Your best bet for off-roading is a 4x4 SUV. Depending on the model that pleases you most, though, you might have to shop around a bit to find a good used one. That’s simply because off-roaders typically become very attached to their rigs, and often continue to drive them until they’re simply no longer drivable.
That said, you’ll probably enjoy looking for just the right off-road vehicle for you. Our favorites are the Nissan Infiniti QX80, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler, Lexus GX 460, and Nissan XTerra.
Nissan Infiniti QX80: This is a huge, luxurious SUV with a super-comfortable ride, but when it comes to off-roading, it delivers the goods. In auto mode, the rear-wheel drive delivers torque to the front as required. Once you shift into four-wheel drive, though, the torque is split 50/50. Traction control automatically slows unruly wheels if you start to slip.
Jeep Grand Cherokee: For two decades, the Grand Cherokee has proven itself when it comes to off-road capability. With the Adventure II package, you’ll benefit from an air-lift suspension with an incredible 10.4 inch ground clearance and 20 inch water fording, meaning you can go pretty much anywhere you want.
Jeep Wrangler: For hard-core off-roaders, the Wrangler has traditionally been the rig of choice. The base model is perfectly respectable, but if you want to take it up a notch, go with the Rubicon model. It includes electronic locking differentials, and is equal even to the demands of its namesake, the Rubicon trail. It’s not the most comfortable vehicle for daily driving, but off-road, it shines.
Lexus GX 460: This luxury SUV might look gorgeous, but don’t let the appearance fool you. It’s build to a full frame with a center differential for 50/50 torque split when the going gets tough. Add to that the KDDS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System) that reduces chassis roll, and you have a highly reliable off-road vehicle for both novices and pros.
Nissan Xterra: The Xterra is an affordable SUV with real off-road capability. Make sure, though, that you buy a 4x4 model – the XTerra is also available as a two-wheel drive that looks nice, but won’t give you what you need off-road. The 4x4 model, though, can handle some pretty tough trails.