You know there’s something in the air when Australia’s three best-selling vehicles are Utes.

Last month, the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton all graced the sales-chart podium, cementing the rise of the dual-cab as a cultural phenomenon and confirming that Aussies truly view these turbo-diesel toughies as alternative forms of family transport.

Why not, when they’re literally so many vehicles in one? Five-seat family truckster with diesel economy and torque, a towing capacity approaching 3.5 tonnes, a surprising amount of equipment and an ability to conquer much of the terrain this side of Uluru. You could even turn up to a black-tie event in one of 2019’s up-spec dual-cabs and not look like a complete plonker. They really are the Jack and Jill of all trades … but only if you’re driving the best of the breed.

And that’s what we’re here to discover. If you’re going to spend 50-something on a dual-cab as the family knockabout, then which is the finest multi-tasker?

How do they compare on price?

Our dual-cab five-pack revolves around Ford’s best-selling Ranger XLT (with new 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel engine, currently $55,690 drive-away for a 2018-plate model) and Toyota’s hugely popular Hilux SR5 auto (currently $56,440 drive-away). However Toyota only had a top-spec Hilux Rogue on press fleet ($61,690 before on-roads, or currently $63,990 drive-away), which breached our ’50-something’ brief, though it differs mainly in cosmetics from the SR5 it’s based on.

At the other extreme, we wanted a Volkswagen Amarok TDI550 Sportline (currently $52,990 drive-away) though VW only had a base Amarok TDI550 Core on fleet – the stripper model with a ‘hose-out’ floor (that’s currently $49,990 drive-away), but with all the mechanical and fundamental essentials necessary to convincingly play the Sportline’s body double. It’s also mechanically identical to the even flashier Amarok TDI550 Highline – currently $57,990 drive-away. All those prices are valid until March 31.

Then there’s the new-generation Mitsubishi Triton, which at a sizzling $50,990 drive-away (until June 30) for the GLS Premium, sets a new value-for-money benchmark for the dual-cab ute sector. And Holden’s Colorado LTZ is in similar territory, priced at a tempting $49,990 drive-away for an equivalent-specification turbo-diesel auto during its MY19 run-out, or $54,990 drive-away for the muscle-car-inspired Colorado Z71 with its black alloys, black grille, and black-out paint treatment.

Besides fitting the usual accessories like tonneau covers, bull bars and the like, that’s the ceiling for the Triton – everything Mitsubishi can throw at it for $51K drive-away. That includes 18-inch alloys, perforated-leather upholstery with front seat heating, electric driver’s seat adjustment, and 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with digital radio. There’s a pair of USB slots in both the lower dash (along with an HDMI port) and the back of the centre console for rear-seat passengers, while in terms of parking assistance, you get front and rear sensors, a rear-view camera and a surround-view monitor.

For a not-quite-top model, the Ranger XLT does well for equipment. Highlights include keyless entry and start, an excellent 8.0-inch ‘SYNC3’ multimedia system with embedded sat-nav and, when fitted with $1700 worth of Tech Pack (see ‘Which is the Safest Dual-cab?’), unique features like auto park-assist, adaptive cruise control and auto high-beam. Our test XLT also featured optional leather upholstery ($1650), though it does such a sterling impression of cheap, clammy vinyl that I’d suggest it’s the worst $1650 ever spent. Unless your children cannot keep their food down, stick with cloth.

The Colorado LTZ covers all the basics and goes one step beyond expectation with four auto up/down windows and factory navigation embedded in its likeable 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with seven good-quality speakers. But it only offers tilt adjustment for its steering column and the driver’s six-way electric seat delivers the bare minimum in adjustment. Again, leather (with front seat heating) is optional, as is the striking Orange Crush metallic paint of our test ute ($550).

Had our test Amarok been a Sportline (and not the entry-level Core), its equipment list would’ve also included 18-inch alloys, front parking sensors, dual-zone climate control and rear privacy glass, though even the Core does well for its station in life. Front fog lights, rear sensors with rear-view camera, cruise control, an excellent leather-bound steering wheel, fully-adjustable (manual) front seats, and touchscreen multimedia with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and six speakers are what a base model is born with these days.

The Hilux SR5 (and its bling-tastic Rogue sibling) mirrors its rivals in almost all respects, though includes LED headlights and four auto up/down windows as part of its equipment appeal (the Ranger and Triton only get a driver’s auto window). Other highlights include keyless entry and start, rear privacy glass, factory navigation and digital radio. Leather trim (including an electric driver’s seat) is optional on SR5, standard on Rogue.

Source: Drive

March 16, 2019