Durable cars: for a life on gravel...?

da.hs

Veteran Member
Joined
Jul 28, 2012
Location
SK, Canada
TDI
2010 Golf, DSG, silver (from new). 2010 Audi Q7 (from 2016), 2004 Touareg V10 (from 2018)
I might be switching jobs soon to one that would bring about 30000km/year, most of it on northern gravel "highways". Don't think my Golf would survive for too long: endless washboard and rocks sticking up and a high risk of getting stuck in winter snow and spring mud. Snow ploughs do work up there but they take their time to get to some places.

I have a truck and would use it for a while but thirsty and don't want to wear it out too fast - and cargo in the box gets covered with snow or dust, lids never really seal. Also have an 07 Jeep Wrangler which does the roads fine but a 2-door, can carry very little cargo.

So might be interested in an SUV next year - suggestions? VW Touareg and Jeep Grand Cherokee would be good in theory - but are complex and expensive and I guess could be extremely expensive to maintain if the roads wear them fast.

I've come to like the VW TDi - but winter is 6 months here and diesel may not be a sensible choice. Old diesels don't start in the cold, the new ones do but have other, much-discussed issues.

Interested in opinions...
 

White Passat

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 21, 2014
Location
Austin TX area
TDI
CPO 2013 Passat TDI SEL June 2012 build date Purchased 09/14/14
I might be switching jobs soon to one that would bring about 30000km/year, most of it on northern gravel "highways". Don't think my Golf would survive for too long: endless washboard and rocks sticking up and a high risk of getting stuck in winter snow and spring mud. Snow ploughs do work up there but they take their time to get to some places.

I have a truck and would use it for a while but thirsty and don't want to wear it out too fast - and cargo in the box gets covered with snow or dust, lids never really seal. Also have an 07 Jeep Wrangler which does the roads fine but a 2-door, can carry very little cargo.

So might be interested in an SUV next year - suggestions? VW Touareg and Jeep Grand Cherokee would be good in theory - but are complex and expensive and I guess could be extremely expensive to maintain if the roads wear them fast.

I've come to like the VW TDi - but winter is 6 months here and diesel may not be a sensible choice. Old diesels don't start in the cold, the new ones do but have other, much-discussed issues.

Interested in opinions...
2005 -- 2008 Subaru Forester with an NA Engine, 2.4L engine and manual tranny or even the automatic is worth looking at. I drove one all over the western US in the winter and it did quite well. Replace the struts every 50K miles. Changing the spark plugs can be a challenge until you do it with 2 short extensions and a flex socket.
 

GoFaster

Moderator at Large
Joined
Jun 16, 1999
Location
Brampton, Ontario, Canada
TDI
2006 Jetta TDI
For that application, it's hard to beat old fashioned body on frame. For that location, having something that anyone can fix if you break it is probably a good thing, too.

Can't believe I'm going to say this, but if you were considering a Touareg or a Jeep Grand Cherokee ... maybe look at a Chevy Tahoe. It will be thirsty. It will not have good driving dynamics. (But you are driving on gravel, mud, snow ...) It is plain ordinary Chevy pickup truck underneath. Can probably be bought used cheaply.

If you are buying new-ish, the 4 door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited might also be an option.

Or, Toyota 4Runner. Fuelly suggests the consumption is less bad (about 12 L/100 km vs 14 for the others) but people want an arm and a leg for these.
 

nkgagne

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 30, 2010
Location
Kitchener, Ontario Canada
TDI
2015 Sportwagen 6M, 2006 Golf GLS TDI (sold)
If you can lift it up and install a skidplate, as well as good winter tires (with a set of chains in the hatch) and prudent driving, you should be alright 8/10 times. (I believe there was some mention of installing Tiguan struts on the Mk6 Golf, don't know if figment was ever confirmed). You will chew up struts and bushings, especially if doing your best Tommi Mäkkinen impression on the gravel, but you may find the difference in fuel makes up for it. I don't have to tell you pickups are black holes for fuel compared to a TDI. For the really ridiculous days ("HOW many metres of snow?!"), take the Wrangler or the pickup based on the load to be transported. Else, you may decide to trade all three in towards a Ram or Grand Cherokee with the EcoDiesel power train, which may be a better compromise of fuel economy and durability. If you keep the Golf, be sure to block off the grille so that the engine gets some heat. This should also reduce the tendency for the intercooler to ice up and cause hijinks.
 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis (where it's safe)
TDI
There are just too many to list....
2002 or older Toyota Tacoma, 3.4L V6, manual or automatic makes no difference. If you want more room in the cab, get the Double Cab. More cargo space but covered, get a camper shell. TRD packages will have the HD Billy shocks and tougher springs (but rear leaf springs are often weak on these and need to be replaced/upgraded) and TRDs will have the locking rear diff, too, 2WD or 4WD.

These are tough, sturdy, reliable, old-school trucks. Better than the newer Prado-based Tacos (although those are not "bad" per se, but not quite as rugged).
 

CourierGuy

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2014
Location
Canada
TDI
2002 Golf(Summer) 2003 Golf(Winter)
Also, for longevity and chassis purposes... Wash your vehicle. Caked up mud and dirt will make rust fester 2 folds. Moisture will be trapped and never escape, and your vehicle will rot away faster. Seen it enough times in my gas pumping days on rural gravel road owners.
 

da.hs

Veteran Member
Joined
Jul 28, 2012
Location
SK, Canada
TDI
2010 Golf, DSG, silver (from new). 2010 Audi Q7 (from 2016), 2004 Touareg V10 (from 2018)
Thanks for suggestions. I've a few months of window-shopping yet. Budget... the job would pay 52c/km vehicle expenses (less around 18c/km gas for my Tundra pickup, less for other options) and estimated 30000km/year so about $850/month available for payments (or maintenance). Used vehicle would be better in some ways but I've a great reluctance to pay more than about a third of the cost of new - near-new usually means from a dealer with very high profit margin. Private sale if I trust its history would be good - would take some searching.

As GoFaster said... used Toyota prices are generally a good reason to buy new. I did talk briefly to the local Toyota dealer (truck in for service), his recommendation was also for the 4runner (out of their offerings) - body-on-frame so quite tough. Almost the first I'd heard of it. Unbiased recommendations count for more, of course.

The 2-door Wranger is great fun - wobbles gently from side to side in town like a penguin walks and wonderful on forestry tracks - noisy on highway and so much bare metal and fibreglass that I wonder how well the heater will work, I didn't use it in winter last year. If it will hold enough cargo then I will just stick to it - if not, then something more designed for long distance (by which I mean, I don't think I'd want to pay to "upgrade" 2-door to 4-door).

Winter temperatures: -20C daytime, -30C nights is normal for weeks on end, -30C/-40C from time to time. Had four days of continuous -52C in 2004 - just before I moved here. Nothing like that since!

Subaru: the nearest dealer is 2 hours south from where I live, 4 hours from where I'd be based - that's a bit of a concern. We are a sparse area!

I know about car washing (and the line-ups can be quite long). Gravel roads are not salted so in that respect are less degrading in winter.

Golf would stay - maybe a quarter of the schedule would on paved highway - reduce average fuel usage. It had a rear-end collision a year ago: seems perfect repair but would doubtless dent its re-sale value and I guess the Malone treatment would further dent it - best to keep it long term.
 
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