SA’s 5 best off-roading double-cab bakkies

Oliver Keohane takes a look at five of the best off-road-equipped double-cab bakkies available in South Africa.

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to get a first drive of the Ford Ranger Wildtrak X, a Ranger derivative manufactured specifically for the off-road enthusiast. Around the same time, Isuzu released their Arctic Trucks collaboration, the D-Max AT35 – an updated D-Max double-cab, also engineered with trail rather than tar in mind.

Looking for a new or used bakkie? Find it here with CARmag. 

The quick succession of these specialist bakkies got me thinking, what are the best off-road options available to us in South Africa? Or rather, the best off-road options that also have a load bed.

This is a subjective list but here is some thought as to what makes the cut. I’ve chosen bakkies that were purpose-built for off-roading, straight from the factory – with more serious off-road suspensions and stock all-terrain tyres as key contributors to the criteria. Thus, this list will look at ground clearance, departure and approach angles and water wading depths for those wanting to know what the most suitable off-roading machine would be for future endeavours. Of course, without a skilled driver at the helm, all of this is in vain – competency behind the wheel when it comes to off-roading is as crucial as locking differentials and knobbly rubber.

What follows now is a quick look at the more specialised off-road double cabs, in an ever-saturating segment of the motoring world! In no particular order…

Ford Ranger Raptor

Perhaps the first vehicle that would spring to mind for the contemporary customer, Ford’s newest Ranger Raptor is an off-road machine, described once by CARmag digital editor Alex Shahini as a ‘dune decimator’ following its Namibian launch. Equipped with a twin-turbocharged three-litre V6 engine which blasts out 242kW and 583Nm, the double-cab bakkie possesses quite a bit more power than your average off-roader (or what is necessary for an off-roader).

Ford Raptor
Image: Ford

Related: Ford’s new Dune Decimator! Ranger Raptor launch review

The Raptor rides on 33-inch tyres and benefits from a Fox Live Valve Internal Bypass shock absorbers which can electronically adjust to the terrain. It also comes kitted with a front diff lock, along with all of Ford’s selectable four-wheel drive options to make it a formidable 4×4.

  • Priced from: R1 094 900
  • Ground clearance: 272mm
  • Approach/Departure angles: 32/27 degrees
  • Differentials: Front, centre, rear
  • Wading depth: 850mm
  • Braked towing capacity: 2 500kg

Watch: Drifting and Jumping in the new Ranger Raptor 

Toyota Land Cruiser 79

Toyota began manufacturing the 70 series Land Cruisers in 1984, and is still happily producing them in 2023. The double-cab iteration was officially named the ’79’ in 1999 and has continued to please many a customer for the last 24 years.

The Land Cruiser makes the list for its basic off-road capability combined with extreme utility and reliability. You don’t buy a 70 series by any means for comfort, but rather with the knowledge that its three locking differentials, low-range gearbox and a choice of petrol or diesel engine will take you anywhere, and get you back where others may not. As will the variety of engine options available, be that diesel or petrol. There are six Land Cruiser 79 models (between the single and double cab variants), and two of the six models have a 4.5-litre V8 engine which delivers 151kW of power and 430Nm of torque.

Toyota Land Cruiser 79 70th Anniversary
Image: Toyota

Related: Land Cruiser 70 Receives Styling Upgrade and New Turbodiesel

There is actually a Toyota factory in Gibraltar – Toyota Gibraltar Stockholdings – producing and shipping pretty much only 70 series Land Cruisers to be used as relief vehicles around the world, for organisations like the United Nations which again is testament to its durability and reliability.

  • Priced from: R849 800
  • Ground clearance: 283mm
  • Approach/Departure angles: 33/27 degrees
  • Differentials: Front, centre and rear
  • Wading depth: 700mm
  • Braked towing capacity: 3 500kg

Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

The Gladiator Rubicon was South Africa’s biggest and most expensive double-cab bakkie until the Ineos Quartermaster was announced for the local market, and the fact that it will soon sit in second place for price and size is actually quite astonishing. The Gladiator essentially represents a Rubicon Wrangler with a load bed, and anything associated with that iconic name easily makes an off-roading ‘best of’. And for our foreign readers, anything with a load bed also makes a South African ‘best of’.

top five
Image: Jeep

The Gladiator comes kitted with all the necessary off-roading features you find in the Wrangler Rubicon, including selectable four-wheel drive options – low range too, obviously – and also allowing a permanent 4WD.  Jeep’s bakkie boasts front and rear locking differentials, as well as a detachable sway bar.

Related: DRIVEN: Jeep Gladiator Sand Runner

Wearing the Jeep emblem one would expect a powerful engine, and the Gladiator Rubicon’s naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6 pumps out 209kW and 347Nm of torque putting it second to the Ranger Raptor in power output.

  • Priced from: R1 329 900,
  • Ground clearance: 282mm
  • Approach/Departure angles: 43.6/20.3 degrees
  • Differentials: Front, centre and rear
  • Wading depth: 800mm
  • Braked towing capacity: 2 721kg

Watch: What’s in the CAR garage: Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 3,6

Ford Ranger Wildtrak X

I have argued since I got the opportunity to drive the newest member of the Ranger family, that the Wildtrak is the most intentionally built off-roading bakkie on the market at the moment. This argument takes capability, specification and pricing into account.

Read more: Why the Wildtrak X the ultimate overlanding bakkie

The Wildtrak X comes with all of Ford’s selectable four-wheel drive options, including the ‘4A’ permanent 4WD mode and a fantastic low-range option. The double-cab, which comes to South Africa soon, was also built with Ford’s bi-turbo two-litre diesel engine. Why not the V6 so in vogue? Ford’s engineers gave it some serious consideration when it comes to over-landing and fuel economy.  You still get a healthy 154kW and 500Nm from the trusty two-litre.

Wildtrak X
Image: Ford

The Wildtrak X comes off the factory line with an improved suspension, utilising Bilstein Position-Sensitive dampers, and riding on a fat set of 17-inch alloys and 265/70 R17 General Grabber AT3 all-terrain tyres. Add to the physical upgrades the introduction of some neat off-road tech including trail control (cruise control for the dirt road) and trail turn assist.

  • Priced at: R1 013 000,
  • Ground clearance: 232mm
  • Approach/Departure angles: 30/23 degrees
  • Differentials: Rear
  • Wading depth: 800mm
  • Braked towing capacity: 3 500kg

Ineos Grenadier Quartermaster

And finally, the double-cab bakkie that blew the Gladiator out of the waters with its eye-watering price tag, but makes all sorts of promises as an off-roading weapon. The Quartermaster is not available in South Africa just yet, but it’s on its way, with local pricing announced and orders opening for South African markets.

I’m including the Quartermaster despite not having arrived in SA yet because, well, it’s on its way and it’s an absolute machine according to those within our team that have sampled it overseas. Powered by BMW powertrains, the Quartermaster offers a petrol model that generates 210kW of power and 450Nm of torque, while their diesel motors send out 182kW and 550Nm.

Ineos Grenadier Quartermaster
Image: Ineos Automotive

Included as standard features are a centre differential lock and a two-speed transfer case, paired with robust elements such as a five-link suspension, Carraro solid beam axles, and Brembo brakes. The Trailmaster model further comes equipped with front and rear differential locks, and BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tyres, an option that is also available for the other two editions.

The Quartermaster also offers in-house customisation galore with various accessories for the cargo bay including a frame and waterproof canvas canopy, lockable roller cover, and roof rack. Time will tell if all of this justifies the price tag which is closing in on the R2m mark…

  • Priced from: R1 717 100
  • Ground clearance: 264mm
  • Approach/Departure angles: 36.2/22.6 degrees
  • Differentials: Centre (standard) front and rear (optional)
  • Wading depth: 800mm
  • Braked towing capacity: 3 500kg

So now is the time for honourable mentions and explanations. No D-Max A35? No Hilux?

This was a tricky one – while Isuzu’s D-Max AT35 collaboration with Arctic Trucks will probably prove over time to be one of the most reliable off-roaders, the new model saw no changes to the engine although it received a lift kit, chunky rubber and a body kit to match the aggression.

AT35 double-cab bakkies
Image: Isuzu

You can read about what Isuzu did to beef up the D-Max and make it more structurally capable for off-roading here: Review: Isuzu D-Max Arctic AT35

Toyota’s Hilux GR-S was also unlucky to miss out, but I have no doubt that when the Japanese manufacturers do eventually release their next-generation double-cab Hilux models, the GR-S will easily make its way into the Top 5. For now, the car remains slightly dated in comparison to its contemporaries, and realistically none of their offerings at the moment usurps the legendary Land Cruiser 79.

LCV double-cab bakkies
Image: Toyota

Related: Toyota Hilux GR-S 2,8 GD-6 4X4 automatic – Into the wild part 1

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The post SA’s Five Best Off-Roading Double-Cab Bakkies appeared first on CAR Magazine.

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