Any Highlander owners? Does it do ok offroad?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Any Highlander owners? Does it do ok offroad?

    Looking at a 2003 Toyota Highlander with V6 and AWD. From what I've read this is a "soft roader" at best.

    Anyone here own a Highlander? Has it let you down offroad / getting to a more remote trailhead?

    I need it for rutted logging and fire roads mostly, no boulder bashing, etc.

  2. #2
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    A friend and I were just talking about this the other day. He had a Highlander that he said should not be taken off road. Something about the unibody design as opposed to a frame. That being said, we did take his on some smooth, light duty fire roads last summer to preview the beginning of the Laramie Enduro course. Much more than that would have been pretty hard on it.

  3. #3
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    If you want decent off-road capability with the car-like handling of a unibody, you should look into a Subaru Forester or Subaru Outback. Jeep's unibody offerings (whole lineup excluding Wrangler and current Grand Cherokee) look decent for off-roading too.

    Toyota's AWD system and ground clearance in the RAV4 is mediocre at best for off-roading, so be very careful when going off-road.

  4. #4
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    Should be fine for that

    Quote Originally Posted by canuckjgc
    Looking at a 2003 Toyota Highlander with V6 and AWD. From what I've read this is a "soft roader" at best.

    Anyone here own a Highlander? Has it let you down offroad / getting to a more remote trailhead?

    I need it for rutted logging and fire roads mostly, no boulder bashing, etc.
    but yeah, rock crawling is not on the menu for a Highlander. Fireroads should be fine, as long as there aren't too many big square edge rocks to crawl over, or wheel swallowing dips (as in, wheel in the air). Not sure what they are using for an AWD system. Is it open diffs with the ABS stopping the wheels from spinning? If so, it doesn't take much to get it stuck with a wheel in the air. Wikipedia just says a 50/50 torque split... whatever that means. At least its not a 'real time' system, but even a realtime system would be fine. Heck, if I did some slightly rough fireroads in my GTi (fwd, open diff, no traction control) you should be fine.

    I drive a 2008 Hybrid Highlander for work on inner SF bay area mountian top fireroads to service radio equipment. Works fine for that. Some of the fireroads have some erosion, but I've never been close to getting it stuck, even in muddy rain.

  5. #5
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    its not a rock crawler truck.. but you'll get around. even a rav4 can blast some choppy fire roads to get where you need to go.

    your other/better options like jeeps and 4wd american trucks are hugely less reliable, leaky, and poorer quality.

  6. #6
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    That's exactly my dilemma -- the body on frame US trucks like the Explorer or Trailblazer, or the unibody Grand Cherokee would all be better offroad, but they are worse onroad (98% of my driving) and much less reliable and depreciate faster. Ideally I'd want a 4runner but around here they are hugely expensive, even used.

    I may have to try the Highlander and if it is not enough truck, well, I guess sell it and try something else.

    BTW it is open diffs AWD.

    The Subarus are too small for our family duties -- not enough cargo or rear seat room.

    Quote Originally Posted by One Pivot
    its not a rock crawler truck.. but you'll get around. even a rav4 can blast some choppy fire roads to get where you need to go.

    your other/better options like jeeps and 4wd american trucks are hugely less reliable, leaky, and poorer quality.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by canuckjgc
    Looking at a 2003 Toyota Highlander with V6 and AWD. From what I've read this is a "soft roader" at best.

    Anyone here own a Highlander? Has it let you down offroad / getting to a more remote trailhead?

    I need it for rutted logging and fire roads mostly, no boulder bashing, etc.

    The AWD systems on the Highlander is quite dimwitted. It transfers very little power to the rear wheels when the going gets tough, including the slippery stuff.

    Quote Originally Posted by AWDfreak
    If you want decent off-road capability with the car-like handling of a unibody, you should look into a Subaru Forester or Subaru Outback. Jeep's unibody offerings (whole lineup excluding Wrangler and current Grand Cherokee) look decent for off-roading too.

    Toyota's AWD system and ground clearance in the RAV4 is mediocre at best for off-roading, so be very careful when going off-road.
    The Subies do have decent ground clearance, however, there angle of approach/departure is rather small.

    The RAV4 AWD system, despite being a part time system is actually quite capable when the going gets though, though the ground clearance isn't as good. It boils down to trade-offs.

    The Jeep Wranger isn't unibody. Still body-on-frame.

  8. #8
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    I have driven my Highlander Hybrid on lots of logging roads never had a problem...

    Deep snow the ABS and open diff is the shits...and it is heavier than the non hybrid.

    They need to make a lock in 4wd.....

  9. #9
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    Torsens rule

    Quote Originally Posted by jeffscott
    I have driven my Highlander Hybrid on lots of logging roads never had a problem...

    Deep snow the ABS and open diff is the shits...and it is heavier than the non hybrid.

    They need to make a lock in 4wd.....
    Audi uses a torsen center diff with ABS wheel locking between the front and rear open diffs on all of their quattro cars except the A3 (which is a Haldex part time kinda system). Not perfect, but pretty decent. IIRC, the A8 uses a rear torsen as well. The SUVs use a different system altogether.

    Some sick part of me fantasizes about owning an Allroad, but they are kind of a nightmare in maintenance. The air suspension I hear has to be replaced about every 3 years when the bags start to leak.

    I think Toyota uses a Torsen on some of their bigger SUVs, but not the Highlander.

    I have a bud who had a Subaru Tribeca. Same deal as the Highlander. Unit body street SUV. But... has the better Subie AWD. It had tons of power and actually got decent gas mileage.

    <object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/mQ_BCj0mL80&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/mQ_BCj0mL80&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by canuckjgc
    That's exactly my dilemma -- the body on frame US trucks like the Explorer or Trailblazer, or the unibody Grand Cherokee would all be better offroad, but they are worse onroad (98% of my driving) and much less reliable and depreciate faster. Ideally I'd want a 4runner but around here they are hugely expensive, even used.

    The Subarus are too small for our family duties -- not enough cargo or rear seat room.
    That was my dilemma too, the majority of the driving is spent on the road so you want something that is a nice ride on tarmac but can also do some off-roading. Have you looked into a Lincoln Aviator? They have a lot of amenities and are built on an Explorer chassis but the ride on the road is much better due to the different suspension setup and larger and stiffer sway bars and crossmembers. But because they are body-on-frame and have a good traction control system they do still pretty good offroad, especially if you get some meatier tires.

  11. #11
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    Love the Allroad but from what I've read, extremely expensive to maintain (stupid expensive). the RAV4 is too small unfortunately.

  12. #12
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    Two words: Nissan Xterra.

  13. #13
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    I like it a lot but the years I'm looking at they only have a part-time 4wd drive system. Need something I can use 4wd on snowy highways / mixed conditions.

    Quote Originally Posted by GpzGuy
    Two words: Nissan Xterra.

  14. #14
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    I would look at the Subaru Outback. It's every bit as roomy inside as a Highlander or 4Runner. MUCH larger than the Forester.

    I have a Forester and an Outback and I would say the rear seat has about 3 inches more legroom. Combined with being wider, it fits four relatively good sized adults with ease. And the amount of stuff you can fit in the back rocks. It's probably a good foot deeper than the Foresters.

    And both of them do very well offroad so long as approach and departure angles aren't too steep.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by pointerDixie214
    I would look at the Subaru Outback. It's every bit as roomy inside as a Highlander or 4Runner. MUCH larger than the Forester.

    I have a Forester and an Outback and I would say the rear seat has about 3 inches more legroom. Combined with being wider, it fits four relatively good sized adults with ease. And the amount of stuff you can fit in the back rocks. It's probably a good foot deeper than the Foresters.

    And both of them do very well offroad so long as approach and departure angles aren't too steep.
    And as long as your definition of "offroad" is unimproved roads.

    Easiest real "Offroad" trail around here.

    The next level down from that is ~2000 feet in 2.5 miles, and we take the fwd minivan up and down that all the time.

    We regularly pass people in jeeps and other lifted 4x4s "crawling" up that road while in the minivan, they give is really funny looks.

    All I'm saying is one mans offroad is anothers gentle cruise in a fwd minivan.
    Quote Originally Posted by Qatarbhoy
    I have to ask for them to do a "Number two" on my head

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by karpiel666
    All I'm saying is one mans offroad is anothers gentle cruise in a fwd minivan.
    Truth!

    By the sounds of it you'll be fine with a Highlander. Just be aware your greatest limitation (besides skillset, depending on your experience off-road-no offense intended) will be the crapsandwich tires that come on street oriented mini-vans, er, crossovers.

  17. #17
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    Thanks. The Highlander is a perfectly logical vehicle but you are right, it sure has that minivan flavor to it. The Jeep Grand Cherokee has a lot more soul but not the quality. Decisions...

  18. #18
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    Nissan Pathfinder with "All Mode 4WD"?

    The Highlander should be fine though. As has already been said, offroading is all about the driver. A couple of months ago a friend and I rode to a trail head that's down a rough "high clearance only" forest service road (it looked more like a four-wheeler trail) in his FJ cruiser. He bottomed it out a couple of times and (we found out later that day) damaged a tire. When we got down to the trail head we found a Honda Element parked there.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by tednugent
    The AWD systems on the Highlander is quite dimwitted. It transfers very little power to the rear wheels when the going gets tough, including the slippery stuff.



    The Subies do have decent ground clearance, however, there angle of approach/departure is rather small.

    The RAV4 AWD system, despite being a part time system is actually quite capable when the going gets though, though the ground clearance isn't as good. It boils down to trade-offs.

    The Jeep Wranger isn't unibody. Still body-on-frame.
    The Outback still has bad approach and departure angles. The Forester has always had an advantage due to the shorter overhangs.

    That's why I said EXCLUDING the Wrangler and current Grand Cherokee, they are full-frames. But a Wrangler should never, NEVER be a unibody.


    BTW, the Forester and Outback (w/ manual transmission) do have limited slip differentials, but they use the viscous-type. As for the automatics, as much as I hate them, the AWD systems on automatic Subarus are more sophisticated, and traction control doubles as its own electronic "limited slip diff".

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by AWDfreak
    The Outback still has bad approach and departure angles. The Forester has always had an advantage due to the shorter overhangs.

    That's why I said EXCLUDING the Wrangler and current Grand Cherokee, they are full-frames. But a Wrangler should never, NEVER be a unibody.


    BTW, the Forester and Outback (w/ manual transmission) do have limited slip differentials, but they use the viscous-type. As for the automatics, as much as I hate them, the AWD systems on automatic Subarus are more sophisticated, and traction control doubles as its own electronic "limited slip diff".


    My forester is the only vehicle I have that's an automatic, the 4eat subie transmission is the only setup, aside from the STI that can lock the center diff.

    Remove a front or rear axle from a stick outback and you don't move, remove it from a 4eat and you drive along almost normally.

    The AWD on the jeep is pretty pathetic too.
    Quote Originally Posted by Qatarbhoy
    I have to ask for them to do a "Number two" on my head

  21. #21
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    That's why both my Forester and Outback are 4EAT.

    Although I have no experience with Jeep's AWD, their 4WD will own a subaru for off road driving.

  22. #22
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    That's not bad...

    Quote Originally Posted by AWDfreak
    The Outback still has bad approach and departure angles. The Forester has always had an advantage due to the shorter overhangs.

    That's why I said EXCLUDING the Wrangler and current Grand Cherokee, they are full-frames. But a Wrangler should never, NEVER be a unibody.


    BTW, the Forester and Outback (w/ manual transmission) do have limited slip differentials, but they use the viscous-type. As for the automatics, as much as I hate them, the AWD systems on automatic Subarus are more sophisticated, and traction control doubles as its own electronic "limited slip diff".
    ... to use Viscous limited slip, as long as they use EDL (ABS based) as well. Would be kinda weak if they didn't... its basically just programming. I mean, EDL has only so much braking force to stop a spinning wheel, but its better than nothing.

    There was a vid on youtube comparing the AWD systems of Toyota, Suabru and a VW Passat (MK6 haldex based, not Torsen), and Subie was the clear winner.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by canuckjgc
    I like it a lot but the years I'm looking at they only have a part-time 4wd drive system. Need something I can use 4wd on snowy highways / mixed conditions.
    Not an issue. I drove mine everywhere in the snow this winter. The 4WD system is shift on the fly with just a simple knob on the dash. Also, it has VDC which handles most slipping and sliding without even having to go into 4WD. I mostly drove around with it in 2WD, but the 4WD is really easy to get in and out of when needed. It also has a true low range, which many AWD vehicles don't have.

    Note that I also drive an Audi A6 with quattro in the winter, so yeah I like AWD. I'm just not a fan of using AWD off road.

    If AWD really is an issue for you, then the Nissan Pathfinder would be a good bet too.

  24. #24
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    The Jeeps are in another league off-road -- both 4wd and suspension (live axles on pre-2005)

    Quote Originally Posted by pointerDixie214
    That's why both my Forester and Outback are 4EAT.

    Although I have no experience with Jeep's AWD, their 4WD will own a subaru for off road driving.

  25. #25
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    We just replaced our 98 Subaru (which was a great car) with a V6 Highlander. The Highlander does have a little more ground clearance, but I view this car as a Toyota "Outback" more than an SUV. I like the HL for it's 3500-lb tow rating while having much better road manners than a body on frame SUV (my old 98 Trooper was lousy on the hwy). - I just need to get to the trailhead, as my off roading is done on two wheels/one wheel drive.

    Plus- the HL has exellent reliabity ratings.

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