Recommend a good car for driving up a steep driveway?

It has to be 4WD with high-ish tires so I don’t scrape the underneath.

I’m asking because I don’t know anything about cars. My old Chevy Blazer (15 years old) has about had it. Mr. Sali and I are going to look at Subarus, as he has a Forrester and finds that suitable. As Subarus are in great demand around here, I may have to go to a plan B and consider another kind of car. Any suggestions are appreciated.

I have nothing to add, but I hope the Latin/Greek pendants leap in to argue whether it should be Subarus, Subari, or Subapodes. Experts in Japanese should offer their corrections in Haiku form.
(Haikus? Haiki? Oh, the fun!)

Subarus have by far the best AWD system of any car this side of the Audi price range. There’s a reason why they’re in such high demand in snow country! The other option to look at would be one of the compact SUV’s like the Rav4, CRv, Escape, Santa Fe, etc. These have the ground clearance, although their AWD systems sometimes leave a lot to be desired-- if you really had to fight your way up the driveway in the Blazer, some of these are probably not going to cut it. I know the Rav4’s (not sure about the others) have center differential locks, which sort of functions like part-time 4wd and can help when it’s really slippery. Having a good set of winter tires might be more important than the specific vehicle you’re driving, though.

ETA: Of course, this is assuming snow is the traction issue.

Japanese does not have plural forms of words, so “Subaru” and “haiku” could be singular or plural in Japanese. In English I’d suggest using “Subarus” and “haikus” as the plural.

More than one item
Japanese has no plural
Adding “Ess” is fine

I :heart: the Dope

Yup, the differences is 4WD implementations are going to be smaller than the difference in tires. Unless you live on a cliff, getting the proper tires will be the most important decision you make.

Yes, I know about good tires (we’ve had 170 inches of snow this year), but I need something with a high ground clearance. Everyone who comes to visit, I warn them don’t try to park in the driveway, you’ll scrape the underneath of your car badly. Getting our driveway fixed is on the list for ‘someday’, I need a new car - soon! … A Ford Escape? A Jeep model of some sort? There’s a big used car lot nearby, should I just go there and ask them for suggestions?

A rear wheel drive car has better traction when going up steep hills.

There was an insanely steep road that I had to go with my little front wheel drive Hyundai Atos. No matter what I did the wheels would spin and I simply stayed in place. Also I couldn’t go back and use my momentum because there was a small ditch at the start of the incline.

So I turned the car the other way and climbed the hill in reverse. The tires didn’t spin, the engine was about to stall, the clutch slipped a little but I managed to climb that hill.

This sounds like a better post for IMHO, as opposed to GQ.

Need more information to best answer your question.

  • price range
  • how old you willing to buy
  • how many miles
  • Any particular options you want besides AWD and a high clearance

But isn’t this better than having a rear-wheel drive car? I think a typical FWD car pointed downhill has more weight on the drive wheels than a typical RWD car pointed uphill.

How much ground clearance do you need? If you really need a lot then you’ll probably want to end up with a frame on truck.

A Jeep Cherokee might work well for you. The '08 Saturn Vue AWD I just traded in had pretty good clearance, also.

If a Forester does the trick, then a Toyota Rav-4 or Honda CR-V ought to as well.

Depending on your price range, the 2011 Grand Cherokee has won quite a few awards. Also, I think it’s just plain sexy :slight_smile:

That is a pretty strong statement that Subarus have “by far” the best AWD system…what aspect of the system do you believe provides such superior performance?

The downside is that then you have to drive around a RAV4 all day. As has been mentioned, the AWD is unreliable at the best of times, and unless you get the V6, it is seriously lacking in the power department. I can’t speak to the CR-V, but I don’t imagine it’s much different.

Seconding (thirding, whatever) the Subaru. Only downside is they’re hard to find used, and expensive when they are. But there’s good reason for that.

Basically, an AWD car has three differentials-- the two on the front and rear axles and the one in the center* that decides how much power to send to each axle. The drawback of this is that, just like a regular differential, the center diff can be “fooled” into sending power the wrong direction in slippery conditions. Subarus are the only lower-end AWD car in which all three power distribution points are limited slip units that are harder to fool. This means that short of high-centering or having literally zero traction on all four wheels, nothing will stop a Subie. On a regular AWD system with open differentials, if the traction difference is bad enough you can get stuck with just one wheel slipping. Some are even worse than that (like the older CRV’s) in that the power distribution is all or almost all to the front until the wheels actually start slipping, which is even less useful because you ideally want to avoid breaking traction in the first place.

There’s drawbacks to the Subie AWD system, which is why the other cheaper cars don’t have similar systems. It’s very choosy about tires and driving around with unevenly worn tires can cause serious damage. It’s also partly responsible for Subarus’ relatively poor gas mileage for cars their size. But for the money they are by far the best on-road snow vehicle you can buy, which is why they are so ubiquitous in some parts of the country.

Traction control does go a long way to helping crappy AWD systems not suck so bad. And more vehicles have been coming with the center diff locks, which makes it so the center diff sends a fixed amount of power front-to-back much like a part time 4wd, which means that at least both axles are getting power which can help, or at least make it so you’ve got two wheels spinning on the ice instead of one!

*or a differential-like power split device

Also, here’s an interesting “Subaru vs. Everyone else” roller test: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooQRxlChvMw

Thanks for the comments. I have a feeling I’m going to end up with a Forester (just about 8" ground clearance, give or take a fraction), used, or new if need be.

An anecdote does not equal data, but here it is anyway. My sister drives a (2004?) Outback (not Forester). She lives in the mountains in central Colorado, so steep and snowy are par for the course. For the most part it does well, except for one major problem. The clearance in the front wheel wells is very tight, and in wet, snowy conditions they have a tendency to get stuffed up with snow and ice. It gets bad enough after an hour or so of wet snowy highway driving that she is unable to steer more than a few degrees in either direction, and she has to pull over to kick the snow and ice out of the front wheel wells. Not only does it cause serious wear on the inside shoulder of the front tires, but it’s a very real safety issue. Do a quick google and you will see she’s not the only Outback owner who is disappointed about this. I don’t think the Forester has the same problem because the wheel wells are much more generous, and they may have even rectified the situation on the new fourth generation (2010- ) Outback. That said, it might be something to investigate before committing thousands to a Subie.