Subaru Outback off-road capabilities?

Submitted: Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 15:04
ThreadID: 97689 Views:14727 Replies:10 FollowUps:7
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I have a chance to get a Subaru Outback for a good price, I think it is around a 2000 model year. However the front and rear overhang worries me when going over something a little steep.

I don't do much off road driving and certainly cant justify a proper 4WD. The times I do go out wont be to serious 4WD tracks either, just those suitable for AWD vehicles.

More specifically in the near future I want to go out to Lake Torrens on the Merna Mora station track. I went last year in a Ford Explorer which handled it with ease.

I have included a screen grab from some video we took on the track coming out of a creek bed. Is it likely the Subaru would get over something like this? It doesn't look like much in the video I must admit.

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Reply By: Top End Az - Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 16:17

Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 16:17
Hi Pengoc

I don't have a Subie, but have spent my younger years in them and ground clearance was always the main issue in terms of the car bellying out in soft sandy tracks, not so much the overhangs.

I had a 2004 RAV 4 which was an AWD and would face similar issues to the Outback, being a soft roader. Ground clearance was limited but it never really stopped us from going where we wanted to keeping in mind we never tried to do the Cape, a desert crossing or the GRR in it, just drive to the cars capabilities. but we certainly got into many spots where you couldn't get a Camry into.

The main thing is to take it a bit easier than you would in a large 4WD wagon, and fit a decent A/T tyre with a good tread pattern as this will help traction no end and add some puncture resistance. My towbar stopped any potential damage on the rear overhang.

Living in the Top End, it never ceases to amaze me where I see X-Trails, RAV 4's, Kia Sportages as many people just don't have the means to buy an expensive 4WD. Driving a bit slower offroad, careful wheel placement and some good judgement will get you into many places you wouldn't have otherwise thought.

Hope some of this helps.
AnswerID: 493719

Reply By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 17:25

Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 17:25
We had a group on a trip in May through the Corner, Innaminka, Birdsville (via Cordillo Downs) and down to Maree etc - 2 Tojo LC's, a Jackeroo and a Subie Outback.

As others said - main issues were ground clearance and fuel range... otherwise it went pretty well. Bottomed out a few times on the C-D road and out to the dig tree.....

Plastic sump guards etc etc. - it handled it mostly well, however I wouldn't put much stock on pristine sumps and guards if you did this all the time ..... a little bit of beef in the suspension would have helped a lot.
AnswerID: 493728

Reply By: Ross M - Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 17:44

Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 17:44
You can get kits to raise the Subaru's a little and as said, this with good tyres and the extra height will help considerably for the situations you mentioned.
Probably having some custom guarding underneath with provide extra security for vital bits.
With a few modifications, you should be able to leap that bank in the picture in a single bound.
AnswerID: 493732

Reply By: Member - Anthony W Adelaide - Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 17:50

Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 17:50
If you hit it at about 30kmh it should make it LOL

Ground clearance would be a bit of a sticking point probably.

I wonder if its a big expense to put a 50mm lift in one?
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AnswerID: 493733

Follow Up By: mikehzz - Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 18:05

Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 18:05
You have to watch lifting some as the increased angle can make the cv's chew out quicker. Good a/t tyres are your cheapest and best improvement in my opinion. I'm in the Subaru club and seen Outbacks do decent tracks with good drivers at the wheel.
FollowupID: 769345

Reply By: gbc - Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 18:43

Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 18:43
My Mrs old B4 liberty did gnarlier stuff than that. An outback will smash it.

Google up places like subextreme who do every bolt on imaginable for not a lot of $$. Bigger fourbys get modified for touring and your outback should be no different.

As others have said, some bash plates, all terrains and a strut lift (mild) will transform it.
AnswerID: 493738

Reply By: Pengoc - Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 18:59

Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 18:59
Thanks everyone for the useful replies.

My other thoughts were to get a Forester, which I have heard is a bit better off-road than the Outback. Although it is still limited in it's ground clearance.

The main reason for the Outback is I might have the chance to get one from my father at a price which I can afford. I've driven one too and they are fantastic on the road.

The Ford Escape we were driving in the photo had A/T tyres fitted which made a huge difference. I don't know what the ground clearance was like however.

I've sent an email to Merna Morna asking if they get Outbacks going through this track ever. That should be a big help determining if we get this vehicle.

It's amazing to see videos of what some people put these Outbacks through:
AnswerID: 493740

Reply By: Member - Des Lexic - Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 21:13

Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 21:13
Pen, We have a 2000 Subie and the approach and departure angles are a problem.Our front under bumper has a bit of a crack where we tried to climb a sand dune that didn't look all that steep. It is absolutely terrific on dirt roads and handles them really well.
I've heard of them doing the Simpson but with lift kits and larger tyres. The lower profile tyres keeps them a little too low.
What are you expecting to pay for it as our daughter is eying off ours at the moment. LOL
They are a great car and although we have only done 100k in it, only has needed tyres battery and fuel.
AnswerID: 493751

Reply By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 21:41

Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 21:41
Last year on our way through Birdsville on the way to the Gulf we stuck our nose into the Simpson as far as Big Red. The normal road was closed and there was a detour down a very sandy track to the border and then back up to Big Red after the lake was passed.

We were following a Subaru Outback. He was having a devil of a time with clearance. The sand was a bother but the clearance in the middle of the track between the wheel ruts was a real problem. We saw the rear doing an excellent grading job. He gave up about half way to Big Red where there was an easy area to turn around in. On our way back we found a couple of plastic panels that he could have dropped. There were no other cars seen that evening.

I read above where they could be raised but I would make sure the CV joints aren't overworked as can happen with the 100 series IFS models can if you do not drop the diff with the right kit.

These are two thing I would consider. I do not know if I would take it to some places we go in the High Country. But then again we are looking at it in a different light. We have a Toyo 100 GLX with the 4.2 TD engine and it is set up as a self sufficient tourer capable of just about anything we could come across as solo travellers.

If you need clearance then check on the lifting issue as it is quite bad. The review I just read was not glowing but it did say "Better to drive than an SUV, and able give a decent account of itself when it’s slippy and a bit bumpy. Nice engines, great chassis and lots of kit for the money." I do not think that "it’s slippy and a bit bumpy" says it will go to a lot of off road places.
AnswerID: 493755

Reply By: Pengoc - Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 22:01

Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 22:01
It does seem that the ground clearance will be the biggest issue.

Would a Forester be a better option perhaps?
AnswerID: 493757

Follow Up By: mikehzz - Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 22:07

Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 22:07
You can lift a Forester. There are quite a few lifted ones in the club. There are bash plates available as well.
FollowupID: 769369

Follow Up By: Pengoc - Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 22:27

Monday, Aug 27, 2012 at 22:27
I'm trying to do this on a budget as much as possible. Not sure how things would go buying a new vehicle and then needing to alter it still.

I'd like to try spending only around $6,000 if possible.
FollowupID: 769371

Reply By: Member - Dicko1979 - Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 13:23

Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 13:23

Not sure if the Subaru outback has low range or not?

We were at Merna Morna last September and they advised us they will not let anyone travel their tracks without a vehicle having low range. (High range only is not accepted)

Would be best to double check with them as this may have changed.

Great spot though, we will be back again this year.
AnswerID: 493787

Follow Up By: Pengoc - Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 14:34

Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 14:34
They emailed me this morning. There are 4 tracks, 3 of which require 4WD vehicles. The one out to Lake Torrens is for AWD vehicles with high ground clearance.

The Ford Escape we borrowed to go on the Lake Torrens track last year was fine.

I just looked up the ground clearance of that vehicle and it was 19.8cm. The Outback is listed to have a clearance of 18.5cm.

Maybe it will be fine after all?

Unless these numbers lie...
FollowupID: 769437

Follow Up By: mikehzz - Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 18:31

Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 18:31
Some earlier model manuals have low range but the later model autos don't. The low range on subis is not very low.
FollowupID: 769463

Follow Up By: Member - Dicko1979 - Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 13:33

Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 13:33
Thanks mate regarding which tracks are 4x4 and which are AWD
My parents want to head that way in an Xtrail
FollowupID: 769504

Follow Up By: Member - cuffs (SA) - Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 13:46

Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 at 13:46
I have done al the tracks at Merna Morna, XTrail has samall lift & bash Plate.

FollowupID: 769506

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