Pining for the days where 4X4s were tough and shorts were short?
Iveco has you covered.
Forget brand allegiance for a minute. Forget about the cool builds you’ve seen in magazines. Forget about the undoubtedly hilarious stickers of Calvin relieving himself on someone else’s brand of 4X4. Forget it all for just one minute and imagine. Imagine what your perfect 4X4 would be, what it could do, and what it’d have. Imagine the kind of rig that could eat up everything you ever threw at it and then ask for more.
I’m betting this dream 4X4 would have solid axles, probably a locker or three, the towing capacity of a freight train with the payload to match, a fuel-efficient yet incredibly torquey turbo-diesel engine and a six-speed manual cog-swapper behind it. If you’re adventurous you might even be murmuring a few off-the-wall modifications like 37in tyres, reduction gearing and power take-offs for running accessories. Of course it’d also need to be nice and simple so you could fix it yourself in the bush.
When reality sets in you may start thinking the only way to really achieve this would be a ground-up restoration of a 30yo 4X4, with the purchase price of a new vehicle spent again in modifications. That’s what we used to think too; that is of course until we were let loose in Melbourne’s 4X4 Proving Grounds with the keys to the full Iveco fleet and the opportunity to give ’em hell.
Right from the start let’s address the elephant in the room. We’ve tested the previous generation Daily 4X4 and while we were certainly impressed with its off-road performance there was no hiding the fact that it just didn’t look the part – coming closer to a mini-van on steroids than an adventure machine. It looked dated… very dated. It was painfully obvious it desperately needed a new look if it wanted to attract buyers, and Iveco obviously noticed too. Rather than putting lipstick on a pig the Italian-based manufacturer wiped the slate clean and started with an entirely new body to build the next generation Daily 4X4 off.
From the outside the most obvious change to is the front end. The old bulbous headlights have been replaced with a sleek pair of stylish halogens and an aggressive new grille, making it clear the Daily 4X4 is now a serious piece of equipment. Underneath there’s a modular bar designed for easy repairability, and included rated mounts ready for recovery points. The contemporary design continues through the rest of the exterior with more extreme panel protection, updated fixtures and contemporary styling cues throughout. Designed to meet stringent ECE-R29 safety standards, the new cab also brought along a whole heap of niceties we’ll run through later.
Moving inside and it’s immediately noticeable the new Daily 4X4 is aimed squarely at the recreational market. Both driver and passenger ride in air-suspension seats that are fully adjustable without having to deal with three million adjustment knobs (as found in more agricultural offerings). The rugged vinyl floor remains for easy cleaning, while the dash has been completely overhauled with a much more modern and ergonomic design. There’s all the niceties you’d expect from a 2016 build like multiple cup holders and storage throughout – but everything else is markedly more off-road focused.
The shifter is easy to reach on the dash directly above the driver’s knee like so many Euro imports, and all off-road controls are located within just a few inches so you’re not constantly hunting for switches halfway up a hill. There’s a few clever inclusions like a cut-off switch for the electric engine fan (when fording river crossings) but the cruise control is the real standout. It’s operated with a short lever out of the steering column – with a simple bump up or down adjusting speed. Think of it like a smart replacement for the old hand throttle.
Of course it’s not all about off-road ability. There’s plenty of inclusions to keep passengers happy too. There’s a climate control system keeping a watchful eye on cabin temperatures as well as extensive sound deadening (over previous models) and improved dust sealing. The intrusive bulkhead between front and rear compartments has also been replaced, opening up the already large cabin. If you’ve got a troop of kids the four-seater rear bench makes the Daily 4X4 Dual-Cab a true six-seater, and when matched with a front 2/3 bench that figure can be brought up to seven.
If you’re eyeing off a Daily 4X4 it’s because you’re after serious off-road performance, and you won’t be disappointed. Under the stubby bonnet there’s a direct injection 3.0L turbo-diesel backed by a six-speed manual. Peak power is 125kW, with 400Nm available from just 1,250rpm. The transfer case is full-time with a 32/68 front/rear torque split. In an unusual arrangement there’s two separate low-range ratios… 1:1.3 for fire trails and heavy loads, 1:3 for traditional off-road work, or both for an insanely low reduction of 1:3.9 (by comparison, most 4X4s have a low-range of around 1:2). In its lowest reduction setting we were able to confidently descend hills that literally had us sliding forward in our seats and standing on the firewall. Match this with the stock triple diff-locks and the Daily 4X4 is one formidable package off-road. The modernity is kept to a minimum when it’s not wanted too – with almost all of the safety gear switched off when the centre diff lock is engaged (although anything beneficial like Hill Hold Assist will stay active).
While gearing is king, it’s not the only thing that makes a 4X4 capable. Underneath the Daily 4X4 are traditional beam axles front and rear that dwarf anything else in the class. They’re held in place by a simple parabolic leaf spring arrangement. As with most things leaf sprung, the ride unladen is not exactly comfortable… although a shock upgrade and/or a load on the tray should rectify this.
There are two versions of the Daily 4X4 available, though both are nut-and-bolt identical. One has a GVM rating of 4,495kg making it car-licence legal with a payload of 1,500kg. Another version is available with a heavier GVM of 5,500kg with a payload increase to 2,500kg. If you’ve ever run the numbers on fitting accessories to a modern 4X4 you’ll know just how appealing that payload is. Both models are rated to 3,500kg braked towing.
While there might be a certain appeal to driving an older vehicle there’s no denying they’re not as safe as their modern counterparts. Iveco sought to bridge the gap between old-school simplicity and modern safety features with the ESP9 program. It brings to the party a whole host of electronic driver’s aids that are vital in a 4X4 of this size. There’s all the usual gear you’d expect like anti-lock brakes and traction control, but there’s a few more 4WD-centric offerings as well. Hill Hold Assist will momentarily hold the brakes when released, making tricky hill starts in steep terrain a safer affair. There’s Roll Over Mitigation and brake fade compensation included; and also trailer sway mitigation, something that’s a welcome inclusion considering the towing potential of a rig like this.
SO IS IT WORTH IT?
Some vehicles are generic enough that they can be recommended to everyone from Outback adventurers to soccer mums. They’ll always have their shortcomings but they’re generally good enough… a one-size-fits-all kind of 4X4. The Iveco Daily 4X4 isn’t that kind of deal. It’s an incredibly niche product and it fills that niche perfectly. If you’re after a runabout to take to the shops and occasionally punt down a fire trail, this isn’t the right vehicle for you. If, however, you dream of trundling your way through the far reaches of Australia in a 4X4 that won’t ever let you down no matter what the terrain asks of it – then you best find your way behind the oversize tiller of an Iveco Daily 4X4. They’re not for everyone, but for those out there who do need a vehicle like this… nothing else will do.