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Old 02-12-2014, 07:31 AM
 
Location: Riverside Ca
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Once in a great while I have to use 4x4 when going camping. Sometimes when I'm driving through snow. I would say less than 5% of my driving is with need of 4x4. Most of the time 2wd but when you need 4x4 it's nice to have it
I personally won't buy a 2wd truck for personal use.
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Old 02-12-2014, 07:59 AM
 
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I probably use 4WD more than most anyone on this forum because I have use it as part of my work and have for decades of living in the Rocky Mountain West. That said, my 4WD's are probably in 4WD no more than about 5%-10% of the time, though I take advantage of their hauling capacity and good ground clearance much more than that. The fact of life is that you spend most of your time on the highways, even in places like New Mexico. For many people, the best solution is to have two vehicles--a very fuel-efficient car for many of those in-town and/or highway miles (mine is now a Pruis) and a "beater" used 4WD that doesn't cost much to insure or license for the times when you need a 4WD. A great choice for the latter is a "97-'02 Jeep Cherokee--those can be bought fairly reasonably, are easily modified into an "animal" of a 4WD and have a wealth of replacement and aftermarket parts widely available.

An extended cab 4WD short-box pickup is one of the best all-around compromise vehicles that one can have, but they are limited in that they physically won't fit on a lot of the very narrow, twisty 4WD roads in places like New Mexico. A lot of them get pretty poor fuel economy, especially for in-town stop and go driving. My advice to people is to think very hard about how much they will "enjoy" fueling a 4WD as a daily driver when fuel costs $5-$6 or more per gallon, because those prices are coming, probably easily within the life of any 4WD a person might buy. I relegated my 4WD vehicles to secondary vehicles many years ago. They usually only get used when I know that I'm going to need their extra ground clearance, 4WD capability, or hauling capacity.
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Old 02-12-2014, 08:40 AM
 
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IMO, It's pointless to discuss "How much I use my 4wd capability" as a percentage of use without putting the need for it into the context of the OP's intended use.

Further, I doubt that most of the posters on this thread are from the OP's area of the country and have a working knowledge of the climate/soil conditions/road & trail development, the arroyos & wooded areas that present in the Sangre de Cristo range or the Cibola Nat'l Forest areas ...

OTOH, I've spent a lot of off-pavement hours in the Albuqq area over to Santa Fe, Pecos, up to Taos ... and have spent days where we were in 4x4 mode by necessity for the entire day of travels once off the pavement. It simply wasn't optional to have the full time driving of all the wheels ... the roads were narrow with a lot of drop offs into impassable terrain or wooded areas, the surfaces were greasy or icy slick with but a little bit of moisture ... and the going was slow due to the twists/turns/climbs & descents.

When I first started traveling in these areas, Dodge Power Wagons were among the few vehicles that could travel these areas in the adverse conditions. We didn't "need" their capabilites for most of the time, but all it took was a bit of moisture to completely change the equation for the day's travel, and some of those places wouldn't dry out for days (if not months in the spring mud season). As well, when many of these road areas would dry out, the soil was loose and soft ... somehow, it just never got compacted into anything tighter than a sand dune. The traction/surface conditions that show up each year after the winter months in some places are highly variable due to what is brought up to the surface each year; a place in a road that was previously readily passable in 2 WD one year may be a challenge in 4 WD the next.

Modern 4x4 pick-up trucks are far improved capability vehicles over those of that earlier era, and are well up to the challenges of 4x4 travels into the area. What it comes down to is that you may find some days where 4x4 is needed "most" of the time ... and some days where you'll only need it for several hundreds of yards of your days' travel. But without it, you'll be stuck somewhere in the country, unable to get back to those areas where you can travel in 2 WD.

Bottom line: this is a unique set of challenges to accessing many off-pavement areas around the country. I wouldn't be without a competent 4x4 vehicle if wanting to get into the backcountry in this area. OP, if you are serious about wanting to travel off-pavement in your area, 4x4 is not an option ... it is a necessity.

PS: this is an area of the country where you'll still see a fair number of old Power Wagons in use ... altough many have been modified and upgraded with newer engines and suspensions (and comforts). As well, a place where there's a lot of older M-B G-wagens, Pinzgauers, or M-B utility vehicles, and a fair number of H1 Hummers. Not purchased for vanity, but out of necessity for folk who want to be able to more reliably access their properties or favorite recreational lands not too far out of town/paved roads.

FWIW, the leading USA independent importer of G-wagens in the days of gray market Euro imports was based in Santa Fe NM ... where the demand for such an off-paved road capable vehicle was strong. It was in response to their sales volume that MBNA started to officially bring in G-wagens into the USA.
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Old 02-12-2014, 09:28 AM
 
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^Yep, to most of what sunsprit says. I disagree that many of today's 4WD pickups are very off-road capable. Many of them, especially the 1/2 tons have been "dummied down" in ground clearance, undercarriage protection, etc. to make them more appealing to the yuppie "Mall-crawl" 4-wheeler crowd. In fact, there is no current model 4WD 1/2 ton pickup that I would consider "factory-ready" for very rough backcountry use, with the exception of the Ford SVT Raptor and the just-announced "TRD Pro Series" Toyota 4WD's--all of which will have fuel economy that is in the bad to awful range. Nearly all the other 1/2 ton offerings need at least a 2"-3" suspension lift to accomodate taller (not necessarily wider) tires to give them better ground clearance, along with additional factory installed and/or aftermarket skid plating to protect the undercarriage. All the current model half-tons have independent front suspensions that need adequate skid plate protection--a feature that is often absent as standard equipment on many of the trucks. The 4WD pickup that I drive for my work is a Ford Heavy Duty 3/4 ton pickup with a solid front axle suspension. It's not as "elegant" in its on-highway handling or ride than an IFS truck, but the SFA suspension is much more durable in heavy backcountry use.

My "minimum spec" for a 4WD that will get anything but cursory backcountry use in a place like New Mexico includes:

-A 8.75" minimum ground clearance, with 9"-10" being better.

-Adequate on-off road or off-road tread tires to achieve the above ground clearance, with strong sidewalls.

-Adequate skid plating to protect all critical undercarriage components--oil pan, transmission, transfer case, front suspension on IFS vehicles, and fuel tank.

-Locking or limited slip rear differential.

-Adequate suspension components to withstand off-road use (many current model factory 4WD's just simply don't have this, even as an option).

-Tow hooks or other points to safely use a tow chain both front and rear.

-Sufficient "crawl ratio" gearing (the axle-ratio x transmission ratio x tranfer case ratio) in first gear or reverse of a minimum of 30:1 for an automatic transmission and 40:1 for a manual transmission--with 40 or 50:1 or better for smaller displacement or lower torque gasoline 4-cylinder and under 3.5L V6 engines. Taller tires than factory spec (often required) also raises the numeric requirement for the crawl ratio.

-For really tough backcountry use, an electric winch rated at least at the GVW of the vehicle--more if the winch is going to see more than occasional use.

One other point where I wiil disagree with sunsprit: I avoid the "exotic" 4WD manufacturers (e.g. Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Hummer, etc.) like the plague. Often, they may only have one or two dealerships in a sparsely populated Rocky Mountain state, usually in a metro area. Parts availability can be a problem, as well as finding a mechanic with the specialized equipment and knowledge to work on them. I stick with the Big Three American manufacturers, along with Toyota and Nissan. Not withstanding some of the faults those manufacturers' vehicles may have (and they can have plenty), they do have a widespread dealer network and parts availability, along with mechanics just about anywhere that are used to working on them. "Grey market" vehicles can be a complete nightmare to get parts for or to find someone who can work on them. No matter how good the 4WD, use it as it's intended and it will eventually need mechanical work, so being able to get it fixed readily is important.

Last edited by jazzlover; 02-12-2014 at 10:38 AM..
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Old 02-12-2014, 09:34 AM
C8N
 
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If you are the adventurous type and will be going to be off-roading in isolated areas, go with 4x4.
It will suck bad when you get stuck for whatever reason and there is no one around to help.
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Old 02-12-2014, 09:53 AM
 
Location: Currently living in Reddit
5,655 posts, read 6,297,583 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sobefobik View Post
The Patriots are much cheaper, but they have pretty low price retention and I'm concerned with reliability.
I own a 2009 Patriot 2WD. Bought it cheap during 'cash for clunkers' so we had a vehicle to haul catering supplies. Now it's a primary family car. Worst POS I've ever owned. Useless in snow. Or mud. Stay away.
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Old 02-12-2014, 10:36 AM
 
Location: Spokane, WA
850 posts, read 3,464,288 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
IMO, It's pointless to discuss "How much I use my 4wd capability" as a percentage of use without putting the need for it into the context of the OP's intended use.

Further, I doubt that most of the posters on this thread are from the OP's area of the country and have a working knowledge of the climate/soil conditions/road & trail development, the arroyos & wooded areas that present in the Sangre de Cristo range or the Cibola Nat'l Forest areas ...

OTOH, I've spent a lot of off-pavement hours in the Albuqq area over to Santa Fe, Pecos, up to Taos ... and have spent days where we were in 4x4 mode by necessity for the entire day of travels once off the pavement. It simply wasn't optional to have the full time driving of all the wheels ... the roads were narrow with a lot of drop offs into impassable terrain or wooded areas, the surfaces were greasy or icy slick with but a little bit of moisture ... and the going was slow due to the twists/turns/climbs & descents.
I appreciate your response. I definitely see what you're saying about the soil quality here when it rains. Hiking can even be a challenge when it gets damp like that.

I won't be doing a lot of "off roading" per say, but my hope is that I can drive up to Sandia Crest even though there's a little snow on the ground and to be able to go off the beaten path when camping. I took my Vibe to Arizona for some camping like that near Payson, and I got pretty worried because we got a huge downpour. The campground was about 3 miles off the main road and it was getting muddy. Fortunately I made it to the campground before it rained for too long and it dried out quickly that day because it was very very hot.

Have you heard of the Mogollon Rim road through New Mexico and Arizona? Have you done it? Would a standard 4X4 do the job? I'm not interested in putting lift kits and things on at this point.

I'm looking at the Jeep Patriot because you can get a manual transmission (rare on SUVs anymore) with 4X4 for about $20,000. They do have a trail rated version, which I believe provides better capability for off roading, but it's only offered with a CVT transmission (I have heard that it's crap and very underpowered). I really want the manual. A 4X4 Tacoma or Frontier runs around $26,000, and that's just for the basic cab. I would probably be more interested in the double cab. I'd go for a used one, but spending $20,000 for something that has 100,000 miles just seems outrageous to me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sskink View Post
I own a 2009 Patriot 2WD. Bought it cheap during 'cash for clunkers' so we had a vehicle to haul catering supplies. Now it's a primary family car. Worst POS I've ever owned. Useless in snow. Or mud. Stay away.
Thanks, I guess that helps answer my question between a 2WD and a 4WD (and what others have said, of course). It's a POS because it doesn't do well in snow and mud or because it wasn't reliable? I have heard mixed reviews about it. Some say it's the best car they have owned and it's great off road and others have had major problems with it, much of it stemming from the CVT transmission. I don't want that anyway.
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Old 02-12-2014, 10:40 AM
 
Location: Maine
1,139 posts, read 1,772,192 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sobefobik View Post
I grew up around Seattle and moved to New Mexico about two years ago. I'm finding that many roads here and scenic drives that I want to take have signs posted saying "caution: high clearance recommended" or "four wheel drive recommended." My Pontiac Vibe is aging and it just doesn't seem to cut it anymore for being able to explore new areas. I also enjoy car camping and the Vibe limits the areas I'm able to get to.

So, is it necessary to have 4WD, or would a higher clearance 2WD vehicle like a truck or compact SUV be sufficient? It hardly ever rains here, so mud isn't really an issue except on occasion. There is some snow up in the mountains, but rarely is it down in Albuquerque. Rocky terrain and gravel roads are very common and my car's clearance, though does work for the most part, makes me hesitant to try out some of these roads.

I would just get a 4X4, but the prices are much higher than the base models and I don't want to spend the extra $4,000 for something that I may not need. I'd love to take a jeep out into the Arizona canyons and go exploring, but it's probably unlikely that I would ever do that.
Why is it unlikely? If you would love to do, you should do it! Life is too short not to do the things you want to do.

Quote:
Any suggestions? I'm looking at Toyota Tacomas, Nissan Frontiers, and Jeep Patriots. I may be priced out of the Tacoma (especially the 4X4), but the Nissans seem more reasonable. The Patriots are downright cheap.
You don't need a brand-new, or even remotely new, vehicle to explore the trails. Look for a well-kept, older Nissan or Toyota pickup, or a Jeep Wrangler, or other such high-ground clearance, four-wheel drive, and short wheelbase vehicle. Buy something old, easy to fix, and cheap. You don't want something so nice that you're afraid to beat on it.

I had a 1996 Nissan Hardbody pickup at one point—4x4, Five Speed, Four Cylinder. It was a very spartan vehicle, but that thing would go just about anywhere! But alas, up here in Maine, the rust killed it. I bet you could find something very similar down there, but without the rust issues that plague vehicles up here. Then put the rest of your budget into the car you won't be beating on.

One more note: get a traditional 4x4, one that let's you shift into low range mode. If you're good enough with a standard transmission to drive one in the trails, then get a standard. I would also suggest manual hubs (the kind you get outside and turn to engage). Automatic ones are nice, until they don't work.
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Old 02-12-2014, 10:47 AM
 
8,317 posts, read 27,694,265 times
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The Patriot's "Trail Rated" rating is worthless. It's an AWD make to look like a 4WD--sizzle an no steak. A Subaru Forester is more backcountry capable than a Patriot, and the Forester can be bought used everywhere. You're far better off to buy a used 4WD that is in decent mechanical shape if you need a "true" 4WD..
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Old 02-12-2014, 11:19 AM
 
Location: Spokane, WA
850 posts, read 3,464,288 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
The Patriot's "Trail Rated" rating is worthless. It's an AWD make to look like a 4WD--sizzle an no steak. A Subaru Forester is more backcountry capable than a Patriot, and the Forester can be bought used everywhere. You're far better off to buy a used 4WD that is in decent mechanical shape if you need a "true" 4WD..
That's kind of the point of my post. I'm not sure if I need a "true" 4WD. Maybe you can explain more what you mean by that. I know Subarus and most cross-SUVs use AWD, but is the Jeep Patriot not a true 4WD? I guess I don't understand that. What about the Tacoma and the Frontier? Or the 4runner? I notice that in the older trucks they have have two gear shifters. I guess one is for low gears and for the 4WD? In the newer trucks it looks like they just have a switch. Is it the same function?

The Patriots must have some capability:




Last edited by Sobefobik; 02-12-2014 at 11:28 AM..
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