This is indeed a 'large ute'!

Brilliant off road credentials and more than twice the payload of a ute are generating good business for this capable machine.

There are plenty of people who want more payload than a 4WD ute offers, but don’t want a forward control truck, such as a Fuso Canter, Isuzu NLS or NPS 4x4. Alternatives until now have been limited to a 6x6 conversion on an existing bonnetted 4WD ute or the semi-bonnetted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4WD van and cab/chassis.

These alternatives have better comfort than Canter or NPS light trucks, but a 6x6 conversion is very expensive and the Sprinter’s basic 4WD system is without proper low-range gearing. No diff locks and limited ground clearance also make the Sprinter 4x4 marginal for serious off-road work.

Following several months of testing and ADR homologation the post-2017 Iveco Daily 4WD range was made available. It had twice the payload of a 4x4 ute and better comfort and off-road ability than Japanese 4x4 light trucks. Allan Whiting went to the launch event.

The 4x4 light truck market is dominated by Japanese Isuzu NPS and Fuso Canters, but the Iveco Daily 4x4 has been making inroads since its 2013 release. The Daily 4x4 appeals to buyers who want ute-like wheel track, single tyres front and rear and a semi-forward-control configuration.

Mercedes-Benz’ Sprinter 4x4 should also be a serious contender in this market, but M-B Australia offers only basic 4x4 equipment – no deep-reduction gearing or across-axle diff locks that other overseas markets get – so it’s not considered by many buyers.

Launched in Australia in 2013 and based on the award-winning Daily 4x2 light truck range, the 4x4 version is built around a highly turbocharged diesel engine, six-speed main transmission, three-speed transfer box, ladder-frame chassis, taper-leaf springs and front and rear live axles fitted with across-axle diff locks. There’s an additional diff lock in the transfer case.

For 2017 the Daily 4x4 configuration is unchanged, but the new model is more civilised. The cab exterior and interior are noticeably different.

The post-2013 Daily 4x4 is a much better than the company’s first Daily 4x4 effort in the 1990s, with which it has nothing in common. The original Daily 4WD 75PC had independent torsion bar front suspension, an asthmatic diesel engine and a final drive ratio that limited cruising speed to around 90km/h. As a result, most of the ones that Britz bought and used as rental campervans blew up. Some of the older models are still around, surviving in low-speed, rural council applications.

Bush-ready powertrain

The main transmission operates in either direct-drive (1.0:1.0) or under-drive, via a lever that selects a 1:1.24 reduction. When driving with the transfer case in high range the truck can operate with highway gearing that drops cruising revs at 110km/h to a shade over 2500rpm. In this mode, fuel consumption worked out around 11.5-13.5L/100km, when we tested a part-loaded 2013 model.

It’s as well that the fuel consumption is good, because the standard fuel tank capacity is only 90 litres: Iveco needs an auxiliary tank for this truck.

In under-drive the transmission is set up for dirt-road and track driving, with a lower-speed gearset. For example, in under-drive the road speed at 2500rpm is only 90km/h. The under-drive-direct shift can be done with the vehicle moving.

For serious off-road work the vehicle can be operated in deep-reduction low range, but must be stopped before the low-range lever is moved. As with high-range the transmission can operate in under-drive or direct in low range and the reduction ratios are 1:3.87 and 1:3.12, respectively.

In low-low the overall reduction is a class leading 100:1! Typical 4WD ute low-range reduction is in the 40:1 to 70:1 region.

Back in the olden days a truck would be given deep-reduction gearing to mask a lack of torque, but not in the case of the Iveco Daily 4x4. Power comes from a three-litre diesel four with two turbochargers operating in series and helping the engine punch out 125kW (170hp) at 3000-35000rpm, with peak torque of 400Nm in the most-used 1250-3000rpm band.

The 2017 engine is Euro 6 complaint, although there’s no legal need in Australia for that level of emissions control. The Daily engine has a 25-litre AdBlue tank for its selective catalytic reduction (SCR) emissions control system.

With series turbocharging a three-litre engine obviously could produce more than 400Nm, but the torque curve has been capped to deliver peak torque across a very wide rev band – ideal for an off-road machine, where the driver doesn’t want a sudden, traction-busting wallop of torque as engine revs change.

Another, mechanical, reason for limiting the peak torque is the Daily 4x4’s considerable gearing reduction. With more engine torque the driveline and axles would have to be made larger – heavier – and that’s not in the interests of keeping tare weight to minimum.

Speaking of weights, the Daily 4x4 single-cab/chassis model tips the scales at 2.7 tonnes – about the same weight as a LandCruiser 200 Series station wagon!


Improved ergonomics

The Iveco Daily 4x4 comes as a two- or three-seat short cab or a six- or seven-seat crew cab and all outboard seating positions have lap-sash seat belts. The standard driver’s seat in both models is an ISRI air-suspended and heated chair and the standard passenger seat is a two-place bench. However, an air suspended, heated single-passenger seat is optional. The rear bench in the crew cab seats four.

SRS airbags aren't yet available, but will appear in the first quarter of 2017.

Equipment levels are carry-overs from the class-leading Iveco Daily 4x2 models and include ABS/EBD vacuum/hydraulic, disc and drum braking (ABS is cancelled when the centre differential is locked for off-road driving); seat belt pretensioners; power windows; remote central locking; powered, heated main mirrors and manual-adjust spotters; trip computer; three DIN slots, including a CD player/radio; USB outlets; cruise control; climate-control air conditioning/heating; engine fan cut-off; engine immobiliser and headlight beam-height adjustment.

An obvious omission from the 2013 specification was Bluetooth connectivity, but that’s been remedied in the 2017 model. Another inclusion is a battery isolation switch, to ensure the starting battery can’t be accidentally drained.

Also added is an ESP9 braking system that includes automatic skid reduction (ASR); trailer recognition with trailer sway mitigation; a hill holding feature; brake-fade pressure boost and roll-over intervention.

Both Daily 4x4 models are built on a 3400mm wheelbase, giving excellent approach, departure and ramp-over angles of 50, 30 and 150 degrees, respectively.

In the interests of car-licenced driver operation the standard gross mass rating is 4495kg, but for those with a light-truck licence the vehicle can be purchased with an increased 5500kg - previously 5200kg - GVM rating, without any modification being necessary.

At the lower GVM rating the single cab has a body and payload capacity of 1795kg, and 2800kg at the higher rating. The crew cab has a standard payload of 1505kg and 2510kg at the higher GVM rating. All Daily 4x4s can pull a 3500kg trailer.

RRPs in August 2016 were $88,000 for the single-cab/chassis and $94,000 for the crew-cab/chassis – up eight grand on the previous post-2013 models.


In-service issues

No matter how much testing truck makers do, there are inevitable issues that develop with first-generation products in the Australian environment. The post-2013 Iveco Daily was no exception.

Several owners had braking issues, quoting situations where the front discs became red hot while the rear drums remained cool. The culprit was invariably a poorly-set-up load proportioning valve on the rear axle. That’s been eliminated from the 2017 model, Iveco says, by the fitment of an ESP9 braking system.

Another common complaint from owners of Dailys that travelled on corrugated roads was mangled transfer case mounting bushes. Iveco reckons the latest-generation bushes have solved that problem and they can be retro-fitted to post-2013 models.

On and off road

The Daily 4x4 single- and crew-cab evaluation trucks had a definite presence, because the slightly modified Daily 4x2 cab sat up high on a purpose-built, box-section frame. Doing pre-trip checks under snub-nosed bonnet meant standing on the new three-piece bumper.

Fortunately, getting in and out of the skyscraper cab was easy, thanks to an additional step bolted under each doorsill. The crew cab gets rear-door entry steps as well.

Seat adjustment for reach, rake and driver’s weight was easy and the 2017 seats were lower than the previous perches. Also, the new steering column and smaller wheel were better positioned. The new cab had a taller windscreen, improving off-road, steep-country vision and pedal disposition was more central then previously, although the pedals are a tad close together for fat-boot work.

The main transmission lever poked conveniently out of the dashboard and the two transfer case levers were close by the seat, allowing unfettered walk-through to the near-side door, or to the rear seat in crew-cabs.

The 2017-model launch didn’t include an on-road course, but since then e managed to test an Earthcruiser-motorhome 2017 Daily 4x4 and found it a pleasure to drive on sealed roads and it had no trouble keeping up with traffic. Ride quality was firm, but better than that in forward-control light trucks and fat sway bars front and rear did a good job of limiting body roll in corners.

On the open road the Daily was happy to cruise all day at legal speeds and noise was minimal.

Vision was excellent in all directions; the wiper/washers worked a treat and the standard headlights were OK for town work. However, the 2017 cab has changed headlight positions that suggest worse lighting, so auxiliaries would be high on our shopping list.

On dirt the Daily was in its element and the under-drive gear set was perfect for these conditions. The vehicle handled corrugations in its stride.

In off-road conditions the 2017 Daily 4x4 maintained the marque’s stature as one of the most capable machines I’ve driven. Despite the Daily’s height the wheel track isn’t much different from that of smaller 4x4 machines, so it fitted comfortably on bush tracks.

The 2017-model launch was held at the Melbourne 4x4 Proving and Training Ground. Robbie Emmins has done a great job of making this facility the ideal place for judging 4x4 capability, with a combination of chassis-twist, side-slope, mud-hole, creek fording and very steep sections.

The Daily 4x4 test vehicles were unloaded, making their lives even more difficult, but nothing in the Proving Ground proved too difficult for them. All the ground-level challenges were done in first-stage low range and the deep-reduction gearing was needed only for the steepest sections.

The diff-locking procedure was logical and easily performed: at the base of a climb I pressed Button One on the dashboard, to lock the centre differential, then Button Two, to lock the rear diff. The Daily handled most obstacles without the front diff needing to be locked, but when it was engaged a beeper reminded me that steering would be heavily compromised. Diff lock engagement and disengagement was quick.

The diff locks operated faultlessly and if you forget to disengage them they do so automatically as road speed increases.

The new hill-hold function is a boon in steep country, allowing easy restarts without stress on the driver or machine.

The standard tyres – a mixture of 9.5R17.5 and 255/100R16 - were fine in these demanding conditions, but for sand work fatter rubber is available in the form of approved after-market 37x12.50R17 LTs from Federal and Hankook on steel-spoked wheels.

Although the Daily 4x4’s overall ground clearance is class-leading the front axle/steering design puts the anti-sway bar and the tie rod in front of the axle, behind a protective grate that intrudes into the approach angle. We dinged the grate easily on a rock shelf. It’s a shame the anti-sway bar couldn’t have been designed as a higher installation, with rod connections down to the spring plates. The tie rod, ideally, should be behind the axle housing.

Minor issues apart, Iveco is on a winner with this most capable machine.

The following video shows the 2013 model in action. We'd have made an updated video of the 2017 model if we got our hands on a test vehicle. Unfortunately, Iveco is selling every Daily 4x4 it can get it hands on.


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