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Discussion Starter #1
I currently have an Audi Q5, which I have taken off a bunch of unpaved roads and forest service roads, with (so far) the places I have attempted to take it, only water bars/drainage ditches on decommissioned forest service roads have stopped me. Though I never actually tried due to fears of damaging the car.

For context: I'm not looking to "go offroading" as the destination, but I want an adventure vehicle that I can explore with and get to remote trails, explore forestry roads, etc. etc.

So I am sort of looking right now at two very different beasts: The Subaru Outback and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The jeep Trailhawk comes standard with all-terrain tires and skid plates. The Subaru has options, of course, but skid plates are extra and no configured subaru can come with all-terrain tires. They have similar clearance, but the jeep has air suspension raising it another 2". I'm also unsure how much/to what degree the clearance is affected when carrying extra passengers, gear, etc.

Looking at the outback option, what are my main problems with the stock tires? I assume they are going to have a higher risk of running a flat? Is grip on dirt/gravel/etc. going to be noticeably different? Is it truly much of a difference?

Assuming I added skid plates, the outback still has very respectably 8.7" ground clearance but long wheelbase + long nose/rear. If I still attempted to explore some of the more gnarly roads and crossing some of those water bars - what exactly is the problem? If the underside is protected... who cares if it happens to scrape in the process?

More than anything I'm trying to understand how the capabilities/limitations are involved, and if the Jeep is more what I need, or simply more than I'll ever need...
 

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Not sounding negative at all, but I'm having troubles seeing the real question here. Are you trying to see the price v. capabilities between an Outback and a Grand Cherokee Trailhawk?

It seems like finding the limits of your vehicle is not your jam, so why not just explore with the safety of being over capable if you have the option.

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Discussion Starter #3
Not sounding negative at all, but I'm having troubles seeing the real question here. Are you trying to see the price v. capabilities between an Outback and a Grand Cherokee Trailhawk?

It seems like finding the limits of your vehicle is not your jam, so why not just explore with the safety of being over capable if you have the option.

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On paper, as stock at least, I understand the differences as:

Jeep Trailhawk: 8.6" clearance, 2" air lift - 10.6" total when needed. Skid plates.
Subaru Outback: 8.7" clearance. Skid plates.
Current SUV: 8" clearance

There are other subjective and qualitative things like approach/departure angles, wading depth, wheelbase, AWD/4x4, torque, etc... most I am unfamiliar with. As I say, not a true "off roader", but definitely want to get off the beaten path and up some more difficult roads.

Where I struggle is figuring out if the subaru is enough. I've never scraped the underside of the car. With the subie having .7" more clearance, and skid plates, what are my limitations? I am not trying to get over boulders it would moreso be rocky/uneven terrain, and ditches (water bars). I guess ditches is the main thing. I don't know how I can know if I have enough... or if I am going to scrape, isn't that the what the skid plates are for... so, why WOULD I need more?
 

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Based on your concerns and without a boatload of mods, I believe you will find the OB to have similar limitations as your Q5.

Based on your description of the kind of adventures you are seeking, a Jeep is the proven choice.
 

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If the Jeep fits all your other car buying criteria well enough, it is the obvious choice to take on unknown trail exploration. It has more off-road capability and will have full warranty vs modifying the OB as soon as you get it.
Jeep GC TH - locking rear diff, all-terrain tires, low range, double the towing capacity (which gives heavy duty cooling and more brake capacity)
The OB's first off-road shortcoming is the approach angle. The long overhang of the front bumper limits how steep an incline or obstacle can be tackled. Not easily modified. Skid plates will take some ground clearance away. All-season tires will do okay on dirt/gravel so long as the road is flat and level but they are not as good at resisting damage from off-road hazards.
Whether or not you'll ever need the additional capabilities of the Jeep is unknown, but as the saying goes: better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
 

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Just doing a quick comparison. Going Outback XT levels.. Adding on aftermarket lift kit, AT tires, skid plates. Pricewise, your around GC Trailhawk pricepoint. Possibly even V8 equipped if the rebates work.

For what your getting, the Jeep makes more sense. Real world use, you get more space, more towing and therefore also more vehicle load capacity with a suspension and drivetrain built for it, comparable fuel economy (as that XT will be labored a small bit with the AT tires, lift, armor), and likely a better out of the box handling experience.

The Outback is a nice swiss army knife and little trail runner. But if I was going to buy a brand new family hauling daily driving overlander that I know would see service roads more than a couple times a year.. And in the 45k+ pricepoint.. The Outback would not a top 3 choice.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Just doing a quick comparison. Going Outback XT levels.. Adding on aftermarket lift kit, AT tires, skid plates. Pricewise, your around GC Trailhawk pricepoint. Possibly even V8 equipped if the rebates work.

For what your getting, the Jeep makes more sense. Real world use, you get more space, more towing and therefore also more vehicle load capacity with a suspension and drivetrain built for it, comparable fuel economy (as that XT will be labored a small bit with the AT tires, lift, armor), and likely a better out of the box handling experience.

The Outback is a nice swiss army knife and little trail runner. But if I was going to buy a brand new family hauling daily driving overlander that I know would see service roads more than a couple times a year.. And in the 45k+ pricepoint.. The Outback would not a top 3 choice.
What would your top 3 be? :)

I appreciate your walkthrough and comments on the situation. Indeed the outback is more car-like, which is probably what's still having me lean that way. For all city and highway, and even maintained mountain roads... basically any 2WD car is just fine, whereas the Cherokee is likely less comfortable and definitely less fuel efficient. But certainly, to make the Outback capable for more offroad, it takes a hit in a number of ways too.

Interestingly, I believe the Outback actually has more cargo capacity! Seems that's one thing the Cherokee gets a knock for - despite its size, the cargo capacity is lacking (but still good and much better than my Q5).

Gas is expensive in BC, I guess that's the main part that sucks. Those fillups will just be more frequent and expensiveeee. shrug
 

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The Outback will have more space inside, a better ride, and it's not a Jeep. The OB is NOT an offroad vehicle, it has limited approach angle, limited suspension travel, and a long wheelbase. As said above, it's a swiss army knife for outdoor enthusiasts. Too many people on the internet think the OB is a Wrangler. It's not, but that's OK.

If you want to explore fire / logging roads in BC, buy a old Jeep TJ (4.0 L is best/most reliable engine Jeep ever made). Or better yet buy a Suzuki Samurai and keep the Q5.
 
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