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Can You Take Your Crossover Off-Road?

If you’re upgrading from a car to a crossover, you’re probably excited about your vehicle’s new capabilities — including its better visibility, higher driving position and additional cargo space. But what about its capability off the pavement? In other words: Can crossovers go off-road? We’re taking a closer look to let you know whether you should consider bringing your new vehicle on an off-roading adventure.

It Depends on the Trail

The most important question you’ll want to ask yourself before off-roading is: Where exactly are we going? Virtually any crossover can handle a rutted dirt road and even some light rocks — but if it’s going to get more intense than that, you may encounter some trouble.

As a result, we strongly suggest that you don’t attempt an off-roading trail where you don’t know what’s coming up. We also suggest that you don’t attempt a trail that includes steep inclines, thick mud or large rocks, as your crossover won’t be equipped to handle those items — especially on regular street tires.

It Also Depends on Equipment

Just as important as understanding what kind of trail you’re on, is knowing what kind of equipment you have. For just about any off-roading excursion, you’ll want all-wheel drive. If you don’t have it, you should probably sit out off-roading, as you’ll need at least all-wheel drive in tougher off-roading sections.

Ground clearance is also important. Before taking your crossover off the pavement, you should get underneath your vehicle and check where the lowest points are. When you’re on a trail, you should avoid any object that could hit those low points, as they could do serious damage to your vehicle.

Serious off-roaders often have a lot more equipment — such as tires built specifically for off-roading, a locking differential that can help bring them out of situations where most vehicles would get stuck and lifted suspension for more ground clearance. Since you don’t have any of those items in your crossover, you shouldn’t overestimate your abilities.

Our Take

Generally speaking, we think you should avoid doing any kind of off-roading in your crossover — except for the occasional rutted dirt road and maybe easy trails with smaller rocks. Despite their designs, most crossovers simply weren’t made for off-roading — and you could damage your vehicle by trying to take it too far off the pavement. And always remember: If you go off-roading, make sure you have at least one other vehicle with you that can help pull you out if you get stuck (along with the requisite ropes and straps). Otherwise, it can be a long walk back to cell phone service to call for help.

Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More

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