Sure, trucks are great and all, but there are plenty of SUVs that get through the rough stuff with ease. On this list you'll find hardcore off-roaders like this Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, but also a few surprises, like a luxury unibody crossover.
Want to see our off-road picks? Keep scrolling to find out which SUVs we adore.
More than just about any SUV extant, the 2020 Land Rover Range Rover makes traversing off-road obstacles like rocks, mud -- even streams or sand dunes -- feel like child's play. It's simply hard to comprehend that any terrain immediately outside your vehicle could be particularly foreboding when everything inside is so serene and sumptuous.
I mean, really. How can you be bothered to think about all that dirt and dust when your backside is being simultaneously cooled and massaged? Let alone while you're listening to Brahms on a Meridian audio system finer than the one in your hedge fund manager's house?
I kid, of course, but Land Rover's top-shelf Range Rover model is no joke when it comes to effortlessly traversing all that is gnarly.
With driver-selectable modes for all manner of terrain, standard air suspension (offering just shy of a foot of ground clearance), a locking rear differential, a max approach angle of 34.7 degrees and a water-fording depth of 35.4 inches, the 2020 Range Rover delivers serious articulation and power for seriously articulate and powerful people.
Ah, yes -- the power. The Range Rover offers with up to 557 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque, as well as diesel and plug-in hybrid offerings if that's more your scene.
Of course, none of this extreme capability sheathed in absolute opulence comes cheaply. The 2020 Land Rover Range Rover starts at $89,500 plus $1,295 delivery, but nobody gets out of a Green Oval dealership that easily. In fact, it's possible to option a full-boat long-wheelbase SVAutobiography to a cool quarter-of-a-million bucks.
Nobody said "roughing it" was going to be easy -- or affordable.
You can't have a best-of list for off-road without the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. It remains the most capable off-road SUV you can buy in Rubicon trim. Front and rear solid axles with locking differentials keep the traction a-comin' while a disconnecting front sway bar allows for more articulation when rock crawling.
The Wrangler is powered by the stalwart 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 pushing out 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. You can get a 2.0-liter turbocharged mill, however, complete with eTorque mild-hybrid technology. But what really turns my head is that the Wrangler is available with a six-speed manual transmission.
Bonus points for the Wrangler: it's a convertible and you can take the doors off. Wheeling in one of these is just pure joy. The Rubicon trim can get a little spendy, however. Expect to pay in the mid-$50,000 range if you want things like heated seats, adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring. Still, the Rubicon remains one of my dream cars.
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class is synonymous with off-road prowess. The iconic Geländewagen has been an unstoppable beast since the late 1970s, and in its current, new-for-2019 form, it's more luxurious than ever without sacrificing any off-road cred.
The base G550 is the most sensible choice -- as sensible as a $125,000 SUV can be, anyway. Its V8 power is more than enough for side streets or sand dunes alike, and with high-sidewall tires and three locking differentials, it's the G-Class best set up for tricky off-pavement crawling.
The AMG G63, meanwhile, is an all out brute, its twin-turbocharged V8 producing a whopping 577 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. It still packs all the same off-road capability of the lesser G550. Just make sure to swap out those street tires for something more rugged.
As nameplates like the Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder have veered away from body-on-frame underpinnings, the Toyota 4Runner has stayed the course retaining the more rugged foundation. It's offered with two-wheel drive, but for off-roading you can either get a part-time four-wheel-drive system with a two-speed transfer case, or full-time four-wheel-drive with a two-speed transfer case and locking center differential.
All four-wheel-drive Toyota 4Runners feature 9.6-inches of ground clearance, with TRD Off-Road models coming equipped with a locking rear differential, hill start assist, multi-terrain select system and crawl control feature.
The 4Runner TRD Pro is the ultimate factory-built off-roader with 2.5-inch Fox internal bypass shocks and unique TRD-tuned springs for 1 inch of additional front lift.
All Toyota 4Runners are powered by a 4.0-liter V6 making 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. It bolts up to a five-speed automatic transmission. The 2019 4Runner starts at $35,310, but the king of the hill TRD Pro version begins at $46,815 and is the one I would get.
I know this might sound like heresy, jamming a unibody luxury crossover between a bunch of body-on-frame bruisers. But if you want some semblance of livability, the GLC-Class isn't a bad way to hit the dirt.
So long as it's equipped with Mercedes' optional off-road equipment, even with the stock all-season tires, the GLC can handle some serious stuff. Its air suspension can raise the car to 9.6 inches of ground clearance, although it's (perhaps smartly) limited to lower speeds.
And despite its off-road prowess, spending time in the Land Cruiser doesn't feel like punishment. It's exceedingly comfortable and well-built with plenty of mod-cons (and the world's oldest infotainment system, sure). The Land Cruiser also feels perfectly fine to drive in town, aside from its size. It's a perfect do-anything vehicle.
Okay, I'll be the first to admit that the Wrangler is the better choice off-roading is your sole priority, but when I think "SUV" these days I think something that has to do double-duty as a daily hauler, and for that reason I'm going for something a bit more comfortable: the Cherokee Trailhawk. While a unibody rig will necessarily make some compromises when it comes to rock crawling, they're more than made up for in day-to-day liveability.
That's not to say the Trailhawk is lacking for offroad capability. An inch lift gives it a commendable 8.7 inches of ground clearance. A 29.9-degree approach angle should help that still-questionable nose clear most obstacles, while factory skidplates help protect what's underneath. A locking rear diff spreads the power out both sides and a 56:1 crawl ratio keeps the torque high even while you're moving slow.
The Cherokee Trailhawk starts at $34,195, but fully optioned with the convenience package, the cold weather package and the towing package, mated to the 271-horsepower, 3.2-liter V6, you're looking at $39,390, including the $1,495 destination charge.