Suitability of SUVs for off road use

Submitted: Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:23
ThreadID: 76293 Views:8092 Replies:20 FollowUps:3
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Hi everyone, we want to trade in our '98 Subaru Outback on something newer and less km's and would like to get something a bit more suitable for off road as the subie has been knocked around a bit on our trips. It's been excellent but something with a bit more grunt for towing and better clearance and approach angles on rough roads would be great. We are looking at something 2004-2007 for about $20,000. We don't reallty want a larger 4x4 because of fuel costs (I drive to work) and also it won't fit in our garage.
We have looked at numerous medium sized SUV type vehicles, including Mitsubishi Outlander, Rav 4, Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute, etc. From what I've read and been told, a lot of these don't really suit our purpose as they are really for "looks" and don't handle even gravel roads very well. Are there any owners of these vehicles who could comment on their use on gravel roads/tracks? We don't intend on doing serious 4x4 stuff, just state forest type roads and private property.
The Ford Escape looked good until we found it's front wheel drive/all wheel drive, and a dealer told us the Rav 4 falls apart on rough roads. We have test driven a Kia Sorento and found it quite good. Are there any Sorento owners who could comment on their off road ability? Any info/advice from these type of SUV owners woudl be appreciated.
Thanks in advance, Lauren.
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Reply By: Member - Oldplodder (QLD) - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:25

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:25
Have a look at the Mitsubishi Challenger.
AnswerID: 405733

Reply By: Member - Troll 81 (QLD) - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:36

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:36
I was very surprised to see how well the Xtrail went off-road...a mate went with us to Straddie and it went everywhere my Patrol went. It handled the beach really well. I would not class the beach as real off-road but I was very surprised.

AnswerID: 405736

Reply By: garrycol - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:38

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:38
I am sorry SUVs such as the Commodore SS ute and the Falcon XR utes are not suitable for offroad use. These sports utility vehicles are only 2wd and lack clearance - older AWD versions still lack ground clearance.

On the other hand softroaders and the smaller dual range 4wd vehicles may be very suitable given the type of use you have indicated above.

AnswerID: 405738

Follow Up By: Member - Tour Boy ( Bundy QLD) - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:50

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:50
Who mentioned commodores or falcons?
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FollowupID: 675464

Reply By: Gronk - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:57

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 12:57
You mentioned the Sorento ?? It really is a 4wd not a SUV ( this is before the latest model out now )

Full chassis, low range, good ground clearance etc etc......
Will go anywhere a Prado or Pajero will go.....before the electronic traction control systems came in...

Was the weapon of choice for the poorer grey nomads for towing...after the demise of the Terracan..
AnswerID: 405744

Follow Up By: Member - Gary J (NSW) - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 13:12

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 13:12
G'day Gronk. Another vote for the previous model Kia Sorrento. We saw a heap of them in FNQ towing grey nomads' carvans. The owners had nothing but praise, especially for the diesel's fuel economy whilst towing.
FollowupID: 675468

Reply By: Member - Timbo - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 13:15

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 13:15
Lauren, not sure who you've been speaking to, but I've no reason to believe any of the options you've listed would be unsuitable for gravel roads. I think you'll find that most of the soft-roaders are front wheel drive/all wheel drive except perhaps the Suzuki Grand Vitara. But I'm not sure why this is such a bad thing - it certainly shouldn't prevent you from enjoying State Forest roads.

While ground clearance would be similar in all of those vehicles (compared to the Outback) most of the others would have better approach and depart angles and shorter wheelbase which would make them a bit more capable.

And which dealer was it that told you the Rav4 falls apart on rough roads? I'll bet it wasn't the Toyota dealer and perhaps he had a motive for telling you something unfavourable about the Rav4? They will all fall apart (even Landcruisers and Patrols) if pushed hard in very rough terrain, but if you're looking at State Forest roads, I don't think there's any reason to believe the Rav4 is more likely to fall apart than an Outlander, Escape/Tribute, X-Trail or even the Outback.

You haven't mentioned what you're likely to be towing, but I wouldn't expect any of those vehicel to feel particularly 'grunty' while towing a large load.
AnswerID: 405747

Reply By: Madfisher - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 13:43

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 13:43
Lauren I work for a car rental franchise and we have ravs, xtrails and outbacks, all have given good service, and they would not get an easy life as rentals.
Cheers Pete
AnswerID: 405751

Reply By: chisel - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 14:25

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 14:25
Challenger might be an option, but perhaps a little large/expensive.
Sorrento a bit cheaper.
Grand Vitara has a bit more credibility as a 4wd (compared to rav/xtrail) but I'm not sure it is necessarily any tougher than the others you've considered.
Forester has a good reputation as a reliable vehicle - probably tough enough to take most things you throw at it.
AnswerID: 405758

Reply By: Member - ross m (WA) - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 15:13

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 15:13
Sounds like you would be happier with a Prado or Pajero if they will fit in your garage.
The diesels can get 10/100.
Oherwise I would be looking at a the Hyundai Terracan or Suzuki
AnswerID: 405761

Reply By: Road Warrior - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 16:18

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 16:18
Suzuki Vitara?

The new ones have a new more powerful V6 in them and are still body-on-frame RWD biased etc
AnswerID: 405769

Reply By: escapesilv - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 16:50

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 16:50
Hi Lauren

We have had an Escape for the past 8 years, been all over the place, from Barrington tops, Plenty Hwy to Alice Springs, and parts of the High Country.

Never a problem, and always towing a camper trailer, they are a much better car than they give them credit for.

As far as a down side for being a AWD, I never found it, as when lock 4WD in you realy get continues traction on 4 wheels. with the power and capability to get you out of trouble.

Cheers Robert.
AnswerID: 405775

Reply By: bigfut - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 18:29

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 18:29
I had a 2008 rav4 cv with the 2.4 litre auto for work. Had to take it down a fair bit of gravel/dirt. It handled it really well, and gave quite a good ride for gravel too. It had esp and trac control, so would kick in if it came into difficulty.
The only gripe I had, was you cant engage 4wd lock if you are travelling over 40km/hr . By that I mean if you stop, and engage 4wd lock, as soon as you reach 40+ it will disengage. Other than that, no complaints.
AnswerID: 405785

Reply By: teabags - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 20:38

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 20:38
Re your question about the offroad ability of the previous model Kia Sorento. Had a NM Pajero V6, primarily for towing a 16ft van, but did some offroad and beach work. Found the paj great offroad its only shortfall being limited wheel travel. Last year updated the the Kia Sorento CRDI. Noticeably smaller than the paj, brilliant and economical for towing, and has handled everything we have thrown at it with ease. Ground clearance limited but can be raised by fitting king springs.
In sumary, very comfortable and economical for daily transport, great for towing and seems very capable offroad.
AnswerID: 405805

Reply By: gelatr- Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 22:15

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 22:15
Hi, my wife's daily drive is an 08 Rav4. We've taken it on the dirt roads through the high country of Tassie, down the beach at Strahan plus its done the occasional Sunday through the back roads around Imbil and even taken a run up the Duck Creek track up to Lamington Nat Park. None of these were hard core 4x4 tracks. I have nothing but positive comments about the Rav4. As for the longevity of the vehicle all I can say is that after 30k there isn’t a sign of a rattle let alone falling apart.


AnswerID: 405822

Reply By: olcoolone - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 23:00

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 23:00
Why not get another Subaru, the Forrester XS manual is a real 4x4 with low range.

You can get suspension and under body upgrade kits from a mob in Sydney.
AnswerID: 405833

Follow Up By: Rossco 09 - Thursday, Feb 25, 2010 at 08:52

Thursday, Feb 25, 2010 at 08:52
Who would that mob be? Would love a lift on my outback.
FollowupID: 675560

Reply By: Wherehegon - Thursday, Feb 25, 2010 at 08:26

Thursday, Feb 25, 2010 at 08:26
What about the first of the Toyota Kluger's, we have had one come with us a few times to stockton beach and never had a problem with it, heaps of get up and go V6 3.3L, fantastic on fuel (one of the cheapest in our group when on the beach) reasonable ground clearance (did rub its belly a couple of times but there was also 5 of them in the vehicle) probably a two inch lift would suit it fantastic for what they use it for.......Its all wheel drive, its only the cv model (not the grande) but has climate air, abs, etc etc great vehicle, suprised us of its capability. Regards Steve
AnswerID: 405865

Reply By: Rossco 09 - Thursday, Feb 25, 2010 at 08:51

Thursday, Feb 25, 2010 at 08:51
Wow, we had exactly the same dilemma last year when trading in an Astra. We've previously owned a '99 outback, so always considered getting one again. I was looking at Rav4, Pathfinder, X-trail etc. Non made the cut due to fuel consumption or suitability and we realized for under 20k we could get a late model manual outback (love the low range). It gives 10l/100km around town, goes great on the beach, and as you know has no problems with rough dirt roads. Also consider the reliability...
AnswerID: 405869

Reply By: Wilko - Friday, Feb 26, 2010 at 22:43

Friday, Feb 26, 2010 at 22:43
I Like the Suzuki Vitara, Not sure if your budget will stretch for the diesel but I had to hire one in NZ for work and it impressed me with its torque.

Cheers Wilko
AnswerID: 406243

Reply By: Member - Rob P1 (WA) - Saturday, Feb 27, 2010 at 17:10

Saturday, Feb 27, 2010 at 17:10
I have a 2007 Honda CRV with 100000k's. Have been many many remote places. Put larger Coopers on it and my mates with their jeep, pajero and suzuki keep trying to get me stuck or not able to get through. Interesting part is they often get stuck! Been in heaps of mud, really soft hot sand, sand hills etc etc.

The CRV has more room and I had no intention of doing any serious 4WD, though all the SUV's are very capable. People keep saying to me 'I'm surprised to see you out here'. I do carry recovery gear and now the new SPOT Satellite messager.

Biggest problem is the clearance and rough steep hills. The bigger tyres helped with both and really made a difference.
Have fun.
AnswerID: 406354

Reply By: Barra-2 - Sunday, Feb 28, 2010 at 23:36

Sunday, Feb 28, 2010 at 23:36
We had a 2001 RAV Cruiser and have been all over the place with it.
We are member of the High Range 4WD Club in SA. Have a look at our website we have all the cars you mentioned here, and do a lot off road fun.

We are now in a 100 Series, but it's all in how you drive, and you'll always get to the destination, maybe buy a diffrent track.

High Range 4WD Club of SA Inc.
AnswerID: 406598

Reply By: Member - Lauren B (NSW) - Tuesday, Mar 16, 2010 at 22:27

Tuesday, Mar 16, 2010 at 22:27
Hi everyone, firstly a HUGE thank you to all the great people who replied to my post, all your information and advice was greatly appreciated. Many of you suggested vehicles we hadn't thought of, and after heaps of research, checking various "for sale" websites, reading reviews and feedback, and test driving many of the models discussed, we have more or less narrowed it down to a 2006-7 Mazda Tribute, or a 2006-7 Subaru Forester. Having owned a Subie for 6 years we are very happy with the quality etc, just not sure about the ongoing servicing costs, although our car has probably cost a bit due to the high kms on it (341,000 so far, 200,000 of those we have done). We are checking out a nice Forester tomorrow morning, and maybe a Tribute in the afternoon if I can get a couple of hours off work. Both are low kms for their age (Subie 2007, Tribute 2006). We almost bought a Kia Sorento but had noticed there aren't many of them around whereas you see the Tributes and Foresters everywhere. We figured parts for these would therefore be available for a long time yet, and parts would be more likely available in country areas compared to the Kia. Otherwise the Kia we looked at was beautiful, full leather, sunroof, etc etc and only $17990. (sigh).
Well, by tomorrow we may have a new toy, thanks again to everyone for your help. Anyone want to buy a cheap Outback??
AnswerID: 409164

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