Trip up north in a soft roader

Submitted: Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 13:33
ThreadID: 102928 Views:3120 Replies:3 FollowUps:6
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Hi all

We’re in the early stages of planning a trip up north next year about mid-late July to the end of August. Will be mostly blacktop touring but we want to get into places such as the Bungle Bungles, El Questro, Wolfe Creek crater and Karijini. Will be 2 adults and 2 little children, by then will be aged 3 and 1.

Our vehicle is our family wagon, a 2012 Ford Territory. It is an AWD diesel. Towed accommodation has not been chosen yet, but we are looking at either a Coromal or Jayco pop-up camping trailer (if that is what they are called? Like the F400/Jayco Swan etc). We are experienced campers but never been camping in remote/far north regions. I have some modest 4x4 experience from owning a Landrover 110 Series 2a years ago (don't ask).

Now I know full well that an AWD SUV is not the same as a 4x4 in that it has no high/low range and you can’t expect to get into really boggy, muddy or uneven places or tracks, but it can still go places a 2WD can’t as long as ground clearance does not become an issue. I've been bogged in a soft roader before so I know what it takes to get them stuck (and to get them out). I would also imagine the monocoque bodied SUV would not take too kindly to several hundred kilometres of corrugated roads.

I’ve been doing some reading of people’s trip reports both here and elsewhere and some of the reports about some access roads raise more questions than answers. For example, the main road/track into the Purnunulu National Park, the DEC website says it is a 4x4 track only, is this because you need a low range gearbox to pick your way through the sticky stuff, or is it a case of needing the ground clearance because of creek crossings and rocky outcrops on the track? Some off road work the Territory will be able to handle, but we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew and stuff our family car in the process…hence my query.

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Reply By: Sigmund - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 13:55

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 13:55
A local publishing on her website reckons that Bungle Bungle needs high clearance and to leave your CT at the station at the track entrance.

Gibb River Rd looks to be OK provided the Pentecost R isn't too high.

Been looking too, for our next trip. We have a manual Forester and have found it pretty capable on roads and tracks classed temporarily as 4WD in SA and the centre. It has clearance and track similar to a Prado.

But those roads take their toll and in I'm not sure your proposed tows would be up to it. At a min. consider the offroad version of the Jayco.

AnswerID: 513722

Follow Up By: Road Warrior - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 15:30

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 15:30
Thanks Sigmund. With the camper, I've figured that it won't need to go places our car won't be going, so a full-on off road version should be necessary. But I guess even a soft roader AWD can get fairly well off into the scrub so you have a point about the off road version.

The Territory seems pretty capable, 1st gear in the diesel seems to be a very low gear (starts off in 2nd a lot of the time) and if you turn the DSC off and just take your time to pick your way through some tricky spots off road it just walks though it, but what lets it down is some of the undercarriage hang down rather low, the fuel tank as a classic example and the transfer case. And then there is it's 18 inch alloy wheels with these "performance" oriented 55 series tyres on them. I can't see them being much chop once the blacktop ends.
FollowupID: 792470

Follow Up By: Sigmund - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 15:35

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 15:35
Sounds like you're on the ball.

For some sites off the GRR we'll be equipped with lightweight camping gear in the back of the Foz as our CT is limited, esp. with a std ball hitch.
FollowupID: 792472

Reply By: Ross M - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 16:29

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 16:29
Road Warrior
An AWD Territiory is a good all round vehicle, even better if diesel.

For a bit of extra ground clearance you could fit (depending on current tyre wear/costs) an alternative set of higher profile tyres. ie from 65% to 70%
Have to check the tyre to inner guard and body clearance of these though.

These would give more clearance and also be able to be deflated for sandy stuff, still carry the weight and also be able to absorb more initial road shock than the current dougnuts. Tyres are after all the first section of the suspension, I suppose you could call their action the primary shock absorbing and suspension.

If fitted on alternative rims they may serve you well for away trips and leave the originals for town work.
Better still if the wheel rims and tyres sizes are same same, on tow and caravan. Not essential, but nice to have to have.

Ross M
AnswerID: 513730

Follow Up By: Road Warrior - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 17:15

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 17:15
Hi Ross, I've thought of that too

The standard version of the Territory came with 17 inch steel road wheels and I thought if I picked up a set of them (well, say 6 of them) second hand and put some off road tyres on them, it may be beneficial as you describe. There seems to be a bit of space inside the wheelarch for a larger wheel and I've seen people getting around town in cars like mine with 20 inch rims on them (!!!) albeit with tyres that look like licorice strips so it can be done...there is a Bridgestone Dueller 235/70 I think it is that fits a 17in rim and gives an overall wheel diameter of 761mm whereas using this calculator, the current setup (with Goodyear Fortera 235/55 R18) works out to 716mm OD - a difference of 45mm or just over an inch and a half. Mightn't sound like a lot but it could mean the difference between a holed fuel tank and not!
FollowupID: 792480

Follow Up By: Ross M - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 22:38

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 22:38
Can you drop to 16"rims if they fit and use a tyre which then has a greater air volume under the rim and also have it a little extra dia for the height reason. To me going to 18" rims is going backwards in use, price and tyre performance off road.
FollowupID: 792525

Follow Up By: Road Warrior - Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013 at 11:03

Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013 at 11:03
Ross, 16in rims won't go on a Territory. Clearance for brake calipers is the issue I think.
FollowupID: 792544

Follow Up By: FatGaz - Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013 at 21:58

Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013 at 21:58
The idea of getting 17" rims and biggest profile tyres is a great suggestion. You will probably find them cheap as chips on ebay.
I suggest checking out the size of the spot where you put your spare and getting the biggest that will fit in there.
It would be no good buying 235/70/17 then finding they will not fit in the wheel well.
If traveling around Australia I would want the same size rubber all round, even on my spare(s)
FollowupID: 792584

Reply By: bigfut - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 17:45

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 17:45
Just be careful with the diesel and water crossings. Have heard a few bad stories about the SZ Diesel, with water crossings. Apparently the crank angle sensor is very low, and can leave you stranded if it gets wet. There is more details on the ford forums if you wanted to look.

That being said, I too have the SZ Diesel Territory, and have taken it through flooding etc with no issues.

Good luck
AnswerID: 513734

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