Should You Take the Subaru BRAT Off Road?

Is memory lane unpaved? Then take a trip down it in the 1987 Subaru BRAT.
Written by Jacqulyn Graber
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Updated on Nov 23, 2022
BRAT stands for “Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter,” and
sold this light-duty, four-wheel-drive coupe with a cargo bed in the U.S. from 1978 to 1987. The BRAT’s drivetrain was designed with weight and versatility in mind to target both rural users and off-road enthusiasts. 
Subaru made some pretty weird and interesting vehicles back in the day—including the BRAT, which was part coupe, part pickup truck, and part off-roader. Sounds strange? Well, it was good enough for President Ronald Reagen, who owned a ‘78 BRAT for 20 years to get around his ranch near Santa Barbara, California. 
It was good enough for Reagen—but is the BRAT really good enough to take on serious off-road driving? Here to go over the vehicle’s off-road capabilities—including ground clearance, torque, and tires—is Jerry, the
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Can the Subaru BRAT go off road?

Yes—believe it or not, this little coupe/pickup truck combo was designed to do just that! While we wouldn’t suggest conquering some seriously rough terrains, you can still take your BRAT off the beaten path with a fair amount of confidence. 
In the 70s and 80s, a BRAT would cost you at least $17,774. That value hasn’t decreased by much over the years, in part because Subaru lovers and petrolheads seek out this classic utility coupe for its uniqueness.
Today, the average value of an original 1978 BRAT is around $10,000—depending on mileage, history, and condition, of course. Later models will sell for a lot less; you may be able to find one in decent condition for as little as $3,000 to $5,000

Ground clearance

Before taking any vehicle off road, you must first understand its ground clearance—or the space between the lowest part of its chassis and the ground. 
The BRAT has a ground clearance of 8.3 inches—which falls a little bit short of what experts recommend for rough terrains. Generally, you’ll want at least 8.5 inches for serious adventuring—and between 8.8 and 10.8 for the rockiest situations. The 2021
Jeep Wrangler
, for example, has 9.7 inches of minimum clearance, making it an ideal modern-day option for adventures. 
Still, 8.3 inches is nothing to sneeze at—especially since the BRAT is classified as a passenger car, not even a light truck! 


The BRAT’s engine gives off 166 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. Admittedly, that’s not very much power, and you have to hit a pretty high rpm to access it.
Off-roading is safer and more viable in vehicles with low-end torque, meaning they can access high amounts of torque (or power) at a low rpm. That’s because power is far more important than speed when you’re ripping through dirt and mud. 
Ideally, you’ll want to access impressive power between 2,000 and 3,000 rpms—so the BRAT does fall a little bit short.


The BRAT comes equipped with 175/70-13 all-season tires, which are built to perform well in every climate, and last as long as possible. 
However, they aren’t necessarily the best option for off-roading. Instead, we recommend
all-terrain tires
, or A/T tires, which are designed for drivers who want to mix off-roading with everyday driving on paved highways and roads.
Of course, A/T tires aren’t as long-lasting as all-season tires—but they’re a worthwhile investment if your vehicle is being used regularly for off-roading.


Every BRAT comes standard with four-wheel drive. 4x4s are the ideal option for off roading—although, on the road, four-wheel drive does increase fuel consumption. 


The final spec to consider is your vehicle’s angles, including the angle of approach (the maximum angle at which a vehicle can climb without interference) and the angle of departure (the maximum angle at which a vehicle can descend without interference). 
While we don’t have the exact specs, reviewers note that the BRAT’s approach and departure angles weren’t that great—which means you’ll have to proceed with caution over rises and dips.

Off-road rating: In a Pinch

We’ve rated the Subaru BRAT using
super-technical DIRT rating system, broken down in the table below:
Don’t Try It
Vehicles better suited to highway conditions
In a Pinch
Vehicles that can handle off-road conditions in certain circumstances
Rough and Ready
Vehicles designed for casual off-roading
Trail Boss
True off-road vehicles capable of tackling a range of terrain
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The Subaru BRAT earns an I rating: it has four-wheel drive, but its ground clearance is slightly lower than we like to see for off-road vehicles. Plus, its torque is a bit low, and its tires are less-than-ideal for serious mud.
You can absolutely take your BRAT over unpaved parking lots and to campsites, but we would avoid seriously rocky, muddy, or hilly terrains.

The best off-road alternatives to the Subaru BRAT

Fortunately, there are plenty of other vintage cars designed for off-road adventures. Take a look at some BRAT alternatives you might want to consider:
Original MSRP
2006 Subaru Baja
The all-wheel drive resembles the BRAT in more ways than one. This four passenger, four-door utility vehicle is a car-truck hybrid, just like its predecessor, and its ground clearance and torque are just about the same.
2006 Scion tC
The Scion tC is definitely more of a classic compact car, but if you add the right tires—and lift it a little bit—you may be able to conquer some basic off-road terrains.
2011 Scion xD
The newest alternative, this vehicle is known for its fuel efficiency! Once again, with the right tires, you might be able to tackle an unpaved parking lot—but that’s about it.

How to find affordable car insurance for off-road vehicles

Whether you’re looking to invest in a vintage vehicle, or hoping to purchase a brand new off-roader, you’ll need quality car insurance.
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