Australians can’t get enough of utes.
Whether you call them utes, pickups or bakkies, you can’t ignore just how common they’ve become. No longer simply workhorses, these vehicles have become popular family vehicles in Australia – to the delight of some, and to the chagrin of others.
Not only are HiLux-sized utes ubiquitous here, but there’s also a whole ‘nother segment of full-sized American pickup trucks that are becoming increasingly popular here. The Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado will soon be joined by the Ford F-150 and Toyota Tundra in local showrooms.
There’s a mix of opinions among the CarExpert team, with some of us more enthusiastic about the prospect of owning a ute than others. Nevertheless, I put the question to our team members to find out just which ute they would buy if they were in the market.
For reference, here are all the utes on sale in Australia today:
I’ve never really been into utes except on the old man’s farm at Boggabri – especially given the fact the standard-size trays are next to useless for transporting anything longer than a broom handle.
Certainly items like a mini-mal surfboard are impossible to fit. And even though you’re paying more than $85,000 for a Ford Ranger Raptor, you’d hardly call it a luxurious bit of kit.
Hoping into a Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab, on the other hand, is a massive step up (granted it’s nearly double the money) but it has proper lounge-chair-luxury with limo levels of leg and shoulder room, along with a proper-size tray that can swallow pretty much anything you care to haul. In fact, there’s not much it can’t carry, or tow.
It’s a big unit, though, so you’ve got to check out parking facilities before setting out sometimes. But I found I could take it most places without being inconvenienced, including four-up for quality Italian fare at La Disfida on Ramsey Street, in space-challenged Haberfield, Sydney. We just parked in a side street minutes from the restaurant. No biggie.
Yep, the Ram is a proper ute in my book.
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To be honest, I am not a total ute expert and my knowledge in the category borders what Paul Maric knows about the luxury segment (next to none).
As such I had to use our Car Chooser tool to show me all the options available and well, talk about depressing… Why do buyers insist on a ute if they don’t use the tray? I don’t get it. Maric’s Raptor has never had one thing in the tray and never will. He doesn’t own any tools, he doesn’t even know how to hold a screwdriver.
But it’s not just him, our full-time social media manager, Megan recently bought a Mazda BT-50 and really, the question has to be asked: “why?”
She says it’s so she can go to Fraser Island (or whatever the hell it’s called now), but so can a Jimny or you know, anything with decent 4WDing capabilities.
When it comes to Australia’s love affair with utes, either I am missing something or the country’s best-selling cars are more of a statement of intent than action.
In saying all that, if someone put a gun to my head and told me to buy a ute, I would look them in the eye and ask them to pull the trigger. Alas, if they insisted by threatening my kids to make me choose, I would take a hard look at the boys first and make sure they know the sacrifice I am making for them and then, and only then, I suppose I would go with the GWM Ute/the artist formerly known as GWM Cannon.
The reason being is that I would never use it as a ute anyway (like most owners) so I may as well have something different that looks cool – and I really like the look of it. Plus it’s called a Cannon and while that is in no way shape or form as good a name as the BYD Dolphin (which launched at Sea World with a, you guessed it, dolphin show), it certainly beats driving around in a Ranger or HiLux.
Or, you know, maybe he can still pull the trigger.
FINALLY! I can use this vehicle in the correct context. If I needed to buy a ute again, I’d be buying a Ford Ranger Raptor.
Why? It’s unreal fun to drive and it’s about as quick as you’d ever want a ute to be.
Yes, if you’ve been watching our YouTube channel recently, you’ll know the differential on my car needed to be replaced because it had insufficient differential oil from the factory and developed a whine.
But I still wouldn’t own anything else. I don’t use a ute solely as a workhorse, so I don’t want to get lumped with a boring four-cylinder diesel ute to get me by. It’d rather have something fun and interesting to drive.
This one’s simple – I’d buy a Ford Ranger Wildtrak V6.
It’s a capable, comfortable cruiser on the highway, possesses enough off-road smarts to take amateurs into the wilderness, features an interior that tiptoes the line between usability and flashy modernity, and has the versatility of a tray on the back.
Do you need the Wildtrak? Probably not, given how capable the V6-powered Ranger Sport and XLT already are.
Do you want it? Having spent a very long time behind the wheel, I do.
I will have to go with the Ram 1500 with the RamBox system.
I look forward to the day when I can pack up the Ram, attach the 4×4 caravan and hit the road.
I’ve test driven plenty of utes and this by far is my favourite. It has so much space, it’s very comfortable and it’s therefore perfect for those with kids.
The only downside is that city roads can be too narrow, but it’s still ideal for touring around Australia
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I know this has become a Ranger-fest, but I might as well join the horde.
I could go down the route of going high-end with the Platinum or Baja-ready with the Raptor, but I’d liked to actually use my ute. I grew up on a farm so I automatically feel like I have the most authority on this point.
This is why I’d opt for the Ford Ranger XLT cab-chassis with the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 and an aluminium tray. A tray is pretty much a necessity on farms because you swap and change the stuff on the back frequently and a standard tub can be quite limiting in this regard.
The Ranger XLT is the best-equipped workhorse variant in the line-up and doesn’t come with the luxury features (leather seats, etc.) that are often lost on me in a ute. I also appreciate how comfortable the ride is thanks in part to the smaller 17-inch alloy wheels and the chubby tyre sidewalls.
I’m not a ute guy by any stretch, which is why I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed the Ford Ranger Raptor.
Bush-bashing is a blast in this twin-turbo V6 ute, but even on city streets the Raptor proves exceedingly comfortable. Of course, while it’s surprisingly pleasant to live with day-to-day, it’s still a very OTT ute – and thirsty, too.
A more sensible choice would be a regular Ranger or the related Volkswagen Amarok.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Amarok in petrol-powered Aventura guise, but while it’s better-looking inside than the Ranger, the cabin isn’t as user-friendly. The Ranger/Amarok’s V6 turbo-diesel is an appealing mill, and Ford’s new Platinum variant of the Ranger is more my style than anything else in this segment.
Mind you, you could get by with, say, a bi-turbo XLT and still have an excellent ute.
While a dual-cab ute would be the last type of vehicle on my shopping list, I have a pretty standard go-to response if you were to ask me which ute you should buy.
The Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok are the segment benchmarks. While definitely priced on the premium scale, even in the lower grades they offer technology and overall refinement that no other utes can match this side of a Ram 1500 or Chevrolet Silverado.
As for which spec, the Ranger Platinum or Amarok Panamericana with the V6 diesel, please and thank you.
If those are too much of a stretch, a second co-development pair in the Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50 shape as the next-best option(s). I personally like the more restrained, SUV looks of the BT-50 and its slightly nicer interior, but I know many appreciate the D-Max’s tougher vibe.