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Old 02-12-2014, 11:37 AM
3,297 posts, read 6,590,101 times
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I have walked alongside some of the roads labeled the way you say (4WD, high ground clearance).

(I haven't driven them as I only own a crossover).

If you are serious about driving back country roads in the west you should go all the way. If you are willing to turn around for mud, soft sand, etc. etc. then 4WD will not be necessary. Even so plan for what you will do if you get stuck and can't walk out.

(By the way, turning around can sometimes be a real challenge).
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Old 02-12-2014, 11:50 AM
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Sobe ... you asked:

"Have you heard of the Mogollon Rim road through New Mexico and Arizona? Have you done it? Would a standard 4X4 do the job?"

Yes, have done portions of it around Payson with my '96 Dodge 2500 4x4 Cummins, and rode more of it with my 1969 Moto Guzzi 750 Ambassador on a camping trip from Boulder CO to San Diego CA some number of years ago.

Staying on the main road and a bit further into some of the campgrounds ... I didn't see anyplace that was especially challenging to a standard 4x4 in dry conditions. There are, of course, side roads/trails to explore that can turn into serious off-road 4x4 challenges.
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Old 02-12-2014, 01:24 PM
Location: Cole neighborhood, Denver, CO
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In the mountain west, you can travel on 90% of forest service roads with a 2WD vehicle.

BUT, that extra 10%, far off the beaten path, is extremely worthwhile! Get the 4x4 and start exploring.
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Old 02-12-2014, 01:43 PM
Location: MD's Eastern Shore
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I don't live, or have ever been, in NM or out west but I figured I'd chime in anyway by giving my reasons as one who doesn't "need" it but likes to have it.

I live here in MD and have lived in Costa Rica for a bit as well. Except for a few short stints I have always owned 4 wheel drive vehicles. Here, on the east coast I like to go out on the beaches (of course where permitted). Having 4 wheel drive lets me have that option when I want. I had a 2 wheel drive RAM for a few month's after I moved back to MD from FL and it was killing me not to be able to take a drive down the beach on Assateque Island or the Outer Banks of NC. I traded it in for a 4X4 soon after so I could have that opton.

When I lived in Costa Rica I bought an older trooper. Nothing fancy and no special tires, but it let me see a lot of that country. I did nothing hardcore and most of the dirt roads I drove on could be driven with a regular vehicle. However, they could be right slippery when raining or be somewhat loose in the dry season. Besides, with some of the inclines it was good to have low range so I could crawl up and safely crawl down the mountains as well to check out some beautiful views.

Though I am definitely one who doesn't need 4 wheel drive, it sure lets me go some places I otherwise can't. I now have a lot more memories of some beautiful places in Costa Rica because I paid a bit more for having a 4 wheel drive for the few times I may have actually needed it. For me it wasn't money wasted but money well spent as I would have stuck to the paved roads otherwise and missed out on a bunch.
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Old 02-12-2014, 03:27 PM
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We have a cabin in New Mexico & sometimes on back roads there were flash floods in the arroyos where the road turns to slick, caliche mud:
caliche mud - Google Search

Loved my ol' faithful Toyota landcruiser
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Old 02-12-2014, 04:39 PM
558 posts, read 999,287 times
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I love New Mexico. So much to explore there and if your going to go all out you may as well get 4x4. Try to haggle with the dealers, they want to make a sale, so give that a try.
I have owned a Forester AWD and I now have a Suzuki 4x4 with manual lockouts. The AWD sucked. Slipped on sand, spin on snow. My Suzuki has 8.1 ground clearance (great for a small stock suv) and the true 4x4 has a really good feel to it. I've never been stuck and been through some decent mud and snow. I'd spring for the Tacoma 4x4 if it were me.
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Old 02-12-2014, 05:58 PM
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Definitely 4WD or AWD. You will be sorry if you do not unless you live in the city and can take public transportation.
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Old 02-12-2014, 06:23 PM
11,451 posts, read 48,555,958 times
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Originally Posted by bongo View Post
We have a cabin in New Mexico & sometimes on back roads there were flash floods in the arroyos where the road turns to slick, caliche mud:
caliche mud - Google Search

Loved my ol' faithful Toyota landcruiser
I had other names for that slick stuff ...
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Old 02-12-2014, 06:40 PM
8,317 posts, read 27,621,160 times
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Originally Posted by Sobefobik View Post
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:

No low-range, marginal undercarriage protection, low-slung, anemic 4 cylinder engine with inadequate low gearing, especially in the manual transmission--just to name a few. The Patriot was made to look like a 4WD, emulating the lines of the by-then out of production '87-'02 Cherokee. But, under the "tough" looking body, the suspension and drivetrain was the same as the Compass--the Compass even unimpressive as an AWD. Like I said, sizzle, not steak. As for the videos, an experienced backcountry driver can take an even marginal vehicle on some pretty rough trails--especially if they are not too concerned about body dings and undercarriage damage.

Here are some of the major differentiations between a "true" 4WD and an AWD crossover vehicle. First, most, but not all, crossovers are built on a automotive front-wheel-drive platform. Subaru is an exception (they no longer sell FWD cars in the US) in that their AWD's are specifically designed to be AWD--and some models, the Forester and Outback, have ground clearance as good as some 4WD's. True 4WD's are generally built on a RWD platform--the 2014 Cherokee Trailhawk is an exception--more about it later. Second, a major distinction between an AWD and true 4WD is the absence of a low-range transfer case in an AWD. Truly demanding 4WD trails will require a low-range and AWD's don't have it. Again, the 2014 Cherokee Trailhawk is sort of an exception. The Subaru Forester with X-mode does not have a low-range transfer case, but emulates some low-range features through some traction control and hill-descent control mechanics. That's fine on moderate trails, but I wouldn't rely on it on really arduous backcountry trails (and I drive on plenty of those). True 4WD's are usually built on either a body-on-frame design (which is one reason that they don't get very good fuel economy--body-on-frame is heavy) or on a beefed up partial or full unibody construction. The '87-'02 Jeep Cherokee is a great example of a well-designed partial unibody construction that was built strong enough to take a lot of off-road abuse. Most AWD's are full unibody construction.

Now, the exceptions: There are some pickups and SUV's that to all appearances are 4WD's, but lack a low-range transfer case. They are just an AWD in my book. The new exception on the block is the new 2014 Cherokee. In most of its incantations, it is just an AWD. But, it is available (standard on the Trailhawk version) with an electronic-engaged version of a low range at each wheel. It doesn't have a low-range transfer case, but it does have low-range gearing. The Cherokee is built on a car platform--the Dodge Dart--but has been beefed up substantially in the Trailhawk version with the aforementioned low-range gearing, pretty good underbody protection, increased ground clearance, and traction devices typically found only on true 4WD's. How well all of this will perform--and hold up--in arduous off-road use is an open question. In anything but the Trailhawk version, I consider the 2014 Cherokee, at best, a gussied up AWD. The Trailhawk may have the chops to be a true 4WD. We'll see.

If you want to see what "real man" 4-wheeling is about, check out this advertising video from 1957 from Chevrolet. Now, this kind of "timber-bashing" isn't even legal on the public lands now, so don't try this. This does show how tough the 4WD's (and the drivers) were in those days. This Chevrolet had a 235 straight-six engine (no V8), a four-speed manual transmission with a deep-low first and reverse gear, 2-speed manual transfer case, manual "Armstrong" steering (that could break your thumbs if the steering wheel recoiled from hitting a rock when your thumbs were hooked by the steering wheel spokes), manual drum brakes all-around (that could lose their effectiveness for miles when they got wet from fording a stream), and (on this truck) a power-take-off winch. My early years of 4-wheeling were spent in a 4WD pickup very similar to this on some "roads" that weren't much better than what's in this video. I love my much more comfortable and easier-to-drive 4WD's that I use today, but I wouldn't have traded those younger days in those "primitive" 4WD's for anything. And, the experience that those provided in 4-wheeling I still use today.

Off-Road Climb up Pikes Peak with Chevrolet truck in 1957 - YouTube
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Old 02-12-2014, 06:57 PM
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Subaru Outback? It sits a bit higher and has 4WD.
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