12 Medium SUVs and Just How Hopeless They Are on Any 4wd Task


I'm ambivalent about Paul Maric but he's at least consistent.

Just jump to whatever medium CUV you're interested and see how bad it is.

I do get these will most likely not see much 4wd action at all and you should really buy a 4x4 diesel ute if you're truly interested in this stuff. No one is doing a 30 degree log incline in a CRV.

But what I found funny is that these cars purport to have a fair bit of electronic 4wd aids and yet funnily enough, they dont work. Its like as if the companies did almost no testing. The dash display says "oh yeah power is going to the back wheels" but the car is just sitting there heating up the torque converter.

Of the cars tested only 4 out of 12 passed their tests.


  • +13

    The amount of CX5s and RAV4s that get stuck on Stockton Beach immediately right at the entrance is hilarious. It quickly gets annoying having to help pull them out and clear the throughway though.

    Oh and a Jeep Cherokee guy that was bewildered how he even got stuck when he was in SAND mode. How did that happen…

    • +16

      Tyre pressure is everything in sand.

      • Tyre pressure is everything in sand.

        All 4WDing really. And it appears they were running highway pressures on all the vehicles.

  • +24

    4WD vs AWD
    Centre diff vs no centre diff
    Low range gearing vs no range gearing
    Off road tyres vs. highway low noise low profile tyres

    • +3

      This ^

      An AWD RAV4 is no where near in the same league as a 4WD Hilux or Landcruiser.

      The latter two I've taken on some pretty deep bush bashing. I'd never take a RAV4.

      • +6

        An AWD RAV4 is no where near in the same league as a 4WD Hilux or Landcruiser

        Who said they were?

      • +5

        This ^
        An AWD RAV4 is no where near in the same league as a 4WD Hilux or Landcruiser

        Seriously you guys discussing AWD vs 4WD like a bunch of kids with Fortnite knowledge of real Guns.

        AWD and 4WD were never a competing factor, they're aimed 100%, at different audiences, purpose and terrain.

        The AWD is for urban driving that only help with taking corners in somewhat slippery conditions, e.g. gravel, sand, water, etc that's it.
        Whilst the YT video was an eye-opener, the AWD was never meant to take you through that type of terrain.

    • -3

      Function vs Fashion.

      • +10

        Wrong. AWD is good for its intended function - extra grip on gravel and especially snow (the last is why it is popular in colder countries). And an SUV body shape has advantages in room - especially ease of entry and exit for older folk.

        Their intended functions never included serious offroading, and I don't believe today's buyers buy them for that.

        • most buy never take 4WD off road. ease of exit and safe on road,

    • +1

      most of them dont even have a proper AWD system to start with.

      • +1

        The problem with most of them is they run a clutch in place of a centre diff for the 'on demand' system, very few of them actually run a full time AWD system. At a minimum they should be running a viscous coupling.

  • +16

    Most people that buy these types of medium SUV's probably won't go anywhere near a 4wd track. And the ones that that do, will most likely fail and won't do it a second time.

    I think they are marketed that way to give buyers that extra fuzzy feeling that it can do it but likely never try.

    Full of extra disclaimers. The fine print is transparent if you look for it.

    • I've got a CR-V from 2000 that purportedly has "smart" 4x4. I've never seen it engage though. I've since got a second car that I daily, so it might be time to find out just how good a 4x4 it can be.

      • +1

        we had many years ago a mazda tribute 3.0 V6 4x4… now that was fun on the sand dunes.

  • +14

    No one seriously buys a mid sized SUV to go 4wd do they? At least no one with a mediocre of intelligence

    • +44

      erm… you mean, modicum of intelligence?

      • +35

        Nah, average quality …
        I never underestimate the stupidity of those on the left of the bell curve ;)

        modicum of intelligence?

        But yes, I did mean this …but now due to my brain failure I need to go buy a mid sized SUV and take it up a 4wd track.

    • +1

      No one seriously buys a mid sized SUV to go 4wd do they?

      I recently just bought a 2022 Outlander Aspire AWD (one model down from the Exceed shown in this video). I was trying to talk the missus out of getting the AWD because I honestly didn't think we needed it, but she insisted we pay the extra because we are planning on keeping the car for 10 years or so, and we do want to start going camping, some of the spots in which there's long gravel roads to get to the sites with drop toilets and no power or mobile phone signal.

      I guess it'll probably get us out of a sticky situation one day (and it's peace of mind), but the car is going to spend most of it's life driving around the city. I wasn't able to win the argument, so here we are. You certainly won't see me at the beach in this thing, even though perhaps it's somewhat capable of it.

      If I wanted to go bush bashing or beach fishing I'd get a Hilux or Landcruiser.

      I'm happy to see that the Outlander did better than the RAV4 in these tests though, particularly the log test.

      • +2

        I've gone down a lot of gravel roads on 600cc and 1000cc sports bikes with full fairings. The only time I've baulked and turned around was when I got to a shallow river crossing with large, slippery, river rocks - as I didn't want to drop the bike and flood it.

      • How are you finding it? I am just about to bite the bullet on an Outlander Aspire. They only have the Exceed to test drive though so I just had to imagine what the Aspire was like haha.

        What kind of petrol mileage are you getting from it? I actually want the PHEV and was VERY close to buying the PHEV Eclipse Cross but test drove the Outlander and it was so much nicer I decided to upgrade to it. The PHEV version is delayed though so will probably just go petrol.

        • +1

          Absolutely love it. It felt like I waited forever, but that's only because in April 2021 we signed a contract for a Diamond Red 2021 Outlander LS, but the dealer couldn't get that colour as the factory had already started switching the production lines over to the 2022 model. They offered us 2 other colours, but we said no. They held on to our deposit until late Oct and then we signed a new contract for a 2022 Aspire.

          The fact that they couldn't get us the 2021 model was a blessing in disguise, imagine how pissed we'd be now that the 2022 model is a whole new (and much, much nicer) vehicle? :)

          That whole process took 11 months. They've now removed the full digital dash from the Aspire for any new orders, so if you order one now then you won't get that. I think you get a 7" digital dash and then the old school analogue taco and speedo.

          If you've driven an Exceed and liked it, then I think you will find that the Aspire feels much the same, with just a few less luxury bits on the inside. If you can wait for the PHEV and it's within budget, might be worth the wait… however if you order one now, it could end up taking a lot longer than what the dealer actually tells you.

          They told me my Aspire was coming in late Dec, then Jan, then Feb, then March and finally on the 24th March when I had finally given up hope that it was coming in March, I got a phone call saying I could pick it up in 4 days time.

          • @bonezAU: Oh wow that wait and all the jerking around must have been a pain! The shortages and wait times have really put me off buying a new car, but with covid prices it's not worth buying a used one.

            I'm glad you like it! Most of the reviews for the Outlanders have been really positive and I really liked the Exceed I test drove so it's good to hear they stack up once you've had it for a while and are used to it.

      • On purpose I've purchased a FWD only Outlander 2010 model, since 2wd is easier on the CVT transmission (double the oil change interval) and no transfer case to worry about. I do my own maintaince, Our vechile will only see suburban roads

        • If you're talking about a 2010 model, then yeah doing your own maintenance is fine. However with the current model, you get capped price servicing of $199 for the first 5 years and they only need servicing once a year or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Free RAC roadside assistance included etc.

          Sure, the dealer will likely try and sell us extra parts that "need replacing", but the warranty T&C allow you to get it done elsewhere I am pretty sure, it just cuts your 10 year diamond advantage back to 5 years. You're still eligible for the capped price servicing though.

    • Lol I bought a koleos intens for minor 4wding.
      As in only for rough flat terrain and sand.
      My dad has a landcruiser and know exactly where not to take my littler 4wd.
      It's not purchased for the offroad experience but purchased in case the area I'm going is not bitumen. If your in Sydney think areas like Port Stephens North of newcastle

  • +17

    glad to see the forester succeed flawlessly

    • +5

      Imagine how good it could be if you could still get one with low range and a turbo.

      • +5

        I'm not sure when they changed it, but my manual 2006 Forester certainly has low range. I bought it as an AWD - I certainly didn't buy it as a 4WD. You can get turbo - however that's mainly for the extra bonus of semi-permanent head gaskets.

        It doesn't however have the computerised selection for terrain where you can automate the automatic gearbox like the one in the video.

        • +1

          Yeah I only got rid of an 06 back in Oct last year. Was a great car.

        • +1

          Im still rocking my 04 XT. Beast.

        • +1

          Unfortunately the low range in the manual subarus is a pretty pathetic ratio.
          It helps, but Auto outbacks / foresters are better than manual ones for offroading.

          • @bhubb18: Agree, the low range in Forester just isn’t low enough. I used to go into low in car parks and heavy traffic quite a bit. Handy for reversing a trailer too. Didn’t really test it off road, but would imagine an auto would have much better control at low speeds.

    • +2

      Indeed. The forester nailed it, shame they didn’t do an outback test too

    • +2

      Because it has a functioning awd system, the others are just FWD's pretending to be AWD.

  • +1

    They've stumbled at the first gate with this one unfortunately.
    In order to crap on SUV's they'd need a 4wd control. bet it a pajerio, prado, fortuner, discovery.

    Yes SUV's dont have all the capability, but they do the job given their largely on road ability, There's plenty of videos out there of Audi's Allroad system on SUV's and the leaps and bounds it's taken in the past 14 years.

    The traction control system is pretty impressive now with independent wheel braking which is pretty remarkable (when the driver knows how it works, which this test showed is dubious). Even driving in 2wd mode and crapping on how badly it performed when it hit a 4wd obstacle…

    I feel this tester set out to sh1t on SUV's just to justify the outlandish cost of their $120k landcruiser.

    • +4

      They've done this exact test with plenty of 4wds… what thing did Paul do or say to make you think he is shitting on SUVs? Or is it just the fact he tested them on a 4wd track.. lots of people are curious to see how they go, which i think is more inline with why the video was made.

      On a slightly different tangent, the Subaru's always go great at this type of thing with their permanent awd systems

      • +2

        Ive absolutely smacked a 4wd track with an xe falcon.

        But seriously, SUVs aren’t meant for 4wd tracks and they don’t claim to be able to handle them

  • +1

    Yeah…those are awd…not exactly 4wd.

    • -1

      The first rav 4 shown is a front wheel drive not even all wheel drive

      • Really though? At 9:49 in that video the back wheels is spinning when he gives it throttle… it just didn’t like the logs

      • Hybrid has an electric motor to drive the rear.

  • +4

    SUV != 4WD

  • +11

    Subaru is just a genuine quality car.

    • +3

      Why do Subaru make such mediocre engines? Every single review I've read of a Subaru, not counting the performance models - not being interested in them I don't read those reviews - concludes by saying, good car but underpowered for the 4 cylinder ones or uses too much petrol for the six cylinder.

      • +3

        I think several manufacturers are guilty of that but it's driven by meeting emissions. In the case of Subaru they still have turbo engines in Outback and Forester in the US but Aust gets the poverty pack versions without them as options.

      • +1

        Boxer engines for low centre of gravity. In fuel economy and torque, they're outplayed by competitors inline fours.

        • +2

          boxers and vee engines have more parts and less efficiency than inline fours… that's just the way it is

          i also think because you're dragging around the 4wd driveline even when you dont need it then you even lose more energy there

          Subaru IMO are not at the forefront of engine technology and they lean on their symmetrical 4wd too much…

      • +3

        i've owned three subies and driven way more, including turbo and 6cyl ones.

        the NA four cylinder subies are 100% adequate. i'm not sure exactly what it is that reviewers are seeking, but most people don't give a crap. the 2.0L 4 banger in the xv/impreza is totally fine, same to the 2.5 in the outback/foz. does the job. gets you to highway speed and keeps you there up hills.

        i currently have a 3.6L outback and where we drive (mostly long highway or backroad road trips or 1-5km trips to shopping etc) we typically get 7.5-8.5L/100km. again, it's totally fine. it's got plenty of grunt and gets slightly worse fuel economy than a four banger.

        the engines are there to do a job, the selling feature of the car is functionality. they're great for that. i've taken outbacks places that most mall crawler lifted utes haven't been to. you can take an XV to most places real 4wds can go if you're careful, and you'll use half the fuel and be comfortable.

        • +2

          In 2022, getting to 100km/h and keeping you there uphill is a VERY low bar. I drove 2l XV and it was probably the most underpowered-feeling modern car I've ever driven. Which is a shame because everything else about it was perfect.

          • +1


            In 2022, getting to 100km/h and keeping you there uphill is a VERY low bar.

            100% - that's my point. It's not like it's 1980 and you can either buy a 6 or 8cyl car or you can get a four banger that you can afford but you sacrifice going uphill lmao (lookin at you, late 90s rav4/mitsi mirage).

            i think underpowered is the wrong word, i've also driven an xv a decent amount, including up hills and on the highway. it's FINE. most people don't care or know. if you put the people who are shopping for CUVs in any of them, gave them ten mins to drive, then asked which was the most powerful, most of them would have no clue.

            that being said, an xv with a 6spd manual and 2.5 petrol or the 2.0 diesel would be awesome. that subie diesel is amazing.

            • +2

              @jrowls: True, I think we are in agreement and you are right that most people who buy SUVs wouldn't care.

              A levorg-esque XV with STi goodies, a 6-speed manual box and either the 2.5 or 2.0T would be a lot of car.

              • +2

                @WhatWouldBiggieDo: yeah agreed, we're on the same page. it's just annoying because we are a niche that the automakers don't need haha. subaru refuses to make my manual turbo awd wagon that i would 100% buy second hand lmao.

            • +2

              @jrowls: Have an Outback and agree 100% - the engines are totally adequate and get you up to speed plenty fast enough, not in an exciting way but in a perfectly acceptable way. Easily hauls up steep hills with 4 people on board and a full boot, maybe it revs a bit higher than a bigger engine but whatever.

              I have also owned a Superb 206 and, sure, that gets you off the traffic lights a lot faster. But end of the day, really, who cares? You can put the Outback into S mode but I suspect most people dont.

              that said, absolutely, if the Outback was 160kw instead of 129, or something like that - would be a more fun car. But its still going to be a large wagon, so 'fun' is pretty relative.

              I get that people who like faster cars find it not so fast. Coming off the Superb (or even a V6 Commodore) the Outback is a far more sedate car. But as you say most people dont care, and even the ones who do care can trade off those 2 seconds of thrill per day for the other benefits. I get that 'acceptable' and 'sedate' and 'adequate' are hardly exciting ways to describe a car but, well, its a car

              • +2

                @dtc: My complaint is we pay top dollar yet get bottom specs. XV in the US is available with the 2.5. Outback has a 2.4 turbo with 194kw. Yes the current engines are adequate but what's wrong with having more on tap? Especially given the boxers lack low down torque. On top of that they can get lifted Outbacks and Forester via the Wilderness Editions.

                • +1

                  @apsilon: The reason we dont have the 2.4l is that the previous 3.6L was about 10% of total sales. So its not worth it for Subaru because Australians on the whole dont care. You may well be in that last 10%, in which case it does suck. But you can get other cars if your primary issue is speed; you have to accept for the moment that the Outback is not that car.

                  In fact, I'm pretty sure the 2.4T engine doesnt come in right hand drive version anywhere in the world, so they arent going to make it just for Australia. Every now and then you get an article saying that Subaru Australia is pushing for the 2.4T to come to Australia; but given that the Outback is selling more now (with the one engine model) than it ever sold in the past, chances are the few percent of buyers wanting the 2.4T isnt worth catering for.

                  Like manual drivers, people who want speed and grunt are in the minority. The biggest car fans but not the biggest car buyers.

                  • +2

                    @dtc: Oh I know I'm not only in that 10%, I'm probably in the 1%. I'd much rather have a lot more power and torque than I need 99% of the time but that other 1% be very thankful it's there. I'd also rather have a manual trans as auto/CVT still isn't there in terms of predicting required gear but instead reacting after the fact but I know several manufacturers are working on that. Probably why I bought a new manual turbo grocery getter late last year and was able to buy off the lot whereas other new cars are a 12+ month wait.

                    I was a whisker away from buying a Subaru instead but with the wait and IMO boring drivelines I just couldn't do it. Now give me something like the 2.5 XV or turbo Forester Wilderness Edition and I'll be in the dealership to order today even if I have to compromise with a CVT trans.

          • +1


            everything else about it was perfect.

            The boot is a bit small

        • Will it tow a caravan? We have a forester but i think an outback is a better towing option? Any clues appreciated re engine power and cvt for towing…

          • +1

            @sian72: well it's the exact same drivetrain as what you find in a forester, so the short answer is no i don't imagine it's a much better towing platform.

            i'm no engineer so i don't feel comfortable commenting on it in any great detail, but people do talk a lot about whether or not cvts are ideal for towing. you could always try to find an older 6cyl outback with the non-cvt auto, but they're getting on a bit now and i'm assuming you're talking about a new-ish vehicle.

            additionally there's the question of how often are you towing? if you're towing once or twice a year for like, 2000kms all up in easy country, it probably doesn't matter all that much. if you want to tow something closer to the vehicle's limit and very frequently (i.e. every couple of weekends you're out in the boat or van) you may be barking up the wrong tree.

            onto anecdotal experience, my 6 cyl cvt outback (2016 model) has towed a couple different things with absolutely no worries. a full moving trailer (furniture and appliances et al) and an old ski boat. power was plenty, though having a lot of experience with… ahem… dying clutches in P plater vehicles… the 'slippy' feeling you sometimes get with a cvt comes about more when towing. doesn't make you feel great, but i don't think it actually matters (again, if you're towing occasionally).

            any other qs about the OB happy to answer! i'm on my third lmao. it's the perfect vehicle for me basically regardless of the engine and gearbox.

  • +1

    jimny does it best and still smaller than all SUV

    • +2

      They also float if you accidentally think waist deep rainwater on a beach is just a puddle. Not me but I took the photos :)

    • It’s also a true 4wd so not a valid comparison.

      Had my Sierra float during a deep river crossings once, was thigh deep. Not a comfortable situation.

  • +13

    SUVs are just fancy marketing.

    Really just a jacked up and blown up hatch back. Pity about the up front investment and the worse full economy.

    • +2

      Yup, completely agree with you.

      We saved $10k upfront buying a Mazda 3 instead of a CX-5. Saved thousands more over the years on fuel, servicing and tyre replacements. Never been to a place where our hatchback can't go that only SUVs could.

      • Just wait till the increased depreciation of the Mazda 3 hits ;)

        • +4

          We normally buy brand new and keep for 7-10 years which is usually the life of a car. The higher depreciation doesn’t actually affect us much unless we get rid of it in the first few years. We are into the end of the 4th year and it’s still running well.

          It’s kinda funny that you mentioned about the high depreciation for the Mazda 3. It was only last month that I checked the price of the same car and it only depreciated by 20% after almost 4 years. This is usually the depreciation after the first year but it must be a Covid thing. I was told that the second hand cars are holding their value over the last 2 years.

  • +14

    Wow… this is fantastic news. I would never have known that a softroader SUV wasn’t capable as a near purpose built 4x4… I was sure than a Tucson or CRV was going to be just as every bit as good as a 200 series LandCruiser…

    In other news, sky is blue…

    • +2

      In other news, sky is blue

      Not here it isnt :(

  • -1

    Lifted Subaru Legacy off-roading.

  • I know I didn't buy a Santa Fe to do that kind of driving. I got it to tow bikes and counter the ever deteriorating state of most Australian roads.

    • +8

      But how do all the sedans I see towing bikes navigate the ever deteriorating state of most Australian roads? 🙂

      • With bend rims…cost me $200 ea to get fixed for both right side mags :'(

      • I still have a wagon, it's just too harsh on those unseen pot holes.

        • +2

          SUV suspension is harder than the equivalent wagon to give it more of a car-like driving feel.
          A wagon will cope with shitty paved roads better unless you're driving a lowered/sports suspension wagon.

  • +3

    And yet they all completed the course without damage? Was the expectation that they'd be able to do it without stress and still get super low mileage and electrics?

    I'd be stoked if my car made it through that for the occasional camping without damage, without copping 10+ litres per hundred on the school run.

  • +1

    Interesting test, although I never expected my CR-V to get through a 4WD test track. I wouldn’t have thought anyone buying one would expect it to either as the CR-V was never designed for that. Handy on a dirt or rough road or at the boat ramp but not for 4WD’ing. And most of the segment lack sufficient ground clearance for anything remotely challenging.

  • +26

    This video is useless.

    You might as well make a video "12 different motorbikes and how useless they are as an aeroplane"

    SUV's are not trying to be 4WD's. A Mazda CX5 is not trying to be an offroader.

    What a silly video.

    • +1

      ^^ THIS … This bloke wins the internet…

      • +6

        but then why did 4 pass? Why arent you even acknowledging that some actually got it right?

        • +1

          BMW X5 won a AU magazine 4wd of the year once.. It didnt even compete in all the test events that every other contender did that year.

          Depends whose paying the bills for what wins.

      • They shouldn't be called 'sports' ' UTILITY' vehicles then.

        They are lifted hatchbacks with Fake AWD.

        A regular station wagon can and will do everything a "SUV" can.

        -With exception of Subaru and some others sprinkled here and there.

        • then your beef is with the companies and their marketing…

          • @tonyjzx: Its not marketing….its literally how they're classified.

        • "Sports"

    • +3

      It's not unreasonable that an uninformed person might expect an SUVs to go off-road, being marketed as a 'sports utility vehicle', they look like they have been raised higher presumably for that purpose; they don't look like regular cars… hence the video.

      • Does anyone that buys a $200k BMW X5 M-sport really think they're going to take it offroading?

        • +1

          You should see the FB pages of Australian beaches, namely I got bogged at Inskip point or I got bogged at stockton beach.

          Plenty of X5s, and even Cayennes and Bentleys trying their luck on the sand and getting bogged.

    • I dunno I thought it was interesting. The marketing vs reality is always a good scenario to test. Before watching the video I expected none of them would make it but there is some ok capability and the Forester was actually quite impressive.

  • +1

    I liked the video - I thought they did quite well for "soft roader" type vehicles. Your average punter would never put their kid transport vehicle through those kind of tests or put their car in those kind of situations so it was good to see how they perform, the chassis rigidity test (slamming the door a few times while trying to twist the chassis) was interesting.

  • +3

    up the forester!

  • SUVs serve a purpose,extra grip on a gravel road,many with clearance perform brilliantly on a beach. Many a time I went past a big heavy 4x4 stuck while my Subi cruised by. Horses for courses. Let's be honest most "look at me in my big 4x4 on a bitumen road" type drivers with little man syndrome never go off road either. SUVs usually have a heavier towing capacity also such as the x-trail. Around 2000kg. Trying to compare the 2 shows the tuber really is full of sh,#t and has no credibility.

  • +2

    Will a Landcruiser/Patrol go up the slope with factory tires and default tire pressure with ease? Would be keen to what proper low gearing and LSD can do.

    Found it, the Patrol didnt blink an eye https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpHoevg08uc

    Landcruiser https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iqt5Sqqkf_g

    but both offroaders seems to have offroader tires on.

    • I wonder if front to back wheel placement had any influence in the SUV shoot-out how likely one was to go up the incline. If both axles were in ruts simultaneously vs one being out on the back axle due to length would perhaps change how likely they were to work them selves out from a standstill.

  • +1

    Back in the 80's as teenagers living at Kurnell, we used to cruise the sandhills in old cars we used to get hold of and head out to Boat harbour beach for weekends or the waterholes etc
    Tyre pressure and right foot attitude are everything.

    Same when I run 4wd club trips to Portland Buggy club or Beachport/Robe - sometimes on the beach you need to go down to 8-10psi to get through.

  • +4

    I am a Subaru Impreza owner for the last 10 years and when I have to give it away to my son to take in regional areas due to limited public transport on his relocation. My family had the option to buy new cars. We tried all major brands of mid-size cars within the same budget of $ 35K and we found that none of them matches the feel, drive and passion that you feel driving Subaru. Finally, we reordered our new Subaru Impreza with all bells & whistles for $ 35K last December. Unfortunately, this car is still in the production stage ( not yet gone into production) and is expected to be delivered by end of this year. even though the dealer promised delivery mid-March, he is happy to cancel our order as the current delivery schedule is two years from now in case you want to place an order.

  • +2

    why are they testing SUVs off-road? SUVs are bought by people who have one child and suddenly believe they can't drive a sedan or hatch anymore because a SUV is 'safer' and they can 'see better' out of them.

    • +1

      i think the elevated height made it easier to carry heavy fat toddler onto car seat without having to bend down

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