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.