Drivin’ the great out­doors

Pro­fes­sional ad­vice for cross­over SUV shop­pers who steer to­ward roads less trav­elled

Annapolis Valley Register - - NEWS - BY JUSTIN PRITCHARD WHEELS

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.

Pro­tect it

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.

Power pro­vi­sions

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.

Trac­tion aids

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.

JUSTIN PRITCHARD PHO­TOS

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2016 Jeep Chero­kee

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