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Difference Between Off-Road Driving & Rally Driving

What is off-road driving?

While there are things in common and plenty of people who love and participate in both, saying that the off-road driving experience and the rally driving experience are simply similar is like saying playing golf and cricket are the same just because they both involve balls.

Off-road driving is the activity of driving vehicles across / over / through unsurfaced roads or tracks, where the format consists mainly of sand, gravel, riverbeds, mud, snow, rocks — and other natural terrain. This activity varies between leisure and professional, with escalating intensities respectively. Confirmed fans will speak about the excitement and exhilaration of the off-road driving experience with fervour.

Exhilaration is such a unique human truth though, isn’t it? There are many things specific to the individual that each one finds exhilarating — and the spectrum is diverse! Parachuting, base jumping and even shopping during a SALE; there isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all demo-option to explain what exhilaration means to each of us… but that doesn’t mean there aren’t unifying activities.

Anyone who’s ever witnessed rally driving will agree: now that’s exhilarating! It doesn’t mean you have to become a hardened fanatic, but you can’t ignore the adrenalin that comes from watching this sport — so imagine being a rally car driver?!

The rundown

Rally drivers race on closed-off public roads, going against the clock, one car at a time, on dirt, pavement, and anything in between. They run in all weather, in virtually every country on the planet. The sport is a glorious, noisy mashup of extremities like sliding sideways between trees at 160kph. The exhilaration comes from witnessing the real, palpable risk and skill that’s on display. Just standing next to any closed-off rally road (called “stages”) will make it instantly obvious as to why people do this sort of thing.


Similarities Between Off Road Driving and Rally Driving

When it comes to activities such as off-road and rally racing, each attracts big sponsors to events that pit drivers against each other. To differentiate between the off-road driving experience event and the rally driving experience event, the following two main factors are true:

What is the difference between off-road driving and rally driving?


Off-road racing is one day. This means drivers and their teams have one day to prove everything. Because you’ve got only one time to shine, the stakes are higher and mistakes matter!

With rally driving, events are spread out over seven to 14 days of racing, meaning you can off-set a bad day by following it up with a really good one.


In off-road racing you get to understand where you’re going because teams (including pit crew) are allowed GPS systems and/or maps.

In rally, you get a rulebook the night before or the morning of the race — and that’s it! Your co-driver is your navigator in situ, using the notes given to you that morning which means that if he’s off… you’re doomed.

Solberg Rally Stage Subaru WRX STI

In the Subaru context

Asking whether Subaru is appropriate for either of these activities is like asking whether elephants have big ears. With the most recent rally activity that paired the brand with Travis Patsrana, his team took the already-formidable WRX STI and converted it into a 643kW (862-horsepower) powerhouse STI that fit the Gymkhana bill perfectly!

You also don’t have to be an off-road stalwart to look at the Subaru Outback and hatch ideas of routes you could take this car that aren’t necessarily paved. Is it the best vehicle for off road driving? With its CVT transmission, you’ll comfortably navigate challenging terrain at lower speeds. And while snow might not be high on the list of challenges here in South Africa, this car’s famous all-wheel drive and the Subaru Outback off-road wheels will pull you right through mud and loose rock without issue.

Whether rally or rugged terrain is your fancy — or even a bit of both — talk to us about your interests and your lifestyle, and we guarantee there’s a Subaru that will fit right into that. Call us on +27 11 608 0116 or email info@subaru.co.za and a skilled member of our team will be happy to assist you. Alternatively, use our store locator to find your nearest dealership, and of course if you’re looking to experience the Subaru SUV (or any of our other models) first-hand, you will want to get behind the steering wheel and book a test drive today.


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