The Toyota LandCruiser Prado has enjoyed the status of Australia’s best-selling large SUV for several years now, but it’s facing some tough competition.
The newer Isuzu MU-X and Ford Everest are getting closer and closer to the Toyota in the sales race.
The Everest offers bold styling and arguably the slickest infotainment technology in the segment, plus a choice of four-cylinder and V6 turbo-diesel engines.
While both are fresher than the venerable Prado, itself entering a new generation next year, the Everest is narrowly the newest having launched here in 2022.
That also seems to have translated to longer wait times.
Our data shows you could be looking at a wait of over six months to take delivery of a new Everest, even as the Blue Oval has chartered a dedicated ship to carry both Everests and Rangers to Australia. So, what do you do if you don’t want to wait?
It’s a damn shame the Ford Everest still has some lengthy wait times because it really is a great looking bit of kit and capable enough off the beaten track to get to some out-of-the-way secret surf spots up and down the coast.
Nevertheless, I might be prepared to hold on for a while longer for the boxy new Hyundai Santa Fe. I’m utterly sold on the styling, inside and out.
But alas, if I’m desperate for a family-friendly SUV with legitimate off-road skills, then I’m going with the GWM Tank 300 Ultra Hybrid. It’s a great design and properly capable on the dirt.
MORE: Buy a GWM Tank 300
This is a tough one, because the Ford Everest is a really good four-wheel drive. It’s the one I would buy… but that isn’t the game we’re playing here.
Rather than the Isuzu MU-X, which aims to take on the Everest with a luxurious interior and a similar price tag, I’m going to look to the budget end of the spectrum and go for a Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
It’s getting long in the tooth, but it’s still a rock solid family off-roader with the benefit of a four-wheel drive system that can operate in 4H on sealed surfaces.
There are many options within this segment so it’s very hard to pick.
If I had to decide based on stock availability I would choose the top-spec SsangYong Rexton. It’s ready to go off-road, it’s affordable, and has plenty of space.
However, if I was adamant about an Everest, I would perhaps consider a Ranger or Amarok if I didn’t need the third row.
MORE: Buy a SsangYong Rexton
Not everyone needs a high-riding, ute-based SUV and that’s why I’d argue you should consider the Subaru Outback if you don’t want to wait over six months for a Ford Everest.
Sure the Outback doesn’t have the option of seven seats like the Everest, but the five seats the Japanese-built high-riding wagon does have are supremely comfortable. There’s also oodles of space in the second row and the boot.
The Subaru Outback is an amazing highway cruiser, though with the naturally aspirated engine it can feel a little underwhelming. That’s why I’d opt for the XT’s 2.4-litre turbocharged engine and its zestier 183kW and 350Nm outputs.
MORE: Buy a Subaru Outback
The Everest is perhaps my favourite of the body-on-frame SUVs, but there are some other compelling options.
The Isuzu MU-X impresses with its torquey engine, but I don’t care for its absence of a full-time four-wheel drive mode. The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport does have one plus a lower price, but otherwise isn’t particularly inspiring.
If you have to have a body-on-frame off-roader with 3500kg braked towing capacity, the oft-forgotten SsangYong Rexton is a compelling offering despite a recent price increase. It may lack full-time 4WD and adaptive cruise control, but it has a plush interior and still undercuts the establishment offerings.
If you don’t need to tow that much, however, and if your idea of off-roading is the occasional long gravel driveway, I would steer you towards a Hyundai Palisade.
With one of the most comfortable, neatly appointed interiors at this price point and a thrifty turbo-diesel engine, not to mention bold good looks, it’s a desirable three-row family SUV.
Like the ute segment, my second-best alternative to Ford’s benchmark product is the Isuzu equivalent.
While not quite as good as the Everest, the MU-X puts in a solid showing in terms of driving performance and refinement, in addition to capability and available technologies.
It’s also more affordable to buy, with a mid- or high-spec MU-X coming in for similar money to a low- to mid-spec Everest depending on configuration. Plus, you have Isuzu’s reputation for reliability and dependability.
Should you not need 4×4 capability or a towing capacity of over 3.0 tonnes, special mentions to the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe, which offer similar levels of space and comfort but are more plush to drive.
MORE: Buy an Isuzu MU-X