Advice on Soft 4WD's - X-Trail vs Forrester

Submitted: Saturday, Oct 05, 2002 at 00:00
ThreadID: 2099 Views:11632 Replies:8 FollowUps:6
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Hi All, We are at the beginning of our odyssey to own a 4WD and are starting at the soft end as most of our time is restricted to the city
with 4WD'ing on weekends and holidays. Hope with time, experience (and money!) to upgrade to a more serious machine. Presently we
are deciding between a Nissan X-trail and Subaru Forrester which are very similar on test drives and write ups with performance off road.
Leaning towards X-trail due to cabin space and higher seating position for comfort on long trips. No doubt Subaru handles superbly
around bends whereas the X-trail rolls a bit and isn't as repsonsive. Can any of you good people who may own either give us an indication
of what we can REALLY do or expect off road with these?? Where could we actually get to? Want to be as adventurous as we can within
the limits of the class. Thanks alot - Yoda and family
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Reply By: George - Sunday, Oct 06, 2002 at 00:00

Sunday, Oct 06, 2002 at 00:00
Both suffer from low clearance and limited choice of tyres (difficult to replace outside major centres) but if I had to choose I would go for manual Forrester since that is the only one with low gears.
Cheers.
AnswerID: 7192

Reply By: dave - Sunday, Oct 06, 2002 at 00:00

Sunday, Oct 06, 2002 at 00:00
Yoda, we had a family bring their brand spankin X trail to LAndcruiser park with us, they drove it very well, and went places that really surprised many in the group, the only places that brought them unstuck were those that required low range, the wheel travel was incredible for a little truck. The tyres just stuck to the track regardless of its condition. On the other hand, my sister has a subi and it got dirty once, i think that they had it too close to the new garden while hosing, and some mud spalshed on it.

Dave
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Reply By: tim - Sunday, Oct 06, 2002 at 00:00

Sunday, Oct 06, 2002 at 00:00
yoda, driver attitude and experience has a lot to do with how far these soft off roaders will go.recently at a controlled test track i was at the launch/test drive of a big 4wd and they had some soft off roaders present that in the right hands went everywhere the big guys went! so there! and as too nissan or subaru, the subaru has demonstrated that it has better resale (as a percentage of purchase price) than what past nissan products have done and the subi has that second set of gears - which ever way you go there're both good cars - regards tim
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Follow Up By: Brian - Sunday, Oct 06, 2002 at 00:00

Sunday, Oct 06, 2002 at 00:00
I agree with Tim back in the late 80s we had on old ht wagoon and a o com-a-long hand winch, the places we got with that was incredable so attude and a softly softly approach will get you far!
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Reply By: stevesub - Monday, Oct 07, 2002 at 00:00

Monday, Oct 07, 2002 at 00:00
Go for the Subaru - it has a better 4WD system and sort of low ratio - not really low enough but better than none. Only problem is the low ground clearance. Get some more aggressive tyres and maybe lift it a bit.

We use a Freelander off road and it is great, does everywhere the Discovery's go with no problems.

Remember whatever you get, put some decent rated tow hooks so when you get stuck and have to use a snatch strap, you are not going to injure or kill someone when a standard tow hook breaks.

You will get stuck, especially in a soft off roader.
AnswerID: 7212

Follow Up By: Yoda - Tuesday, Oct 08, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, Oct 08, 2002 at 00:00
Thanks very much for the advice Steve (and everyone else), much appreciated. Please excuse my ignorance with the following questions:
Are more aggressive tyres available for both the Forrester and X-trail, assuming they must be smaller than the larger 4wd's? Is this the
all terrain tyre you hear about? How does this go when driving in town - does it make much difference to fuel consumption? With
the tow hooks, they don't make them very robust to start with?? Is replacement a major operation? And if you gave the suspension a lift
(have no idea about this) how does this go down with your insurance company? Many thanks, I'm sure we'll have a ball. Yoda
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Follow Up By: Stevesub - Wednesday, Oct 09, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, Oct 09, 2002 at 00:00
Answer to your questions:

More aggressive tyres - talk to your local tyre man about a set of AT or MT tyres. They have better traction in the dirt/mud and are stronger than road tyres ie less likelhood of punctures. BFG's or Coopers are my pick. There should be no difference in fuel consumption but they will be noisier than a road tyre. They also do not handle quite as well on road as a road tyre but the difference is not that great.

Tow Hooks - the hooks are cheap enough and if you have a tow bar, you can get away with one on the front. They should be fittied by soemone that knows what they are doing ie a 4WD specialist. For the rear, take the tow ball off and use a rated shackle therough the tow ball hole. The shackles MUST have either cast or stamped on them a rating and the minimum is 3 ton. The pin the in the shackle is usually painted (green, red, yellow, blue are one that I have seen). These shackles shoudl be under $20.

Lifting a vehicle - see a 4WD specialist who will advise you. The X-trail will probably be high enough for most tracks, especially if a skid plate is put under the expensive bits such as gearbox and engine sump.

See our web site to see what we have done in our Freelander

http://steveandchris.netfirms.com

Good luck and we will see you on the tracks next year when we move to Bribie Island, QLD.
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Follow Up By: Yoda - Wednesday, Oct 09, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, Oct 09, 2002 at 00:00
Thanks Steve, really appreciate your time.Bribie Island sounds great! We have recently moved to Vic from NSW so it might be a while until we pass on
the great 4WD tracks of Oz!! Cheers,Yoda
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Reply By: Des - Monday, Oct 07, 2002 at 00:00

Monday, Oct 07, 2002 at 00:00
I have driven both and liked each of them. As George says, some Forester model have low range, but the ratio is only something like 1.2:1 (most 4WDs are about 2:1), so there is comparatively little reduction. That matters most for going down steep slopes. The Forester would be a bit better than the X-trail in that situation, but not a whole lot.

X-Trail is nice to drive, with a willing motor - in fact if you do an internet search you will find a rave review for its high-tech engine. It also has the ability to lock the power to 53:47 for what would be low range work if it had low range. Using the centre diff lock, we got up a very rough fire trail (Mt Coree, just outside Canberra) in it, with just standard tyres (much to the surprise of a Cruiser at the top), although if you are going to do things like that you should get A/T tyres at least (and maybe think about a vehicle with better underbody protection). I agree with your comment about understeer on it though.

My only other comment about the X-Trail is that the surface in the cargo area is slippery and all your gear slides around, which I found rather irritating. I suppose you could put a rubber mat or carpet down.

I suspect that, despite its low-ish range, the Forester might not be quite as good on rough bush tracks, because it has a little less clearance than the X-Trail. However it is a no-fuss vehicle and I agree that it probably handles better than the X-trail. May be a bit more economical too. As others have said, Foresters hold their value very well, whereas the X-Trail is still an unknown quantity.

Build quality on both cars is good, but maybe the Forester is a bit better. The X-Trail we hired had few kms on it, but had a few interior rattles.

Good luck anyway Yoda.
AnswerID: 7222

Follow Up By: Yoda - Tuesday, Oct 08, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, Oct 08, 2002 at 00:00
Thanks very much Des and everyone who took the time to reply - much appreciated. I'm leaning towards the X-trail after driving the subaru
today and finding the the angle of where you rest your left foot etc is annoying and uncomfortable for my long legs - will amplify on long trips. I was interested to
hear of your rough fire trail adventure and your feel that the X-trail has more clearance than the subi as its actually the other way around!
The subi has 200mm and the X-trail has 150 mm at the diff. I was wondering if this would limit us more but as Tim (I think) has mentioned the
wheel travel might be better than the Forrester. Quite a difficult decision! Thanks again, Yoda
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Follow Up By: Des - Thursday, Oct 10, 2002 at 00:00

Thursday, Oct 10, 2002 at 00:00
Yoda,
These are good questions. I wish I had known more when I started looking for a 4WD.
Ground clearance is a function of more than one factor. First, there is the measure of the lowest point to the ground (say the diff, or the cross-member under the engine), which is what you are referring to. That particularly matters when you are on a track with a high centre, or deepish wheel ruts, especially if the vehicle has limited wheel travel. You can compare that measurement on different vehicle with a tape measure. If the Forester rates 200mm and the X-Trail 150mm, that is probably what they are measuring. Second (and perhaps as important) is ramp-over angle. If you go over a hump (like an erosion control mound, common on 4WD tracks) and your front wheels are on one side of the hump and the rear wheels on the other, will the belly of the car scrape (or worse, hang up) on the top of the mound? The better the ramp-over angle, the less chance of that happening. (Going over the mound at an angle can help too.) A car might have a good ramp-over angle, although the distance from the lowest point to the ground is not great. (My impression was that the X-Trail might have an advantage over the Forester in this regard, but I am prepared to defer to others on this, as I haven't driven the Forester off-road and everyone speaks well of it there.) Third, there are approach and departure angles. That means the angle at which you can enter a steep dip without scraping the front, or exit it without scraping the rear. Most of the time that is not a huge issue. Fourth, there is wheel travel. If you have to drive over a big rock, or drop a wheel into a hole, or drive in deep ruts, will the wheel have enough travel to remain in contact with the ground, keep the other wheels on the ground, and keep the body clear? This may be the most important of all, and it is where vehicles with live axles (e.g. Patrol) have it all over vehicles with independent suspension (e.g. current Pajero, or any light duty 4WD). If you look at say a Patrol, the distance from the bottom of the diff to the ground is not that great, but the Patrol is one of the top vehicles off-road in part because of its excellent wheel travel. (Aust 4WD Monthly do a ramp test on vehicle to measure wheel travel, or articulation, but given their prejudice against light duty vehicles they probably haven't done these two.) You can modify a vehicle to change any of these things: for example, you could get bigger diameter tyres and a lift kit and aftermarket suspension (e.g. Old Man Emu if available for the vehicle), if you want to spend the money. But if you are thinking about doing all that, in order to do lots of tough tracks, maybe you would be better looking at a more heavy-duty 4WD in the first place. (Steve will say, "Crap, look at my Freelander" and I can't contradict that!) I agree with Steve about the All-Terrain (A/T) tyres, though. They are well worth the money as they add a lot to off-road traction, especially in muddy or rocky terrain, and are much less likely to cut on a rock or stake. They are a tad noisier than highway tyres, but not dramatically so. BF Goodrich and Cooper are, as Steve says, highly regarded. BFG are noted for extra strength sidewalls and therefore popular in mountain areas where there are lots of rocks (e.g. Vic High Country). Check their web sites, or ask a tyre specialist, for details of whether the appropriate size is available for the vehicle you choose. Don't despair if they are not available in the appropriate size though - other brands are good too. We got Uniroyal Laredo ATs for our Vitara and they have been great. Also agree with Steve about bash plates. Light duty 4WDs generally don't have the same degree of underbody protection as the traditional sort, and if you ding, say, the transmission on a rock it could cost heaps. Bash plates are cheap insurance. Whichever vehicle you get, have fun!
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Reply By: flappan - Tuesday, Oct 08, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, Oct 08, 2002 at 00:00
No question. The Forester by a mile. Better value, better quality and I've seen where some of the Foresters have been taken. No way would I be taking a X Trail there.

Pathfinder or Patrol different matter entirely, but not with the X Trail
AnswerID: 7247

Reply By: Andrew - Wednesday, Oct 09, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, Oct 09, 2002 at 00:00
I have to agree with flappan. Go the Forester. I had one for 3 years before the troopy, and it went every where. It can do better with tighter springs ( I used Lovells ) and better tyres ( 3 Ply are ok ). The low range is great ( better than NOT having one ), and the resale value was outstanding. Cheers, Andrew.
AnswerID: 7288

Reply By: Des - Thursday, Oct 10, 2002 at 00:00

Thursday, Oct 10, 2002 at 00:00
Further to the tyres question, I see that the X-Trail has P215/70R15 tyres and Forester P215/60R16 (translation: Passenger, 215mm wide, sidewall height is 60% of width, Radial, for 16" wheels). BFG do A/T in 215/75R15, which would be just slightly bigger diameter than the standard tyres on the X-Trail. It would throw the speedo out slightly, but probably fit without modifying the vehicle, and give a tad more clearance. No corresponding tyre for the Forester, because 60 is lower profile than A/T tyres normally are - which would mean either swapping to 15" wheels (ie a whole new set of rims) or getting a 16" tyre with substantially larger diameter (probably needing some kind of lift so the tyres don't rub on the guards). Check other makers though if interested - or post another query on ExplorOz, and be deluged with conflicting opinions (tyres are one of those subjects on which everyone has a different view).
AnswerID: 7304

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