SUVs offer loads of cargo space and plenty of room for the whole family, making them a favourite for many car buyers. But you can also pick up an SUV primed to head off the beaten path. These off-road SUVs have all the equipment needed to handle loose or muddy soil, sand, ruts, and, in some cases, large rocks.
Are you in the market for a family-friendly used SUV that can also handle weekend trips deep into the woods? This list of the nine best off-road SUVs is a great place to start.
The Jeep Wrangler has been a legend in the off-road SUV space for decades, thanks to its simple design and off-road-friendly specs, like a short wheelbase and high ground clearance. The latest Jeep Wrangler iteration, which arrived in 2018, is no exception.
The Jeep Wrangler has loads of trim levels, ranging from the simple Sport to the decked-out Unlimited Rubicon 392. One thing they all have in common is Jeep’s legendary Command Trac part-time, shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system (4WD) and Dana front and rear axles come standard. However, opting for a Rubicon model adds Tru-Lok axles, a Rock-Trac two-speed transfer case with a 4-to-1 low range for when traction matters more than speed, heavy-duty shocks, and off-road tires.
The Wrangler also has no shortage of engine options, starting with a standard 3.6-litre V6 with 285 horsepower (hp) and 260 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque. Buyers can also opt for a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. For those who prefer something wilder, the Rubicon 392 model includes a 6.4-litre HEMI V8 with 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque.
For buyers seeking a greener approach to an off-road SUV, there is also the Wrangler 4xe, which features a plug-in hybrid powertrain that can travel up to 35 km on electricity alone and slightly more acceptable fuel economy of 11.7 L/100km combined. And this is no lazy electrified SUV. It boasts 375 hp, 470 lb-ft of torque, and all the off-road prowess of the standard Wrangler.
Land Rover is synonymous with luxury and off-road prowess, and one of the better examples of the latter is the Defender. The most recent Defender generation debuted in 2020 and continues its legendary off-road ways with plenty of ground clearance, standard all-wheel drive (AWD), a two-speed transfer case, and loads of off-road accessories.
Under its hood, the Land Rover Discovery comes standard with a 296-hp 2.0-litre engine, but you can also find them with a 395-hp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 or a 518-hp 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine.
Like most off-road SUVs today, the Discovery won’t be rock crawling anytime soon, but this luxury SUV can navigate rugged trails, deep mud, and slick Canadian winter roads.
The Toyota 4Runner is another legend in the off-road SUV space, as it’s been a leader in this area for decades. The latest 4Runner debuted way back in 2010, but it’s received a nip and tuck over the years to keep its styling modern.
The most recent 4Runners boast 244 mm of ground clearance, a 30-degree approach angle, and a 26-degree departure angle, making them ready for aggressive trails. Opt for the souped-up TRD Off-Road model and get a locking rear differential, crawl control, Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, and more. Push its off-road abilities even further with the TRD Pro model, which upgrades the TRD Off-Road package with Fox shock absorbers, Nitta all-terrain tires, a TRD front skid plate, and more.
Powering this midsize off-road vehicle is a 4.0-litre V6 with 270 hp paired with a five-speed automatic transmission.
The legendary Ford Bronco returned triumphantly as a rugged midsize SUV in 2021. No matter what Bronco you choose, it’s ready to tackle just about any off-road terrain you can throw at it. They all have standard 4WD, loads of ground clearance, off-road suspension, and a potent engine lineup.
There are lots of trims and packages for those looking for something even more off-road-ready. One such package is the Everglades package, which adds a snorkel on the passenger side pillar, a Warn winch, raised axle, transfer case and transmission vents for increased water fording, and more.
The big daddy of all the Broncos is the Raptor. This model adds a 406-hp 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, HOSS 4.0 race-ready suspension, a fully boxed high-strength steel frame, 37-inch all-terrain tires, semi-float Dana 50 Heavy-Duty AdvanTEK rear axle, a Dana 44 AdvanTEKfront axle, upgraded 4WD and transfer case, and much more.
Besides the 406-hp 3.0-litre engine in the Raptor model, the Bronco comes standard with a 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylindre engine with 275 hp. It also has an optional 2.7-litre turbocharged V6 with 315 hp.
Along with the Bronco’s debut, Ford also launched the smaller Bronco Sport. While this compact SUV may not have the off-road capabilities of its big brother, it’s no slouch in its Badlands trim.
The Bronco Sport Badlands features standard 4WD with a twin-clutch rear drive unit for enhanced grip and a Terrain Management System with seven drive modes: sand, slippery, sport, eco, normal, rock crawl, and mud/ruts. It also boasts off-road suspension and off-road tires.
Powering the Bronco Sport Badlands is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylindre engine with 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has long been a staple in the luxury market, but the recent addition of the Trailhawk trim has pushed it off the beaten path. The latest generation Grand Cherokee arrived for the 2022 model year. The Trailhawk variant includes the Quadra-Drive II 4WD system with an electronic limited-slip differential, semi-active damping air suspension, all-terrain tires, and more.
Under its hood, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk packs a 3.6-litre V6 with 293 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. You can also find them with the optional 5.7-litre HEMI V8 that pumps out 357 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. There is also the more fuel-efficient Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4XE with a 2.0-litre turbocharged plug-in hybrid powertrain that pumps out 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque.
While it won’t be rock crawling soon, this decked-out SUV is ready for most trails your family will throw its way. The Grand Cherokee is also one of the few off-road SUVs with a third row, allowing it to accommodate larger families.
Looking for a full-size SUV with off-road capabilities? The Chevy Tahoe Z71 offers this combination. The latest-generation Tahoe arrived in the 2021 model year.
While the Tahoe’s hulking size drastically limits its capabilities, the Z71 package helps out with standard 4WD, a two-speed transfer case, a heavy-duty air filter, hill-descent control, a performance front skid plate, all-terrain tires, and more.
Powering the Tahoe Z71 is a 5.3-litre V8 engine with 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
This massive Tahoe Z71 won’t be great for tight trails, but wide-open fields and sandy plains will be no issue.
The Toyota FJ Cruiser was the Japanese automaker’s answer to the Jeep Wrangler. Toyota quickly learned why other automakers rarely targeted the legendary Jeep, as it lasted only seven model years before being discontinued.
Despite never living up to its goal of competing with the Wrangler, the FJ Cruiser remains one of the best off-road SUVs, and could make a good used car in its later model years.
Powering the FJ Cruiser was a 4.0-litre V6 engine with 260 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque mated to a 4WD system with a rear differential lock and two-speed transfer case. While the base FJ was a good off-roader, the optional Off-Road Package was an excellent addition. This package added some creature comforts, but its off-road updates included upgraded Bilstein shocks and crawl control.
Because of its age, don’t expect a super-modern infotainment system or advanced safety features, just lots of off-road capability.
The GMC Yukon — a near carbon copy of the Tahoe — is another massive full-size SUV with an off-road trim, the AT4. Like the Yukon, the latest-generation Yukon arrived in the 201 model year.
Like the Z71 Tahoe, the Yukon AT4 packs a ton of goodies to help this three-row SUV off the beaten path. These upgrades include the Active Response 4WD system, a two-speed transfer case, hill-descent control, performance front skid plate, red tow hooks, and more.
Under its hood, the GMC Yukon AT4 comes standard with a 5.3-litre V8 engine with 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. However, buyers can upgrade to a 6.2-litre V8 engine with 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque.
Like its Chevy cousin, the Yukon AT4 has limited off-road prowess because of its sheer size, but it can handle most things your family will throw its way.
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