I’ve been taking the xB EXBRO5 Edition on a number of local back road shakedown outings to get a sense of how the changes I’ve made are working in the real (rough) world, including a little test of hill climbing, thanks to this remote quarry access road. It doesn’t look terribly steep, but my iPhone measured it at up to 18 degrees at the steepest upper section. That wouldn’t be any problem at all if the surface was more solid or I had more than one-wheel drive, but it’s rutted and the surface was loose on the upper steep section.
My first attempt was with Traction Control Off. Note that I slowed down just before the ascent, so that I had very little or any momentum.
Electronic Traction Control, which applies braking force to the wheel that has lost traction, can be useful in some settings, but not in others. It’s generally most effective on wet pavement, and the least so in snow and very loose gravel and sand, where a churning tire can actually be better, up to a point. It creates a stuttering effect in situations like this, as the brake pulsates the slipping wheel.
So I turned it off in the second attempt. This wasn’t exactly scientific, as I might not have been going precisely the same speed. It too resulted in a fail, as one wheel started spinning in the looser and deeper of the two ruts. Note: If I was actually ascending this hill on a trip, I would have avoided the ruts, and tried to place my wheels in what looked like the firmest ground. I purposely placed the wheels in the ruts to see how it would do.
Try #3 involved more momentum, which is of course the best antidote possible for situations like this, in a vehicle that has limited traction. I don’t remember if Traction Control was on or off, but my sense is that on this section, it didn’t make much difference.
FWD vehicles are not at their best in this type of steep, loose surface, as the vehicle’s weight shifts to the rear. Depending on how the EXBRO5 trip across Nevada works out and if I’m still up for more in the future, I will seriously consider an aftermarket Limited Slip Differential, which is available. Obviously it’s a bit of an investment to buy and install it.
I’ve been driving the xB hard over longish stretches of rough forest service roads, which are pockmarked with wicked potholes and some nasty ruts, to make sure everything is holding together. On one of my outings I started hearing a metallic clunking sound from the front suspension. Something was definitely loose.
When I got home, I crawled underneath and checked every suspension bolt as well as mountings for the drive train and subframe. I finally tumbled to the obvious culprit: the nut normally hiding under a rubber plug in the center of the strut at the top, that retains the struts upper bearing. Out of sight; out of mind. But that’s been the only issue so far.
Removing the front sway bar has been a net positive. One of the consequences is increased oversteer, especially noticeable on downhill gravel curves, of which there are many on these roads. The rear end likes to come around, which for an old fan of Corvair and VW oversteer like me is both entertaining and not worrisome. Keeps it interesting.
I got this roof rack in order to carry a full-size spare as well as other stuff I’ll need for the trip; not just for the looks. I instantly noticed its effect, on both higher speed performance as well as mileage. The drop in performance is not too surprising, given that the xB’s little 1.5 L mill makes all of 103 hp, and the body is hardly aerodynamic to start with.
Having to work harder also means more fuel being consumed, so I did a test with it on and off on a flat stretch of I-5: the difference, as shown on my instant mpg readout, was up to six mpg at 75 mph, dropping from 28 to 22 mpg. At 70, it was about 5 mpg, and some 4 at 65. Taking it off felt like taking off a heavy backpack: relief!
I’m going to have to put it back for the Nevada trip, but the effect will mostly be felt on the way there and back, as below 50 mph on the overland sections the impact will be negligible. Good thing, as one leg is 219 miles between gas stations.
My outing one day also involved stopping off to hike to three remote waterfalls, and I’ll share a few shots of those. First up was Spirit Falls.
On the way to the next one, alongside a remote forest road, I encountered this unexpected tableau.
Keeping Oregon’s back woods weird.
Next up was Moon Falls, perhaps the most impressive of the three.
We had some welcome late-season precipitation, including snow at about the 4,000′ level.
It wasn’t enough to be an issue. But it was almost certainly the last snow of the season,at least at these elevations.
The final one was Pinard Falls.
Or is this the most impressive one?
These three are all located in a fairly remote area where the Willamette and Umpqua National Forests meet, about a 45 minute drive from our house.