Times have changed since the 1990s, and most SUVs no longer come with solid axles and body-on-frame construction. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any true off-roaders for sale. Here are ten, along with their Buyer’s Guides so you can get all the sweet, sweet details.
Off-roading might be the most fun thing a person can do with their car. But in an age where truck-ish SUVs have turned into crossovers, off-road capability has been relegated to the back burner. With the departure of vehicles like the Xterra and FJ Cruiser, it might seem like nobody cares about off-road capability anymore.
But fear not, for there are at least ten vehicles on sale today that will take you to the farthest reaches of this blue and green earth, and barely break a sweat doing so. These are those ten rough and tumble machines. Click on their names to learn more about them in their Buyer’s Guides.
Photo Credit: Mercedes
It’s called the G-Class after the German word “Geländewagen,” meaning roughly “all terrain car.” Around since the late 1970s, the G-Wagon hasn’t changed all that much since its inception. Where it has changed dramatically, though, is in price point. It’s become a bit of a poshmobile, rather than a utilitarian off-roader.
Still, it’s got body-on-frame construction, two solid axles with locking differentials, a locking center differential, eight inches of ground clearance, a 28-degree approach angle, a 29-degree departure angle, full-time four-wheel drive with low range, all propelled by big turbocharged engines and a seven-speed auto.
Photo Credit: Andrew Collins
The Range Rover and its smaller, cheaper Range Rover Sport brother are both beasts off-road. They both get locking center and rear differentials, low range transfer cases, air suspension, hill descent control, hill start assist, and Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, which optimizes traction on various off-road terrains.
At full ride height, the regular Range Rover has a massive 34.7 degree approach angle, 29.6 degree departure angle and 11.9 inches of ground clearance. The Range Rover Sport isn’t far behind, with 11.2 inches of distance from belly to ground, 33 degrees of approach angle and a 30 degree departure angle.
Motivating those 5,000 pound behemoths through treacherous terrain are a pair of powerful supercharged gas engines or a torquey turbodiesel.
Photo Credit: Toyota
The 4Runner has a reputation for reliability and toughness. Off-road, it’s a monster, especially in Trail trim.
It’s got a solid rear axle, locking rear axle, low range transfer case, available Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (disconnecting sway bars for more articulation), Crawl Control (off-road low-speed cruise control), 9.6 inches of ground clearance, a 33 degree approach angle, a 26 degree departure angle, plenty of torque from its 4.0-liter V6 and Multi Terrain Select off-road modes.
Photo Credit: Jeep
As good as the 4Runner is off-road, the Jeep Wrangler, particularly in Rubicon trim, is the king. It can be had with beefy Dana44 axles front and rear with 4.10 axle ratios and lockers, a 4:1 low range gear ratio, disconnecting front sway bar, a 42.2 degree approach angle, a 32.3 degree departure angle and 10 inches of ground clearance. It’s also built on a rear ladder frame that can take a beating off-road.
Photo Credit: Toyota
The Land Cruise has a rich history dating back to the early 1950s, but the new version isn’t the Willys-based truck of yore. Nope, the modern day Land Cruiser in the U.S. is all about luxury.
Still, it’s quite impressive in the rough stuff, with its body-on-frame construction, 9.1 inches of ground clearance, 32 degree approach angle, 24 degree departure angle, limited slip lockable center diff, full time four wheel-drive system with a 2.72:1 low range, Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), Multi Terrain Select and Crawl Control.
The slightly fancier, much weirder-looking Lexus version, the LX, isn’t far behind. It also gets low range, KDSS and Multi-Terrain Select, though its dimensions are a little less off-road worthy. It’s got a 27 degree approach angle, a 23 degree departure angle, 8.9 inches of ground clearance. Still not bad.
Photo Credit: Jeep
The new Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk may be based on a car platform, but it’s still a beast off-road thanks to its mechanical rear locker, generous approach and departure angles (29.9 and 32.2 degrees, respectively), 8.7 inches of ground clearance, 2.92 low range gear ratio, Selec-Terrain off-road settings and Selec-Speed Control (off-road low-speed cruise control).
It’s no old Jeep XJ, but it holds its own out in the sticks.
Photo Credit: Jeep
The Jeep Grand Cherokee used to be a real off-road machine with solid axles and great approach and great approach and departure angles. Times have changed, and the Grand Cherokee has gone soft. Still, with the Quadra Lift air suspension box ticked, the WK does alright off-road.
At full ride height, the big Jeep boasts a 36.1 degree approach angle, 27.1 degree departure angle and 10.4 inches of ground clearance. Getting the vehicle moving is either a 3.6-liter V6, a 5.7-liter V8 or a 3.0-liter diesel, all bolted to an eight-speed transmission. Those engines get power to the ground via a Selec-Terrain off-road traction system, low range transfer case and a limited slip differential. Hill Ascent Control and Hill Descent Control are also optional.
Photo Credit: Land Rover
The Land Rover LR4 is ridiculously heavy, but its unique unibody-on-frame construction means it can handle even the harshest of terrains. With the air suspension set to the highest ride height, the LR4 sports 9.5 inches of ground clearance, a 36.2 degree approach angle and a 29.6 degree departure angle.
A supercharged V6 sends power through an eight-speed auto, an available 2.93:1 low range transfer case and active locking center and rear diffs. Terrain Response, hill descent control and hill start assist make sure the big Land Rover stays under control while off-road.
Photo Credit: Lexus
The Lexus GX is an old-school SUV. With a body-on-frame construction, old and underpowered V8 engine, and hydraulic power steering, it’s safe to say the Lexus could use an update.
Still, the retro luxury CUV’s 8.1 inches of ground clearance, limited slip center diff with locking feature, Crawl Control and 2.57:1 low range transfer case mean the big luxury truck can tackle all sorts of tough terrain. Limiting the GX, though, will be the so-so 21 degree approach angle and 23 degree departure angle.
Photo Credit: Infiniti
The body-on-frame Infiniti QX80 is the least capable SUV on this list, but it’s based on the Nissan Patrol, and that thing’s a monster in the dirt. The QX80, with its 400 horsepower V8 and four-wheel drive system that makes sure the wheels with traction get power, can probably holds its own, too.
There are no true limited slip or locking diffs, but the 7 speed auto should work with the big engine and a 2.7:1 low range to keep the big girl moving at all times.
Topshot photo Credit: Range Rover