Subaru vehicles have three attributes that give them a decided advantage on dirt roads.
Shopping for a new vehicle that will drive great on rural dirt roads? A Subaru may be in your future. That’s because Subaru models like the Forester, Outback, Ascent, and Crosstrek all have three advantages most vehicles sold in America do not have. Here’s a quick rundown of the features that make Subaru vehicles special on dirt and gravel.
Subaru Vehicles On Dirt Roads – Ride Comfort
Folks who live in rural areas know that dirt roads aren’t actually all dirt. The sand, gravel, and clay that make up these driving surfaces are liberally sprinkled with stones and rocks as large as softballs. Hitting one of these with a low-profile tire is no fun. Low-profile tires are the ones you see that have very little sidewall. The sidewall acts as a cushion on dirt and gravel roads. Without that cushion, the impacts are transmitted to the cabin and make the ride feel jarring.
Unlike almost every other brand today, Subaru will still sell you a well-equipped vehicle that does not have ridiculously low-profile wheels. Automakers are moving to super-low-profile tires for appearance and to make pavement handling crisp. The downside is a harsh ride when conditions are anything less than perfect. We tested a European crossover with 35-series tires back to back with a mid-trim Forester and the difference in ride quality on dirt roads is stark. The Subaru has better ride quality for a third of the price.
Subaru All-Wheel Drive
Nobody has more experience building all-wheel-drive vehicles for the American market than Subaru. Honestly, most AWD systems from most automakers work pretty well. Subaru’s system works great. It works when you drive in any situation, but on dirt roads, we have found that Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive system keeps wheel spin under control without the traction control nannies spoiling all the fun.
Some manufacturers tune their AWD systems for performance and emphasize “torque vectoring” and “super handling.” Good for them. Subaru’s AWD system just makes the car drive well on dirt roads without cutting the power if you accelerate on loose sandy surfaces. The Subaru rally car legacy is baked into these family cars in a way you will appreciate.
Subaru Ground Clearance
Subarus like the Ascent, Forester, Crosstrek, and Outback have about nine inches of minimum (not maximum) ground clearance. Most sedans have around four or five inches. The extra ground clearance matters in rural areas where the dirt roads cover natural obstacles that graders can’t remove. Like granite left in the ground from the last ice age.
You need some added ground clearance so that your oil pan, catalytic converter, or brake lines are not punctured by a stone or a stump. Sure, you will be able to get by with almost any vehicle on a well-groomed dirt road. But is that what you want? The ability to just “get by?” Or do you want a vehicle that is actually a blast to drive worry-free over obstacles?
When Dirt Roads Become Mud Roads
In the spring when the snowmelt begins in New England the roads do a funny thing. The top few inches melt and form a sludge the consistency of properly made chocolate shake but the ground underneath remains frozen and slippery. It’s times like these that a well-designed all-road vehicle such as those from Subaru can really shine. Which is a funny word to use since the mess actually gets so bad where we drive that the roof gets muddy.
We’ve driven Subaru vehicles in every season and they hande the worst weather (or best, depending on your viewpoint) with zero fuss.