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Must Have Off-Road Features - Video

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author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2014

If you're interested in going off the pavement with your new SUV, then you've come to the right place. We've listed a few must-have off-road features that you'll want on your new SUV. The following series of items will make your SUV especially capable off the pavement. Follow our advice, and you'll be ready to hit the trails in your new SUV as soon as you drive it off the lot.

Ground Clearance

It may not sound like a feature, but high ground clearance is possibly the most important off-roading item of all. You can't go off-roading in a sports car -- that much is obvious. But you also can't tackle serious trails in a normal SUV or a crossover with typical family-car ground clearance. To get some serious distance off the pavement, you'll want a vehicle with high suspension, large tires, and tiny front and rear overhangs. Ground clearance is important for taking the best possible approach and departure angles, putting you in optimal position for climbing rocks and tackling steep inclines.

Hill-Descent Control

When it's time to leave the trail and come home, you'll want to have hill-descent control for the journey. While most SUVs will require you to keep your foot on the brake as you go down the mountain or hill you've climbed, models equipped with hill-descent control will ease down the mountain for you. By estimating the angle of the hill, the feature allows you to simply remove your foot from the brake while it does all the work, slowing down if the hill becomes steeper or speeding up as it gets smoother.

Locking Differential

A locking differential is crucial to the off-roading experience. Available on most off-road-focused SUVs and pickups, a locking diff locks the wheels so that they turn at the exact same rate, thus bypassing many modern all-wheel-drive systems that provide extra power to certain wheels based on the amount of traction they have. A locking diff will be especially helpful if you're driving over sand or rocky terrain, where traction control can sometimes have a nanny effect that could get you stuck.

Low-Range Gearing

Although many models no longer offer low-range gearing, it's important to have if your SUV is going to take you far off the beaten path. Low-range gearing allows you to shift into a short gear that lets the wheels turn very slowly, which is perfect when you're rock-crawling or climbing a steep hill. Without low-range gearing, some SUVs will spin the wheels in tough situations because it's too difficult to limit power supply.

Roof Rack

If you plan on doing any camping or taking on an overnight adventure while you're out on the trails, you'll want to have a roof rack for your SUV. This is partially because a roof rack allows you to hold more equipment and partially because a roof rack gives you a place to stow your used -- or wet -- camping gear so that it doesn't get the inside of your truck too dirty. Most dealerships will offer aftermarket roof-rack options in case your SUV isn't available with such a feature from the factory.

Tow Hooks

If you spend enough time off-roading, you're bound to get stuck, and that's why most experts suggest that you never go off-roading alone. Just as important, however, is having tow hooks to use in case your off-roading partner needs to pull you out. Be sure they're mounted on both the front and the back, because you never know exactly when or where you'll get stuck when you're out on the trails.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
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Must Have Off-Road Features - Video - Autotrader