Wag­ons tus­sle on one of Aus­tralia’s tough­est tracks.

The Can­ning Stock Route is the per­fect chal­lenge to sep­a­rate the bush con­tenders from pre­tenders.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

HEAD­ING north out of Perth gave us time to con­tem­plate just how much the 4x4 mar­ket had changed over the past decade. Lead­ing the con­voy was an old favourite, the Toy­ota Prado. The model first ar­rived in 1996 as an an­ti­dote to the in­creas­ingly pricier Landcruiser king, and it has since ce­mented it­self as an out­back prince. Next in the con­voy was Toy­ota’s For­tuner. The Prado was once a circa-$40k off-roader but now com­mands half that again for the vol­ume-sell­ing GXL. So the For­tuner has been born as the most af­ford­able diesel en­try to Toy­ota’s off-road bri­gade.

Isuzu’s MU-X is an­other rel­a­tive new­comer, hav­ing first sur­faced in 2013. It sports a proven ute and truck her­itage in a no-non­sense seven-seat shell.

But it’s the Ford Ever­est that is the fresh­est of our quar­tet – and it’s a four-wheel drive with plenty to prove. Straight out of the blocks the Ever­est cleaned up at the 2015 4x4 Of The Year test­ing.

All of which meant noth­ing as we steamed up the Great North­ern High­way to­wards Meekatharra be­fore head­ing east to Wiluna, the south­ern start of the Can­ning Stock Route. Sure, we’ve tested the off-road met­tle of the Ever­est, but we haven’t put it through a pun­ish­ing out­back test, one where re­li­a­bil­ity, com­fort and abil­ity are pri­or­i­ties.

When the wheels touched dust for the first time, it was a tan­ta­lis­ing taste of the 2000km of tough, re­mote coun­try that lay ahead. With close to 1000km of high­ways at ei­ther end, it promised to be the ul­ti­mate off-road test.

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