Broadly speaking, new 4x4s are less capable off the beaten path than they were ten years ago. That’s because rugged, body-on-frame SUVs are quickly going extinct, and car-based crossovers reign supreme. While crossovers are more comfortable and usually markedly more efficient than traditional SUVs, the most challenging terrain they’re designed to conquer is a dirt road.
All is not lost if you’re planning on hitting the backcountry. There are still several great off-roaders on the market, including a handful that were designed specifically to excel when the going gets tough. Not sure where to start? Check out the ten best off-roaders on the market today, hand-picked by Digital Trends’ car experts.
The Z71 builds on the compact Chevrolet Colorado pickup with a set of meaty all-terrain tires, projector headlights that ensure you’ll see obstacles far away even at night, an automatic locking rear differential for extra traction, and a skid plate that protects the transfer case. Hill descent control technology allows the Colorado to go down steep slopes in a composed and controlled manner.
A four-cylinder engine comes standard, while the list of options includes a more powerful V6, and a segment-exclusive turbodiesel mill. As an added bonus, the Z71 ships with a full-size spare, meaning you won’t have to crawl over boulders with a space-saver. Read more here.
The Jeep Cherokee is the most capable compact crossover on the market. Although its primary vocation is hauling a family and a their gear from point A to point B, the Trailhawk model can handle serious off-roading with standard four-wheel drive, a beefed-up suspension, and a locking rear differential.
The Cherokee speaks tech, too. Jeep’s Selec-Terrain technology lets the driver choose from several driving modes including Auto, Snow, Mud, Sand, and Rock. A catalog of performance parts lets owners customize the Cherokee without voiding the factory warranty.
The Jeep Wrangler is undeniably the most iconic off-roader in the United States. It’s also one of the most capable, one of the most affordable, and one of the most fun. It’s built for top-less, door-less motoring in the great outdoors.
Even a stock, base-model Wrangler can hold its own off-road. It’s a blank canvas for owners looking to make modifications, but Jeep offers several variants of the Wrangler that are ready to get muddy right out of the factory. The Rubicon trim benefits from heavy-duty axles, skid plates that protect vital mechanical components, and a trick system that lets the driver disconnect the front sway bar. Read more here.
The name Range Rover has been synonymous with eyebrow-raising off-road prowess since the original model was introduced in England in 1970. Like most of its rivals it’s become much more upscale in recent years, but it remains a true off-roader at its core.
While fuel economy has never been one of the Range Rover’s strong points, the newest model is much more efficient than before thanks to smaller engines and the widespread use of weight-saving aluminum in its construction. An available turbodiesel engine provides solid low-end torque, which is a real boon when clambering over boulders. Read our first drive review here.
The GX rides on a time-tested architecture sourced from Lexus parent company Toyota. Its styling certainly isn’t for everyone, but looks are of little importance when you’re traveling through ruts and crossing rivers.
Full-time all-wheel drive, crawl control, and a two-speed transfer case are among the GX’s off-road credentials. Its capacity comes at the expensive of on-road manners, but the optional adjustable suspension gives owners the best of both worlds.