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Small/mid sized SUV, 4x4 with off-road capability

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

Member6193

My wife and I are planing to buy a vehicle for the family that has off-road capabilty fordriving up dirt and rocky mountain roads/trails toour cabin in western VA, for driving to other camping sites, and possibly for towing for a small boat. We want to find a vehicle that is both reliable and safe but still has off-road capabilty. This vehicle will also double as my commuting vehicle (total of about 30 miles per day). It seems that a Jeep Cherokee or a Subaru Forester is the best option, though I am open to other suggestions from more experienced folks.

Does anyone have experience with either of these vehicles or have other suggestions? Thank you in advance, I am all ears!

Car Needs: Family transporter / Errands about town

Need minimum of 5 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 45000
Maximum age: 3 years

Maximum price: US $ 30000

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Response from acetech09

3:07 pm October 5, 2014

Seems like you already did some homework. Although the Jeep is a good car when working, I've heard plenty of bad things about initial quality and reliability.

I'm not sure how 'offroad' the trails you're driving on are. The Subaru will be built much better, but lacks true 4x4 capability, instead having an AWD system. Technically speaking, a 4x4 is better for offroading, but if you're going through poorly maintained dirt roads to trailheads/camping sites, the Subaru will still work very well.The Forester also will be a bit less 'refined' and comfortable, as Subaru's generally known for building durable, spartan cars with reliable mechanics over comfortable cruisers.

If you do need a well-built 4x4, there are some other options like the Toyota's Highlander and Honda's Pilot. I'm fairly sure they both have true 4x4 options, which most of the other modern mid-size SUVs lack.

You also mention it being a commute car - although there's nothing inherently wrong with that, offroad capability and onroad efficiency are mutually exclusive - so keep that in mind. You can tone down the offroadyness with a more efficient SUV like a Mazda CX-6 (good car!), etc, and get a bit more comfort and day-to-day reliability at the expense of confidence on trails.

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Subaru Forester
Honda Pilot

Response from mkaresh

3:15 pm October 7, 2014

I think AceTech meant the Mazda CX-5. Both it and the Forester would be good options.

The new Cherokee's reliability remains to be seen. It's doing pretty good in our survey so far, but they're too new to have much of a track record. It also doesn't handle nearly as well as the Mazda and Subaru.

Recent Subarus have had excellent safety test scores.

Towing capacity is 2,000 lbs with the Mazda. The current Forester is only rated for 1,500 lbs. The previous one was rated for 2,400. How heavy might that small boat be?

I'm not a big fan of the Honda CR-V, which is more similar in size than the Pilot, but many people seem to like them.

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Subaru Forester
Mazda CX-5

Response from SVO

6:31 pm October 17, 2014

The Subarus are reay NOT intended for off road use. You are going to want a truck based SUV rather than a car based. Highlanders are awful off road. Take a serious look at the 4Runner and Xterra. Both were designed for actual off-road use so the traction control won't shut you down and leave you stranded- I'm looking at you, Forrester. These are also designed for towing and work fine as commuters, sans good fuel mileage.

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Toyota 4Runner
Nissan Xterra

Response from mkaresh

8:19 pm October 20, 2014

It depends on the severity of the off-roading. Most trails that go to cabins and camp sites don't require much in the way of off-road capability beyond ground clearance.

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Response from SVO

11:13 pm October 20, 2014

So true. I was counting on the OP being realistic about what is offroad. I would say the difference is unavoidable rock around 8" diam and up. If there is no actual off/jeep road involved then I'd say a used Toyota Rav4 V6 with tow package. Pretty much better in every way vs. a Cherokee. Most auto trannys in small sport utes are not really built to tow. After the Rav4 I'd say a VW Tiguan with a manual.

It is a very narrow sliver of terrain type that a typical car-based ute can handle that a sedan cannot, e.g. Rav4 has 7.5" ground clearance, Camry has 6.1". Lots of buyers like to think they need AWD or higher (1.4"!!!) ground clearance when in fact they do not, but it rationalizes a purchase they were predisposed towards because they feel it projects a certain outdoorsy or active personality. Not labeling the OP as I have no idea, but it is pretty common here in CO. I always get a good chuckle at a Subaru or luxury sport ute sliding all over in snow on all season tires while my RWD sports car does fine with true winter tires.

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Toyota RAV4
Volkswagen Tiguan
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