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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I took my Element up a bulldozed mining trail near Rainbow Mountain up in the Alaska Range. Everything went well until coming back I caught a rock on one of the guards underneath the vehicle. The guard was bent against the driveshaft causing a terrible grinding sound that took a while to identify. After finally finding it, I had to climb under the vehicle and bange it back in place (glad it wasn't muddy!).

Anyway, this is as much a guarding issue as a ground clearance one. The rock was about twelve inches x 16 inches and was partially buried, with only an inch or two about the roadway. The guard caught it and pulled the rock out of the ground. I was only travelling about 5 mph too... very slow! IMHO, the E really should have performed better here.

Bottom line for me -- the E is good for smooth trails, sand and surf situations, and maybe even light brush -- but not rocky trails!
 

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Regarding a nearly buried rock hitting driveline shield, it is possible that other rocks and ridges in the road affected clearance. I have seen diagrams in an 4x4 book showing how, with independent suspension, raising one wheel can actually lower the center drivetrain. In car with a solid beam axle raising a wheel also raises the differential, but that is not the case when each wheel moves independently. Several years ago when Jeep was about to release the Liberty, 4x4 enthusiasts worried that it would be inferior to the venerable Cherokee because of its independent front suspension. Whether those fears were justified or not, it gives an idea of the potential problems of the Element's suspension on rough roads. On the other hand, on the highway (or slightly rough roads) the Element handles a lot better than the Cherokee.

paulj
 
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