When spring rolls around, countless people welcome the warmer weather by planning some outdoor off-road adventures. Or, if you’re the type of person who loves the cold, then you’re probably waiting for the leaves to turn and the temperatures to drop so you can plan fall or winter wilderness trips, as nothing’s prettier than trees covered with a fresh blanket of snow. In addition to helping you reconnect with nature — via your favorite day hikes or camping in the best U.S. national parks — off-roading is a great way to unwind.
No matter which season is your favorite, off-roading continues to be remarkably popular, and automakers have responded by offering a range of capable off-roaders. Whether it’s a luxurious SUV or a compact pickup truck, there are tons of good off-roading vehicles to choose from today. If you want to explore far, far off the beaten path, these are the best off-road vehicles worth taking a look at before your next adventure.
Bronco owners might dispute this, but the Jeep Wrangler is still mostly king of the castle. If you want the best of the best for off-road purposes, look to Jeep’s flagship Rubicon trim. While every Wrangler is a capable off-roader, the Rubicon is the most capable. With front and rear Dana 44 axles, 33-inch all-terrain tires, steel skid plates, rock rails, steel bumpers, a 4:1 gear ratio, a standard Off-Road + button that allows for the best performance no matter the trail, and electronic locking differentials that give the Rubicon superior traction, the Rubicon is the Wrangler to get for serious off-roading.
The Toyota 4Runner is an oldie but a goodie. The SUV’s V6 may be ancient, as is its five-speed automatic transmission (and just about every part of the interior), but doing things the old way helps if you’re looking to go off-roading. While the 4Runner’s powertrain, platform, and design might be antiquated, everything else is modern. The TRD Pro, in particular, comes with 2.5-inch TRD-tuned Fox shocks, TRD springs, thick skid plates, and Nitto all-terrain tires.
You also get an electronic locking rear differential and Toyota’s multi-terrain select system. While the 4Runner TRD Pro is the most off-road-oriented trim in the 4Runner lineup, the cheaper TRD Off-Road is available with Toyota’s trick Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) that can disengage the front and rear stabilizers for improved off-roading.
For most people, a regular Ford Bronco with the Sasquatch package offers 99% of the off-roading capability they would ever realistically need. But Ford created a monster when it introduced the high-performance Bronco Raptor. It’s a machine that’s ready for primetime with a twin-turbo V6 that spins a whopping 418 horsepower, a special long-travel suspension, massive 37-inch tires, and way too many other parts to name.
The Raptor’s wide stance and extra large fender flares make it a vehicle that will only appeal to hardcore enthusiasts looking for a ridiculously capable SUV. It’s capable of flying over sand dunes and living out your Dakar dreams.
Before the Mercedes-Benz G-Class became a must-have accessory for celebrities, foreign diplomats, and other elites, the rugged SUV started life as a legit and very capable military vehicle. While the G-Class has slowly become more and more luxurious over time, it’s still a capable off-roader at heart.
You might find G-Class SUVs lined up at Starbucks, but with a two-speed transfer case, three locking differentials, and a G Mode for non-AMG models that alters the powertrain, traction control, and stability control systems, the G-Class is highly capable. Throw in the G-Class’ absurdly powerful V8 engine into the mix, and you’ve got an excellent recipe for tackling any adventure.
RAM took the proverbial bar that the F-150 Raptor set and blew it to hell with the 1500 TRX. Shoving the Hellcat supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine into a pickup truck was either a stroke of genius or madness, as RAM created a whole new segment of go-fast off-roaders with something that has 702 horsepower. The truck can get to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds and makes an ungodly sound in the process. Apart from new-age electric trucks, the TRX is among the fastest gas-powered pickups on the market.
With a supercharged V8 engine and launch control, the TRX was always going to be a quick truck. What makes the TRX special is that it offers high-speed off-roading capability like few other trucks on sale. It boasts 14 inches of rear suspension travel, 35-inch all-terrain tires, 11.8 inches of ground clearance, Bilstein remote-reservoir dampers, and an electronic-locking rear differential. If a The Last of Us-style apocalypse ever rolls around, I’ll be looking for the all-conquering TRX to survive.
While the majority of off-roading vehicles on this list are all about hitting trails, the F-150 Raptor pickup is more interested in serious high-speed off-roading. It comes with a 450-horsepower twin-turbocharged V6 engine and Fox Racing dampers that offer 13 inches of travel in the front and 13.9 inches at the rear. The Raptor also has a Baja mode that helps it hit absurdly high speeds in the desert and soar over jumps. Owners also get to play with Rock Crawl and Mud/Sand modes to tackle different types of terrain.
For 2023, Ford has introduced the new Raptor R. It raises the regular Raptor — if you can even call it regular — to new heights thanks to a supercharged 5.2-liter V8 engine that was borrowed from the Mustang Shelby GT500. In the Raptor R, the engine makes 700 horsepower. On top of all of the regular Raptor’s features, the monstrous engine results in a sledgehammer of off-roaders.
Toyota released the new Tundra in 2022, which, of course, meant a new TRD Pro model at the top of the lineup. In addition to its in-your-face design, the latest Tundra delivers serious off-roading capability with a new five-link suspension design instead of traditional leaf springs. The TRD Pro steps things up a notch with Fox internal-bypass dampers, a 1.1-inch lift, all-terrain tires, 18-inch BBS wheels, an electronically controlled locking rear differential, crawl control, and Toyota’s multi-terrain select system.
Instead of a V8 engine, the TRD Pro is only available as a hybrid. No, it’s not an off-road version of a Prius. The hybrid powertrain in the Tundra TRD Pro is paired with a twin-turbo V6 for a combined output of 437 horsepower. It’s stout, highly capable on rough terrain, and looks pretty bonkers (in the best way possible, of course).
The Land Rover Defender nameplate has been resurrected, bringing back one of the most capable off-roaders ever envisioned in a modern luxury vehicle. While the Defender might not have a body-on-frame setup or solid axles, the SUV can still go anywhere and do just about anything. With up to 11.5 inches of ground clearance, the Defender can ford up to 35.4 inches of water and has a Wade Sensing Drive mode to ensure that it isn’t damaged.
Other high-tech goodies include All-Terrain Progress Control and ClearSight Ground View, which is like cruise control for off-roading and involves a live feed of images in front of the Defender. Of course, Land Rover offers a whole bunch of accessory packages to make the SUV more capable.
Jeep has made a name for itself by offering nothing but rugged off-roading SUVs, but the automaker recently released the latest Jeep Gladiator, giving consumers a pickup that’s just as capable as the Wrangler. If you want to go off-roading through rocky terrain and sand, there’s the rugged Rubicon. If you’re all about off-roading through the desert, the Mojave is a better option.
The Rubicon features 33-inch tires, Fox shocks, locking front and rear differentials, a disconnecting front sway bar, a two-speed transfer case, and a low crawl ratio of 77.2:1. A unique Off-Road+ mode is included with the Rubicon as well, which adjusts the pickup’s stability control, transmission, and throttle for maximum performance. The Mojave is slightly different, coming with an extra inch of lift, different Fox front hydraulic jounce bumpers, and upgraded Fox shocks with external reservoirs. Either way, you’re getting an incredibly capable pickup.
Toyota doesn’t sell the Land Cruiser in the U.S. anymore. Instead, we get the Lexus LX600. That’s fine by us because it’s basically a fancy version of the global Land Cruiser that was just redesigned. With a starting price tag close to $90,000, you won’t find many LX600s tearing up an off-road track. That’s a shame because the LX600 is an adept off-roader.
The latest LX600 ditches its V8 engine for a twin-turbo V6 that makes a healthy 409 horsepower. The SUV also has a Torsen limited-slip differential at the back, a locking center differential, adjustable air suspension, crawl control, and a variety of terrain modes to go anywhere. It also has a luxurious cabin to get you there in comfort.
The Polaris RZR Turbo R might be one of the smallest vehicles on our list, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to sacrifice any power. Available in two- and four-seat models, the RZR’s turbocharged engine can handle just about any terrain.
The Polaris’ suspension is designed to take on all kinds of terrain, while still providing a comfortable ride. Its Baja mode gives you the ability to take on even the worst desert terrain. Switch it to rock mode to give better pitch and roll stability for crawling over rocks, and then there’s track mode, which gives you the best ride on twisting paths and lets you open up over the hardpack. It also has an available premium audio system and an optional off-road GPS navigation system, so you won’t get lost on your adventure.
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