NT News - Motoring - - NEWS - By STU­ART MARTIN

HE change is re­fresh­ing when you get into some­thing with drive to all

Tfour wheels that can ac­tu­ally use it. The new, im­proved Chal­lenger has been a while com­ing back to the mar­ket but it has been well worth the wait.

With plenty of the good bits from its LCV Tri­ton cousin, the Chal­lenger tur­bod­iesel — in this case an LS five-seater — sounds a lit­tle trucky when it first starts, but it’s not thrashy or too rough from within.

The $44,490 base­model five-seat LS (the auto starts from $46,990) sits on 17-inch al­loy wheels with a match­ing spare.

It has side steps, cli­mate con­trol, wheel-mounted cruise and sound sys­tem con­trols, power win­dows, re­mote key­less en­try and cen­tral lock­ing, a sixs­peaker CD sound sys­tem, a leather-wrapped steer­ing wheel and gear shifter and cloth trim.

The cen­tre dis­play shows the cur­rent ra­dio sta­tion but also has a com­pass, trip com­puter, ex­te­rior tem­per­a­ture dis­play, al­time­ter and even a barom­e­ter.

There are dual front, side and cur­tain airbags, sta­bil­ity con­trol and anti-lock brakes, so the equip­ment list is de­cent.

But the best bits are what the man­u­fac­turer

calls Su­per Se­lect 4WD and the rear diff lock, with the lat­ter stan­dard.

The wagon can be run in 2WD or 4WD with the cen­tre diff un­locked.

The rear-wheel-drive mode will give a slight re­duc­tion in fuel con­sump­tion but means you have to be a lot more ju­di­cious with the right foot, as 400Nm of torque can set the rear wheels talk­ing.

In 4WD mode, with plenty of city and coun­try run­ning and some dirt work, the fuel con­sump­tion from the 131kW/400Nm 2.5-litre tur­bod­iesel four­cylin­der still re­turned about 10 litres per 100km, de­spite haul­ing two tonnes.

Throw­ing the Chal­lenger at un­sealed sur­faces caused no con­cern, with the 4WD sys­tem of­fer­ing am­ple trac­tion.

Rougher dirt showed the lad­der-frame chas­sis still feels a lit­tle rub­bery, but the ride qual­ity is good.

The pay­off is that it rolls around a lit­tle and the steer­ing needs plenty of twirling in tight stuff.

Lock­ing the cen­tre diff, em­ploy­ing the rear diff lock and get­ting into bumpier stuff doesn’t de­ter the Chal­lenger ei­ther, with more than enough gump­tion to get way off the beaten track, even on road­bi­ased rub­ber.

If you have any de­sire to get the wheels dirty on your fam­ily wagon, the new Chal­lenger is priced com­pet­i­tively and will go much deeper into the scrub than most of the medium SUV of­fer­ings.

Pic­tures: AMY BRA­BIN

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