FOR SHEER OFF-ROAD ABILITY AND ROAD PRESENCE, IT'S HARD TO GO PAST IVECO'S RECENTLY UPDATED DAILY 4X4…
It's childish, I know, but there's a certain satisfaction in pulling up alongside a standard 4WD or ute in IVECO's Daily 4x4.
Our test vehicle, equipped as it is with chunky 37-inch mud-terrain tyres, fairly towers over most other vehicles on the road. In fact, at a height of over 2.6 metres, the Daily 4x4's occupants sit at roughly eye level with drivers of many prime movers.
Yes, you can forget about multi-story car parks in the Daily 4x4, but then the weekly shopping run is about as far as you can get from this rugged vehicle's design brief. Rather, this battle wagon is all about off-road ability, and when viewed on those terms it's right up there with the best.
The IVECO Daily 4x4 is largely aimed at fleets that require a hardy off-road machine able to conquer some seriously adverse conditions – think mining companies, energy companies and emergency services. However, this light commercial vehicle has also been steadily refined over the years to the point that it's now a feasible option for the adventure RV set, or even just hardcore off-roaders who want to go 'above and beyond' in their exploration off the beaten track.
The Daily 4x4 was updated recently and, while only a mild revision, it now boasts some upgrades and improvements that will catch the eye of many prospective buyers.
Headlining the list are front airbags for both the driver and front passenger, which cap off a reasonably comprehensive suite of safety tech that includes electronic stability control, antilock brakes (with brake force distribution), switchable traction control, rollover mitigation and a hill holder function, among others.
The addition of airbags could well be enough to get many fleet buyers across the line, as the feature is a mandatory aspect of many corporate WHS policies these days.
IVECO also says the cabin is now up to 4dB quieter thanks to extra sound suppression material and some minor aerodynamic tweaks, while the cabin now sports some changes that featured in the recent update of the 4x2 Daily van and cab/chassis family – like two-tone fabric upholstery, and a dash-top tray with USB charging points.
The front grille now adopts a fresh design but, more importantly, an extra 10hp and 30Nm have been coaxed from IVECO's 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, which now boasts claimed maximum outputs of 180hp (135kW) and 430Nm, the latter over a broad spread from 1250-3000rpm.
All worthy updates, for sure, but the Daily 4x4's robust mechanical underpinnings remain – and that's where the true appeal of this vehicle lies.
IVECO knows commercial vehicles and it manufactures everything from the Daily right up to prime movers, and that imperative for strength is clearly at play in the Daily 4x4. With a high-tensile box-section steel chassis, this truck rides on parabolic leaf springs with shockers at all four corners – independent up front and with a live axle at the rear – with 28mm stabiliser bars at each end.
With its 37-inch Hankook DynaPro MT tyres, we measured ground clearance of 270mm under the front and rear diffs, while the Daily 4x4 also boasts some pretty darn healthy off-road geometry, with approach, rampover and departure angles of 48, 153 and 39 degrees respectively. The company also quotes a wading depth of 660mm for the Daily 4x4.
Then we come to the driveline. The Daily 4x4 comes standard with triple differential locks – centre, rear and front – plus not one but two reduction gears, giving a total of 24 gears from its basic six-speed manual transmission.
Our test vehicle is also equipped with a range of off-road-centric accessories, such as the bullbar, roll cage, Narva lighting package (front LED light bar and driving lights, plus rear lights), the lockable toolbox, front and rear recovery points, and the dropside tray, along with the distinctive camo paint job.
IVECO says it brings the price of this vehicle, as tested, to around $120,000 plus on-roads. Pricing for the dual-cab Daily 4x4 kicks off from $111,000 (plus on-roads), while the single-cab variant is priced from $104,000 (plus on-roads).
Payload? We're talking a hefty 1505kg for the dual-cab or 2510kg with the factory GVM upgrade. That's a no-cost option, but it means you'll need a light truck licence to legally drive this otherwise car-licence-friendly fourbie. As you'd expect, the maximum payload for the single-cab is even higher – 1795kg, or a whopping 2800kg with the GVM upgrade.
As for towing, IVECO quotes a maximum braked towing limit of 3500kg.
We didn't tow with this Daily 4x4 but we certainly put its four-wheel drive prowess to the test, taking it to Wombat State Forest, to Melbourne's north-west, for a thorough shakedown.
The noise levels in this updated IVECO Daily 4x4 do seem lower but it's still a pretty noisy environment, an aspect clearly not helped by the road noise of those chunky mud-terrain tyres. Still, the clarity of the sound system is good enough and our test vehicle was also fitted with a multimedia/sat-nav system. IVECO tells us it's a non-standard add-on – and that the optional factory sat-nav will set you back a cool $2391!
Of course, the first challenge of Daily 4x4 ownership begins with climbing into the thing. That sturdy foot step is over half-a-metre off the deck, and because the driver and front passenger footwells are located quite a way aft of the A-pillar grab handles, a little bit of flexibility is an asset when jumping in.
It's crying out for some B-pillar grab handles, for both front and second-row occupants.
Once behind the wheel, however, life is good. The large split side mirrors, skinny A-pillars and towering ride height deliver excellent vision pretty much all the way around the Daily 4x4, and even the view immediately ahead is pretty decent courtesy of the steeply raked bonnet.
Of course, it's anyone's guess what might be happening at the rear beneath that high tray, which is where the reversing camera is invaluable. It's just a bit of a pity then that the camera's display on the multimedia screen was nigh on impossible to read in direct sunlight.
The tray is a drop-side affair and thankfully it has integrated steps either side should you need to climb in – the tray itself is 1260mm off the deck! There wasn't a heap of space in ours due to the spare wheel and the lockable side toolbox – and the dual-cab format – but nonetheless it measures 2100mm long by 2070mm wide and 330mm high. The single-cab's tray must be positively huge.
The tray, like all the extras fitted to this test vehicle, can be sourced by and fitted at your local IVECO dealership.
Handling and performance
While the harsh suspension and road noise do take the edge off highway travel, everything falls into place for this Daily on the dirt. The suspension works a treat, and we have no doubt it would work even better with more of a load on board. As it was, our off-road forays were limited to just the four occupants and a toolbox full of recovery gear.
It's still a fairly jiggly ride in rough going, but quite a bit of that is down to its ride height. Put simply, Daily 4x4 occupants get bounced through a greater arc of lateral and longitudinal travel simply because they sit so high. The driver benefits from a sprung suspension seat for a little extra damping – our vehicle had the factory option of the same unit for the front passenger – while second-row passengers make do with fixed seating.
There's room and seat belts for four across the rear bench seat but there's good leg and head room, even if the seat back is painfully upright. Oh, and the rear seat base flips up to reveal a large storage area, roomy enough to fit a long-handled shovel.
The two reduction gears mean a total of 24 gears are on offer, all the way down to a crawler gear with a ratio of 101:1 – less than walking pace. Add in the triple diff locks – actuated by buttons on the dash, plus the ample ground clearance, a tough front bash plate, healthy axle articulation and the impressive off-road geometry, and the Daily 4x4 is always up for some rough stuff in the bush.
We took it to our regular off-road proving ground, a disused quarry, and it fairly devoured everything we through at it, from steep climbs and deep ruts to multiple offset mounds, fairly tightly wooded sections and more.
With quite heavy steering and a wall-to-wall turning circle of 14.4 metres, it's not exactly set up for auto gymkhanas and we occasionally needed to take a second bite at tight switchbacks through the trees, but once mindful of that fact – and of the potential dangers of low tree boughs – it's a weapon in the scrub.
It's a front disc/rear drum brake set-up and I have to say I'd prefer a little more braking power. They're entirely adequate, mind you – just less than exceptional.
The 3.0-litre four-cylinder is a diligent worker, as it has to be to shift a kerb mass of just under three tonnes over tough terrain. But shift it it does, and its torquey nature delivers a good spread of useable twist from just over 1000rpm to around 3500rpm.
On the blacktop the engine is pulling around 2350rpm at 100km/h in sixth, although it feels more relaxed when loping along at 90km/h.
Fuel economy? We recorded an average consumption of 16.5L/100km, with that figure climbing into the low twenties when off-roading. With a 90-litre fuel tank (and a 25-litre AdBlue tank – the Daily 4x4 uses an SCR system to help meet emissions compliance), that's a safe range of around 500 kilometres, depending on usage and payload.
Cabin and convenience
The RV crew will of course also want a little comfort and refinement from their drive, and in this respect the Daily 4x4 has steadily improved over the years. While the cab can't escape its purely commercial origins, and the various panel tolerances aren't passenger-car tight, the Daily 4x4 cab is a little quieter than before and the inclusion of a dash-top tray with two USB slots is very welcome.
Unlike the multimedia screen the instruments are clear and legible, although the speedo adopts the usual Euro-centric graduations (10, 30, 50, 70, 90km/h etc). There are two comprehensive trip computers and all the main switches are within a relatively easy reach, and there's room for a CB radio at the bottom of the centre stack. Other storage options run to an overhead parcel shelf and double-deck front door side pockets.
There's pretty good walk-through access to the rear of the cab, too – although in our test vehicle's case it was blocked by a portable fridge unit, which came in handy for drinks during the heat-wave days we experienced while the Daily 4x4 was in our care.
On a related point, the (fairly noisy) air-con works okay but given the size of the cab it only barely coped on 40-degree days – it's fine for days up with temperatures up to the mid-thirties, however.
Decked out as our test vehicle is for hardcore off-roading, the IVECO Daily 4x4 is a jaw-dropping bit of gear that is as tough as it looks. For sheer off-road ability it's hard to beat, and its latest round of updates broaden the appeal of this once purely commercial proposition even further.
It might not be able to match standard 4WDs like Toyota's LandCruiser or Nissan's Patrol for comfort or features, but the Daily 4x4 will get its occupants and a significant load just about anywhere you need to go – it's a whole lot of four-wheel drive for the money.
What we liked:
• Superb off-road ability
• Airbags – finally!
• Excellent payload and towing ability
Not so much:
• Ingress/egress is a chore
• Cab is still pretty noisy
• Second-row comfort
2019 IVECO Daily 4x4 specifications:
Price: from $104,000 (plus ORCs, single-cab); from $111,000 (plus ORCs, dual-cab); $120,000 (plus ORC, as tested)
Engine: 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel: 16.5L/100km (as tested)
Safety Rating: N/A