Illustration for article titled But... which was better offroad? v3
Photo: Taylor

Well since this is now a thing I write up every year, with an increasingly clickbiat title: Hey, we did an offroad trip in three very different offroad vehicles. I wonder how they did? Let’s find out!

Advertisement
Advertisement

The Players

For those unfamiliar, our little, for lack of a better term, Adventure group has three primary players:

Taylor in his daily driver, a 2015 Nissan XTerra Pro4X. He bought this blue beauty in 2018 as we were preparing to do the second half of the Oklahoma Adventure Trail and he has been driving the wheels off it ever since. The XTerra sports a 4.0L V6, 6-speed manual transmission, traditional transfer case, solid rear axle, factory electronic rear locking differential, factory offroad lights, and a bunch of stuff I didn’t bother to mention. He also purchased a new set of Yokohama Geolander ATs right before the trip started, so, like the Disco, he was on new rubber.

Advertisement

Next we have George in his also daily driven 2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk. The underdog of every offroad trip he is on, the Renegade sports the woeful 2.4L Tigershark inline 4, an equally deplorable 9-speed ZF automatic, four wheel independent suspension, shockingly good traction control, aftermarket rock rails, and the smallest gas tank ever fitted to any production car*. Since apparently I’m mentioning tires in this post, George bought new rubber last year, Maxxis Bravo ATs, that are slightly larger than stock.

*Not a real fact

Bringing up the rear we have my anachronistic 2001 Land Rover Discovery II SE7. Fitted with an anemic 4.0L Rover V8, ancient ZF 4-Speed automatic, traditional transfer case, locking center differential, solid front and rear axles, and recently freed from its factory running boards, the Land Rover is old enough to have fathered both of the vehicles on this trip, just. In fact it might have! The XTerra has a very suspicious family resemblance... Anyway! The Rover is also sporting new rubber for this trip, having been guilted into it shown the light by Oppo just the week previous. Accidentally fitted with the most aggressive all-terrain tires of the bunch, Falken Wildpeak AT3s, the Disco is also benefiting from tires slightly larger than stock.

Advertisement

The Trip

Is covered here:

Advertisement

But the tl;dr is we each drove about 10 hours to New Mexico and spent a week bombing around back roads, seeing the sights, and eating green chili everything.

It was delightful.

During the trip we didn’t do very much actual offroading, mostly sticking to moderately maintained forest service roads and highway. We did encounter a whole bunch of snow, so I am excited to evaluate the vehicles on a new terrain!

Advertisement

On Road

Illustration for article titled But... which was better offroad? v3
Advertisement

On road, all three cars did fine.

Illustration for article titled But... which was better offroad? v3
Image: George (fuelio)
Advertisement

George removed the roof box from the Renegade since the last trip, so gas mileage was up and wind noise was down. The Renegade was certainly the most quite and comfortable of the three, benefiting for fully independent suspension, heated steering wheel, and being a far more modern design than the other two.

That said, as previously mentioned, the Zippo Jeep call a gas tank in this thing (12.7 gallons) again necessitated frequent fuel stops, with Taylor and I never dipping below half a tank. The Jeep averaged 23.0 MPG over the entire trip. Surprisingly low. Also... so many fuel stops... Additionally, the Renegade’s cruise control seems to have a much wider tolerance than most, allowing a +1, -6 MPH variance from the setpoint which makes him extremely frustrating to follow.

Advertisement

On road the XTerra was similarly good. Taylor drives the pants off this thing, so if it isn’t comfortable on the highway he must be insane. Apparently the new tires made a huge difference to road noise, so he was pretty pleased. Taylor managed to average 18.0 MPG for the trip out of his two-ton box, not a bad showing for the XTerra overall and, to his credit, his on-road fuel economy was closer to 21.5 MPG.

The Disco, of course, was the worst of these. Don’t get me wrong, the Discovery drives great, but at higher speeds (75+ MPH) the ancient all-aluminum V8 really shows its age, struggling to maintain speed with a high crosswind. That said, when the wind wasn’t sweeping down the plains the Disco drove great and got a respectable 16.7 MPG overall average for the trip, a full 1.5 MPG increase from this time last year despite larger tires. That said, the Discovery is the only vehicle of the three that requires premium fuel... so that hurts. The new tires and recently re-fitted passenger door also helped keep the noise down, but I won’t say it was quiet in that car. The oversized tires also seemed to flummox the cruise control, so much of the drive was done with manual speed control.

Advertisement

Off road

In so far as we did much of that, all the cars did great. All three had plenty of clearance and articulation to handle what we were asking them to do. The only issues we did have is the Disco can get into a weird feedback situation off-road, where the side-to-side rocking gets progressively worse. This is usually mitigated by driving slower or removing the front sway bar, but the latter is enough of a faff I didn’t bother with it.

Advertisement

Offroad MPGs were pretty terrible for the XTerra and Disco, but the Renegade didn’t seem bothered, still averaging about 22 MPG with the XTerra being around 17 and the Disco... well I don’t know because I didn’t calculate it.

Overall this wasn’t a challenging trip offroad so... moving on.

Illustration for article titled But... which was better offroad? v3
Photo: Taylor
Advertisement

Snow

Illustration for article titled But... which was better offroad? v3
Advertisement

Snow! We drove in some! For a very long ways!

Honestly I’d like to say bad stuff about the cars at this point, but I can’t. All three did very well in the snow. The Renegade seemingly needed to rely on traction control more than the XTerra and Disco, but never got stuck or even significantly out of shape. The XTerra and the Disco just plodded along with center diffs locked with no real drama to report.

Advertisement

I will say I was super impressed with the snow performance on the Wildpeaks. Aside from the shockingly decreased MPGs, I wouldn’t have known I was driving on snow. Absolutely happy with their performance in the snow.

Illustration for article titled But... which was better offroad? v3
Photo: Taylor
Advertisement

Camping

Also unique to this trip, all three of us camped in the back of our cars!

Taylor is far more practiced at this than we were, but took the same approach that seems common in this size offroader: back seat removed, half the car for cargo, half the car for sleeping. Taylor reported no problems, though he does suffer from a somewhat unpredictable car alarm, so he keeps his keys very close at hand and manually locks the doors at night so as to not risk a late night noise violation.

Advertisement
How does he have so little stuff? Clearly not carrying his weight!
How does he have so little stuff? Clearly not carrying his weight!
Photo: Taylor

We were all surprised when George decided to camp in the Renegade rather than beg for space in the Discovery. He ended up building a surprisingly well built and thought out cargo box (of which I have no pictures) that lifted him about 12" off the cargo floor. This enabled him to sleep flat in the Renegade with the front passenger seat leaned all the way forward while also providing additional storage space. Say what we will, his setup seemed the most put together and also seemingly reduced the air volume enough to help out with heat retention. I’d be skeptical of the lack of head room, but he didn’t seem to mind.

Advertisement
The dog did not sleep in the Renegade. Not sure there was room for him. Yes, there is a human in this picture. I think I’d get claustrophobic in this environment, but George didn’t mind it.
The dog did not sleep in the Renegade. Not sure there was room for him. Yes, there is a human in this picture. I think I’d get claustrophobic in this environment, but George didn’t mind it.
Photo: Taylor

I did a full write up on my setup in the Discovery, but the summary is I took the same tactic as Taylor and it worked well. Doggo and I had plenty of room, comfort, and warmth throughout the trip. The real standouts from my setup was my little bedside table (rubbermaid tub full of camping stuff) and the ample headroom afforded by the Discovery’s tall roofline. Sitting and kneeling weren’t really a problem, and I suspect we could have fit all three of us in the Landy Living Room if needed.

Advertisement
This has been described as a “embarrassment of riches” in terms of space by my fellows.
This has been described as a “embarrassment of riches” in terms of space by my fellows.
Photo: Taylor

Reliability

I am happy to report that none of the cars used fluids (aside from a whole bunch of gasoline) and we suffered no breakdowns. The Land Rover’s transmission wasn’t the happiest camper from time to time, despite a recent service, but I’m going to attribute that to the altitude (over 9k!) and not going to worry about that outside of double checking the level.

Advertisement

Hoods were popped two times, however. Once on the Discovery after seeing low single-digit gas mileage in the snow and wanting to confirm... I dunno that the engine was still there? And once on the XTerra after the clutch started to feel a bit weak on the first day.

Illustration for article titled But... which was better offroad? v3
Advertisement

Not a bad showing for an “old” Land Rover, a Fiat, and a well worn Nissan.

Overall

What is there to say? They all did great!

The Land Rover once again proved that you can do anything in an “older” car if well maintained. Sure there is always a risk, but in this case it did great and I am very proud of it. I’ll probably give some attention to the door seals following this trip, however, and wouldn’t say “no” to some more power.

Advertisement

The Renegade once again proved itself to be a real Jeep, not having any troubles and leading the pack though some crazy fun snow. Against all odds it made a serviceable tent and made it back in once piece.

The Nissan once again did fine. Just fine. No drama what-so-ever, which may be the problem with the XTerra. While a good looking, manual, capable offroader, it offers no drama when offroad. It always looks composed and never out of its element. Not sure if that is a problem to be solved or embraced...

Advertisement

In retrospect

I think George has some tweaks he would like to make to his Renegade’s storage solution, but overall he is pleased enough with it he is keeping it in the car. We’re still on the lookout for an extended fuel tank for the Renegade, and I think George is warming up to another inch or so of lift, if for no other reason than to offset the sink when the car is loaded with stuff.

Advertisement

Taylor is, as always, happy with the XTerra. He is going to keep an eye on the clutch and I’m trying to convince him to get some rear sway bar disconnects to increase the drama... and off-road capabilities, the latter of which he doesn’t really need. He is also considering taking off some or all of his mud flaps to increase gas mileage and overall ground clearance.

The Land Rover, also as always, needs some love and TLC. Overall I am very pleased with how it did, of course, but I’m going to be looking at ways to help give the engine a little power bump. Initial findings were... slim. Sounds like a cone-style air filter is an option, though I generally don’t like those, or a K&N filter, which apparently the MAF doesn’t like those. I might look into water injection, but I doubt that’d provide much benefit to a NA engine? Overall my plan is to keep maintaining and enjoying it.

Advertisement

Three good cars on some very good roads. What’s not to like?

Share This Story

Get our newsletter