The first thing to think about when considering purchasing a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) is how much time the vehicle will actually be used in a harsh off-road type driving environment.

There are basically two categories of SUV’s. The first is usually based on a rigid truck type chassis and capable of sustained and serious off-road use.  The second is based on a passenger car which provides a car like driving experience with an ability to negotiate rough road conditions. This is known as a ‘Crossover vehicle’ because of its dual functionality.

Crossover vehicles can be safely used with due care and cautious driving on dirt formed roads and tracks such as those found in National Parks and in regional areas. A Crossover vehicle is perfect to access those out of the way picnic or fishing spots that a normal passenger vehicle can not reach.

If the vehicle will predominately be used for transportation on normal city and country roads with only occasional use on country dirt roads and tracks, then a Crossover vehicle would be the best option as it provides car like ride, handling, performance and fuel consumption.

It is important to note that Subaru models are designed specifically to operate as an all-road vehicle on surfaces such as dirt, gravel and tarmac. Fuji Heavy Industries of Japan, the designers and manufacturers of Subaru, do not, as yet, produce “all terrain” (go anywhere) vehicles (ATV) nor do they claim that their models can match the performance of conventional, high clearance, heavily constructed 4WD commercial vehicles.

So what exactly should you be looking for when deciding on the right Crossover vehicle? What are the features that provide the most benefit when venturing on rough roads, and how do they work to deliver the best driving experience? This article aims to answer these questions and more, to ensure that you not only make the right decision when selecting the best recreational vehicle for those adventure weekends, but also to have the best driving experience possible.

One of the more important considerations when deciding on any SUV is the level of ground clearance. The ground clearance of SUVs varies, but generally ranges between 165-230mm. The higher the ground clearance the greater capability to negotiate uneven and rough road conditions, as the vehicle has a lessened chance of sticking or the underside being damaged.

It’s important to note that higher ground clearance may equal a higher vehicle centre of gravity and therefore can lead to reduced balance and stability along with an increased propensity to roll over when traversing steep slopes. It is therefore important to consider the overall structure of the vehicle such as the vehicle track (width of the front & rear axles) versus the vehicle height. Subaru models feature a horizontally-opposed Boxer engine which delivers a lower centre of gravity compared to that of other engine types and therefore contributes to a lower vehicle centre of gravity and greater inherent stability.

Another important consideration when selecting a Crossover vehicle is the type of all-wheel drive (AWD) system or whether it indeed is just two wheel drive (2WD). Increasingly manufacturers are marketing so called Crossover vehicles with only 2WD!

 If you’re serious about negotiating those difficult road conditions to get to that out of the way location a full time AWD system is essential. This system drives all of the wheels all of the time and requires no driver action to implement driving power to all four wheels.

If the AWD system is predominately operating in 2WD mode and only engages AWD when the wheels on one axle start to slip or requires driver intervention, then on many occasions vehicle traction is lost and the vehicle becomes stuck and/or cannot climb a slippery incline.

Subaru AWD systems drive all of the wheels all of the time and power is directed to all four wheels even before the wheels start to rotate.  This means that before the vehicle starts to negotiate slippery terrain, maximum traction and pulling power is available on all wheels and the vehicle is much less likely to become stuck.

In addition to the standard specifications and features to look for when looking for a suitable crossover vehicle, there are a number of optional accessories available to aid your all-road driving experience and keep your vehicle in one piece.

Protecting your crossover vehicle from damage while driving in harsh conditions should be a top priority. Bonnet and headlamp protectors as well as boot lip and bumper protectors are great for ensuring your vehicle’s exterior remains in pristine condition, while rubber floor mats and waterproof seat covers help to protect the vehicle’s interior. Luggage pods are also great for carrying extra cargo and have a spacious aerodynamic design for greater stability, reduced air resistance, wind noise and vibrations.

In addition to ensuring your vehicle has all the right features, specifications and is equipped with the necessary accessories, there are a few essentials which certainly shouldn’t be forgotten and carried on-board at all times. These include such things as a first aid kit, basic personal essentials such as sufficient food and water, a spare full-sized wheel, vehicle jack, wheel nut brace, and basic tool kit. It’s also crucial to conduct a proper maintenance check before undertaking any driving adventure.

And finally, it is important to know the road or track and the conditions in which you will be driving. Survey the rough road conditions and/or causeways before you negotiate them and be aware of your surroundings.

Keeping all of the above in mind, you are sure to have the best driving experience possible. Happy driving!

Check out the Subaru SUV range.

Related articles: All-Wheel Drive (AWD) vs. Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD), All-Wheel Drive (AWD) vs. Four-Wheel Drive (4WD)