TopSpeed’s 10 Best Off-Road SUVs
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
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
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
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, 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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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.