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Best Subaru for Off-Road?


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28 replies to this topic

#1 TuffTrigger

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Posted 13 April 2005 - 01:34 PM

I’m trying to decide between a used Toyota Tacoma 4x4 and a used Subaru Outback for my next vehicle. Most of my friends have been very skeptical about the off-road capabilities of the Subaru so I thought I’d ask you guys for some advice. Here is what I’m looking for in a vehicle:



- Off-road ability: I’m not a recreational off-roader, but I’m not someone who considers driving to the mountain pass or on a gravel road “off-roading.” I’m a bird hunter who wants to be able to get around on the logging roads of Western Oregon and the deserts of Eastern Oregon in the early fall heat and the winter cold. This means making it across wash outs, dealing with neglected BLM roads, making it through a foot of new snow and climbing steep grades all day long without overheating.



- Price: I’m not looking to buy a new vehicle, but I’m hoping I can buy a used vehicle that won’t require a lot of after-market parts to be a useful off-road vehicle. I’ve seen in photos from members what looks like cars that have been tricked out with specialized off-road gear. How much of this would be necessary to get a Subaru to do what I want?



- Better handling and gas mileage than a Truck: Part of my attraction to the Subaru is that it would handle better and consume less fuel than a pickup truck (15-20mpg). Is it possible to have a subaru that has real off-road capabilities and still drives better and gets better fuel efficiency?



- One thing I’ve also heard is that Subaru has removed a lot of the off-road capability of their vehicles in recent years (scrape plates, low gearing, manual hubs). Which subaru years and models would you recommend for my interests?



Your advice is appreciated!

#2 A DOG

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Posted 13 April 2005 - 01:48 PM

The newer subarus can't brawl half as much as the older ones. Stock subaru can't do a LOT offroad, but if you invest like a grand into one it can do A LOT. My suby is gonna have 12in of ground clearance by the summer. Which is more than a tacoma, but subies arent as strong as a tacoma. If you can either of these subies for under a grand(whichis pretty easy) you can invest another grand or so and make it do as much as a tacoma. Just make sure you get a GL because they come with 4lo and 4wd which is awesome. If you wanna see what subies can do go here .http://www.atlas4x4....sp?gallery_id=1
Good Luck
EA81 subaru GL
Posted Image
EA82 subaru GL
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And as you can see Subaru handle very well.

#3 MorganM

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Posted 13 April 2005 - 02:25 PM

Sounds like the Toy Tacoma would better suit your needs vs. an Outback. A Subaru that would suit your needs I would suggest a late 80's GL with 4WD dual range, a 3" lift, and bigger rims + tires.

Just one of many opinions :drunk:

#4 Sweet82

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Posted 13 April 2005 - 02:31 PM

A newer Subie (Outback) is not going to make you happy with it's rugged off-road abilities. It's a snow car/gravel road car. There are no real off-road upgrade options.

A truck will get you through the ugly stuff that would hang up an Outback.

The other thing to consider is the rest of the time an Outback is a much nicer ride than the Toyota.

As for mileage, I'd bet they may be closer than you think? I recently got 21 & 24 on a road trip in my subie :eek:

Tough decision.
Only you can answer.

#5 mtsmiths

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Posted 13 April 2005 - 02:35 PM

I'd recommend an '85 to '88 (i 'think' that's the last year ... could be later) GL 5spd D/R. The granny gear will climb a wall, but in 2WD and fifth you can cruise the interstate at 75 and be under 3K rpm. We now have later Subaru's ('95 and '00 Legacies). They are much more sophisticated and comfortable highway cars, but our '87s would go anywhere we wanted to, bone stock. The later body style has more room, and lend themselves to modification.

We drove ours all over FS roads, abandoned railroad beds, forest tracks, streambeds, you name it. We hauled rock, gravel, firewood, building materials, bikes, canoes, airplane parts, dragged trailers ... my wife called hers the 'Jap tractor'.

My only recommendation is to get one with fuel injection, our only problems invariably were related to carbs.

Talk to mudrat (john).

#6 soobmater

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Posted 13 April 2005 - 02:38 PM

I'm with MorganM on this one. I think you should get a mid-to-late 80's Subaru GL. They are awesome with the dual range. You could get one of those, lift it, bigger tires and rims, and you pretty much have a very capable off road rig. You should be able to pick one up for about a 1000 buck.
Thats what i did .

#7 singletrack

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Posted 13 April 2005 - 04:03 PM

A stock D/R 80's wagon is quite capable. 4x4 high clearance roads never stopped me even before I went lifted.

#8 Subaru_dude

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Posted 13 April 2005 - 04:04 PM

Go with a mid to late 80's Subaru GL. You could find one without too much rust and put about $600-$700 of extras into it, (3 inch lift, bigger rims and tires, skid plates) and you would have an extremely capable off-road vehicle. Mine averages around 29 mpg... but I've heard most average around the low 20's. They are very VERY slow... but the versatility, capability, and handling will make up for it. I think you'd be happier with the Subaru if you just modify it a bit... but I think you can still make it stock through the kind of terrain you described. You'd beat the hell out of the undercarriage, but it would still make it:grin: .

-Jordan

#9 TuffTrigger

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Posted 13 April 2005 - 05:17 PM

Ok, so let's imagine that i buy a 1988 Subaru GL 5speed D/R with fuel injection. It's going to be dirt cheap in comparison with a late 90's or newer Toyota Tacoma with low mileage (why not put the D/R in a 94?). So, with some extra money I then lift the subaru 3 inches, add some bigger tires and rims and get everything else in working order (belts, fluids, etc). Any idea what the budget would be?

How does this vehicle operate as an everyday commuting vehicle? I'd probably be driving it 20 miles a day during the week and then 200+ miles on the weekend for trips. Is it really going to get better mileage and handle better than a late 90's Tacoma? Also, if i'm 30 miles back on some BLM roads I'm hoping the car is going to hold together and not have random break downs.

Most importantly, is it going to require much maintenance? These older subaru's might be great for off road, but are they really pracitical as an everyday driving vehicle?

I'll be going to graduate school so I don't want to miss class because my car broke down. Having owned a 1966 Land Rover and a 1987 Range Rover I'm tired of having my mechanic's number on speed dial.

#10 Subaru_dude

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Posted 13 April 2005 - 05:32 PM

let's say you find a good 88 gl, not much rust... $1500, if even that. Plus $500-$600 in mods, if even that... I'd say it could range from $1400-$2000 total cost. And yeah, they're a very practical daily driver as well. Better on gas than the Tacoma, but it's no Honda Civic. It's no big deal if the timing belt breaks either, as the EA82 engines are non-interference. Jut put another one one and set the timing. Try to find a fuel injected one too... the carburetors get annoying. good luck finding one!! You might need it... lol.

#11 hooziewhatsit

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Posted 13 April 2005 - 05:41 PM

How does this vehicle operate as an everyday commuting vehicle? I'd probably be driving it 20 miles a day during the week and then 200+ miles on the weekend for trips. Is it really going to get better mileage and handle better than a late 90's Tacoma? Also, if i'm 30 miles back on some BLM roads I'm hoping the car is going to hold together and not have random break downs.


My wife switches between our 88 GL d/r 5spd and 91 loyale s/r 5spd for her 20 mileish trip to work every day. Twice a week it gets another 27 mile one way trip to play with the horses. This last month they've made routine weekend trips of 150+ miles.

The only times in the last 6 years my car (88 GL) has stranded me were due to a timing belt breaking, and the screw holding the rotor in falling out (multiple times even :banghead: ), both of which with correct mantainance could be prevented.

beyond that, I've just done the routine mantainance on them and they get 30mpg all day long.

#12 WoodsWagon

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Posted 13 April 2005 - 08:34 PM

My cousin-once-removed bought my loyale new in 1992. Its the same design as the late eightys cars, just doesnt have dual range. She worked for the Audobon society, doing much the same stuff as you plan to. she never had any problems with the car, and trusted it to reliably take her the 6 hour trip to canada once a month. She bought a newer subaru when she moved away from the offroading side of work and gave the old one to me. Now, for deep woods expeditions, a tacoma would be much better. I like toyota pickups, especially the 80's ones for their simple design and rugged build. One of my neighbors has a late 90's one and the only part that has broken is the rear differential, but that hapens when you drive like he does. Aftermarket parts support is much greater for a toyota than for a subie. Older nissan 4x4's are rugged too, and the engines seem happy to run collant free. very mistifying.

#13 Forester_Ranger

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 03:29 AM

I think you are better off getting a Tacoma. You know it will be reliable and you don't need to modify it to meet your needs. An Outback or Forester doesn't come with a low range and are low to the ground compared to a Tacoma. I've owned a 98 Forester since new and have done a consirdable amout of wheeling with it. You are very limited on what can be modified on a newer Subaru. It is hard to find Mud terrain tires small enough to fit. There are 2-4" lifts available for the outbacks and Foresters. I have a 2" lift and the biggest tires I can fit are 27-28". I'm also the first forester to have a dual-range installed from a late 80's Subaru. So that can be done as well but it's all customized to work. I still think I need to lift it a couple more inches in order to keep up with Tacomas off-road. And I still got to be more careful not to break stuff.

#14 mudrat79

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 11:16 AM

I sent you an E-mail...:)

are you in Oregon for School....???

#15 TuffTrigger

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 09:46 PM

Just got your email. I'll be in touch.

And, i'm going to Law school in portland.

thanks!



I sent you an E-mail...:)

are you in Oregon for School....???



#16 BlueTrain

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 01:33 AM

if you're going to use it for a backwoods hunting rig, i'd go with a late 80's yota 4x4.. bone stock it will get you wherever you want to go. dependable as hell too.

http://yotatech.com/
http://www.pirate4x4...isplay.php?f=12

both forums should help you with your toyota questions...

#17 Flowmastered87GL

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 01:42 AM

I would go with an 88-89 GL also. If you are fine with carbs, I think mudrat has an 86... probably what he e-mailed you about... he builds VERY capable cars and could pretty much lift it to your tastes (2-12") transfer case, or just the stock hi-lo tranny....

Why we suggest the 88-89 over the 90-94. THe 90-94 known as the Loyale as opposed to the DL/GL (base / nicer versions) is the 88-89 has MUCH more luxury stuff in them... nicer interiors map lights a foot rest next to the clutch, better center console area, stock dual range tranny (no swap needed) and no annoying automatic seatbelts. an 88-94 will all be about as reliable as each other depending on its maintenance history.

If you are ok with a carb, I am personally, then an 85-87 would suit fine too. I have an 87 GL with almost 315K on it. New engine, but everything else is old... its got squeaks and rattles and the 4WD system in the tranny is starting to get noisy, but it still goes anywhere just about... only got stuck once... at a subaru show... that was embarassing :rolleyes:

I drive my car about 35,000 miles per year of HARD pizza delivery driving and the car has held up decently over the past 18 months.

Keep timing belts in them and oil and coolant and they will last forever.

Oh and if you want it easier to drive with the big tires try to get power steering... However... almost all of these suffer from power steering fluild leaks... I have to top mine off each oil change (use ATF) So for reliablilty sometimes its nice not to have... just depends on what you can find. John/Mudrat's sounds pretty nice though.

#18 MorganM

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 08:41 AM

Let there be no mistake about maintanace here. As reliable and capable as both Subaru and Toyota are; you are exceeding recomended uses of these vehicles. They simply were not designed to drive around on trails all day. Expect general maintanace intervals to increase and the ocassional breakage. I would take it upon yourself to do most maintanace and repairs if you want to take your mechanic off speed dial ;)

Here's a little budget analysis based on some expenses of mine to give you an idea of cost for an offroad Subaru:

  • Rusted out '88 GL wagon $400
  • 5speed dual range upgrade $100
  • BYB 3" lift kit $360
  • Pugeot 15" steel rims $150
  • All Terrain tires: $215/set of 4
  • Recovery and saftey gear: $200+ (come-a-long, high lift jack, snatch strap, 2 clevises, fire extinguisher, etc)
This of course does not cover all of my expenses thus far. I picked what seemed most applicable to your situation. Expect it to cost more than I've layed out here but these are pretty much the minimum requirments for what I would consider a very capable ORV.

For an idea of cost associated with the Tacoma there are a few Toyota msg boards out there. Drop a line there and just ask some simple questions about their offroad capability, minimum requirments for your application, and whatever else.

Good luck :drunk:

#19 PetterFan

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 09:36 PM

I am sure that this question has been asked before, but what is the best Soob for offroading? Just looking for everyones 2 cents.

#20 Wasteland

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 09:43 PM

Mine, when it's running:lol:

#21 SuBrat84

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 09:49 PM

www.subarubrat.com - this one!

#22 Qman

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 10:06 PM

Been discussed many times at length. Try this thread, http://www.ultimates...ighlight=subaru

#23 PetterFan

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 09:08 PM

I am sure that this question has been asked before, but what is the best Subaru to lift and take offroading? Asking for everyones opinion.

#24 archemitis

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 09:15 PM

well, its not some pinked up sti =]

its obvioulsy the Hatch!
short wheel base, no long bed hanging over the back tires. weighes the least. looks the coolest. runs faster, jumps higher... all that.
hatch with an overhead cam motor and your good for the street, and offroad.

#25 carfreak85

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 09:17 PM

well, its not some pinked up sti =]

its obvioulsy the Hatch!
short wheel base, no long bed hanging over the back tires. weighes the least. looks the coolest. runs faster, jumps higher... all that.
hatch with an overhead cam motor and your good for the street, and offroad.


I agree 100%!!!




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