TopSpeed's 10 Best Off-Road SUVs

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During our drive of the new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee , we overheard many shoppers commenting about a need for four-wheel drive in their vehicles. Now, let’s be honest for a moment. Most of these moms and dads will never use the abilities of a four-wheel drive machine. The parking lot at the local grocery store doesn’t have rocks that you need to scale in order to get into the parking lot or deep lakes in front of the door.

Yet, there are those who do use these machines the way they are supposed to be used. A real four-wheel drive machine can do so much in the rough stuff that it’s hard to be stopped. Crossovers and luxury SUVs – besides the Range Rover – would be left for dead.

When looking at the top ten vehicles that have wonderful off-road abilities we first need to find ten of them. It was actually quite a task to find ten vehicles like this. It seems the days of the big off-road SUV are in the past. When we managed to locate them, we looked at build quality, off-road ability, on-road ability, style, comfort, and power.

Hit the jump to see the list.

10) Jeep Wrangler

TopSpeed's 10 Best Off-Road SUVs

If you want a vehicle that can take you anywhere in the world on rocks, sand, snow, or whatever nature throws at you, the Wrangler is a great choice. Yet, its ability to handle the rough stuff can hurt its on-road ability. The Wrangler has a very thirsty motor, a noisy cabin, long braking distances, a hard plastic interior, and no side airbags. Needless to say, don’t buy this machine if you need to drive it daily. The Wrangler is better suited as a second or third vehicle for days when you want to get dirty. Prices start at $21,165.

9) Chevrolet Tahoe

TopSpeed's 10 Best Off-Road SUVs

The Tahoe is a big improvement over the previous generation, but it’s still not there yet. The third row doesn’t fold flat and we aren’t sold on the looks inside and out, not to mention the interior built quality. On top of that, it can go off-road, but not very well. A little sand and gravel might be alright, but rocks and muddy trails are best avoided. It can tow quite well, but we’re looking at all-terrain vehicles and the Tahoe isn’t one of them. Prices start at $37,280.

8) GMC Yukon

TopSpeed's 10 Best Off-Road SUVs

The Yukon carries over the same issues as the Tahoe, but at a higher price tag. It might be fairly good on the road with its decent motor and ability to tow, but just like the Chevrolet Chevrolet , going off-road isn’t its best area. The price is also a bit high at $38,020. If you want the Yukon, just look at the Tahoe and save some money, because even if you’re badge shopping, a GMC badge isn’t that much better than a Chevy one.

7) Ford Explorer

TopSpeed's 10 Best Off-Road SUVs

The Explorer , despite its name, is like the Tahoe and the Yukon. It’s far better on the road than off it, though it’s not as bad as you might think. The cabin is roomy and quiet and the ride and handling are quite good for a truck-based SUV. Some of the interior plastics are a bit low grade and the interior is dated. Yet, there is hope for those who need an on-road SUV, as a new Explorer is coming for 2011. That one won’t be able to make this list, but it should fair well in our mid-size SUV test. Prices start at $29,280

6) Toyota FJ Cruiser

TopSpeed's 10 Best Off-Road SUVs

This one shocked us, as we never thought of the FJ Crusier as an off-road machine. Amazingly, it really is very good as getting down and dirty. The interior and the exterior are striking and like it or not, it sure does stand out in a crowd like The Hulk in a shopping mall. The issues spring up from in the interior, as visibility is poor, the rear seats are cramped, and it can be tough to get in them. The motors are strong and the fuel economy is fairly good and let’s not forget Toyota’s reliability is superb, no matter what the news media is trying to tell you. Prices start at $24,180.

5) Nissan Xterra

TopSpeed's 10 Best Off-Road SUVs

The Nissan has serious off-road abilities and the V6 is very powerful. It can carry so much cargo in so many different places, making it great for camping trips. This is easily the most everyday off-road machine in its class. We aren’t too fond of the interior and the brakes are a bit mushy. If you need something to climb hills and mountains in, yet also drive to the grocery store, the Xterra is a good choice. Prices start $22,750.

4) Toyota Land Cruiser

TopSpeed's 10 Best Off-Road SUVs

With a price tag of $65,970, the Land Cruiser is far more expensive than the Lexus GX and it’s hard to see why. Obviously, when you think of an off-road SUV, the Land Cruiser comes to mind. It’s wonderful on the road too and the V8 motor is strong. There is no doubt that this vehicle is pretty darn good, but for that price, it’s hard to not just get the GX and be done with it. The cargo space is limited and the third-row is cramped. We really like the way it looks inside and out as well. It has a very Japanese look to it.

3) Lexus GX

TopSpeed's 10 Best Off-Road SUVs

Despite the badge of a luxury car company, the GX is fairly good off the road. Not to mention the reliability and the build quality is second to none. On the road, the Lexus Lexus is quiet and refined and there are the usually luxury touches. However, the third row is cramped and the cargo door is a bit hard to use. Prices start at $51,970, which is quite the steal compared to the Toyota featured above.

2) Land Rover LR4

TopSpeed's 10 Best Off-Road SUVs

The baby Range Rover doesn’t go over the rocks and hills, it just plows right through them with its 3-ton curb weight. The Land Rover is sensational off the road and that interior is a pleasant place to be in for hours on end. The V8 is wonderful and the technological features are brilliant. On the road, the LR4 is good, but not the best. The fuel economy suffers due to the massive weight and powerful motor. Prices start at $47,250.

1) Jeep Grand Cherokee

TopSpeed's 10 Best Off-Road SUVs

Last year, the Grand Cherokee would have come in the top five, but certainly not in first place. The 2011 Jeep is out of this world good. On the road, the interior is quiet and refined and both the V6 and V8 motors are wonderful. We would recommend the 5.7-liter V8, as it provides tons of grunt and pretty darn good mileage for such a big machine. There are some issues that need to be addressed, such as the navigation system, but that’s a minor flaw. If this is what we are going to see down the road from Jeep, we are very excited. Prices start at $30,215.

If you need a vehicle that can do the school run and then drive home through the fields, most of the vehicles on this list can accomplish that goal. The Jeep does it better than any other, even though we have a special place in our hearts for the Land Rover. It looks good, driver=s great, and for the first time in years, has an interior that is on par with the Lexus GX. What a machine.


18 comments:

I work in the oil exploration business in the middle east and my company has the H1, Nissan patrol, Cherokee, H2 and Toyota Landcruisers. Honestly, in my 7 years of working here, I have never seen an off roader as the Toyota Landcruiser! It just won’t fail, any terrain and conditions, the damn car just keeps on going. I have towed the H1 when it got stuck and I have never seen a Cherokee go 130 miles deep in the desert, why? Because it can’t, it’s not made for it and most of all it’s not a landcruiser. So I disagree with this listing. I think landcruiser is #1 and Nissan patrol #2 and H1 & H2 #3&4. It’s just my opinion.

Yeah! It is really a nice list! However, I don’t think that Cherokee would be on the number one. Toyota FJ Cruiser would be on that spot. smiley Anyway, I think it doesn’t matter at all because these cars are so cool.

Nice list, actually this survey didn’t disappoint me, because all of my favorite SUVs are here in this category, which impressed me more. smiley That’s why it doesn’t really matter at all if whose on the number one.

You’re wrong cyrus parca. Grand Cherokee is the best for its obviously for an off-road’s purpose, and it also had a fabulous, cozy and relaxing interior amenities or features that you will surely love and I believe other off-road cars don’t have.

All of those are good for adventure and long journey. Rough roads are easy for those brand cars. Well that’s great for huge family and big man and boss.

I don’t think that Jeep Grand Cherokee will be in the number one. I don’t know if what’s the basis of TopSpeed if who will be in the number one and so on and so forth, but I’m not really satisfied with this.

These cars are rough. These are good for mountain climbing or just a trip somewhere. Perfect for vacations and family bonding.

No doubt that Jeep is one of the best off road vehicle in the world. I would rather buy something that can be use everyday regardless of the weather conditions.

Jeep Wrangler rules all the way! Hahaha. Well, Jeep Wrangler is an all for seasons vehicle. You can bring this at any places whether its muddy or snowing.

what a heck Toyota’s ranking is higher than a Ford..

I have no confidence in the BMW platforms as serious off-road vehicle, regardless of the tuner that modified them.

The coolest Off-Road S UV’s that I have seen.

Nice list though!The one of my favorite SUV is included in the list..smiley

Yes, you are correct when it comes to Wrangler. However, read the article about Land Cruiser and Lexus GX again and you will unerstand what I ment, and at the same time see the pic. of Land Cruiser he posted and the price he attached to it. Bryan is comparing European Land Cruiser -that is nothing else than lexus GX or Toyota 4Runner, and it wouldn’t be strange if he would’t put N. American Land Cruiser price into the article. N.American Land Cruiser is the size of Lexus LX-because it is the same vehicle. My point was only to see why he is suprised that Toyota is more expensive than Lexus. He mixed up vehicles prices and models, and that is what I wanted to point out. I had no intentions to see which one is better on or off road. My only choice of driving is Range Rover and I owe them and love them regardless what others say.

Do you really think the Wrangler and the Land Cruiser can be compared either? These are simply vehicles that are mainly used on the road, but have off-road ability. The Lexus LX is not a good off-road machine. I find it funny that out of all the vehicles in this test, you point out those two as not being comparable. The GX is an off-road SUV and so is the Land Cruiser, as are all the vehicles on this test.

I wouldn’t think that would need explaining.

Hey Bryan, why do you compare Toyota Land Cruiser to Lexus GX? They are not in the same class. American version of Land Cruiser can be comapre to Lexus LX, where Toyota 4runner is the same as Lexus GX, so don’t be suprised that one is more expensive than the other.
If you talk about Lan Cruiser that is offered in Europe or South America I understand what you mean, but it looks like your article is targeting American market so your mistake is inexcusable.

Could it be that the G-Wagon and the 4Runner aren’t on this list because there not that good. The 4Runner only has a V6 and it’s just an average motor and the G-Wagon, well come on now.

"What else did you think that the FJ Cruiser was? Was this sarcasm or sheer stupidity? " People who aren’t in bed with Toyota probably have no idea that the FJ Cruiser was like that. Don’t ridicule everybody who doesn’t know everything about Toyota. I had no idea, I thought it was just another retro vehicle.

This is not a test of the best off-road SUVs; it is a test of general SUVs with some off-road ability. If this was a test of actual off-road ability, the FJ Cruiser, Xterra and Wrangler would have come out on top.

And I love where it says "When looking at the top ten vehicles that have wonderful off-road abilities we first need to find ten of them. It was actually quite a task to find ten vehicles like this. It seems the days of the big off-road SUV are in the past." Really? So it was so hard to find off-road SUVs that you guys had to toss in soft commuter vehicles like the Tahoe, Yukon, and Explorer and left out obvious contenders like the 4Runner and G-Class? This was a truly ridiculous comparison; simply being 4WD doesn’t mean that something is an off-roader.

The worst part is where it says "This one shocked us, as we never thought of the FJ Crusier as an off-road machine." What else did you think that the FJ Cruiser was? Was this sarcasm or sheer stupidity? How does a car that won the Baja 1000 with no modifications other than a roll cage not enter your mind as an off-roader?

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