The market may be all about the SUV, but these ones are true to the origin of the breed.
Families have gravitated towards SUVs and crossovers for years now, due to the increased ride height, practicality, and (usually) all-wheel drive. In an ironic twist, lots of crossovers have become even more car-like over the years, dropping closer to the ground, and gaining the sorts of road-friendly tires incapable of handling more than a flower bed.
The SUVs you’ll find on this list are not that type of vehicle. These are rugged, go-anywhere vehicles, ones where the adventure begins where the road ends.
As more and more people want to get out there and explore, we’ve put together a Top 10 list of the best off-road SUVs on the market today. Each entry offers something unique, providing you with the info you need for your next purchase. Here, in alphabetical order, are our top picks.
We’ll start with some good news right off the bat: yes, the Ford Bronco lives up to the hype. This rugged revival is the first serious challenger to the Jeep Wrangler in decades. Coming in both two- and four-door versions, with two turbocharged engine options, the Bronco will scramble up rocky hills and ford rivers with the best of them. It’s a thirsty one, though. Pricing starts from $30,795 USD ($43,094 CAD) including destination.
Ford Bronco Sport
No, there isn’t an echo in here. We like the charming little Bronco Sport, the crossover-based baby brother to the big ol’ horse above. It might share a platform with the Escape—including a 1.5-liter three-cylinder and torquey 2.0-liter four-pot—but the BroSpo’s available torque-vectoring AWD system lends it some goat-like abilities on the rough stuff. Not just for its size and class, but overall. This one also undercuts its big brother by a few thousand, making it friendly on the wallet.
GMC Yukon AT4
Need something a little more big-boned? How about the GMC Yukon, specifically the AT4? The truck brand’s off-road-oriented AT4 trim comes with its own unique exterior treatment, complete with tow hooks, providing it with better approach and departure angles than the regular Yukon. AT4 models are 4WD only, and come with an air suspension for the maximum amount of ground clearance. A 5.3-liter V8 is standard, with a hearty 6.2-liter available, with maximum tow ratings of up to 7,900 lb.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a stalwart of the SUV world; a crossover before the term was widespread, really. The latest model launched in three-row form for 2021, but the one we’re zeroing in on here is the classic two-row. New for 2022, it launched with the rock-climbing Trailhawk model. Now featuring an air suspension and trick disconnecting front stabilizer bar from the Wrangler, the Grand Cherokee has 11.3 inches of ground clearance, plus a 35.7-degree approach angle and 30.2-degree departure angle. Prices start from a reasonable $39,185 ($53,640 CAD), including destination.
Having a list of off-roaders without the Wrangler is like a round-up of hockey’s greatest without Gretzky. Jeep’s icon comes in a myriad of configurations, which no doubt contributes to its titanic sales figures every year. What do you want: two-door, four-door, manual transmission, automatic? Jeep’s got ’em. Four-cylinder, with or without mild-hybrid? Classic V6? Sure thing. How about a diesel? There’s one of those, too. Now there’s a wild V8 version as well, and on the other end of the spectrum, a plug-in hybrid. Off-roading in silence is pretty swell.
Land Rover Defender
Maybe you want just a hint of class to your off-roading. The Land Rover Defender is here to answer that call with a reserved British accent. The storied name now sits on the back of a—gasp—unibody platform, but don’t think that makes the new Defender soft. With lots of ground clearance and all sorts of modern tech, this SUV can make short work of even the gnarliest of trails. Like the Bronco and Wrangler, it comes in two lengths, two-door (90) and four-door (110).
Sticking to the luxury side of the market, Lexus has totally redone its hulking LX for 2022. Built on the bones of the latest Toyota Land Cruiser—which sadly won’t be making it to these shores—the LX now features a turbocharged V6, pumping out 409 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. The latest Lexus flagship also includes off-road driving modes, a crawl mode, and an array of cameras to act as digital spotters on the trails. Fancy.
You don’t need to go big to go off-road. The Subaru Crosstrek is the smallest and most affordable car on our list. Starting at just $23,295 ($25,595 CAD), including destination, the Crosstrek comes with Subaru’s well-regarded AWD system as standard. We’re looking at the Sport (Outdoor in Canada) in particular though, which sees chunkier cladding, an increase in ride height, and the more powerful 2.5-liter boxer-four. This one will handle more serious off-roading than most people will ever really attempt.
Subaru Outback Wilderness
Another Subaru, you say? The Outback Wilderness takes the basic ingredients we like so much in the smaller Crosstrek, and upsizes them for off-road wagon fun. The Wilderness adds from the factory a lot of what buyers were modifying their Outbacks with, including a bump in ride height, chunky all-terrain tires, tow hooks, and more. Subaru has also revised the X-Mode to handle the different driving surfaces found off-piste. It’ll even ford through shallow streams. Inside, the Wilderness features easy-clean seating surfaces and a large, 11.6-inch central touchscreen.
The Toyota 4Runner is a mainstay of overlanding groups because it mixes hearty capability with traditional Toyota reliability. The current model dates back to 2009, so while it can’t offer the freshest in tech, the mechanical components are proven. Underhood sits a trusty 4.0-liter V6, hooked up to the last five-speed automatic on the market. It’s thirsty, but the 4WD 4Runner is capable and relatively refined versus the buzzy Wrangler. This can be yours for $38,520 ($48,060 CAD), including destination. Used models aren’t much cheaper, either!
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