How much do modifications and off-road driving impact your fuel economy?

Finding that sweet spot between power and efficiency is key...

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Club 4X4 Insurance
Apr 11 2024
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The 4X4 world is always buzzing with debates about striking that perfect balance between power and efficiency, especially when it comes to modifying your 4WD for off-road adventures and towing. Whether you're hitting the trails for some weekend fun or relying on your 4WD for everyday adventures, finding that sweet spot between power and efficiency is key. And with the rise of modifications and towing demands, the debate only gets hotter.

Take our Club 4X4 Insurance Next Gen Ford Everest and Ranger, sporting Bi-Turbo 2.0L and turbo 3.0L V6 engines respectively. Ford Australia talk to the urban, extra-urban, and combined fuel economy figures for both vehicles...

But what does this mean when we head off the beaten track?

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let's take a step back and look at the bigger picture of the fuel economy debate. The push towards greener technologies has led car manufacturers to get creative with engine designs, aerodynamics, and more. But how do these advancements stack up when we want to enhance our 4WDs for off-road terrains and heavy towing?

That's where the rubber meets the road – literally. We've been conducting our own real fuel economy test on our Next Gen Ford Everest and Ranger from the day we got them. Our data tracked the changes in fuel economy through outback trips, beach weekends, highway trips and general town driving, and include earmarked dates where key modifications were fitted to see if they made a difference. These numbers give us a clearer picture of how our touring set up 4WD performs in everyday situations, beyond the manufacturer's claims.

After all, in the world of 4WDs, it's not just about getting there – it's about how you get there and how much juice you've got left in the tank when you arrive.

Kicking off where our adventures began, we got our hands on both vehicles from Ford with around 5-6000km on the clock, just in time for our trip to K'Gari/Fraser Island for the 2023 Clean Up event by 4WD Queensland. Before we hit the sand, we were able to squeeze in our first couple of modifications; a set of Method Race Wheels and Toyo Tires Open Country R/Ts on the Everest and A/T III's on the Ranger, and a Safari Snorkel on the Everest.

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next gen ford ranger and everest beach driving australia

Our long weekend on K'Gari gave us an opportunity to explore the island, tackling Ngkala Rocks and venturing as far north as Orchid Beach. Our Ford's drove effortlessly through the sand, even when loaded up with camping gear and our team of 8. Our Everest averaged 10.81L/100km and Ranger 10.31L/100km which is pretty epic fuel economy considering how much soft sand they tackled over the four days on the island.

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fraser island drone shot 4wd beach driving

Following our beach adventure, the next event on our calendar was the Big Red Bash in Birdsville, QLD – the most remote music festival in the world. We took our Next Gen Everest on a solo adventure for this trip, and it blew our socks off! The 3,500kms was a mix of highway, outback roads and one of the muddiest drives from Windorah to Birdsville we've ever done. Loaded up with gear to keep us going off-grid for our 10-day visit , the Everest was phenomenal. There was a mix of 2H, 4A and 4H driving, speeds varying from 110km/hr to 40km/hr and it averaged 9.5L/100km for the trip. The best fuel economy we achieved was Windorah to Thargomindah on our route home from the Bash at 7.99L/100km and our worst being 10.35L/100km from Birdsville to Windorah with the Birdsville Development Road worse for wear after the wet weather and huge amount of traffic it copped before the event. 

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airing down tyres ford everest queensland outback

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birdsville development road

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muddy ford everest outback driving wet weather

We spent the next couple of months modifying our primary show vehicle, the Everest, which sports a complete branded wrap. In addition to the existing wheel/tyre upgrades and snorkel, we added:

For the full modification drill down, check out our build article.

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club 4x4 insurance ford everest camping set up modified

All these modifications were fitted ahead of our biggest trip of the year, filming Episodes 5 & 6 of Pat Callinan's MR4X4 Adventures Season 16 where Sam, one of our underwriters, headed south to adventure from Sydney to Melbourne entirely on the dirt!

This trip with Pat meant our Everest ventured up, down and around the Blue Mountains and the Victorian High Country, Blue Rag Track included. The drive from our Sunshine Coast HQ to Sydney to catch up with the rest of the crew was a breeze, with the highway average of our fully modified4WD sitting at 9.6L/100km. From Sydney onwards was majority off-road, and as expected, our fuel consumption increased to 13.84L/100km with majority of that 1,800km off-road being hilly terrains, and low range 4WDing. The Everest was also fully loaded for this 1,800km, even carrying a second swag and extra gear on the roof to spread some of the load from Pat's crew.

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club 4x4 insurance ford everest mud crossing offroad

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blue rag track 4wding club 4x4 insurance offroad convoy

Whilst the Everest was off adventuring through the outback, our Club 4X4 Ranger got some towing under its belt, travelling from Sydney to Melbourne with a 2500kg trailer in tow, for the Melbourne 4X4 Show. On this trip, the Ranger achieved an average fuel economy of 15.85L/100km, with the best economy as low as 11.83L/100km during a flatter stint of the interstate trip.

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ford ranger reversing to tow a caravan

Some of the team who have towed in both vehicles agreed that the 3.0L Turbo V6 pulls the extra weight of a heavy trailer and a full tray like a dream, especially backed by the 10-speed auto that's in both of our Fords and selects gears really well regardless of load and conditions. The 2.0L Bi-Turbo definitely has its place though and is perfectly suitable for lighter duty applications. It's still very capable on-road and off-road when filled to the brim with camping gear and has plenty of grunt to tow a camper trailer or smaller caravan.

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club 4x4 insurance ford ranger 4wd park wheel lift

Our fuel economy testing was conducted over thousands of kilometres, including towing, on-road and off-road driving. The results are below:
Next Gen Ford Everest 2.0L Bi-Turbo Diesel

Total KM travelled: 19,933km
Average Fuel Economy: 10.77L/100km

Next Gen Ford Ranger 3.0L Turbo V6 Diesel

Total KM travelled: 14,969km
Average Fuel Economy: 10.72L/100km

So, while it's true that our modified 4WDs might not always match the fuel economy figures boasted by the manufacturers, the adventures they take us on are worth every extra litre. From the rugged outback to secluded beach campsites, our 4WDs enable us to explore the breathtaking landscapes that define our Aussie lifestyle. So, next time you're calculating fuel costs for your off-road journey, remember that the memories made, and the places discovered are priceless.

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