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Old 02-12-2014, 07:27 PM
 
Location: Eastern Washington
15,747 posts, read 50,635,075 times
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OP, IMHO you ought to consider older 4X4 rigs that you can buy for a lot less $ than new, simpler, easier to work on, if you are actually going to go off road you don't have the angst (and depreciation hit) associated with putting the first scratches on a new rig. I personally greatly prefer 4WD that engages with a manual lever rather than a pushbutton.

By all means look around at what the locals prefer, good local knowledge. You might consider joining any sort of local off-road or Jeep club if there is one.
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Old 02-12-2014, 08:03 PM
 
Location: NYC
20,027 posts, read 13,513,610 times
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I much prefer full-time AWD than all these part-time systems. Much rather have a 2WD + traction control than part-time 4WD.

If you want a true AWD system get a full-time and all American AWD systems suck. They do not come even close to Audi's quattro in terms of monitoring where the wheel needs more power sending it to the right wheel.

Sadly American cars with the best AWD system uses non-American AWD systems.
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Old 02-12-2014, 08:38 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 27,623,546 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blazerj View Post
Subaru Outback? It sits a bit higher and has 4WD.
No, it is not a true 4WD. It is an AWD and does not have a low range transfer case.

Quote:
I much prefer full-time AWD than all these part-time systems. Much rather have a 2WD + traction control than part-time 4WD.

If you want a true AWD system get a full-time and all American AWD systems suck. They do not come even close to Audi's quattro in terms of monitoring where the wheel needs more power sending it to the right wheel.

Sadly American cars with the best AWD system uses non-American AWD systems.
Then you have never driven where a true 4WD is a necessity. AWD is fine for driving in winter road conditions or a bit of mud. In true backcountry trail conditions, a 4WD is often a necessity. I've lived in those places and I know the difference between puttering around on a slick road and being on a trail where 4WD is an absolute necessity. Try this in your AWD car. Yes, that is a "road."


Or this (yes, it is a real 4WD trail):

Last edited by jazzlover; 02-12-2014 at 09:06 PM..
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Old 02-12-2014, 08:49 PM
 
Location: South Dakota
434 posts, read 637,067 times
Reputation: 666
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.

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.
If you really want to explore, than a 4WD is a necessity. As important, however, are tires. If you are going where 4WD is necessary, you may run into some rocky roads that will cause a regular tire to blow. Look into 6-ply off-road tires. They can be very expensive and likely won't last as long as regular tires, but you are much less likely to get stuck 20 miles from civilization because of a flat tire. When I'm out, I always take a couple days of food and 5 gallons of water per/person.
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Old 02-12-2014, 08:53 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 27,623,546 times
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^And a real spare tire--not a "doughnut," or no spare and a can of stop-leak and a itty-bitty compressor.
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Old 02-12-2014, 09:57 PM
 
Location: Wyoming
9,728 posts, read 19,353,288 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sobefobik View Post
... For those of you who have four wheel drive, how often do you actually use it while out and about camping? Do you typically only use it if it's muddy or snowy? What about when it's just rocky or not maintained well? Like I said, I'd go with the 4X4--I'm just trying to justify the cost and make sure it's worth it.
It's worth it, and whatever you pay extra for it upfront, you'll probably get it back when it's time to trade/sell.

I'm in Wyoming so use my 4x4 (F250 psd) for snow and ice much of the year, but we also do a fair amount of camping in the summer, usually in the Big Horn Mountains (13,100'). I use the 4x4 there for "exploring" or just for going after wood for the campfire. I could stay off the trails if I didn't have 4x4, but to go on many of the trails that we travel, 2wd would NOT work.

First off, I use the low-range transfer to get my speed down to where I can creep over boulders without burning up the clutch, heating up the brakes or bouncing our heads off the roof. Secondly, most of these mountain trails also have steep sections over rocks, roots and stumps where, even with perfectly dry conditions, 2wd would simply not have the traction necessary for the climb. And streams -- 4x4, yes. 4x2, no.

I've had a couple 2wd pickups. They got me lots of places I couldn't go with a car, but I still had to be pretty careful. 4x4s can get stuck too. It's been said that 4x4s just get you further away from help when you do get stuck or that they'll simply get you stuck deeper. But there's no comparison to what they'll get you through vs. a 2wd. If you want it for trails, you need a 4x4.

There is something to be said for used, however. We bought our current truck new in 2000. For the first couple years I couldn't use it on the back trails -- didn't want to get the paint scratched!. Finally, after a couple years, it got indoctrinated. Now, at 14 years, it's a real truck.
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Old 02-13-2014, 08:51 AM
 
Location: Chandler, AZ
3,603 posts, read 3,728,036 times
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My vote: Wrangler or lightly used Cherokee (or Grand Cherokee if you want the luxury). Plenty of parts everywhere...tons of aftermarket...insanely good off-road but a little light in the fuel economy arena. There are some guys around here that love the Samurai as well...but the parts for those are becoming scarce. If you don't need a truck, don't get one for off-road...unless you want to have to balance out the lack of weight over the back tires. I love my F150 4X4 but it does have it's limitations.

Besides, who doesn't love to take the top off a Wrangler in the back country and just take in EVERYTHING.
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Old 02-13-2014, 09:52 AM
 
Location: FROM Dixie, but IN SoCal
3,485 posts, read 6,042,871 times
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Sobefobik,

For the roads and areas you mentioned, those signs means exactly what they say. If you intend to drive them, a good 4-wheel-drive vehicle is NOT optional. While you may not use the full capability very often, neither do you make frequent use of the other survival essentials you carry with you -- water, shelter, food, etc. Uh, you DO carry them, right?

Northern New Mexico -- in fact the entire Four Corners region --is absolutely delightful. However, things can go from delightful to difficult to dangerous far quicker than many would think possible. Even in good weather there are natural back-country traps, 'hidden' from casual observation, that can transform a drive in a 2WD vehicle from a pleasant excursion into a grueling hike or worse.

Whatever you get, make sure its a true 4 x 4 -- two-speed transfer case, locking differentials, etc. If you don't know what those mean, a little research is is order. As you get further into this, you may also want to consider carrying a shovel, axe, tow-chain or -strap, sections of chain-link fence (for traction mats), etc.

Regards, and best wishes!

-- Nighteyes

Last edited by Nighteyes; 02-13-2014 at 10:02 AM..
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Old 02-13-2014, 12:38 PM
 
Location: Spokane, WA
850 posts, read 3,453,673 times
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Jazz, those pictures are amazing! Those wranglers are animals. I think it's safe to say, though, that I won't be doing that kind of off-roading. I think I have been talked into buying a 4X4--the real kind. I'll have to look at used ones because I can't afford $25-30,000 for a basic truck with 4X4. Not that I care about the bells and whistles, but if I'm getting a basic truck I don't want to spend that much. The problem I'm finding is that so few cars have manuals anymore. That really surprised me with trucks because I always figured that in trucks manual transmissions were the preference. It seems like you're always hearing about the automatic transmissions going out...I'd rather fix a clutch. The transmissions seem more reliable, at least cheaper.

What do you think of the Xterra's? They look like real beasts and they seem to have good reviews for offroading. They're also reasonably priced if they're a couple years old, even with low mileage. The gas mileage sucks, but I guess that doesn't matter much since I work from home and don't have to commute.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WyoNewk View Post
It's worth it, and whatever you pay extra for it upfront, you'll probably get it back when it's time to trade/sell.

I'm in Wyoming so use my 4x4 (F250 psd) for snow and ice much of the year, but we also do a fair amount of camping in the summer, usually in the Big Horn Mountains (13,100'). I use the 4x4 there for "exploring" or just for going after wood for the campfire. I could stay off the trails if I didn't have 4x4, but to go on many of the trails that we travel, 2wd would NOT work.

First off, I use the low-range transfer to get my speed down to where I can creep over boulders without burning up the clutch, heating up the brakes or bouncing our heads off the roof. Secondly, most of these mountain trails also have steep sections over rocks, roots and stumps where, even with perfectly dry conditions, 2wd would simply not have the traction necessary for the climb. And streams -- 4x4, yes. 4x2, no.
This sounds exactly like what I'll be using it for. I want to be able to explore the area, not necessarily climb 70 degree angles or float through streams so that I'll need an engine breathing tube.
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Old 02-13-2014, 04:23 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 27,623,546 times
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I've posted before that the Xterra with the Off-Road package is probably one of the better "out-of-the-box" 4WD's available these days. Their big downer is pretty lousy fuel economy--about 15 mpg to 18 mpg at best. For all-out 4 wheeling, a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is about the best out of the box, but it does not have a good reliability record--the Consumer Reports reader reliability ratings on it are one the worst reliability ratings out there. While some of Consumer Reports' own tests I sometimes find a little lacking--especially for 4WD's--those reader reliability ratings have proved to be pretty accurate for every vehicle that I've owned, so I trust them. The pre-2012 Grand Cherokees got equally poor reliability ratings, so I would avoid them, as well. (I happen to like some of Jeep's products very well, so don't assume that I'm a "Jeep hater," but nor am I brainwashed by blind brand loyalty.)

Though they can be high priced used, the Toyota Tacoma is a pretty darned good 4WD truck. It won't be any rocket on the highway, but a 4-cylinder equipped Tacoma gets at least acceptable fuel economy and is fairly off-road capable out of the box. I just priced out a new SR5 extended cab 4 cylinder Tacoma with skid plates on the Toyota website and it came out at $25,565. That is about as low as one can get for a new 4WD that will actually do something off-road. No glamor there, but glamor won't get you unstuck when the road gets bad.

The new Ram 1500 4WD pickup is also pretty good out of the box (it does need about a 3" lift kit and taller tires to be really good) with the 3.6 Pentastar V6 that will get better fuel economy than the 4-cylinder Tacoma (with a lot more power), but even a real stripper version will cost at least $5K to $8K more and Ram will really have to beat its own history to have Toyota reliability.
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