AWD for GRR and Purnululu

by Leila
(Italy)

We are a couple from Italy planning a trip to Kimberley and NT in August. Thank you for the informative site and the guidebook. Unfortunately we still have some doubts on our car rental and need your help.

After a long research we have abandoned the idea of a full size 4 WD, since it is too expensive, consumes a lot, has prohibitive insurance excess and still there's no guarantee of taking it wherever you want to.

Instead we would consider hiring a compact AWD, like Nissan X-trail or similar and with lots of caution and common sense make it suitable for the Gibb River Road and Purnululu NP. We know that a hire company does not allow these vehicles on rough roads, so it will be all under our responsibility. So I would like to ask for your opinion.

Do you think Nissan X-trail has sufficient clearance and characteristics compatible with these roads? Are there many travellers who actually have serious breakages and problems? What about the weather in the second half of August? Does it ever rain there?

Thank you in advance, Leila and Roberto

Comments for AWD for GRR and Purnululu

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Feb 24, 2009
AWDs
by: Birgit

Hi Leila,

Are there many travellers who actually have serious breakages and problems?

It happens. It seems to happen more often to those AWDs, but it happens to any and all vehicles. Usually it's because people do not drive to the conditions (i.e. much too fast or going into more water than the car can handle).

I say it in the book and in several places on the site: when it comes to AWDs experience and knowing the limitations of a vehicle and how to drive them also play a role.

And even if you do everything right, there are no guarantees, and not everything that can go wrong is under your control.

You can not eliminate all risk.

Having said all that, an X-Trail will most certainly take any reasonably careful driver into the Bungles and along the Gibb in August, without problems. The biggest obstacle in August will be bone jarring corrugations, unless they've just done a maintenance grade. So what you need to worry about most is not water or clearance, but the suspension.

August is peak tourist season and bone dry. The creeks and rivers should be way down by then. Also, it's the least likely month of the whole year to see any rain.

You can dig through historical data yourself. Here are links for different weather stations. Scroll down for rainfall:
Kalumburu
Kununurra
Mitchell Plateau
Mt. Elizabeth

As you can see, August really stands out.

There are of course no guarantees as freak weather events are just that, freak events. (See Mt. Elizabeth in 1973.) But substantial rain in August is about as likely as snow in August in your country :-).

You sound pretty sensible. Drop your tyres as recommended, go nice and slow, keep your eyes on the road and I wouldn't expect you to have any problems whatsoever in an X-Trail in August.

But let me repeat: there are no guarantees on a trip like that. Things can go wrong and if they do it's expensive.

Feb 24, 2009
AWD for GRR and Purnululu
by: Anonymous

It is not necessarily true that full size 4WD are fuel guzzlers. On the highway, my Jeep Grand Cherokee returns about 10.5l/100km, which is about the manufacturer's claim. The reason -- it is a 3 litre turbo (Common Rail) diesel. And at the moment, at least in some places, diesel is actually cheaper than petrol.

If you want security for the less conventional raods, a good solid diesel should be hard to beat, and the benefit of a solid 4WD, not AWD, is surely worthwhile.

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