Australians love utes. We just keep buying them in ever-increasing numbers.
And it’s the high-end, more expensive 4×4 dual cabs that command much of the market.
Versatility, capability and some generous tax concessions help encourage that popularity.
In 2022 the ute segment was boosted by the arrival of the excellent new Ford Ranger and there’s more fresh sheetmetal headed our way in 2023.
So let’s take a look at which models are hot in the dual-cab 4×4 segment and what is being added to the mix to tempt you next year.
Some of the most common Utes on-sale now
Australian designed, engineered and developed for the world, the 2022 Ranger has been an instant sales and critical success.
Almost all 4×4 dual-cab models come with the choice of the familiar biturbo four-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel and new 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engines. The bigger engine also brings with it a set and forget 4×4 system.
The new Ford Ranger has a dramatically uprated high-tech comfort and safety equipment list and is the quietest, best driving and most refined ute on the market by some margin.
At the top of the range is the wild twin-turbo petrol V6 Ranger Raptor that’s essentially an off-road racer that can be road registered. It’ll cost you about $90,000 by the time you get rolling, but what a ride it is!
The HiLux has been Australia’s top selling vehicle every year since 2016 for a variety of reasons including Toyota’s reputation for reliability and quality.
That’s taken a bit of a hit of late because the HiLux’s 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine has had some issues that have even resulted in some disgruntled owners taking Toyota to court.
The current generation is now in its final years and the new Ranger has exposed its aged interior and performance shortfalls.
Having said that a new version of the Rogue flagship with much-improved on-road dynamics has recently launched. That goes with the HiLux’s traditional off-road capabilities, which are still among the best in the class.
The third generation Isuzu D-Max launched in 2020 and made the transition from simple workhorse to desirable dual-cab without sacrificing any of its traditional qualities.
While it lacks the sheer polish and panache of the Ranger, it does everything well on- and off-road, tows and carries big loads and has an impressive package of safety technology.
The big 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel isn’t the most refined engine in the segment but like the rest of the vehicle, what it lacks in presentation it more than makes up for with honest effort.
By the way, all we’ve said about the Isuzu applies equally to the latest Mazda BT-50, which is the D-Max’s twin under the skin.
The D23/NP300 Nissan Navara was a struggler when it first launched in 2015. Much of the problem revolved around the coil spring – rather than more-common leaf spring – rear-end that struggled under a load or when towing.
But constant tuning has evolved the Navara to a point where it is a competitive and cost-effective effort that is particularly tempting if you’re on a budget.
The best models are the locally uprated SL Warrior and Pro-4X Warrior that have had further chassis tuning applied by the experts at Premcar in Melbourne. Sadly, they haven’t had permission to retune the 2.3-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine which could use some extra grunt.
The best of the Chinese dual cab utes offers the sort of big and bold chrome styling that’s popular in the category. That combines with keen – but frequently increasing – pricing to win over a solid number of customers in the segment.
But the GWM Ute is a bit under-powered and lacks on-road finesse compared to the leading contenders in the category. The jury’s also out on longevity and durability because it’s simply not been on-sale long enough yet.
Utes to look out for being released in 2023
Due for reveal in the first half of the new year and on-sale in Australia by the end of 2023, the new Triton will be a vastly changed beast.
That’s because Mitsubishi is these days joined with Nissan in a technology sharing pact so the new Triton is a co-development with the next Navara.
Details are scant about the Triton at the moment, but we do know it’s going to be bigger and blockier in its external styling and will eventually come with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain.
Much of the development of the new Triton is being conducted in Australia, which will please its huge local fanbase. Less pleasing will be the inevitable price rises that will come with the new generation, denting its reputation as great value for money.
The old Amarok was a stand-alone Volkswagen model that first rolled out in 2010 and really gathered momentum after it added a V6 turbo-diesel engine in 2016.
That made it the fastest and best-handling ute on the market, capabilities local tuner Walkinshaw Automotive Group exploited with a recent run of VW-endorsed high-end models that included $80K-plus price tags.
Well, stand by for the new Amarok which is destined to break the $80K barrier without the help of the local Walkinshaw models – they come later.
The new Amarok arrives from April 2023 and is essentially a Ford Ranger in drag. Most of the sheetmetal is new, some of the interior is also bespoke, but the basic chassis and the four-cylinder and V6 drivetrains are shared.
It’s even built in a Ford factory in South Africa on the same assembly line as the Ranger and its SUV spin-off, the Everest.
Model-for-model the new Amarok will be better equipped than the Ranger, but it will also be more expensive.
VW is confidently predicting record sales for the new Amarok, which was already the company’s most popular model in Australia. In fact we buy more Amaroks annually than any country globally.
Toyota HiLux GR Sport
Toyota will add a flagship version of the top-selling HiLux ute family to its line-up in the second half of 2023.
While not a full blown off-road racer like the Ford Ranger Raptor, the GR Sport could come with both uprated suspension and more power from its 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine than the standard HiLux.
Bigger than the one-tonne dual-cab 4x4s that are so-loved in Australia and not a diesel, the F-150 is nevertheless going to be a hit when it launches mid-2023.
The F-150 is being converted in Melbourne from left-hand drive to right-hand drive by a sanctioned third party contractor rather than coming out of the factory in the USA ready for Aussie roads.
That means you’re unlikely to get much – if any – change out of $100,000 for even the cheapest version of the F-150 offered here.
Given rival utes from Chevrolet and RAM are already sold in Australia for those sort of prices, no surprise Ford is confident it will sell every F-150 it can get its hands on.
All that money buys a lot of vehicle. All four Aussie-spec F-150 models will measure up at least 6.0 metres long and come with a 298kW/678Nm turbo-petrol V6 engine.