Highest Ground Clearance SUV: Top Picks

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee

The best way to get past an obstacle is to go around it. But sometimes that is not possible. Sometimes, you need to go over it.

Not all roadways in North America are shimmering pieces of flat, smooth asphalt. Some are neglected, crumbling, crater-filled nightmares; and we’ve only covered the interstates so far. There are also those unpredictable dirt roads that lead to a cottage, hidden fishing hole, or hunting cabin nestled in the woods. These roads are strewn with washboard surfaces, exposed rocks, fallen trees, and rain washouts.

To traverse such a surface, a bit of drivetrain-saving ground clearance is welcome. Although the the term SUV is thrown around more than class-leading in the automotive world, not all SUVs are the same. Some are designed more for on-road adventures, while others are ready to go deep into the Forest Lake Trail. The latter are the ones we are focusing on here, specifically those with the most standard ground clearance.

SEE ALSO: Off-Road SUVs: Our Top Picks

To help shoppers out, we have examined eleven crossover and SUV segments and found the vehicles that offer the most minimum ground clearance. So read on to see which utility vehicles can drive over the biggest obstacles.

Subcompact Crossover: Jeep Renegade Trailhawk – 8.7 inches

Jeep is well known as an off-road brand so it shouldn’t be much surprise that the company’s smallest offering has the most available ground clearance. What is surprising is that it only just beats the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport’s 8.5 inches of ground clearance. In fact, only the Renegade Trailhawk includes the extra height to achieve 8.7 inches, while other versions of the model are only measured at 8.0 inches or less.

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Small Compact Crossover: Subaru Crosstrek – 8.7 inches

Stepping up a class we have another brand know for building vehicles that can hold their own off road. The Subaru Crosstrek offers the same 8.7-inches of ground clearance that the Renegade Trailhawk does, but unlike the Jeep, every Crosstrek trim level comes with the same standard ride height. And although the Subaru’s direct Jeep competitor in this segment, the Compass, does offer a Trailhawk edition, it is only measured at 8.6 inches. Coming in third is another surprisingly high-riding Mitsubishi, the Eclipse Cross AWD at 8.5 inches.

Large Compact Crossover: Subaru Forester Wilderness – 9.2 inches

The more traditionally sized compact crossover features a lot of off-road special editions. These are trim levels designed to cash in on the current trend of consumer preferences towards rugged SUVs. In fact, Ford has gone one step further and included an entirely new off-road focused model to the this segment, the Ford Bronco Sport. In Badlands trim, the Bronco Sport measures in at 8.8 inches of ground clearance, which is slightly better than the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk at 8.7 inches and the Toyota Rav4 TRD at 8.6 inches. It also beats the regular Subaru Forester that sits at 8.7 inches, but this year Subaru released a special raised up Wilderness model that can travel over objects up to 9.2 inches high.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Cheap AWD Cars and Crossovers

Midsize Crossover/SUV: Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk – 11.3 inches

We now enter our fourth straight segment that mentions Jeep and guess what; we’re not done with the brand yet either. By utilizing an adjustable air suspension, the Jeep Grand Cherokee can disconnect the vehicle’s front sway bar and lift up to 11.3 inches of ground clearance. That easily trumps the still impressive 9.6 inches offered by the Toyota 4 Runner TRD Pro and 9.5 inches from the Subaru Outback Wilderness. Like other Jeeps, only the Trailhawk has the ability to traverse over objects nearly a foot high. Regular models make due with 8.6 inches of ground clearance.

Full Size SUV: Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve – 10.9 inches

Newly introduced this year, the Jeep Grand Cherokee L is an extender version of the Grand Cherokee, designed to better accommodate passengers and cargo. Unlike most other Jeep products, there is no Trailhawk version of the SUV. Instead, the Summit Reserve holds the honors of offering the most ground clearance thanks to an air suspension that can raise the vehicle up to 10.9 inches. The GMC Yukon AT4 is the next highest off the ground, at 10.0 inches. Not too far off all Toyota Sequoia models that range between 9.9 to 10.0 inches, followed by the Ford Expedition at 9.8 inches.

Off-Road SUV: Ford Bronco Wildtrak 2-Door – 11.6 inches

Besides the Bronco Sport, Ford also introduced another new SUV this year, simply called the Bronco. Designed to take the Jeep Wrangler head-on, Ford has given the Bronco all of the proper off-road credentials, including an impressive 11.6 inches of fixed ground clearance in Wildtrak trim levels. That is nearly an inch taller than the highest riding Jeep Wrangler, the Rubicon, which includes 10.8 inches of ground clearance. The Bronco has the highest non-adjustable, fixed suspension of any vehicle on this list.

Luxury Subcompact Crossover: Volvo XC40 – 8.3 inches

Small luxury crossovers are not really intended for serious off-road duty so it’s no surprise the limited ground clearance of most models. But the Volvo XC40 does defy the convention, being the only vehicle in this segment to offer over eight inches of clearance. In regular hybrid models it is measured at 8.3 inches while the fully electric recharge model is slightly lower at 8.1 inches. The next closest competitors are the BMW X1 and X2, both rated at 7.2 inches of ground clearance.

SEE ALSO: Best SUV for Snow: 10 Great Choices

Luxury Compact Crossover: Infiniti QX 50 – 8.6 inches

And the luxury SUV surprises keep coming as we fully expected the Land Rover Discovery Sport to be the leader in ground clearance in this segment. But it only matches its sibling, the Range Rover Evoque, at just 8.3 inches of clearance. In fact, that isn’t even enough to be second in the segment as that title belongs to another Volvo, the XC60 set at 8.5 inches when not equipped with the air suspension. The leader of this segment though is the Infiniti QX 50 that includes a standard 8.6 inches of ground clearance.

Luxury Midsize Crossover-SUV: Land Rover Discovery S P300 – 11.1 inches

This is the point where luxury SUVs start to get serious about travelling down rutted roads. The Land Rover Discovery has an air suspension that can lift up to 11.1 inches of ground clearance – more than a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. It’s also more than its fancier siblings from Range Rover, with the R.R. Sport limited to 10.9 inches and the R.R. Velar rated at 9.9 inches. Outside of the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) stable, the next highest SUV off the ground might be a surprise as it’s the Porsche Cayenne Platinum at 9.6 inches of ground clearance.

Luxury Full Size SUV: Rivian R1S – 14.9 inches

Here it is. The SUV with the most ground clearance period, and it’s not even close. The all-electric Rivian R1S has an adjustable suspension that can reach a maximum ground clearance of nearly 15 inches. In fact, the vehicle sits so high, in its absolute lowest setting, the one designed to ease loading the vehicle, it’s still 8.8 inches off the ground. The big Range Rover offers the next most ground clearance amongst large luxury SUVs at 11.6 inches, followed by the new Jeep Wagoneer at 10.0 inches, and the Bentley Bentayga at 9.6 inches.

Luxury Off Road SUV: Land Rover Defender – 11.5 inches

Rounding out our list is another entry from the JLR brand, the Land Rover Defender. With its adjustable suspension, the various versions of both the Defender 90 and Defender 110 can reach a minimum ground clearance height of 11.6 inches. That easily trumps the Defender’s main rival, the Mercedes-Benz G 550 which is rated at 9.5 inches. But the Defender’s title won’t last long as the Hummer EV is on its way, with a claimed 16 inches of ground clearance in Extract Mode and 12 inches in regular Terrain Mode.

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Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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 1 comment
  • Jim Jim on May 18, 2024

    Why do all you guys ignore the Ford Bronco Sport Badlands? It has 8.7 clearance, center and rear locking differentials, etc. it has proved capable on some of Utah’s tough trails, the Moab, etc. Go to YouTube and see some challenges.