Best Off road SUV Ranked By Key Parameters

Best off road SUV old and new

Pack your gear and let’s discover the beasts Off road SUV of all times and the newcomers that are reshaping the horizon of off road adventures today. No matter what your budget or practical needs are, there is a high chance that an SUV you need is included in this list!

Quick Facts: What Makes an SUV truly best off-road:

  • The presence of 4×4 or All-Wheel-Drive
  • High ground clearance in the stock form
  • Differential lockers and/or traction enhancing systems.
  • Construction features that influence off-road capabilities like: space in the wheel wells to accommodate bigger tires, prone to damage body construction, short overhangs, high water fording level.

Throughout the years we have documented dozens of DIY and professionally built off-road SUV projects (both highly modified and relatively stock). Based on this combined collective experience we can conclude that some of the all-time BEST of them are newer Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler JK/JL, Toyota 4 Runner, Toyota Land Cruiser 200/Lexus LX, Mercedes G-Wagon, Chevy Tahoe, Land Rover LR4, Jeep Cherokee XJ, Toyota FJ Cruiser and Nissan X-Terra.

Lifted Toyota 4Runner - best mid size off-road SUV
Lifted Toyota 4Runner built by @anchr3d – one of the best mid size off-road SUV…yet it ended up on 5th position in our comparison table. Read on to find out why!

Some of these vehicles are new on the market, bursting onto the scene with an arsenal of advanced technological features that significantly enhance their off-road prowess. Meanwhile, others are the analog classics, boasting a legacy of performance and reliability that has stood the test of time.

What makes all of these SUVs so special is their shared ability to tackle really rough paths and places that most vehicles can’t reach. These SUVs are built to take on adventures, with the kind of strength and tech that allows them to face tough trails head-on.

BEST OFF-ROAD SUV – Overall Score

*See the full table below for more details!

  1. Ford Bronco Raptor – 151.5
  2. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 – 150.6
  3. Land Rover Defender (new) – 132.4
  4. Mercedes G-Wagon – 129.5
  5. Toyota 4 Runner TRD OFF ROAD – 129.5
  6. Toyota Land Cruiser / Lexus GX, LX – 129
  7. Toyota FJ-Cruiser – 128.5
  8. Chevy Tahoe Z71 / Suburban – 128
  9. Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro – 124.5
  10. Ford Expedition – 123
  11. Nissan X-Terra – 121.6
  12. Porsche Cayenne / VW Touareg MK1 – 112.7
  13. Jeep Grand Cherokee WK2 Trailhawk – 106
  14. Land Rover Discovery LR3 / LR4 – 102.5
  15. Jeep Cherokee XJ – 101

How do we evaluate Best Off Road SUV?

#1 The 2022+ Ford Bronco: A Top Pick for Off-Road Enthusiasts

2024 Ford Bronco on 37" off road tires - best off-road SUV overall
You can read more about this Bronco build in one of our features.

As we see from our detailed comparison table, the 2022+ Ford Bronco is leading the pack when it comes to conquering rough trails. One of its standout features is its large ground clearance, which changes depending on which version you choose, going from 8.4 to 11.6 inches. Plus, it offers the biggest tires right from the start, with sizes ranging from 33 to 37 inches, making it a one-of-a-kind option in the 4×4 market.

Ready for Adventures

Based on our comparison test, we can state that the Ford Bronco offers something for everyone, with a price tag that varies significantly depending on the model. It starts with the reasonably priced Big Bend at around $39,000 and goes up to the fully equipped Bronco Raptor for about $89,000. This range means that many different people can afford it, making it a top choice for those looking to buy a new off-road SUV. The Bronco also impresses with its part-time 4WD system and lockers that are ready to tackle any terrain. And, with a few small changes, you can even fit it with huge 40-inch off-road tires!

Growing Aftermarket Support

As we noted in our comparison, the aftermarket support for this SUV is rapidly expanding. Even though it hasn’t been around as long as the support for the Jeep Wrangler, it’s catching up fast. This means you can easily turn a basic Big Bend into a powerhouse on wheels, almost matching the top-tier Bronco Raptor in off-road performance. This growing support allows for lots of personal touches, turning the Bronco into not just a vehicle, but a continually evolving adventure on wheels.

Key Facts

  • Biggest stock ground clearance which ranges from 8.4 to 11.6 depending on the trim.
  • Biggest stock tires ranging from 33 up to 37” depending on the model. It’s the only 4×4 you can buy with 37” wheels in the stock form!
  • It has part-time 4WD with all necessary lockers.
  • You can mount up to 40” off-road tires with some minor modifications
  • Thanks to the variety of models which range from practically bone stock Big Bend priced around $39,000 up to fully tricked out Bronco Raptor $89,000 there is a wide range of people who can find it affordable. It’s definitely one of the best new off-road SUV money can buy today.
  • The aftermarket support for this model is growing very fast. Even though it’s not as thorough as for the Jeep Wrangler (which was building up for decades) it is growing rapidly and it allows you to turn your bone stock Big Bend into a fully tricked out rig on 37s that can come close to the Bronco Raptor in terms of the off-road performance.
  • With 151.5 points overall – it is the BEST OFF-ROAD SUV you can buy in 2023-2024

 

#2 Jeep Wrangler JK/JL: The Off-Roading Veteran

Lifted Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 by Foxmotorspots 2nd best Off road SUV
This green monster is built by @rebeloffroad and rocking 35 inch tires.

As we see from the numbers in our comparison table, the Jeep Wrangler JK/JL secures a worthy second spot, tallying up to an impressive 147.6 points, equalling the Ford Bronco’s score. This venerated off-roader boasts remarkable ground clearance, with the Wrangler Rubicon 392 in the Xtreme 35 Package offering between a stellar 12.8 inches, compared to only 9″ in the base version.

This feature, although just a few millimeters shy of the Bronco Raptor’s 13.1 inches, solidifies its place as a heavyweight in the market. Moreover, the Wrangler doesn’t falter in the tire department either, offering stock tires ranging from 31 to 35 inches depending on the chosen model, setting a robust foundation for any off-road expedition.

A Range of Choices for Every Adventurer

Our comparison test clearly shows that the Jeep Wrangler JK/JL is an affordable choice for a wide array of enthusiasts. With models starting from the basic 2-Door Sport priced at around $32,000, and extending up to the fully equipped 4-Door Rubicon around $90,000, it remains a favorite in the off-road community. Despite fierce competition from the Ford Bronco, the Wrangler maintains its esteemed position, backed by a decades-long legacy of dependable off-road performance.

Endless Customization Opportunities

Drawing conclusions from our meticulous analysis, it is evident that the aftermarket support for the Wrangler JK/JL is unparalleled. It’s hard to find another vehicle that comes even close to the Wrangler when it comes to customization possibilities.

This vast and continually expanding market offers a plethora of parts, allowing enthusiasts to sculpt their Wrangler into a unique masterpiece, capable of reflecting individual tastes and requirements. Whether you aim to mount up to 40-inch off-road tires or tweak other facets of its performance, the Wrangler stands as a canvas ready to be molded to fulfill your off-road dreams, cementing its place as a titan in the world of off-road customization and adventure.

Key Facts:

  • Biggest stock ground clearance depending on the trim ranges from 8.4 to 12.8 on Wrangler Rubicon 392 in Xtreme 35 Package which is 2nd biggest on the market, just a few mm smaller than Bronco Raptor’s 13.1”.
  • Biggest stock tires ranging from 31 up to 35” depending on the model.
  • It has part-time 4WD with all necessary lockers.
  • You can mount up to 40” off-road tires with proper modifications and fully tailor it’s off-road performance to your needs, whether it is a weekend getaway or a full-time rock crawler.
  • Thanks to the variety of models which range from practically bone stock 2-Door Sport priced around $32,000 up to fully tricked out 4-Door Rubicon which is priced around $90k there is a wide range of people who can find it affordable. Even though Ford has created a very strong competitor for this model, Wrangler remains the king of the off-road world with a flawless reputation proven throughout decades.
  • Open top driving option is available.
  • It’s hard to find a vehicle that comes close to the Wrangler in terms of the aftermarket support. It’s incredibly wide and offers a wide variety of parts to build out your Wangler in every possible way.

#3 Land Rover Defender – The Legend Returned

Land Rover Defender 110 equipped with warn and aftermarket steel bumper
The modern iteration of the Land Rover Defender adeptly marries unibody construction and crossover aesthetics with a formidable suite of off-road features, affirming its rightful place in the pantheon of legendary 4×4 vehicles. Though the look is more sleek and sophisticated, don’t let the urban facelift fool you; beneath lies a vehicle that is fully equipped to tackle the roughest of terrains with a finesse reminiscent of its predecessors. We were surprised to that it scored impressive 132.4 points overall throughout all off-road parameters (of course it applies to top of the line off-road version).

Remarkable Off-road Characteristics

The adjustable air suspension system grants it a remarkable ground clearance that can reach up to 11.5 inches, paving the way for an impressive water fording capability of 35.4 inches – the pinnacle in our comparative analysis. Complementing these features are the vehicle’s short front and rear overhangs, which facilitate extreme approach and departure angles of 37.5 and 28.5 degrees, respectively, making it a formidable choice for off-road enthusiasts. Moreover, a comprehensive set of lockers, inclusive of a front locker, amplifies its off-road prowess, helping the new Defender secure a prestigious spot among the top three off-road SUVs.

Luxury and Comfort

On top of its robust off-road capabilities, the new generation Defender offers an experience of luxury and comfort that can rival that of a Range Rover. This isn’t merely an off-road beast; it’s an off-road beast that doesn’t compromise on elegance and comfort. The vehicle’s design bears testimony to a keen focus on off-road adventures, seamlessly integrating class-leading technology with front and rear lockers that stand as a benchmark in its category.

Best Water Fording Depth

But it’s the unmatched water fording depth of 35.4 inches that truly sets it apart, promising adventure without boundaries. Furthermore, for those looking to enhance their vehicle further, the Defender offers compatibility with 33-inch and even 35-inch tires, granted a few modifications are made. To top it off, a burgeoning aftermarket community is emerging to support enthusiasts, promising a bright future for this iconic vehicle’s new chapter.

Key Facts:

  • High level of comfort and luxury features
  • Driving dynamics and on-road manners are unmatched by body-on-frame 4x4s
  • Rear lockers are available on certain models
  • Variable ground clearance of 7.4 – 11.8” on models with air suspension
  • Comes stock with 31” wheels, and relatively easy to upgrade to 33”s
  • 35”s are often installed on off-road projects
  • Growing aftermarket now offers a lot of model-specific upgrades

#4 Mercedes Gwagon – The one and only for almost 40 years

Mercedes G-Class - best off road SUV with classic design
You Can find out more about this G-wagon build in our feature.

The Mercedes G-Class stands as a beacon of legacy and luxury in the off-road SUV category. With its origins rooted in the rugged terrains of the 1970s, the G-Class has gracefully evolved, climbing the ranks to become a high-end luxury vehicle without shedding its rugged shell.

This powerhouse, which started its journey as a sturdy army vehicle, now proudly houses robust V8 and V12 engines under its hood, blended with modern technology and premium features that make it a dream drive for many.

Full-time 4WD with all Lockers

The evolution, however, has not dimmed its prowess on uneven terrains. Equipped with a full-time 4WD and multiple lockers, coupled with state-of-the-art traction systems, it promises a steady drive even in the most challenging conditions. Although a majestic beast on wheels, the hefty price tag it comes with makes potential damages and repairs a costly affair, particularly after indulging in some rigorous off-road adventures.

Powerful Engines

The G-Class is indeed in a league of its own, boasting the unique privilege of offering turbocharged V8 and V12 engines that promise unparalleled power and performance. For those in Europe, there is the added advantage of having access to models equipped with diesel engines that do not compromise on reliability and fuel efficiency.

The vehicle stands tall with a ground clearance of 9 inches, accompanied by 31-inch tires right from the get-go. For those looking to escalate its off-road capabilities further, lifting the G-Class makes room for fitting imposing 33-inch or even 35-inch tires. While it might not have as extensive aftermarket support as the Jeep or Toyota, the available options are more than sufficient to tailor your G-Class to your liking.

An additional feather in its cap is the unique portal axle lift available, taking its off-road competence to a whole new level, showcasing that the G-Class is not just about luxury, but also about dominating the roughest of trails with elegance and might.

Key Facts:

  • It’s the only off-road SUV that offers turbocharged V8s and V12 motors
  • European versions offer reliable and fuel efficient Diesel engines
  • 9” of clearance and 31” tires in the stock form
  • When lifted, can be fitted with 33” and even 35”s
  • The aftermarket support doesn’t compare to Jeep or Toyota, but it still offers pretty much anything you may want for your G
  • Unique portal axle lift is available for the G Wagon

#5 Toyota 4Runner

Gobi ladder and Front Runner Outfitters 3/4 roof rack on a Toyota 4Runner off road SUV
As we deduced from our comprehensive comparison chart, the Toyota 4Runner firmly occupies the fifth position with a commendable score of 95 points. The age-old rivalry between Toyota and Jeep manifests itself yet again, showcasing neck-and-neck performance in real-world off-road scenarios. The 4Runner, particularly the TRD Pro variant, is a force to reckon with, flaunting a significant ground clearance of 9.6 inches in its stock form.

This figure might fall slightly short when pitted against the monstrous Jeep Wrangler 392 Rubicon, but the 4Runner shines in other areas. One of its distinctive features is the inclusion of TRD FOX® high-performance shocks coupled with rear remote reservoirs, which deliver a smoother, more controlled ride on rugged trails.

Versatility and Adaptability

Basing on our analysis, it is clear that the Toyota 4Runner is versatile both in its pricing and performance capabilities. While the base SR5 models begin at a reasonable $45k, for those seeking a heightened off-road experience, the TRD Pro versions, priced north of $55k, offer superior capabilities. This range accommodates part-time 4WD along with advanced features like Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) and Crawl Control (CRAWL), facilitating an uncompromised performance on varying terrains. The 4Runner differentiates itself further in its design, opting for a solid roof instead of the open-top construction seen in both the Wrangler and the Bronco. This allows for added functionalities such as racks, storage boxes, and tents, making the 4Runner a conventional yet versatile SUV, well-suited for both adventures and daily utility.

Key Facts:

  • Biggest stock ground clearance of the 4Runner TRD Pro is 9.6” in the stock form. Which really sets it apart are the TRD FOX® * high-performance shocks with rear remote reservoirs.
  • Biggest stock tires on TRD Pro are 32” all terrains. It’s pretty common to see these rigs rocking 33s and 35s. 37”s are possible with extensive modifications, but it’s rather an exception from rules.
  • It has part-time 4WD with Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) and Crawl Control (CRAWL).
    Base SR5 4Runners start at around $45k, but the most capable 4×4 versions of TRD-PRO are priced north of $55k.
  • Unlike the Wrangler and Bronco with their open-top construction, the 4Runner is the conventional SUV with a lift gate and solid roof that’s perfectly suitable for racks, storage boxes and tents.
  • What speaks most of the 4Runner are its built quality and reliability that are proven throughout decades. Both of these qualities are vital for off-roading and often play the key difference between a successful off-road trip and life threatening situations.
  • The 3rd, 2nd and even 1st gen 4Runners are still dominating the trails, wheeling head to head with Jeep Wranglers of all generations.

#6 Toyota Land Cruiser and Lexus LX/GX – 60 Years of Perfection

Wold Famous Toyota Lan Cruiser / Lexus LX - best Off road SUV on Global market
Find out more about this LC200 Build in our exclusive review.

In the world of off-road vehicles, the Toyota Land Cruiser, alongside its luxurious siblings, the Lexus GX and LX, carve out a unique space that embodies excellence and heritage. For the sake of compactness, we’ve brought these giants together under one umbrella, highlighting their global presence as dependable and proficient off-road platforms.

Despite securing the 6th position on our chart, a ranking influenced by aspects such as factory tire size, stock ground clearance, and affordability, these vehicles should not be underestimated. In real-world conditions, they stand as solid all-around off-roaders, often spearheading expeditions in the most extreme landscapes, a testament to their iconic Land Cruiser lineage. Their stock ground clearance, hovering between 8.9 to 9.1 inches, sets the stage for a rugged adventure, and with the assistance of numerous aftermarket solutions, it can be effortlessly enhanced to meet varying off-road demands.

Customization and Community

These vehicles, deeply ingrained in the upper market segment, justify their pricing with an offering of value and reliability that is hard to rival. As we can state from our comparison analysis, they come equipped with factory 31-32 inch tires, a feature that provides a sturdy base for off-road excursions.

However, for enthusiasts looking to take on even more challenging terrains, upgrades to 33-inch or 35-inch tires are common, with some even venturing to mount 37s and 40s for extreme off-roading experiences. These modifications are facilitated by a thriving aftermarket, which alongside a wide community of fans and owners found on platforms like IH8MUD, fosters a vibrant ecosystem for sharing knowledge and enhancing these vehicles.

Underpinning their robust performance is one of the most advanced 4-wheel-drive systems available in the market, ensuring that whether you are a seasoned off-roader or a novice, the Land Cruiser and its Lexus counterparts offer a reliable, customizable, and exhilarating off-road experience, firmly rooted in a tradition of excellence and innovation.

  • Iconic Land Cruiser heritage
  • Stock ground clearance ranges between 8.9 – 9.1” and can easily be upgraded with a help of numerous aftermarket solutions
  • Comes with factory 31-32” tires and can be safely upgraded to 33”s and 35”s. Some drivers even opt to 37s and 40s to handle extreme off-roading.
  • One of the most advanced 4-wheel-drive systems on the market
  • Huge aftermarket support and wide community of fans and owners (IH8MUD).
  • These rigs belong to the upper market segment in terms of the pricing.

#7 The Toyota FJ-Cruiser: A Blend of Tradition and Modernity

Toyota FJ Cruiser One of the best off road SUVs on used car market
Read our feature dedicated to this lifted Toyota FJ Cruiser here.

As we delve into the realm of unique and eye-catching SUVs, the Toyota FJ-Cruiser stands as a testament to ingenuity, skillfully merging the classic charm of the FJ40 Land Cruiser with modern technology. Produced between 2006 and 2014, this SUV has held its ground as a strong competitor, especially against the likes of the Jeep Wrangler JK.

A notable feature is its impressive ground clearance, standing at a substantial 9.6 inches in its stock form, a figure that promises competent off-road capabilities. Furthermore, while it comes stock with 32-inch all-terrain tires, enthusiasts commonly upgrade these to 33s or 35s to enhance its prowess on rugged trails. While mounting 37-inch tires is a possibility, it’s generally reserved for more extensive modifications.

Technological Sophistication Meets Retro Style

The FJ-Cruiser is not just a powerhouse in terms of performance but also a statement in style. Its exterior carries echoes of the iconic FJ40, sporting supercrew style doors and a retro-modern aesthetic that sets it apart in the off-road SUV category. Beyond its looks, it houses a sophisticated centerpiece in its TORSEN differential, equipped with a locking feature. This system intelligently distributes the engine’s torque in a 40:60 ratio under most driving conditions, dynamically adjusting based on steering angle and wheel slippage. This ensures a smooth and controlled ride even on the most challenging terrains, showcasing a harmonious marriage between style and substance.

A Viable Investment for the Present

Despite its discontinuation in 2014, the FJ-Cruiser hasn’t lost its allure, remaining a sought-after choice in the used vehicle market. As we can state from our analysis, those keen on owning this distinctive piece of automotive history can find units priced between $10,000 to nearly $40,000, depending on various factors such as mileage and overall condition. This range offers potential buyers the flexibility to choose a model that fits their budget while allowing them to possess a vehicle that seamlessly combines the nostalgic flair of classic designs with the functionalities of modern technology. The FJ-Cruiser, therefore, stands as a viable option for individuals looking to make a statement with their vehicle, promising not just a ride, but an experience steeped in tradition and modernity.

  • Biggest stock ground clearance of the FJ Cruiser is 9.6” in the stock form.
  • It came stock with 32” all terrains. But It’s pretty common to see these rigs rocking 33s and 35s.
  • 37”s are possible with extensive modifications, but it’s rather an exception from rules.
  • Equipped with a center TORSEN differential, with a locking feature and distributes the engine’s torque 40∶60 under most driving conditions. The TORSEN unit varies torque distribution as needed, based on steering angle and wheel slippage.
  • With the FJ40-inspired design, Super-crew style doors and retro-modern styling, it’s one of the most stylish off-road SUVs you can buy.
  • Since it was discontinued back in 2014 you can only buy used FJ-Cruisers, which are currently priced anywhere from $10,000 up to almost $40,000 depending on the mileage and condition.

#8 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro

Lifted ToyotaSequoia - BestFull-Size SUV by Toyota
Find a detailed write-up dedicated to this lifted Sequoia using this link.

The Toyota Sequoia, prominently standing as the flagship SUV in Toyota’s lineup, serves as a testament to Toyota’s commitment to versatile vehicle production, offering something substantive for everyone. While the baseline utilitarian versions might not be the first choice for off-road enthusiasts, the TRD Pro version of the Sequoia comes roaring to the forefront as a serious contender in the off-road scene.

At its core lies the 4WDemand system; a part-time 4-Wheel Drive that harmoniously works with an electronically controlled 2-speed transfer case, offering both high and low range dynamics that adeptly suit varying terrains. This version also boasts an electronic locking rear differential, a feature that serves to enhance traction in challenging terrains. Furthermore, the Multi-Terrain Select feature stands as an emblem of sophistication, offering five different modes that can significantly augment traction based on the specific demands of the terrain at hand.

Off-road Suspension

However, it’s when you delve into the intricate nuances of the TRD Pro version that its true off-road potential unfolds. A sophisticated TRD Pro off-road suspension, adorned with 2.5-inch FOX® internal bypass coil-overs and rear remote-reservoir shocks, promises not only a robust response to challenging terrains but also a smooth, comfortable ride that cushions the occupants from the ruggedness of the trails.

Up to 35″ Tires

This is further enhanced by the TRD Pro front stabilizer bar, which works tirelessly to minimize body roll and maintain vehicle stability even when tackling the most demanding of tracks. But, to truly unlock the Sequoia’s potential, enthusiasts often opt for adding 35-inch off-road tires, transforming this SUV into a formidable off-road beast that stands ready to impress even the most seasoned of off-road enthusiasts. This modification not only enhances ground clearance but also promises a traction and stability level that puts the Sequoia TRD Pro into a league of its own, ready to tackle any adventure that lies ahead.

Key Facts:

  • 4WDemand part-time 4-Wheel Drive with electronically controlled 2-speed transfer case (high/low range)
  • Electronic Locking Rear Differential
  • Multi-Terrain Select with five modes to help improve your traction
  • TRD Pro off-road suspension with 2.5-in. FOX® * Internal Bypass coil-overs and rear remote-reservoir shocks, and TRD Pro front stabilizer bar

#9 Chevy Tahoe/Suburban Does Everything Big

2022 Chevy Tahoe 6 inch lift
The Chevy Tahoe and its extended variant, the Suburban, epitomize the quintessential American car experience. When you think of a vehicle that’s robust, expansive, and equipped with comforts, the Tahoe naturally comes to mind. Nestled under its hood lies the heart of its power: a mighty V8 engine, harmoniously paired with a full-time 4-wheel drive system and a rear locking differential to offer substantial off-road potential.

As you can see it in our comparison table, the Tahoe’s ground clearance is no slouch either, ranging between a commendable 7.9 to 10.1 inches depending on the chosen trim, paving the way for a smooth and powerful venture into rugged landscapes.

Flexible Configurations for Adventurous Souls

Based on our comparison test, one of the striking features of the Tahoe is its readiness to adapt to various off-road demands, facilitated by a flexible tire configuration. Straight from the factory, it comes fitted with 32-inch tires, yet it graciously accommodates 33-inch variants without needing significant alterations.

For those seeking to ramp up its off-road prowess, it can comfortably house 35-inch tires and, with further modifications, can even mount gigantic 37 or 40-inch tires, transforming it into a true behemoth on the trails. The aftermarket complements this versatility, offering a range of lift kits that span from simple leveling solutions to pre-runner-style setups ideal for off-road racing enthusiasts.

A Companion for Every Budget and Venture

The Tahoe doesn’t just impress with its adaptability but also shines in catering to a broad spectrum of budgets and needs. Whether you’re eyeing a brand-new truck laden with the latest features or considering a seasoned GMT800 Tahoe with a rich history encapsulated in its odometer, you’ll find an option that meets your requirements perfectly.

Furthermore, its generous size and abundant cargo space make it an excellent candidate for overlanding and adventure projects, promising both comfort and functionality in one package. However, prospective buyers looking to tackle more technical trails might find its size a bit challenging, in which case, exploring our top 1-3 contenders could be a prudent choice. The Tahoe, therefore, stands as a testament to American craftsmanship, offering a potent blend of space, power, and adaptability that suits a variety of adventurous spirits.

Big V8, Big Wheels, Big Ground Clearance, Big gas bills:)

  • Depending on a trim, the ground clearance ranges from 7.9 up to 10.1”
  • Comes stock with 32s or even 33″s (Z71) and easily accepts 33s without any serious modifications.
  • Comfortably rocks 35s and can be put on even bigger 37 or 40” tires.
  • The aftermarket offers plenty of lift kits starting from basic leveling kits up to pre-runner-style long travel off-road racing setups.
  • Thanks to the sheer size and plenty of cargo space it may be a perfect choice for overlanding and adventure projects.
  • Though the size and weight may be a disadvantage if your goal is tuckling more technical trails. If it’s the case, look at our top 1-3 contenders.
  • No matter what is your budget, you will be able to find a proper tahoe to suit your requirements, whether it’s a brand new truck with plenty of options or a used GMT800 Tahoe with many miles on the odo.

#10 Big Ford Expedition is Built Tough

FORD Expedition 4th generation with Icon suspension lift
The Ford Expedition stands as a monumental figure in the world of off-road SUVs, encapsulating the grandeur and boldness that American vehicles are known for.

Sporting an impressive nearly 10 inches of ground clearance, it wears some of the largest stock tires in the category, sizing up at 32 inches. This giant is practically begging to tread the less beaten path, and with minimal modifications, can effortlessly accommodate 33-inch tires. To truly unleash its beastly potential on rugged terrains, one might consider installing a high-end lift kit, which coupled with racing shocks and remote reservoirs, can transform this SUV into an off-road titan, list like this Expy on 37″ off road tires.

For the wanderlust stricken adventurers, the Expedition serves as a reliable companion, boasting vast cargo space that is simply perfect for overlanding journeys and grand expeditions. However, the aftermarket support for this vehicle remains somewhat limited, offering basic upgrades and necessitating fabrication for more extensive modifications.

3 Rows Of Seats

In its core, the Expedition embodies versatility and substantiality, all packed into a full-size, three-row SUV that doesn’t do things by halves. Not just a powerhouse, it also promises space and comfort, accommodating up to 8 passengers without a hitch. This means you can take your whole family or a group of friends on exciting adventures without compromising on comfort. Its generous cargo space stands as a testament to its readiness for overland adventures and off-road expeditions, ensuring that you can carry all necessary equipment and amenities with you.

Full-Size

However, this massive structure comes with its own set of challenges, especially when maneuvering through highly technical trails where its large and heavy build might not be the best fit. Despite this, for those seeking an imposing companion for their explorations, offering both power and comfort, the Ford Expedition emerges as a strong contender, ready to make a substantial mark in the off-road world.

Key Facts:

  • Stock ground clearance of 10” and 32”tires
  • 33”s fit with little to no mods. 35s and even 37s are possible with further modifications.
  • Can accommodate up to 8 passengers
  • Huge cargo space makes it perfect for overland adventures and off-road expeditions
  • This rig is pretty large and heavy, and may not be the best choice for highly technical trails

#11 Nissan Xterra – Budget Off-road Beast

Best Budge SUV for Offroading Nissan Xterra
In our comparison chart, the 2005-2015 Nissan Xterra stands out as one of the most budget-friendly options for off-road enthusiasts. Read more about this Nissan Xterra overland adventure build in our special feature.

This vehicle doesn’t hold back when it comes to delivering essential features one would seek in a 4×4 vehicle. Its part-time 4WD, low range, and rear locking differentials, coupled with short overhangs to enhance approach and departure angles, offer an enticing package for those keen on off-road adventures. Back in its heyday, it even posed a significant challenge to the Jeep Wrangler when it came to unpaved terrain performance, showcasing its prowess in the off-road domain.

Built for Off-roading

Built to traverse the rugged paths less traveled, the Xterra comes with a ground clearance of 9.1 inches in its stock form, promising a decent elevation from rocky and uneven terrains. Its tire setup is also noteworthy. Initially outfitted with 31-inch tires, it allows for easy upgrades, accommodating 33s and even 35s with the right lift kit. This feature ensures that enthusiasts have the flexibility to enhance their vehicle’s capabilities based on their off-roading demands, making it a versatile choice for many.

Easy To Maintain

Furthermore, the Xterra doesn’t just impress with its capabilities but also with its affordability and ease of maintenance. It makes a fantastic option for those looking to delve into serious off-roading without burning a hole in their pocket. While the aftermarket support might not be as extensive as some other models, it provides all the necessary components without the need for bespoke fabrications. Essentially, it serves as an excellent stepping stone for individuals transitioning from a compact AWD crossover, offering markedly superior 4×4 capabilities and introducing them to a new realm of off-road adventures.

Key Facts:

  • Ground clearance 9.1” in the stock form
  • Part-time 4WD, Low range, rear locking differentials
  • Affordable and easy to maintain
  • Comes with 31” tires and can be fitted with 33s and even 35”s with appropriate lift kit
  • The aftermarket support isn’t too wide, but you can get all you need without the need to fabricate stuff.
  • It’s an excellent choice to get your feet wet in some serious off-roading and a big step over a compact AWD crossover in terms of 4×4 capabilities.

#12 Porsche Cayenne – Where Luxury & Performance Meet Off-road

Luxury off road SUV porsche Cayenne 1st generation
Find out more about this lifted Porsche Cayenne build in our special feature.

When you first look at the Porsche Cayenne and its close relative, the Volkswagen Touareg MK1, you might think of them as just luxurious and high-performance SUVs. But these cars have a lot more to offer, especially if you’re keen on off-road adventures. Even though they are built differently from the more robust, traditional off-road vehicles, they still have quite a bit of strength and durability to tackle rough paths.

What sets them apart is their air suspension system which can adjust the ground clearance up to a remarkable 11.8 inches, a feature that gives them a significant edge over many rivals, including the Chevy Tahoe and the modern Defender. Some of these SUVs are equipped with rear lockers to enhance their off-road capabilities, drawing more and more fans who are starting to appreciate these SUVs’ potential in the off-road world.

Plenty Of Room For Improvement

Moving inside, the Cayenne and the Touareg MK1 wrap you in luxury and comfort, a world apart from the harsh terrains they can navigate. Their smooth driving experience on regular roads is something that not many 4x4s can match. They come with 31-inch wheels as standard, but you can easily switch to bigger 33-inch ones, and many off-road enthusiasts even go for the 35-inch wheels for their projects.

Growing Aftermarket Support & Community

Moreover, there’s a growing market of additional parts and upgrades specifically designed for these models, allowing owners to tweak and personalize their vehicles to match their off-road dreams. All in all, these luxury SUVs offer a great combination of class and function, slowly becoming a favorite choice for off-road adventures without sacrificing luxury and comfort. This Cayenne build is a perfect example.

See Also
Stylish Mazda CX30 With Subtle Mods And A/T Off-road Wheels

Key Facts:

  • High level of comfort and luxury features
  • Driving dynamics and on-road manners are unmatched by body-on-frame 4x4s
  • Rear lockers are available on certain models
  • Variable ground clearance of 7.4 – 11.8” on models with air suspension
  • Comes stock with 31” wheels, and relatively easy to upgrade to 33”s
  • 35”s are often installed on off-road projects
  • Growing aftermarket now offers a lot of model-specific upgrades

#13 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk (WK2)

Lifted Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk - midsize off road SUV
Read the full story behind this Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk in our build review.

In the vast pantheon of off-road capable SUVs, the Jeep Grand Cherokee WK2, particularly the Trailhawk trim level, has cemented its place as a powerhouse contender that harmoniously blends power and convenience. Its undeniable prowess emanates from a well-engineered heart; the Quadra-Drive II four-wheel-drive system, which is complemented by an electronic rear locker facilitating impeccable traction on uneven terrains.

Quadra-Lift Air Suspension System

But what really steals the show is the sophisticated Quadra-Lift air suspension system. This system, a marvel of modern automotive engineering, allows users to extend the ground clearance to an impressive nearly 11 inches, offering a dominating vantage point and formidable capability when navigating rugged landscapes. Additionally, the inclusion of Selec-Speed control and Hill Descent Control lends a hand in tackling steep terrains with measured precision and confidence.

33″s Will Work

However, it is pertinent for prospective owners to be aware of some limitations that come along with this mid-size SUV. While the Grand Cherokee WK2 Trailhawk stands tall with commendable off-road credentials, especially when fitted with appropriate tires, there are certain constraints to its modification potential. For instance, fitting it with 33-inch tires post a lift is a feasible venture, but upgrading to 35-inch tires might be pushing it a bit too far, potentially restricting the articulation of the suspension system.

Aftermarket Support

Moreover, the aftermarket support spectrum for this model isn’t as expansive as some off-road enthusiasts might hope for, making it a tad challenging to find accessories like off-road bumpers. Also, being a unibody SUV, it lacks the option for rock sliders, a feature sought after for enhanced off-road protection and versatility. Nonetheless, for those seeking a blend of comfort and off-road agility without venturing into extreme terrains, the Jeep Grand Cherokee WK2 remains a worthy contender.

#14 Land Rover Discovery LR3 /LR4

Lifted Land Rover Discovery 4 - Modern Off-roader With The Camel Trophy DNA
Read a detailed feature dedicated to this lifted Land Rover LR4.

At a glance, the Land Rover Discovery LR3/LR4 is a tangible testament to Land Rover’s unyielding commitment to merging luxury and off-road prowess. This modernized iteration of the esteemed Discovery lineage doesn’t hold back in offering an expansive and plush interior that cradles occupants in comfort, making it a dependable ally for both city drives and extended expeditions.

Unibody With Integrated Frame

Its unibody construction (with integrated frame, as per the manufacturer) offers a cohesive structural integrity that pairs harmoniously with a plethora of electronic features all engineered to amplify its off-road capabilities.

One of its crowning glories is the fully independent air suspension system, which integrates cross-linking functionality when off-road, a mechanism that guarantees smooth sailing even on the most rugged terrains. Coupled with a twin-range transfer case and an electronic infinitely variable locking center differential, it stands as a competent guardian against unpredictable terrains, promising a balanced and controlled ride.

Terrain Response

However, what truly sets the LR3/LR4 apart from other luxury SUVs is its Terrain Response system. This system emboldens drivers to venture where few dare, offering a myriad of programmable features meticulously designed to enhance traction in various environments, thus ensuring a firm grip and minimized slippage, whether navigating rocky trails or sandy dunes.

Oversized Tires

While its factory setup is nothing short of impressive, for those wishing to take its capabilities up a notch, the LR3/LR4 offers room for tire upgrades. A subtle tweak in the stock air suspension setup can facilitate the installation of 33-inch tires, essentially locking it in an elevated position to conquer more challenging landscapes. This adaptive nature, paired with its inherent off-road capabilities, certifies the Land Rover Discovery LR3/LR4 as a reliable companion for those craving adventures beyond the beaten path.

Key Facts:

  • Terrain Response system offers various programmable features to enhance traction
  • Fully independent air suspension with cross-linking when off-road
  • Ground Clearance on models with air suspension varies from 7.3 to 9.4”
  • Comes with stock 30” tires and enough space in the wheel wells to mount 33”s
  • Pretty attractive option on a used car market

#15 Jeep Cherokee XJ – an Iconic Off-road SUV from the 80s/90s

3-door Jeep Cherokee XJ with a 4.5 inch lift and steelies
Find out more about more about this lifted 3-door Cherokee on 33s in our exclusive feature.

The Jeep Cherokee XJ reigns as a veritable icon in the off-road world, embodying an almost legendary status among enthusiasts. While it boasts a lightweight unibody construction, it does not shy away from showcasing an impressive capability when faced with rugged terrains, despite its stock form lacking lockers.

Affordable & Capable

Its cost-effectiveness is another compelling feature, marking it as the most affordable option on our chart. Nevertheless, investing in fully built XJ Cherokees outfitted with the crème de la crème of aftermarket parts can see the price soaring well above the $20,000 mark. Its nostalgic aesthetics harkening back to the 80s and 90s hold a unique charm, particularly appealing to drivers on a budget who have a penchant for the vintage vibe coupled with modern performance.

The XJ ‘s ground clearance of 8.1 to 8.3 inches and a 28-inch factory wheels make it very similar to compact AWD crossovers. Yet, it’s part-time 4WD and low-range make set it towards the big 4×4 SUVs.
Moreover, the XJ stands as a beacon of durability, able to withstand considerable damage yet remaining relatively simple to repair, underscoring its robust nature.

Mounting Big Tires

For those looking to augment its capabilities further, the XJ can be safely upgraded to accommodate 33s or even 35s, promising an exhilarating off-road experience (aftermarket lockers are available too!). Enhancing its allure is the remarkable aftermarket support, paving the way for endless customization and upgrades, cementing its position as a perfect choice for budget-conscious drivers who appreciate its classy looks.

Key Facts

  • It’s stock ground clearance of 8.1 – 8.3” and 28” wheel size compare to modern compact AWD crossovers
  • Part-time 4WD, Low range, Aftermarket lockers are available
  • Very affordable, prone to damage, easy to fix
  • Can be safely upgraded to run 33s or even 35s
  • The aftermarket support is absolutely fantastic.
  • Perfect choice for drivers on budget who appreciate the 80s-90s looks.

Cons:

Pretty archaic and doesn’t have airbags.

Biggest Stock Tires

  1. Ford Bronco Raptor(New) – 37″
  2. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 – 35″
  3. Chevy Tahoe Z71 / Suburban – 33″
  4. Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro – 33″
  5. Toyota 4 Runner TRD OFF ROAD – 32″

Biggest Aftermarket Tire 

  1. Ford Bronco Raptor(New) 33-40″
  2. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 33-40″
  3. Chevy Tahoe Z71 / Suburban 33-37″
  4. Ford Expedition 33-37″
  5. Lexus GX, LX, Land Cruiser 33-37″

Best Off-road Tech

  1. Ford Bronco Raptor
  2. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392
  3. Mercedes G-Class
  4. Land Rover Defender

Best Stock Ground Clearance

  • Ford Bronco 8.4″ base – 13.1″ Raptor
  • Jeep Wrangler 9.7″  base – 12.8″ Rubicon 392
  • Porsche Cayenne / VW Touareg MK1/MK2 7.4 – 11.8″ (Air Suspension)
  • Land Rover Defender (new) 8.5 – 11.5″ (Air Suspension)
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee WK2 Trailhawk 8.1-10.8″ (Air Suspension)

Best by Water Fording Depth

  1. Land Rover Defender (Air suspension) – 35.4″
  2. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 – 33.6″
  3. Ford Bronco Raptor – 33.5″

Best Budget SUV for Off-roading

  1. Jeep Cherokee XJ
  2. Nissan X-Terra
  3. Porsche Cayenne / VW Touareg MK1
  4. Land Rover Discovery LR3 / LR4

Best 7+ Seater Full-Size SUV

  1. Chevy Tahoe Z71 / Suburban
  2. Ford Expedition
  3. Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro

How do we evaluate Best Off Road SUV?

To fairly evaluate each model on the quest to find the best off-road SUV and avoid bias, our team of experts decided to arrange the good old comparison table and assign a certain number of points to each vehicle in a certain category. This analytical approach will enable us to assign specific points to each contender in various crucial categories, reflecting their true off-road prowess.

Key comparison categories

1. Drivetrain: Assessing the availability and efficiency of 4×4 or All-Wheel Drive systems, which serve as the backbone for any off-roading vehicle, offering superior traction and control on unpredictable terrains.

2. Stock Ground Clearance: Evaluating the initial high ground clearance that promises seamless navigation across rocky and uneven landscapes without the fear of undercarriage damage. 1” equals 1 point in our comparison table.

3. Differential Lockers and Electronic Traction Enhancements: Scrutinizing the presence of differential lockers and other traction-enhancing devices that ensure a steady ride even on the slipperiest of surfaces, minimizing the chances of getting stuck. Center and/or rear lockers give 10 points. 5 extra points are assigned for the availability of the front lockers.

4. Secondary Off-road Features: Investigating the integration of features that augment the off-road capabilities, such as:
Rugged Construction: A design resilient to damages, ensuring longevity amidst frequent rough expeditions. A body-on-frame construction will be more beneficial here. We decided to assign extra 5 points to vehicles that utilize body-on-frame construction.
Approach and Departure Angles: Allowing the vehicle to tackle steep inclines and declines without sustaining damage to the front or rear bumpers.
Water Fording Abilities: Assessing the vehicle’s preparedness for deeper water crossings, including features such as snorkel intakes to prevent engine hydrolocking. 1” equals 1 point in our comparison table.

5. Suspension System: A closer look at the vehicle’s capability to adjust its suspension, promising smoother journeys even on bumpy trails.

6. Big Tire Compatibility: Evaluating the vehicle’s compatibility with oversized A/T and M/T off-road tires, which are known for their superior grip and durability in harsh conditions. 1” equals 1 point in our comparison table.

8. Aftermarket Upgrade Potential: Inspecting the ease of finding and installing aftermarket components to further enhance the vehicle’s off-road capabilities and personalization options. This parameter is somewhat subjective, but we decided to still include it into our calculations assigning 10 points to models with great aftermarket support (for example Jeep Wrangler).

9. Brand Heritage and Reliability: An analysis of the brand’s history and reputation in crafting reliable and proficient off-road vehicles. We don’t give any points in this category but it’s definitely an important factor that’s often taken into consideration when choosing a 4×4 vehicle.

Our aim is to present a fact-based view of each SUV, showcasing their strengths and pinpointing areas where they might lag, to help you find a companion that’s not just robust, but also perfectly aligned with your adventurous spirit.

Off Road SUVConstruction4WD TypeStock Ground ClearanceStock Tire SizeMax Wheel SizeFording depthAftermarket SupportLockersOverall Score
Ford BroncoBody-on-framepart-time 4WD8.4 - 13.13733-3733.58Front & Rear148.5
Jeep WranglerBody-on-framepart-time 4WD9.7 - 12.8353733.610Front & Rear147.6
Land Rover Defender (new)Unibodyfull-time 4WD8.5 - 11.5303535.45Front & Rear131.4
Lexus GX, LX, Body-on-framefull-time 4WD8.9 - 9.131.53727.59Rear131
Mercedes G-WagonBody-on-framefull-time 4WD9.5313527.58Front & Rear130.5
Toyota 4 Runner TRD OFF ROADBody-on-framepart-time 4WD9.6323527.510Rear129.5
Toyota FJ-CruiserBody-on-framepart-time 4WD9.6323527.510Rear128.5
Chevy Tahoe / SuburbanBody-on-framepart-time 4WD7.9 - 10.13335-37249Rear128
Toyota Sequoia TRD ProBody-on-framePart-time 4WD9.1333527.55Rear124.5
Ford ExpeditionBody-on-framefull-time 4WD9.83235-37254Rear123
Nissan X-TerraBody-on-framepart-time 4WD9.1313523.68Rear121.6
Porsche Cayenne / VW Touareg MK1/MK2Unibodyfull-time AWD7.4 - 11.8313519.75Rear111.7
Jeep Grand Cherokee WK2 TrailhawkUnibodyfull-time 4WD8.1-10.83033205Rear106
Land Rover Discovery LR3 / LR4Unibodyfull-time 4WD7.3 - 9.4303327.53Rear102.5
Jeep Cherokee XJUnibodypart-time 4WD8.1 - 8.328352010No Factory101

Comparing Apples to Apples at Least On Paper

Back to the topic of the absolute best off-road SUV it’s safe to say that there is one natural equalizer that can put them all on the same line and help us to find the BEST contender – it’s a deep mud puddle, ditch or an obstacle that you may encounter on your way in the forest. The outcome is simple – only the most capable SUV will make it through, and it doesn’t matter how much you purchased it for.

Of course not all of the vehicles in our comparison table are created equally. They differ in size, price, equipment etc. so it’s fair to divide them into classes and compare them to each other, and that’s what we did in other articles. If interested you can read our Best AWD Crossovers, Best Luxury SUV, Best Mid Size SUV, Best Overland SUV, Best Budget SUV, Best Daily Driver SUV, Bes SUV for big Families.

Conclusion

In conclusion, our comprehensive chart serves as a testament to the vast and versatile world of off-road SUVs, presenting a range of options that cater to varying budgets and specifications. Each vehicle highlighted stands as a beacon of remarkable off-road performance, promising an unparalleled opportunity to delve into the magnificence of the great outdoors. From the budget-friendly choices that offer impressive capabilities right off the bat to the luxurious variants that provide a harmonious blend of comfort and off-road prowess, there is something to suit every adventurer’s taste and preference.

The aftermarket support for these SUVs ranges widely, with some enjoying a rich ecosystem of model-specific upgrades ready to elevate their performance to unprecedented heights. Others, meanwhile, present a blank canvas, inviting enthusiasts to channel their creativity in fabricating and customizing parts for a truly personalized off-road warrior. Regardless of their starting point, each of these vehicles holds the potential to morph into a formidable off-road companion with the right enhancements. Thus, whether you are a seasoned explorer seeking serious off-road machinery or a novice eager to embark on your first outdoor escapade, rest assured that our curated selection of SUVs will not only meet but exceed your expectations, fostering a deeper connection with the vibrant world that lies beyond the paved roads.

Sources:

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