As the price of fuel goes up so does our care for how much go juice our pride any joy consumes every km we travel down the road. But it wasn’t always the case.

Conversations and comparisons about fuel a decade or two ago were more about how many Kms could you get between tanks, not how many litres per 100km you got. This ‘per fill’ figure is of course influenced by not only how economical the engine was, but by the size of the fuel tank.

Given it is much easier (and cheaper) to make a bigger fuel tank than get an engine to use less fuel. Initially, manufacturers (like Toyota) started putting in a larger fuel carrying capacity.

Demand for even greater distances between fill-ups even resulted in the creation of an aftermarket long range fuel tank industry

1000 + Kms a tank. Job done!

To show how this all transpired over time lets look at Landcruiser Fuel tank capacities over time:

  •             40 series: 70 litres
  •             60 series: 90 litres
  •             80 series: 145 litres
  •             100 series: 145 litres
  •             200 series: 138 litres

Something changed with the 100 series.

You wouldn’t be hard pressed to guess that we started to think a little more about consumption than carrying capacity during the 100 series era. Fuel became more expensive, and more fuel stations were popping up. It made sense.

It’s got so bad that those needing to travel distance in their 4×4 as a daily driver or on long-haul travel (and you’re not a millionaire), the amount your fuel you need to get some A to B is something you can’t ignore.

You’ll have as much influence on fuel efficiency as you’re 4×4 does.

  1. If you think you’ll get the fuel on the brochure, you are an idiot.This isn’t just limited to owners of 4x4s but I’ve spoken with so many people who are angry after buying a brand new car and it getting much less fuel economy than what were on the tags – I try my best to laugh on the outside. Let’s get it straight these tests done indoors on dynos and try to ‘replicate’ general conditions. It’s governed but as a comparison tool, not an absolute value.
  2. Your left foot will matter.How hard you hit the accelerator will have a dramatic impact on the fuel you’ll use. Smooth acceleration against dragging everyone at the lights will keep more fuel in the tanks and more cash in your pocket. The more power you have at your disposal, the more dramatic this will be
  3. The go-slow bits you bolt on will matter.
    I’ve written about unsprung weight and rolling mass already but everything else you attached to your 4×4 adds weight, and if it’s bolted to the outside will change the aerodynamics of your 4×4. So things like roof racks can have a huge impact on your fuel efficiency.
  4. The go-slow caravans and boats you drag around will matter.
    It goes without saying, but stick a few tonnes of dead weight on the ass end of your 4×4, and it’s going to use more fuel. How much is going to depend on both points 2 and three above as well as the weight of your rear anchor too.
  5. Where you live and travel and when will matter.
    Just purely based on where you live (or where you travel) might have a bearing on your fuel efficiency. Somewhere coastal where it’s windy, and you find yourself in a headwind more often than some in the middle of Australia. Climate conditions will change fuel rates. Location impacts consumption comparisons.

All things considered… quoted fuel consumption rates are for comparison not budgeting.

Because these lovely rigs are what I know most about, let’s look at a 100 series Landcruiser as an example:

Petrol 6 Cyl 4.5

  •             Around town: 20 l/100 km
  •             On highway 16 l/100 km
  •             Off-road: 22+ l/100 km
  •             Towing Something Big: 22+ l/100 km

Petrol 8 Cyl 4.7

  •             Around town 18 l/100 km
  •             On Highway 15 l/100 km
  •             Off-road 20+ l/100 km
  •             Towing Something Big 20+ l/100 km


Diesel non-turbo

  •             Around town 16 l/100 km
  •             On Highway 13 l/100 km
  •             Off-road 18+ l/100 km
  •             Towing Something Big: 18+ l/100 km

Diesel turbo

  •             Around town: 14 l/100 km
  •             On the highway: 10 l/100 km
  •             Off-road: 17+ l/100 km
  •             Towing Something Big: 17+ l/100 km

Comparing that to others…

Marketers know fuel economy matters in the purchase decision of any car, and they will try to mess with your mind… just stick to the facts and the real impact.

Let’s say:

  • 4×4 number 1 has an ‘average’ economy of 11L/100KMs
  • 4×4 number 2 has an ‘average’ economy of 12L/100KMs

So 4×4 number 1 is more fuel-efficient.

Let’s assume the numbers are accurate and you travel 20,000 Km a year.

  • 4×4 number 1 will use 2,200 litres of fuel
  • 4×4 number 2 will use 2,400 litres of fuel

You will use 200 litres per year less with 4×4 # 1

200 litres is fuel is around $1.30 a litre at the moment, so you save a huge $260 a year.

Then have a think about:

  • Reliability
  • Cost of servicing
  • Insurance
  • Depreciation
  • Replacement parts

The variation in what you’ll get with different makes and models in the five things above could be wildly more expensive than $260 a year. So while fuel is a hot topic, it’s sometimes overstated.

Your 4x4s is big heavy and thirsty

Your off-roader will use fuel. Use it for what it was designed for and it will use even more. It’s a given. Hopefully, innovation in alternate fuels and a better economy will continue to flow through to 4x4s but don’t cling to small differences one 4×4 to another when there is much more at play with how much your 4×4 costs you to run each year.

And remember, you’ll have just as much influence on how much fuel you use as your 4×4 does.

Happy off-roading.