A 4x4 or four-wheel drive car provides the ultimate in versatility. From off-roading through muddy trails to traversing snow-covered roads in winter, you are unlikely to be beaten if you have a 4x4. When it comes to choosing the most suitable four-by-four you want to consider what your intended use is. For example do you want a family car that has the extra 'safety factor' that a four-wheel drive offers, or are you looking for a serious off-road contender? If that is the case then you will need to look at a completely different set of criteria and models of vehicle. The availability of accessories for your chosen car is also important - if you're into serious off-roading then the capability to add winches and snorkels will be important, whereas a towbar might suffice for a family 4x4 owner.
What Types of 4x4 are Available?
The Off-Roading 4x4
Off-roading is both fun, challenging and a sometimes expensive hobby. Although many people undertake this just for fun, it might be the case that the capabilities of an off-road car is required as part of your job, or simply to get to your home if you live somewhere remote. Probably the most popular 4x4 and the one with the most heritage is the Land Rover. Over time they have developed various models suited to different degrees of off-roading, from the rugged Land Rover Defender, and the more family orientated Discovery or 'Disco' as they are affectionately known.
The Defender is probably one of the best off-road vehicles and has the capability to cope with pretty much anything. As it is popular within the four-wheel drive community there are a wide variety of accessories and options that can enhance the versatility even further. These can range from an on-board compressor to an air-operated differential locker and allow you to get the most from your 4x4.
The Four Wheel Drive Pickup
Pickup trucks have come a long way from their basic and rugged roots. Nowadays the interior of the cab of a pickup truck can be just as comfortable and technologically well endowed as a rival family car. The benefits of having a pickup truck as a 4x4 vehicle is that you can typically choose whether you drive in 2 wheel drive or 4 wheel drive. When you're travelling on normal road surfaces you can shift it into 2 wheel drive, thus saving you fuel and reducing road noise. If you get somewhere challenging then all you need to do is change the car into four wheel drive by the simple moving of the lever. In the past you had to get out of the car and lock the hubs on each wheel to convert into a 4x4, however it's much simpler nowadays.
As already mentioned the beauty of the pickup truck is that you can have a car-like experience internally, yet have all the versatility of an off-road vehicle, and bags of space in the pickup bay. You can even get canopies that go over the pickup bay and give you an enclosed space that you can carry your dogs or gear around in. Some of the best models of 4x4 pickups in the UK are the Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Navara, Ford Ranger and the Toyota Hilux. The early models of many of these pickups started life as rugged, agricultural feeling cars, however have evolved into comfy and stylish vehicles.
The 4x4 Family Car
If you are looking for a four wheel drive as your main family car then you still have plenty to choose from. Although there aren't as many models to choose from compared to normal front or rear wheel drive cars, you can still find one that will exactly suit your needs and requirements. For example there are a range of cars based on different budgets. At the lower end of the price spectrum, for example, you could opt for a Kia Sportage or Mazda CX-5. Moving up the price-scale, other 4x4's such as the BMW X3, Honda CR-V or the Porsche Cayenne if you really feel like splashing the cash.
All of the cars listed above have four wheel drive capability, however they do definitely display the stereotypical high-riding style of a traditional 4x4. If you are looking for a 'normal' sized car that has all wheel drive capability then there are still a few that you can choose from. Termed as 'crossover estates', these types of cars include the Subaru Legacy, Audi A4 Avant (Quattro) / Audi A6 and the Skoda Octavia Estate. These cars have the benefit of typically not being as big and unwieldly as a large MPV, and the top of the range 4x4 estates offer excellent fuel economy as well.
To sum up there are a wide range of cars that fit into the 4x4 category, and so you want to make sure you've asked yourself exactly what you want out of your new car. Clearly outlining the high priority items before you set out on the car-buying process will ensure that you don't get sidetracked by 'wants' and not 'needs'. It's all too easy to go with what looks the best, rather than what would actually be the best for your requirements. Only you will know what is most important, whether it be off-road capability, family car looks, versatility and of course price. Feel free to browse around this website using the links on the right-hand side of the page to go through the different 4x4's that we have reviewed. Hopefully that will give you a feel for what's available, and help you buy a car that you will be pleased with for many years to come.