What Are the Best Off-Road SUVs?
Finding the best off-road SUVs can be a challenge because there are so many good options. We considered all the essential features, budgets, and brands.
Choosing one of the best off-road SUVs these days is a challenge, mainly because there are many good ones to choose from. To make our list, each vehicle required the following:
- AWD or 4WD: Four Wheel Drive (4WD) is best known for more rugged terrain and usually contains a low and high option. But newer, advanced All-Wheel Drive (AWD) systems can be just as powerful while maintaining a smooth ride on road.
- Ground Clearance: When crossing rocky, wet, or snowy terrain, the last thing you want is your engine to be impaled by nature. Thus, each of these vehicles has at least 8" between the lowermost point of the SUV and the road.
- Tires: To make this list, the vehicle must come with off-road or all-season tires.
- Technology: Each vehicle on this list includes off-road driver assistance which can adjust everything from throttle to traction control with a push of a button.
It's important to be realistic about your off-roading. Be sure to consider the following variables when looking at the best off-road SUVs as well:
- Ground Clearance Plus Load. Ground Clearance is usually measured when an SUV is unladen. This means that if you plan to fill the car with people, stuff, and anything hefty, you want to allow extra clearance.
- Where You'll Off-Road. Are you a desert weekend warrior? Or is heading to the mountains for some fun in the snow more your thing? The type of terrain you'll generally traverse will dictate how elaborate your rig needs to be.
- How Often You'll Off-Road. There's no doubt that a competent vehicle can look cool, but between the nubby tires and the extra equipment, off-roading can get expensive both in the sticker price and fuel consumption. So, choose carefully or be prepared to pay—literally.
The list below contains the best off-road SUVs with an emphasis on variety. From the least expensive way to hit the dirt with confidence to one that's truly opulent, we kept your budget in mind.
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
The godfather of American off-roading, Jeep is synonymous with 4x4 fun. Its best-selling Wrangler is now available in many trims and limited editions, but at around $43,000, according to the MSRP, the Wrangler Rubicon is always a solid choice.
The Rubicon arrives trail-ready with a solid front axle, locking front and rear differentials, and an electronic-disconnect front sway bar. Vertical climbing enthusiasts will also appreciate its exceptional approach and departure angles. All Jeeps, but especially the Wrangler and Wrangler Rubicon, can be well-outfitted in the aftermarket space, so there's no excuse for yours to be the same as the next guy's.
The Bronco is back! With two body styles available (the Bronco and the Bronco Sport), both with lots of packages, the classic SUV is heating up trails all over again. The larger Bronco is available in two and four-door models with automatic or manual transmissions and soft or hardtops.
Even in its base model, the Bronco's factory-ready features are genuinely rugged for a price of around $28,000, according to the MSRP. The standard 4x4 with Part-Time Selectable Engagement offers enormous driving flexibility, while the Hill Start Assist and Terrain Management System will ensure you'll never get stuck.
Land Rover Defender
The closest you can get to driving with the monarchy, the Land Rover name is synonymous with everything from royal livery to British military. The Defender, like the Bronco, has been recently reimagined and maintains its off-roading prowess.
At around $48,000, according to the MSRP, and with permanent AWD, auto-locking center and rear differentials, and departure angles that even beat the Rubicon, the Defender is not just a pretty face.
Subaru Outback Wilderness
The Outback may already be a staple in outdoorsy circles, but the Wilderness sub-brand is a new offering at a price of around $37,000, according to the MSRP. The first in this class is the very capable Outback Wilderness.
With a ground clearance of 9.5 inches and a standard front skid plate, the Outback Wilderness has standard AWD, beefy Yokohama tires, and an upgraded X-MODE with settings for sand, mud, and deep snow. Plus, the water-repellent upholstery on the inside means that if Fido does the wet doggie shake, there's no need to panic.
Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
Like the Wilderness sub-brand, Toyota's TRD Pro is the automaker's badging for real off-road business, listed at around $52,000, according to the MSRP. The 4Runner has a great heritage on its own, but the TRD Pro trim adds a skid plate and an upgraded suspension with TRD-tuned front springs. The TRD Pro even comes with Nitto Grappler tires.
Nissan Armada S 4WD
The Armada, priced at around $52,000 according to the MSRP, may not be the first choice you think of when selecting an off-road SUV, but it shouldn't be overlooked. This body-on-frame vehicle can tow up to 8,500 lbs, which means those dirt bikes will be no problem.
Plus, the Armada provides a comfy ride for all of your passengers even as you trade the pavement for gravel. Power shouldn't be a problem with a 5.6L V8 that produces 400 hp and 412 lb.-ft. of torque.
If money isn't an object, consider the G wagon—or Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen, to be exact.
At around $132,000, according to the MSRP, the G wagon, initially developed as a military vehicle, promises serious off-road capability and on-road comfort. Between its rigid rear axle and independent double-wishbone front suspension, this permanent all-wheel drive vehicle offers three lockable differentials. Choose between the base G550 with a 4.0L V8 biturbo or upgrade to the 577 hp V8 in the G63.