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Factory upgrades of popular SUVs improve off-road and daily driving capabilities.

COURTSY PHOTO: DON BERGER/NWAPA - The 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness demonstrated its off-road capabilities at the annual Mudfest event hosted by the Pacific Northwest Automotive Press Association.In the past, the most off-road capable SUVs were based on trucks or truck-like frames that made them rugged enough to handle rough trails. However, newer crossovers are more like cars, with unibody construction that offers smoother rides and allows smaller engines for better mileage. Many of those with all-wheel-drive are surprisingly good on light to moderate trails, but some owners have upgraded them with lift kits, beefier tires and additional underbody protection to make them better.

Now several manufacturers are offering their upgraded versions of various models. Not only are they more off-road capable, but they are even better suited for day-to-day driving on frequently wet Pacific Northwest roads. Among those worth considering are:

COURTESY PHOTO: HONDA - The more off-road capable TrailSport version of the Honda Passport.

Honda Passport TrailSport and Pilot TrailSport

Honda's new TrailSport lines start with its midsize Passport and Pilot crossovers. The company's i-VTM4 torque-vectoring AWD is standard, and upgrades include increased ground clearance, off-road suspensions, more aggressive tires, full-size spare tires, underbody protection, expanded AWD capabilities and special exterior and interior trim.

COURTESY PHOTO: SUBARU - The Wilderness version of the 2022 Subaru Forester is the most off-road capable ever.

Subaru Forester Wilderness and Outback Wilderness

Subaru has long attracted outdoor enthusiasts as the only manufacturer that offers its Symmetrical AWD standard on practically every vehicle.

Now it is offering Wilderness Editions of its compact Forester SUV and midsize Outback wagon that include more ground clearance, all-terrain tires, a retuned suspension, enhanced X-MODE with settings for Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud, redesigned bumpers for improved approach and departure angles, water-resistant StarTex upholstery, and upgraded roof rails that can support a tent.

COURTESY PHOTO: HONDA - The more off-road capable TrailSport version of the Honda Passport.

Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

The TRD version of Toyota's compact crossover comes standard with AWD and includes a specially tuned suspension, reconfigured shocks, 18-inch matte black wheels, tweaked coil springs, all-terrain tires, and a unique exterior and interior trim.

Depending on your budget and needs, all versions of these crossovers are worth considering. Most come standard with front-wheel-drive, which is just as good as AWD in most daily driving conditions because of today's advanced traction control system. Other all-new or redesigned 2022 crossovers include the Acura MDX, Ford Bronco, Ford Bronco Sport, Genesis GV70, Jeep Grand Wagoneer, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Pathfinder, and Volkswagen Taos.

The latest crossover SUVs are on display at the 2022 Portland International Auto Show from Feb. 24-27 at the Oregon Convention Center.


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