As SUVs continue to rise in popularity and dominate the automotive market, two distinct classes of SUVs have emerged. Smooth and spacious road-going SUVs and their capable off-road counterparts. While automotive innovation has spurred more capable, off-road SUVs so has the innovation in the comfort of the interior and on-road drivability of off-road SUVs.
This article will review the top ten off-road capable SUVs on the market today and offer insight on which additional features best suit your needs.
2022 Jeep Wrangler
Opening our list is arguably one of the most off-road capable vehicles on the market, offering a vibrant history of off-road ability and performance. Jeep is a name synonymous with off-roading, and they have only bettered their craft over the years. Jeep produces the Wrangler in various body styling formats, including two-door and four-door models with varying trim levels from the base level Sport to the most off-road capable Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.
Every Jeep Wrangler model is equipped with four-wheel-drive and two solid axles and provides the unique ability to strip off the doors and roof for unrivaled off-road exploration. The Jeep Wrangler provides consumers with 10.9 inches of ground clearance, an approach angle of 44 degrees, and a departure angle of 37 degrees.
With ground clearance and approach angles deep in the qualifying ranges of off-road capable SUVs, the Jeep Wrangler also offers optional locking differentials front and rear and a two-speed transfer case allowing for optimal off-road low-range gear crawling.
The hard-core Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is outfitted with a bit more off-roading kit than the typical Jeep Wrangler. In addition to the off-road components listed, the Rubicon adds a disconnecting front anti-roll bar and beefy 33-inch BFGoodrich KM all-terrain tires.
Browse 2022 Jeep Wrangler listings here.
2022 Ford Bronco
Ford has revitalized the Ford Bronco as of the 2021 model year. So far, the Bronco has been a massive success, with consumers debating between the Ford Bronco and a Jeep Wrangler. Like the Wrangler, the Ford Bronco is offered in either a two or four-door layout with removable top and doors.
Ford offers a seven-speed manual or automatic transmission in the Bronco. Customers can option 35-inch tires to help them battle through any trail they choose. The 2022 Bronco includes an infotainment system that can download trail maps and navigate them without Wi-Fi or cellular service.
Engine options in the Bronco include a 300-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder or a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine producing 330 horsepower. For off-road performance, the Bronco is equipped with independent front- and solid-axle rear suspension and a variety of G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Terrina) modes developed by Ford. Skid plates, locking differentials, sway bar disconnect, and a 94:1 crawl ratio in the manual transmission and 67:1 for the automatic transmission are all standard equipment for the 2022 Ford Bronco.
The Ford Bronco Sport is an easier-going off-road SUV that shares a powertrain with the Ford Escape, utilizing a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine producing 181 horsepower with an optional 245-horsepower turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder also available. The Ford Bronco Sport has an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive (AWD) standard.
The Bronco Sport is an excellent option for consumers looking for a daily driver that can handle being a weekend warrior, unlike the Bronco, which is a full-time off-road warrior. In the Badlands trim, the Bronco Sport offers an off-road-worthy ground clearance of 8.8 inches and far superior miles-per-gallon (mpg) than the off-road focused Bronco.
An extreme off-roading example of the Ford Bronco can be found in Hennessey Performance Engineering's 2021 Ford Bronco Veloci Raptor, powered by a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 producing 750 horsepower.
Browse 2022 Ford Bronco listings here.
2023 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
Toyota creates great off-road capable vehicles by adding their TRD Pro package to multiple base model Toyota SUVs and trucks, consequently generating great off-roading contenders. Example SUVs are the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro, Sequoia TRD Pro, and truck models Tacoma and Tundra. The Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro is equipped with an electronic locking rear differential, 2.5-inch Fox internal-bypass dampers, and thick underbody skid plates protecting the entire underside of the SUV. While the 4Runner does not offer the complete freedom of a Jeep Wrangler or Ford Bronco, it does have a rear windshield that roles down, a unique option not found in other off-road SUVs.
The 4Runner's front springs are tuned to assist in raising the nose of the SUV an additional one inch, allowing for greater approach angles when encountering off-road obstacles. The 4Runner TRD Pro is equipped with a 4WD drivetrain and an automatic transmission standard but suffers from outdated cabin materials.
While the cabin materials are outdated for its class, the 4Runner provides ample second-row comfort with the ability to add a third row, which for some consumers may supersede the lack of cabin material updates. The 2023 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro has a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, allowing for additional off-road adventure.
Browse 2023 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro listings here.
2023 Land Rover Defender
The Land Rover Defender re-entered the US market as a 2020 model year, debuting in September 2019, after being prohibited for sale in North America since 1997 due to safety regulations. Staying true to two original body style offerings, Land Rover offers the 2023 Defender in either a 90, a two-door, or a 110, a four-door. While the 90 offers the least cargo space in the luxury midsize SUV class, the 110 provides more than class rivals with a maximum of 78.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat folded.
The Land Rover Defender is a luxury SUV with a center console refrigerator, cabin air ionization, and a panoramic roof. Still, the Defender is also a real off-road capable machine.
The Defender is Land Rover's most off-road-oriented SUV, a big claim for a company producing solely luxury off-road vehicles. Every trim level of the Defender is equipped with standard 4WD, hill descent control, a two-speed transfer case, and automatic wade sensing technology.
Also standard on the Defender is Land Rover's Terrain Response system, allowing drivers to choose from multiple driving modes such as Grass, Gravel, Snow, Mud, and Ruts; Sand; and off-road enthusiasts' favorites, Rock Crawl; and Wade driving modes. Additional off-road options for the Defender are an active electric differential, off-road tires, and a low-speed off-road cruise control system Land Rover dubbed the All Terrain Progress Control.
The available Terrain Response 2 system is a great off-road package offered for the Defender that, when equipped with optional air suspension, provides the Defender with 11.5 inches of ground clearance and the ability to ford through up to 35.4 inches of water.
Browse 2023 Land Rover Defender listings here.
2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
According to Kelley Blue Book, the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk will only be available with a plug-in hybrid system dubbed "4xe" by Jeep. The 4xe system pairs a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine to an electric motor producing 375 horsepower and a fuel-efficient 56 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent).
The off-road capability of the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is not altered, however. Still, if you are seeking a Grand Cherokee Trailhawk with either a V6 or V8 engine, you will have to purchase a 2022 model year or older.
Without altering the off-road capability of the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, Jeep has produced a legitimate off-road plug-in hybrid allowing for adventure while offering a redesign to the powertrain standards of the past off-road SUVs. The Trailhawk is equipped with off-road features such as 11.3 inches of ground clearance, electronic sway-bar disconnects, protective under-plating, and the ability to ford in 24 inches of water are all standard.
Browse 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk listings here.
2023 Land Rover Range Rover
While Range Rover is known worldwide for its luxurious interior and sophisticated customer base, Land Rover pairs luxury with ability at the base of their vehicle operation, which is evident in the Range Rover. Land Rover builds every Range Rover with adaptive AWD, adjustable air suspension, electronically locking differentials, hill descent control, and a rear-steering system.
The Range Rover is equipped with a two-speed transfer case and an optional twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 engine producing 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque for low-range crawling and off-roading power. This powertrain configuration is referred to as P530 with additional powertrains consisting of P400 (base) and P440e (hybrid).
As a luxury off-road SUV, the Land Rover Range Rover is offered in various configurations to suit consumer needs. There are two body styles, two seating layouts, four trims, and three powertrain choices. All are equipped with Land Rover's legendary technologically advanced AWD system.
Browse 2023 Land Rover Range Rover listings here.
2022 Lexus LX
The 2022 Lexus LX is based heavily on the Toyota Land Cruiser, as the same company, Toyota, develops them. The Lexus LX is a different type of off-road capable full-size luxury SUV, offering an alternative to BMW and Mercedes-Benz customers.
The Lexus LX is equipped with a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 409 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. The LX is outfitted standard with a 4WD drivetrain and a ten-speed automatic transmission but being a large luxury SUV only achieves an estimated 17 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.
Off-roading specific features include an electronically locking center differential, low-speed gear reduction, and muti-terrain drive modes. The multi-terrain drive modes are Rock, Rock and Dirt, Mogul, and Loose Rock or Mud. The adaptive suspension can lift or lower the standard 8.9 inches of ground clearance. A unique feature called Crawl Control operates as off-road cruise control, assisting in low speeds and bumpy terrain.
Browse 2022 Lexus LX listings here.
2022 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
The G-Class series from Mercedes-Benz is the gold standard for combining luxury and off-road capability. The bodywork of the 2022 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is based on the 1979 military G-Wagen; while the outer shell is reminiscent of Mercedes-Benz roots, the 2022 G-Wagen offers a much more refined ride quality and a host of modern technology features.
The 4WD system in the G-class is among the most advanced, offering three driver-adjustable locking differentials. The solid front axle was dropped from the new G-class redesign, but the G-class still provides 9.5 inches of ground clearance. The G-class is also capable of wading through 27.6 inches of water.
The G550 and AMG G63 are the models offered to U.S.-based consumers, both powered by a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 engine producing 416 horsepower in the G550 model and a tuned 577 horsepower variation for the AMG G63.
With the increased demand for luxury off-road capable vehicles, automakers have produced vehicles with an increased focus on comfort and drive quality. Yet, most automakers utilize Mercedes-Benz as the industry standard for interior comfort and ride quality.
Browse 2022 Mercedes-Benz G-Class listings here.
2022 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
You may be accustomed to seeing Z71 badging on Chevy trucks, but the off-road-focused packaging does not only apply to Chevy's pick truck lineup. The Z71 package takes a stock Chevrolet Tahoe and adds 20-inch machined aluminum wheels, tubular side steps, and a front skid plate.
These additional off-roading features are paired with the Tahoe Z71's standard two-speed transfer case, 4WD, and optional air suspension, allowing for a further two inches of ride height, making the 2022 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 a great full-size SUV contender.
As a full-size SUV, the 2022 Tahoe Z71 seats between seven and nine people, offering three rows of seating and adequate space and comfort for all passengers. Powered by a 355 horsepower engine paired with a ten-speed automatic transmission, the 2022 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 achieves among the best fuel economy estimates in the large SUV class.
The Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 competes directly against other full-size SUV offerings from other vehicle manufators such as the Nissan Armada and the Ford Expedition. If you have a large family or friends that enjoy back-country driving, the 2022 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 may be the off-road SUV you have been looking for.
Browse 2022 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 listings here.
2022 GMC Yukon AT4
A second GM off-road-focused SUV is on our list, this time in a large SUV format. The GMC Yukon AT4 (All-Terrian 4WD) offers a premium off-road experience compared to the less luxurious Chevrolet Tahoe Z71. Boasting bright red recovery rings and a visible front skid plate, the GMC Yukon AT4 is GM's ultimate off-road large SUV.
Under the hood of the GMC Yukon AT4 is two engine options, a standard 5.3-liter V8 engine producing 355 horsepower and 383-pound feet of torque and a more off-road ideal 6.2-liter Ecotec3 producing 420 horsepower and 480-pound feet of torque.
Either engine pairs with a ten-speed automatic transmission, an Auto Trac two-speed transfer case, an electronic limited-slip differential, and an additional two inches of ground clearance over the standard GMC Yukon. The Yukon AT4 utilizes a four-corner air-ride suspension, allowing for a 32-inch approach angle.
For further off-road ability, GM equipped the Yukon AT4 with magnetic ride control, StabiliTrak electronic stability control, traction select system, and hill descent control.
When searching for an off-road-oriented SUV, there are features consumers should seek above others, this article covers aspects consumers should consider before purchase.
Browse 2022 GMC Yukon AT4 listings here.
Gone are the days of compromising interior comfort and amenities for the durability of a capable off-road SUV. The sheer amount of viable options in the off-road SUV market can be encouraging. Still, finding the proper off-road SUV to suit your needs can also make the challenge greater.
In determining the best off-roading SUVs, this article considers the aspects that make any vehicle better in off-roading conditions. Typically consumers seeking an off-road SUV will want to find an SUV that offers a minimum of eight inches of ground clearance, a four-wheel-drive system (4WD), optional off-roading tires paired with smaller wheel sizes, off-road-tuned shocks, and unique bumpers designed to optimize approach and departure angles.
Consumers should also be aware of the additional equipment offered by various automotive manufacturers that can improve the off-road capability of their chosen SUV. Some off-roading SUVs are more equipped than others, even in the same automotive category, making the most off-road capable SUV in some situations the most heavily equipped.
Additional equipment to look for while shopping for an off-roading SUV are skid plates, locking rear and front differential, tow hooks, crawl control, sway bar disconnect, hill descent control, and a limited-slip differential. While some of these off-roading features may be familiar to you as a consumer, some may not.