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Old 1 Jan 2013
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Is low range necessary for a south american road trip ?

Hi everyone,

We are a couple from france planning a one year road trip around south america. We are now in the planning stage and are struggling to create a shortlist of good vehicles for such a trip. I m no expert in offroad driving (i will take a class before leaving though), so i don't expect that we will be going for hardcore off roading, but i suspect we will be driving on unpaved roads or not too technical offroads (for instance getting to the uyuni salar or in the national parks of the andes).

My question is whether low-range is a requirement for such a trip ?

Our options seem to be limited to the likes of land cruisers, pajeros, and patrols if we want to tick this box. On the other hand, it seems that there are a lot more options, and cheaper ones too, if the vehicle only has 4wd.

I would appreciate your opinion and advice on suggested makes/models, particularly if you have actually been on a trip in the region...

Thanks a lot
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Old 1 Jan 2013
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Obviously it helps!

For off-roading I would say the most important thing is ground clearance.
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Old 2 Jan 2013
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Hi JayJay,

As RoamingYak mentions good ground clearance and 2 wheel drive will get you to a lot of places, 4wheel drive with low range - with good ground clearance will get you to most places.

having a vehicle with low range means you have in effect more torque which makes driving in sand easier on the vehicle and much better control in more demanding terrain - such as going up and down steeper rocky hills giving much better engine braking so you can drive slower - therefore more safely and put less strain on the suspension/gearbox/clutch(if manual)/engine/wife

If you are planning on driving some of the more remote pistes in South America - and specifically around the Salaar Uyuni then 4WD with low range would be a good idea - some can be deeper sand where low range will be handy.

the drawbacks are that the vehicle will be much more expensive to buy in the first place and quite heavy, for a regular 4wd Toyota/Land Rover/etc the fuel consumption will be much higher and there will not be as much room to live as a 2wd van -VW combi or similar. Points to consider over a one year trip.....

Whatever you choose make sure that it drives well on ripio (gravel roads)
and if you go with 'heavy duty' suspension that it is not too firmly sprung - a classic stock coil sprung Range Rover rides ripio roads very well for example.

Personally I would be tempted to find a used Merc Sprinter or WV van with 4wd and convert it to a camper


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Last edited by Gipper; 2 Jan 2013 at 18:55.
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Old 2 Jan 2013
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2 wheel drive for us.

2 wheel drive and ground clearance and light weight has been our choice for 6 years on the road.....but I did make our car from scratch....but our design concept was to stick 2 off road motorbikes together so we came up with Victor.
weight all up 1280kgs...nearly as heavy as some G'S we have seen ...lol
3 ltr diesel engine. lots of torque and great fuel economy. ....plus don't forget to put on limit straps to your shocks....everybody forgets this.

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Old 4 Jan 2013
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Thanks for your replies.

I understand that low-range is more of a nice to have thing, so we'll look into 4x4 without or with low-range. We don't intend to sleep in the car, so the van option is not really for us.

If you have any suggestions on a car model or on nice offroad routes in south america, it will be very much appreciated.

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Old 4 Jan 2013
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Low Range

Hi JJ,

I would recomend low range, it's not something you will use constantly although when needed it can be incredibly usefull if not life saving.

I posted a few answers to questions regarding Toyota 4X4's on this thread Land Cruiser V Rav 4 V Hilux. I hope you find it of some help.


Kind regards & happy travels

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Old 5 Jan 2013
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If you dont need intend to sleep in the vehicle but want something with 4x4, how about the smaller Citroen/Peugeot 4x4 vans:

Dangel 4x4 - experts in four wheel drive systems

There are Citroen/Peugeot dealers in South America - mainly Chile I think, the Berlingo is badged the 'Multispace' down there, so parts for a newer one might be available.
This would give you 4x4 and ground clearance, especially with some all terrain tyres and much better fuel consumption than a full size 4x4.

If these do not appeal then its the usuals:

Toyota Land Cruiser/Hilux/Prado/Rav4
Land Rover Defender/Freelander
Nissan Patrol/pickup
Suzuki 4x4's
Mitsubishi Shogun/pickup
Subaru Forester

Even though you are not intending to sleep in the vehicle it would be handy to be able to set it up so you can for 'emergencies'

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Old 6 Jan 2013
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Originally Posted by jayjay1 View Post
I understand that low-range is more of a nice to have thing, so we'll look into 4x4 without or with low-range. We don't intend to sleep in the car, so the van option is not really for us.
Buy what the locals drive. Find out, which is the most common car in the countries you want to travel. One, that the farmers in rural areas use. Most of the time you will come up with a pickup like a Toyota Hilux or so. These are built to last in the hands of people relying on them to get the job done. And I wouldn't even cling to 4x4, most pickups are available as 4x2 and 4x4. If the locals can do it with 4x2, why wouldn't you?

That gives you a much greater chance to get help, if something goes wrong. The suggested Dangel 4x4 is an exotic appearance even in France where they come from.

Bonus points for not being spotted as tourists at first glance and being able to sell the car if you should later decide to.

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Old 9 Jan 2013
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top of the list

Just my opinion but I would pick low range/crawler gear above diff locks, 4x4 if the engine cannot pull the weight your buggered you can always try and do something about spinning wheels. Especially as most overlanders always overload.
thanks mark
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low-range, south america

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