Drivin’ the great outdoors
Professional advice for crossover SUV shoppers who steer toward roads less travelled
Crossovers are big business in Canada and, though most won’t see much serious use in off-road driving or outdoor activities, there remains a significant group of shoppers who use a crossover, rather than the more popular pickup truck, for partaking in regular outdoor activities.
Below, we’ll take a quick look at some features, accessories and tips to bear in mind when shopping for a new (or used) crossover that’s destined for frequent use by the outdoorsman/outdoorswoman.
Check the towing capacity Whether buying new or used, be sure to check the towing capacity of the crossover against the weight of the trailer and toys you’ll need to haul. Towing ratings vary widely by model and you’ll want to know what your crossover can tow safely before you buy.
Note that in some applications the presence of a fuel-saving continually variable transmission (CVT) may coincide with lower towing capacity versus competitive models with a conventional transmission.
Also, remember to check the owner’s manual for the scoop on transmission fluid changes, noting that towing and trailering constitutes “severe” use as outlined in the owner’s manual. If you tow or trailer with your crossover you’ll probably need to change the transmission fluid more often.
If you’ll work your crossover hard, or frequently use it in harsh environments, consider some added protection. Factory or aftermarket form-fitting floormats and cargo area covers/pads help protect vulnerable areas of your machine’s interior from wear and tear, as well as spills, mud, sand and corrosion.
If you’ve got a four- legged friend or two along for the ride, or often find yourself loading your crossover full of heavy gear, a little protection can go a long way. If the vehicle you’re considering is available with skid plate provisions, a tow package, or dealerinstalled mud-flaps, these are all worth consideration as well.
Remember, a little protection can go a long way toward the maintenance of your ride’s interior, body and resale value.
A cargo-area mounted power outlet, and a household power outlet, are two features you don’t realize you need until you’ve had them. Both will come in handy in a multitude of situations, from running an air compressor or portable boombox to quickly recharging mobile electronics like GPS, fish- finders, and Smartphones or tablets.
Find out if the crossover you’re considering is available or standard with either feature, and be sure to tick them on the order sheet, if available.
Many crossovers are available with a specialized off-road drive modes and traction assist systems. At the flick of a dial, these engage for added grip and stability in slippery situations, and are designed for use in deep mud, for tackling steep climbs, and for use on loose surfaces.
A crossover with added traction via a selectable off- road mode gives drivers a little extra peace of mind when the going gets challenging. Some models even offer downhill assist control or hill hold assist, both of which aim to improve safety when travelling up or down steep and slippery hills. These may not be “must-have” features for some shoppers, but if available, they can be indispensable.
Must-have accessories Consider adding a few highlyadvised accessories to your crossover for best results. Our favourites? Check out the Trac- Grabber traction straps, which strap onto your wheels and tires to add extra biting traction if you become badly stuck.
These small straps feature a ribbed rubber block to help, as a last resort, if you can’t free a stuck vehicle from snow, sand or mud.
A portable power pack is another great idea, as most can jump-start several dead batteries in your crossover, ATV, boat or snowmobile. A portable power pack can also be used for mobile recharging of your electronics.
Finally, consider adding a rechargeable work-light or flashlight to your equipment arsenal.
These are affordable and handy, can typically be left charging up in your vehicle and will prove useful in a variety of situations where you might otherwise be running your vehicle’s headlights (and draining its battery) for after-dark lighting.
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