Who doesn't love a hefty off-roading machine made to play in the mud? Whether it's a domestic brand like Ford or a foreign make like Land Rover, there are a plethora of vehicles to choose from to make your day in the outback enjoyable. Having to narrow it down to only 10 SUVs is like trying to name your favorite grandparent! Darn near impossible! The only thing that makes this bearable is that it's a list of SUVs and not trucks AND SUVs. That automatically eliminates vehicles like the Ford Raptor or Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro that are well known as "mud muckers". But that doesn't diminish the list of SUVs that are must-haves. Here's a look at the top 10 must-own SUVs if you love off-roading!
10 Suzuki Samari
While the Suzuki Samari is actually a mini-SUV, almost to the point of them being compared to a roller skate, it is an SUV none the less. The Samari is long known and beloved for being the vehicle that could. Its little imprint on the road doesn't stop it from being capable. It's four-wheel-drive system and humble 4 cylinder engine push through even the toughest terrain, even alongside some of its more big-boned rivals like Jeep. Similar to the Jeep Wrangler, the Samari was also configurable. You had the option of a soft-top or hard top for example and were even able to apply the shorter front seat only shade called a bikini top. The options were nearly endless with engine swap options (as long as they fit in the engine bay). Wheel options were another aspect that put extra appeal into this tiny 4x4 as well as lift kits that make it a fierce and fun off-road toy.
9 1990's Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Grand Cherokee of the 1990s is a great example of comfort and off-road ability, combing into what can be best described as a family hauler. Unlike the Samari, the Grand Cherokee was much more refined in its ride (although still rode like an SUV). It came with more plush, comfortable seats a v-6 engine and a higher level trim that would outfit the vehicle in leather. You may even get a moon roof if that suits your fancy. The Grand Cherokee, although a more luxurious choice, still had plenty of mud splashing capability on the unpaved road. True to its Jeep heritage, its body on frame architecture was sturdy and capable.
8 1990's Jeep Cherokee
Speaking of the "Jeep heritage", its Cherokee nameplate was just as its model indicates dropping the word "grand" making it a "station wagon" of true dirt road prowess. There was nothing luxurious about this SUV, having only cloth seats and little to no refinement on the road. Its seats were only marginally comfortable and barely supportive on long trips. Its suspension was leaf spring-based with coils to balance the ride making it slightly less bouncy than its sibling the Wrangler. This model Jeep was a true testament to brand loyalty. On paper, it had only moderate mpg, had a rough, bouncy ride and lackluster interior. Why would the driving public come to love these boxy SUVs? One reason, its off-road ability! (Not to mention they were produced for many years virtually unchanged making parts cheap and easily swappable!)
7 1990's Ford Bronco
The Ford Bronco is another off-roading classic, whether its light-duty unpaved roads in the country or bashing it up on rural terrain only suitable for 4x4s. While this SUV had a more humble beginning, the Bronco of the late 1980s and '90s is a wide-body, five-seater v-8 that is hungry for mud! Also, configurable with or without a top, this vehicle is now highly sought after by both collectors and 4 wheelers alike! Its high ground clearance and brawny v-8 power make it fun to drive with the pedal to the medal. Complimenting that with its go-anywhere 4x4 system and you can clearly see why this beast made the list! It's so popular that Ford is bringing it back in 2020!
6 1980's Toyota Land Cruiser FJ 62
Not to be confused with the FJ 40 (Jeep look-alike), this version of the Japanese SUV was "wagon" version of the FJ series better know in the US as plainly the Land Cruiser. With four doors and a lift gate in the rear this six-cylinder "power wagon" is still in production today some 60 years later! Its inspiration was the Jeep CJ or later known as the Wrangler. Between Toyota's reputation for being as reliable as the day is long, and outback rugged capability, the Land Cruiser series earned its way to the top by proving its ruggedness over time. The Land Cruiser FJ62 however, is a more luxurious version than its siblings, offering fuel injection and a/c along with power windows and even leather heated seats!
5 197o's Toyota FJ 40
On the very subject of the Land Cruiser line up, the "Jeep" look-alike small two door SUV is one of Toyota's most iconic vehicles on the road. It took the Jeep styling and combined it with Toyota's long-standing reputation for reliability. This vehicle can do everything on and off-road that the Jeep can do, only it doesn't require all the attention of a Jeep. Collectors and off-roaders are widely seeking good examples of these SUVs and the price verifies its demand. While they are still widely popular, Toyota stopped making these for the US market back in 2014. Its too bad they aren't around anymore to take on the open road one last time.
4 1985 Land Rover Range Rover
Land Rover has long been a choice for the British driver who needs both style and rough terrain ability. This version of the Range Rover is a classic example of that. While popular in the US as well, this model is well known around the world for being able "take a licking and keep on ticking". But don't let that off-road ruggedness fool you. You don't have to suffer as a passenger in this SUV. Just because you want to drive down the unbeaten path doesn't mean you have to feel every bump along the way. Land Rover has successfully carved out its niche for refinement and luxury in a 4x4 package many have come to love.
3 2000's Nissan Xterra
The Nissan Xterra is a classic body on frame SUV that takes no prisoners. While Nissan has discontinued production of these vehicles in 2015, many are still fond of them today. It offered only 2 model trims and no real luxury options but that's exactly why this SUV held its place on this list! The XTerra was ready for nearly anything you could throw at it. Whether be mud, rain, snow, or ice, it accepted the challenge. While the interior was simple yet comfortable, it was most enjoyed by people who wanted rugged capability without all the frills of some of the other SUVs on the market. In other words, you could get it dirty and bang it up with little regard of ruining a high-end interior. It was truly made to play in the dirt with 4x4 traction.
2 Land Rover Defender 110
The Defender series 110 is a unique offering for Land Rover since it's fashioned after what US buyers would say is "safari" style. With high oval-shaped windows in the rear and most often baring a cargo roof rack, this is one sharp truck! While its off-road prowess is second to none, early versions of this SUV had two-wheel drive as an option. Needless to say, that was quickly dropped from their offering when the buying public nearly ignored it.
1 1987 Jeep Wrangler (YJ)
And, finally, the Jeep Wrangler. The tried and true small SUV that started it all, literally. Many of the aforementioned vehicles like the Toyota FJ 40 or the Land Rover Defender were inspired by this American 4x4! Of course, the Wrangler nameplate came only in the YJ model series prior to being known as CJ-5 or the later CJ-7. The Wrangler while its reliability is faulty at times, its capability is not! This rig can literally go almost anywhere and no questions asked it'll return in one piece! Having owned on and having taken it off-roading, there is no hype about it. The Wrangler is a true beast on and off-road fully able to take on whatever life throws at you-paved or not!