How good/bad are the big American utes off road?

Submitted: Thursday, Jan 30, 2014 at 20:13
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Hello again BOGgers,

Lana and I are thinking of upgrading our LC100 to an F-truck or Ram, for more payload and better towing comfort/economy. We've always wondered how limiting the extra size will be off road, especially after we've unhitched the van. We wonder about:
+ tight sand tracks down to beaches, cut thru the dunes by fisherfolk, where the extra width may mean staked tyres or ripped side panels (we don't mind scrub scratches but don't want to leave actual bits behind);
+ tracks through forests, twisting through the trees where the length and turning circle may become an issue
+ rocky trails up to lookouts or down to riverbanks, across creeks, jump ups and washdays etc where length and poor approach and ramp over angles may be an issue.

Brian (Noosa Fox) replied recently to another post saying: "There are very few places that a Landcruiser can go that the F250 or Chevy couldn't. ... I had an F250 for 11 years and never required any other vehicle to get somewhere."

That's reassuring, and I'm keen to hear from other big-ute users on this subject. Are we imagining things, or have you found in practice that you sometimes now turn away/back from tracks that you once would have attempted in your old Tojo/Nissan/Disco/Pajero etc?

Everything is a tradeoff, and logically at the absolute limit there will be a very tight gap that a smaller vehicle will just get through and the bigger one can't. But in practical usage we're interested to hear if, or how often, you've found the monster truck a hindrance? As a related question have you added and appreciated (or perhaps been somewhere where you wished you'd added) diff locks and lift kits?

Thanks for your input.

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Reply By: Emu 65 - Thursday, Jan 30, 2014 at 20:58

Thursday, Jan 30, 2014 at 20:58
You've picked it in one Matt!

It all depends on what you wished to do, but if manoeuvring into tight places after unhitching is your 'thing', then you can't beat the landcruiser genre. We have crossed the Simpson in a Prado and had to help two long wheel base F250's frequently hung-up on top of the dunes. Weight and wheel track width are the problems for this type of adventuring in my humble view.

Saying that, I did see a F250 loaded with a quad bike (and sundry other stuff) that had towed a 20' caravan up to the Limmen Bight River in NT over fairly sandy tracks. The tracks were not narrow but were quite soft.


AnswerID: 587089

Follow Up By: Noosa Fox - Friday, Jan 31, 2014 at 04:01

Friday, Jan 31, 2014 at 04:01
Our F250 got further up the really soft sand to the left of Big Red and had to tow a Hilux up and over the normal Big Red track after it failed on its third attempt.

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Reply By: NIK `N` OFF - Friday, Jan 31, 2014 at 03:51

Friday, Jan 31, 2014 at 03:51
Matt our experience comes from owning Landcruisers since 1984 and also owning a F250 for four years 2006 - 2000 when we once again went back to a cruiser.

When we had the F250 it was always my intention to have a Quad bike in the back, and tinny on top the quad never happened though we did have a 3.75 mt tinny on a rack, the quad was to be used to explore where the f250 wouldn't go.

As a tow truck the big F250 was superb, fuel economy acceptable, comfort spacious, We travelled through and around Australia, never bogged in fact as a 4WD in sand it was excellent, easily up and over Big Red both sides and not just the chicken track. We were traveling full time and the F250 had to be a multi purpose vehicle, towing & town car and it's size became annoying and after 4 years we sold it.

We had no mechanical problems though we knew personally friends that have, mainly gearbox & torque convertor issues.

There were many tracks we couldn't squeeze the F250 down or if we did the paint work bore the evidence, more than the physical size the turning circle was shocking, the GPS got us into some tricky situations going down dead end tracks with the van behind, the chainsaw was used to enable some 50 point turns ;-) everything is a compromise and though our Toyota 'Ute' is our choice for now if I was towing anything larger than our 19' BT I'd keep my options open.
AnswerID: 587090

Reply By: Condinup - Friday, Jan 31, 2014 at 04:03

Friday, Jan 31, 2014 at 04:03
Hi Matt,
Having had a number of cruisers over the years along with two 200 series, I have changed to a F350 dual cab Super Duty.
It really depends on your use, if like me you want to do the long runs north and tow and carry whatever you like then I find the Ford a vast improvement. With a mild tune device mine will haul at the speed limit effortlessly and return about 22lts/100 at GCM.
It has power and torque to burn and offers a much greater envelope of performance.
It is however a little rougher in the rear when unladen obviously and gives the impression that you are in a much bigger vehicle than it really is.
It is far roomier inside and the features are comparable other than a few like the electric fold mirrors and remote start etc. Ventilation is good and the aircon handles the heat without any issue.
It's off road ability in sand I believe is very similar to the 200. I run 20 inch BFG tyres and with them down to 14-18 psi it will go anywhere a cruiser will in my opinion.
The standard features of diff locks and the ability to turn off the traction control is a bonus.
It has a higher ground clearance than the cruiser I would say.
On the down side, you are longer with a larger turning circle. This at times leads to the need to back up and go again on tight bits. I have not had it in a situation where it has bellied.
As for the width, if you have a measure in comparison to the 200, it is hardly any wider, maybe 150 mm from memory. Whilst it feels wide, you don't find that unless you are on the really tight between the trees type track. It will get scratched yes, but it won't stop you very often.
I think a lot of the perceived issues come from people's opinions maybe. We are used to and most things designed around the average car in Aus. And these vehicles are from the US where that average size is much bigger. As long as you are aware of this and don't intend to take it shopping at Myers in the city you are fine.
I see that you are from WA so some examples of where mine has been would be:
Towing the 20 ft Bt to Moores hut at fish creek then beach fishing.
Into Steep point with 1000 lts water and camping gear etc.
Yampire gorge at Karajini? The now closed section
I look at it that I spend a lot more time towing and prefer to do that at a higher level of safety than the odd time, yet to occur, that I may not be able to get somewhere.
The 200 is a very capable vehicle and if I wasn't towing a van or 3 ton boat then I would still have one thou I think.
Hope to have been some help
AnswerID: 587091

Reply By: Motherhen & Rooster - Friday, Jan 31, 2014 at 10:10

Friday, Jan 31, 2014 at 10:10
Hi Matt

I can't say the any tracks we have wanted to go on have really stopped us.

We did some tight weaving amongst the trees but made it to both Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls in Kadadu National Park.

The track to John Hayes Rockhole near Trephina Gorge in the East MacDonnell Ranges follows a creek line, and we were wider than the worn track, so one side was rock climbing as we went, but we made it through unscathed.

We did not take it on the entire Holland Track, but in end we probably took it through the tightest stretches in the woodlands section, as well as following an old cut line which was being cleaned up for mining exploration.

On a more local scene, we chose not to try and take our F250 on some tracks in the West Cape Howe National Park, instead going with someone else in their Landcruiser.

The only places to really avoid are suburban shopping centre car parks.

The long wheel base and poor turning circle is the biggest drawback.


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AnswerID: 587092

Reply By: muddywaters - Saturday, Feb 01, 2014 at 00:11

Saturday, Feb 01, 2014 at 00:11
Hi Matt,
We have found the F250 good in the sand and mud ,we run. 285 x 16 tyres and have got in and out of heavy spots very well. They are heavy vehicles, ours is 5 ton on the road fuelled and watered up [have got too much junk on board] and have found they have to be kept rolling solidly, keep them powered up and going in the sand, once they slow they will bog down, still no problem just let the tyres down to about 16 psi then they just step up on the top again, don't hurry with your tyres down this low. We don't let the tyres down for sand until we have to.
Width of the F250 is the only down side on narrow tracks, we went into George river in Chitchester nat park over tight creeks and gullys took 2 hrs with machete to widen the track so as to not scratch the van or the truck.
AnswerID: 587093

Reply By: Noosa Fox - Saturday, Feb 01, 2014 at 03:52

Saturday, Feb 01, 2014 at 03:52

The down side of the F250 is the length when you are in suburbia. The car parks are just not long enough.
In shopping centres you have to go to where there are double parks so that you can park a bit in each, or go to the outside parks where you can reverse in and let the tail hang over the garden.

Ours did 22 to 25 litres per 100km towing the 21 foot caravan at the speed limits.
Tow vehicles with a long wheel base have more stability for towing.

It was about 15lts per 100 when not towing.

The turning circle of about 17 metres is only a problem in suburbia.

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Reply By: MattandLana - Sunday, Feb 02, 2014 at 02:06

Sunday, Feb 02, 2014 at 02:06
Many thanks to all, lots of really helpful comments. We're leaning towards the upgrade, for the 99.99% of the time when size is not a (negative) issue and the added weight and power is a benefit.

AnswerID: 587095

Reply By: MattandLana - Tuesday, Feb 25, 2014 at 02:53

Tuesday, Feb 25, 2014 at 02:53
Haha! Turns out they're FINE off-road!

This should be no problem with a BT on the back?

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