.

De-tubbing also happens when customers want a five-seat cab and tray, but with high-series cabin amenities and/or extra bling. But there aren’t enough of these buyers to interest ute marketers who generalise trays as working, not luxury, vehicles.

Still, standard fare for most of these trayed four-plus-fives is quite liveable and, now, safe. Standard inclusions generally bring with them ESC, TC (traction Control), ABS with EBD and BA, airbags front side and curtain, aircon, cruise control, power windows and mirrors, remote entry, hands-free Bluetooth®, USB and AUX ports, and iPhone® docking.

The list of dual-cab models and variants imported as bare cab/chassis runs to 12 brands and 26 models. All but one are diesel, nine are 2WD and eight offer automatic at extra cost.

There’s just one variant each of HiLux, Navara D40, Triton, D-Max and Defender; two BT-50, Colorado, Landcruiser 70 and Mahindra; three Ranger and Transporter; and seven Amarok.

The HiLux SR 3.0D 4WD is five-speed manual only and is priced at $40,490 RRP excluding aircon and with no ESC, nor TC, nor EBD or BA with its ABS. This results in an unattractive package for what is basically an aged, overrated and oversold truck. A sensible maximum tow capacity of 2.5 t might be driven less by altruism than its 1.6 t rear axle rating, which is 250 kg less than Ranger, BT-50, D-Max and Colorado, and 200kg less than Triton. Combined fuel usage of 8.3 l/100 km is middling.

CARS_UTES_Double-cab-utes-Isuzu-D-maxOddly, Navara RX Dual-Cab/Chassis 4×4 appears the only D40 variant without ESC (VSC in Nissan speak). Fuel numbers for its Renault-based 2.5-litre diesel are uncompetitive at 9.8 l/100 km for the six-speed manual and 10.5 for the five-speed auto. RRPs start at $39,600, but there are deals aplenty out there.

Ranger 2WD XL 2.2D Hi-Rider offers manual and optional auto, both six-speed. Fuel use of 7.6 l/100 km for the clunky manual is close to class-best, with 8.9 for the much better sequential auto not being quite so competitive. In 4WD, XL comes with either the 2.2 diesel or the five-cylinder 3.2 diesel, both manual with auto as above. The manual 2.2 diesel’s fuel figure of 8.1 l/100 km gets closer to 4WD best. Ranger (and BT-50’s) 4WDs’ low range first gear ratio of 52.5:1 is way lower than anything else, and their 800 mm wading depth leaves all others drowning.

Ford Australia engineered Ranger’s (and Mazda BT-50’s) ESC with electronic controls for trailer sway, rollover mitigation, load adaptability and 4WD hill launch and descent. With its six airbags, Ranger was the world’s first five-star ute, and is matched on that safety level by the Amarok.

Mazda restricts the BT-50 to 3.2-litre manual only, as 4WD or XT Hi-Ride 2WD. Although a clone of Ranger, BT-50 is a totally different look, tending more to the stylish accents around town than the macho look for the bush.

Triton GLX’s 4WD has Mitsubishi’s Super Select system, and, with VW’s 4MOTION in Amarok and Transporter, these are the only systems that can drive all four wheels on wet sealed roads without transmission damage, an important safety feature notwithstanding the rollout of ESC, ABS and TC.

The Amarok armada comprises five base models and two Trendlines. Three of the five base Amaroks are six-speed manual 2WDs: petrol TSI300 and diesels TDI340 and TDI400, the latter two best-in-class with 7.4 and 7.9 l/100 km fuel use. The other two are 4-MOTION: the TDI400 6m and TDI420 eight-speed ZF automatic, also the best-in-class automatic at 8.3 l/100 km. At the top of the spec chart for Volkswagen are the Amarok Trendline 4MOTION TDI400 six-speed manual and the TDI 420 eight-speed ZF full-fluid automatic transmission, one of the best gearboxes in the world.

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