Home > Buying Guides >  

10 Best SUVs For Off-Road Adventure

Get Off The Pavement With These Top-Rated SUVs

best SUVs for off-roading

Over the years, SUVs have moved further away from “sport utility” and more toward comfort and space. And though hauling the family in comfort is definitely important, some of us still want a vehicle that’s still comfortable and capable off-road. 

Luckily, there are still some SUVs that stick true to their heritage and more than a few that come with off-road packages. So if you’re looking for an SUV that you can daily drive and explore the backcountry, these 10 best SUVs for off-roading will get you on the path less traveled. Go ahead, get these rugged vehicles dirty — they were made to go play in the dirt.

Mercedes G-Class

If you’re looking for the most luxurious option on the market and don’t mind shelling out some serious dough (new base models start around $131,000), the Mercedes G-Class is one of the top-rated SUVs for off-roading. The “G” stands for “Geländewagen” which is German for “all-terrain vehicle.” First created in the ’70s for the armed forces, the Mercedes G-class has a long history as a workhorse of a vehicle. Over the years, the now-iconic model has gotten the latest upgrades while staying true to its roots. 

And the G-Class is certainly more-than-capable off-road thanks to 4WD and three lockable differentials. The latest model comes with an independent double-wishbone front suspension and rigid rear axle. The multimode suspension means you can adjust the ride to fit the terrain. And the 9-speed transmission pairs with a 2-speed transfer case, giving you plenty of gears to choose from to control the 416 horsepower V8. 

And as this machine is still a Mercedes, you can expect plenty of technology and luxury inside. Beneath all that wood, leather, and posh extras, what you’ll really find is an off-roading monster ready to break loose.

Toyota 4Runner

If you’ve ever owned a Toyota 4Runner, you know that in addition to being one of the best SUVs for off-roading available, it is also reliable and tough. With more than a few trim packages to choose from, for the most off-road capable packages, check out the TRD lineup including the TRD Off-road, TRD Off-road Premium, and TRD Pro. Look for features like Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), Multi-terrain Select, and Crawl Control (CRAWL) which are helpful for tackling difficult terrain at low speeds.

Opt for the TRD Pro package for all the extra off-road goodies like the high-performance oversize FOX shocks with rear remote reservoirs and TRD-tuned front springs. Along with the 1/4-inch thick aluminum front skid plate and 17-inch rims with Terra Grappler tires, you’ll be ready to tackle any terrain. 

And that’s not all. The 4Runner also has a solid, locking rear axle, low range transfer case, and 9.6-inches of ground clearance, and lots of power out of its 4.0-liter V6. This is what makes it a better choice than the Toyota RAV4 or more conventional Toyota Highlander. If you need a bigger people hauler, the Toyota Sequoia can also be outfitted with the TRD Pro package to give you the same capability with a few extra seats.

Land Rover Range Rover

Both the Land Rover Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport are very capable of handling themselves off-road. Both have locking differentials, air suspension, low-range transfer cases, hill descent control, and hill start assist. They also equipped with Land Rover’s Terrain Response system to optimize traction on varying terrains.

At its full ride height, the Range Rover has an approach angle of 34.7-degrees and a departure angle of 29.6-degrees. The adjustable air suspension puts this SUV at 10.2 inches up in the front and 12.2 inches high in the rear. With its maximum wading depth of 35.40-inches, the Range Rover can ford water crossings with ease. If that’s not enough, the aggressive 2.93:1 low-range gearing helps propel it over obstacles that cause other SUVs to spin their tires.

If your budget allows, for your best off-roading Range Rover, you’ll want the 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine that spouts out 557 hp. With power like this, you are looking at a 0-60 mph time of just five seconds, so it’s no slouch on the pavement either (though you pay for the fun in terms of fuel economy)

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Land Rover Range Rover unless it was outfitted for luxury as well. The sleek profile combined with the lavish interior are Range Rover trademarks. With that said, you won’t see too many owners actually taking them off the road. Maybe it’s because starting prices are just shy of $92,000. We say if you’re going to buy an off-roader this fancy, you might as well take it out to play.

Land Rover Defender

Hearkening back to the original 1950’s Land Rover Defender, this modern update on the classic off-road icon is a highly capable off-roader with lots of modern perks. You can opt for the two-door Defender 90 or go for the four-door Defender 110. Both versions are offered with adjustable air suspension and locking differentials and come with your pick of engine package — choose between a turbocharged four-cylinder, a turbo-and-supercharged six-cylinder, and a supercharged V-8.

The updated Defender has a unibody construction and fully independent suspension. The base model comes with coil springs but you can upgrade to air springs for an adjustable ride height. With 11.5 inches of ground clearance, you should be able to tackle plenty of rough terrain. Similar to the Range Rover, the Defender is also engineered for water crossings, up to a depth of 35-inches.

Though the interior is a bit more utilitarian than the posh Range Rover, you can still expect quite a few nods to the fact that, at the end of the day, this is still a Land Rover. From the 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system to the six-speaker stereo and an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot, you won’t be roughing it too much. Plus, the Defender starts at a more budget-friendly price point of $47,700 for the base model.

Jeep Wrangler

The Jeep Wrangler, especially the Rubicon, has long been hailed as an off-roading king. Though it might be a bit lacking in cargo space when compared with the Jeep Cherokee or Grand Cherokee just remember, we’re talking about off-roading not getting groceries!

The Wrangler has an approach angle of 42.2-degrees, a departure angle of 32.3-degrees, and 10-inches of ground clearance. The Wrangler is built on top of a rear ladder frame which can withstand quite a beating. The Rubicon also has skid plates to protect mechanical components, plus a trick system to easily disconnect the front sway bar. If you want more, upgrade to the even more decked-to-the-nines Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. 

Even as a stock model, the Wrangler holds its own with the best SUVs for off-roading. Many people find this SUV is the perfect base to start from for making further off-roading modifications, as time and money allow. And perhaps the best part is that you can go topless while exploring the great outdoors.

Toyota Land Cruiser

After over 60-years of global adventures, the Toyota Land Cruiser has more than earned its reputation as one of the best SUVs for off-roading. The 4Runner’s big brother, the Land Cruiser has been around since the ’50s. Though in the U.S. the Land Cruiser is most often associated with luxury, it is equally impressive off-road with body-on-frame construction, an approach angle of 32-degrees, a departure angle of 24-degrees, and 9.1-inches of ground clearance, 

It also has a limited-slip lockable center differential, Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), and Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control. This 4WD SUV has a 2.72:1 low range and a monstrous 5.7-liter V8 engine that produces 381 horsepower.

If luxury is what you’re after, you aren’t going to be disappointed with the wall-to-wall leather, wood trim, and soft-touch surfaces throughout the Land Cruiser. Depending on where you are driving, it might not be the most practical off-roader with its immense size, but it can carry eight adults or 81 cubic feet of adventure gear when the second and third rows are folded down. That in itself is a feat. 

Over the years, the Land Cruiser has become larger, more opulent, and more expensive. In fact, it’s one of the only SUVs that can compete with the Range Rover in capability, style, and luxury. The other competitor would be the Land Cruiser’s cousin, the Lexus LX. While it does come loaded with high-tech gadgets and innovations that make it great for off-roading, it is also going to cost a pretty penny.

Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

For those who desire the functionality of a Wrangler, but want the luxury of a Grand Cherokee, the Trailhawk meets you in the middle. The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is quickly becoming one of the top-rated SUVs because of its good looks and versatility. Just think of it as a Range Rover kept to a budget.

Yes, it will never be a Wrangler, but it does offer a mechanical rear locker, 29.9-degree approach angle, 32.2-degree departure angle, and 8.7-inches of ground clearance. With its 2.92 low-range gear ratio, Selec-Terrain off-road settings, and Selec-Speed Control capability, the Trailhawk can handle its own on the trails.

With the Trailhawk package, you can now have your cake and eat it too. Enjoy some of the all-terrain performance of a Wrangler with the plush, posh Grand Cherokee features. This is perhaps the perfect balance if you want an on and off-road SUV.

Nissan Armada

Much like the Land Cruiser, the Armada is built as a body-on-frame SUV. This helps it to be pretty much unstoppable off the pavement. And though you might not be as familiar with the Armada as one of the best SUVs for off-roading, the rest of the world is. 

The Nissan Armada relies on a monstrous 5.6-liter V8 engine that produces 400 hp and 401 lb-ft. of torque. In addition, the advanced four-wheel-drive system sends the majority of the grunt to the rear wheels while on the road for better fuel economy. It transfers power back to the front axle when extra traction is needed.

Finally, the Armada has a skid plate in front to protect the radiator from getting bashed on any steep approach angles. Starting prices of the Armada are around $55,600, which is a lot of SUV for almost half the price of the Lexus LX, Land Cruiser, and Range Rover.

Lexus LX570

Though you might not think rugged-off roader when you think Lexus, perhaps you should. Despite its unassuming exterior, the Lexus LX570 comes with low range, Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), Multi-Terrain Select plus a ground clearance of 8.9-inches which isn’t too shabby for a big SUV. It also has a 27-degree approach angle and a 23-degree departure angle.

The 5.7-liter V8 makes just over 380 hp. With full-time all-wheel drive, adaptive variable suspension, and active height control, the LX is well-equipped for rough terrain. And again, you get complete luxury with this model with everything from heated and ventilated leather seats and wood trim to top-of-the-line tech. 

Much like the Range Rover and G-class, you can expect this luxury to come with a hefty price tag. The base model of this Lexus starts at north of $86,000. With seating for up to eight, it’s geared toward everyday driving but equally able of off-road adventure. And if you don’t need quite that much space, the slightly more compact Lexus GX460 is also a great off-road SUV option. 

Ford Bronco

The Bronco is back and better than ever. Now you have your choice of a 2 and 4-door Bronco as well as a Bronco Sport model. All three of these vehicles offer 4×4 standard and are decked out for off-road adventures. And these SUVs don’t just look the part  — a closer inspection shows that the Bronco was designed with the path less traveled in mind with large off-road recovery tow hooks and a heavy-duty modular steel bumper with integrated winch mount.

Opt for one of the higher-end packages to get even more off-roading add-ons from Ford’s new G.O.A.T Modes terrain response off-road driving mode system and Trail Control off-road cruise control to 360 aerial view and front camera systems. With coilover shocks at all four corners, a detachable sway bar, and front and rear e-lockers, the new Bronco is great in all-terrain conditions.

With seven different models to choose from, you can pretty much custom pick the Bronco to match your off-roading preference. Into chill off-roading and want a stylish daily driver? Check out the Big Bend or Outer Banks model. Looking for extreme off-roading or to put the pedal down on the dirt? The Badlands or Wildtrak edition should more than fit the bill. And with a starting price of just over $28,000, the Bronco can fit your budget too.

Choose The Best SUV for Your Off-Road Adventure

This list of the 10 best SUVs for off-roading highlights some of the best off-road SUV packages on the market. Depending on your budget and your needs, there are plenty of other SUV options to choose from not to mention the world of camper vans and decked-out trucks that can also get you to all the remote places you want to go. Don’t discount all crossovers either as many of them are pretty darn capable, providing you’re driving them right. But if you’re looking for the best of the best, you can get off the beaten path in luxury and style with these ten coveted off-road-ready models.

About Kristen Arendt

Kristen is a writer and editor based in Colorado. She came to motorsports by way of her husband's passion for track days, autocross, and fast cars and is now the proud co-driver of two E36 325s and an overland-in-the-making Lexus GX470. She is a volunteer driving instructor with the BMW CCA Rocky Mountain Chapter and enjoys any event that involves getting behind the wheel or navigating from the passenger's seat.