Off-roading can be for the adrenaline-pump or even for public entertainment if you're a professional and doing professional driving. From gravel, mud, and snow to riverbeds, ruts, and rocks, you have the option of taking any of the vehicles listed here for fun.
That’s what Carl Jantz did after learning about his cancer and limited time on Earth. Not wanting to give in to destiny, he packed his Jeep and went on the Alaska Off-Road race with Rich Rudman. And you should see what they traveled with. Their “Super Jeep” carried everything from camping to cooking to cleaning equipment. From being stuck in swamps to smoke coming out of the hood, they saw it all, fixed it all, and were eventually named the winners of the race.
While that was a whole new level of off-roading, most people buy off-roaders to make it through the snow, if living in wintery places, or because they need it for their occasional off-road endeavors over the weekend, perhaps alone, perhaps with friends or maybe with kids. But yes, most of the off-roaders listed aren't solely designed for off-roading; most owners use these vehicles for their daily driving, and then take them on excursions here and there.
Some of these are pickups, some SUVs. But at the end of the day, all are beasts, beasts that can traverse terrains unvisited or rarely visited by the average human.
20 Mercedes-Benz G500
Mercedes-Benz is arguably one of the most reputable automakers out there. So, it’s no surprise that the G-Class, aka G-Wagen, or Gelandewagen (“cross-country vehicle”), as the Germans would call it, makes it on the list. It’s hard to imagine that a Shah of Iran—who at that time was a significant Mercedes shareholder—suggested the early version of G500 to the executives of Mercedes-Benz. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Mercedes came up with an SUV for military personnel in the 1970s. A civilian version was released in 1979, but that wasn't available to the folks in the States until 2002. The 4WD SUV has seen drastic improvements in the interior, keeping pace with current times. The exterior—and this is a compliment—is the same old body-on-frame built, much like the military one.
19 Ram Rebel
Just a look at the Rebel might cause fear in children because it’s designed not only for on-road but also for off-road use. It’s essentially your “Bro Truck,” the kind of thing that you would brag about with your bros. Available in the half-ton truck series, it features all you need in a full-size pickup truck. To start, the blacked-out grille is formidable, and the word “RAM” itself stands out against the black background. In front of the grille is a powder-coated bumper; the underside has skid plates to provide protection from damage in harsh terrains. Talking about harsh terrains, you also have the fog lights in addition to the headlamps with LED marker lights. To make it special, the parent company equipped the RAM with an aluminum sports hood.
18 Land Rover Range Rover
One day, Doug DeMuro, a car enthusiast and writer, got an email from one of his readers, asking him if he’d like to go off-roading. Without a second thought, he accepted the offer, going in his Range Rover. A total of three people made the trip, with all of them driving their own cars—a Range Rover, a lifted Jeep Wrangler, and a 1983 Toyota Land Cruiser. While they came back at some point after all three cars had gotten stuck in a difficult situation, DeMuro had a blasting time. The leather-lined cabin was brimming with modern-day luxuries, while the outside seamlessly traversed large rocks, steep hills, large quantities of bird poop, and deep ruts without much difficulty. All that happened in 2014. Just imagine what the 2018 Range Rover holds.
17 2018 Lexus GX
Usually, I don’t like to kill the suspense by stating the name of another car in the not-that-car’s entry, but I have to do it here for comparison. The GX is shorter and narrower than the Lexus LX. The body of the GX is more truck-like and right-angled than the luxurious and soothing interior of the LX. Considered separately from the LX, the GX is a good SUV with a posh interior and a roomy cabin. As far as the off-road aspects are concerned, that’s why you would probably want to buy it. With added ground clearance from the adaptive air suspension, you’re on your way to the trail. Its towing capacity is nothing over the top but still doable at 6,500 lbs. What’s more doable is the price, some $30,000 less than the LX.
16 Nissan Titan XD PRO-4X Diesel
Named after the Greek mythological Titans—deities that represented exceptional strength—the pickup Titan seems to have followed suit since 2003. Production of the second-generation vehicles began in 2015 and have been going solid since. While there's the option of a 5.6-liter gasoline V-8 engine coupled with a seven-speed automatic, the 5-liter turbo-diesel V-8 mated to a six-speed automatic steals the show. Now, the turbo-diesel engine is sourced from Cummins, a well-known performer. The V-8 can generate 310 HP and 555 lb-ft of torque. It’s for those of you who want something more than a light-duty truck but not exactly a truck with heavy-duty prowess. Staying true to its Hulk-like strength, it has a towing capacity of 11,784 lb.
15 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland
Of course, a Jeep is going to be on the list of off-road beasts. The full-size luxury crossover SUV is in its fourth generation, with the first generation going as far back as 1993. The Overland model provides not only an appealing exterior and a plush interior and hood but also a V-6 diesel engine, which has decent acceleration. But if you need more acceleration, a more powerful V-8 engine is available for harsher terrains. The gas mileage is “meh,” but that’s not a good reason to own an off-road beast in the first place. You want to own this because you're a six-foot-3-inch tall guy who doesn’t want to bang his head each time you get into your car to explore that forest track. If that's true for you, well, you picked the right vehicle—it also has excellent legroom.
14 Ford Super Duty
Distinct from the light-duty trucks in the Ford F-Series due to a separate bodywork and chassis, the Super Duty is another off-road beast you need to see. It still retains the high-strength military-grade aluminum-alloy body. Despite adding heavier-duty frame, the 2017 Super Duty weighs less than the comparable 2016 model. You can buy this beast in various engine models, mild to wild - a 6.2-liter gasoline V-8, a 6.8-liter V10, to name a few, with the 6.7-liter diesel V8 being available in all versions. Some models, like the Crew Cab, offer 48-gallon fuel capacity. The Super Duty offers the FX4 Off-Road package, which includes Rancho shocks, skid plates for the underside and fuel tank (a good idea; you don’t want to damage the fuel tank!), and the like. By no means are these options not great, but as you'll see, it's not as great as the pickup Ford created just for off-roading.
13 Ram Power Wagon
The Power Wagon has quite an extensive history, going as far back as the World War II—when the vehicle was designed to defeat the Axis. A few years later, it came with the intention of taking the public on off-road adventures, and it continues to do that to this day.
It has spectacular dimensions. Not only is it meant for driving in monstrously horrendous conditions, but it also looks monstrous—especially with the 14.3-inch ground clearance, giving even the taller folks some trouble with the entry into the pickup. It has an up-to-date suspension system and shocks for axle control. The latest technology and design equip the Power Wagon with not only the ability to traverse sand dunes adjacent to the Valley of Fire and any imaginable terrain but also a towing capacity of 10,030 lb.
12 Toyota Land Cruiser
Maybe they should’ve named this "All-Land Cruiser" because, at the end of the day, that’s what it is. It has a 360-degree camera, an enormous navigation screen, an adaptive cruise control, automatic cabin-seat ventilations, and a separate infotainment system for the rear-seat passengers. Peek in the hood, and you'll see the V8 engine produces a considerable amount of HP. Inspect the suspension system, and you'll see independent front and rear suspensions meant to smoothen your ride. But the technology only gets better. There's Crawl Control, which essentially is a cruise control for off-road driving. You remove your foot from the pedal, and it uses sensors to “crawl” along the path, accelerating, decelerating or maintaining speed, depending on the road conditions ahead. It might be a little pricey, though, at $85,000.
11 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
The 4Runner has been in the market since the 1980s. Over the recent years, it's undergone significant development. Starting from the 2015 model, the TRD Pro trim level was an option in the US. TRD stands for Toyota Racing Development and acts as the in-house tuning shop for the Toyota brand, upgrading looks and performance. The TRD Pro comes in only an exclusive color—cavalry blue is representative of the 2018 model. The TRD Pro is equipped with multi-mode traction tires that will give you the ability to ride through snow, ice, sleet, and rock alike. There's also the Crawl Control that will come in handy off the pavement; the TRD Pro also has a rear differential lock. Overall, you can’t go wrong with the 4Runner TRD Pro.
10 Ford Raptor
Originating from the Ford F-Series, the SVT Raptor came to light in 2009. It was introduced as a dedicated off-road, full-size pickup truck, which is distinct from your regular F-Series trucks. Its 3.5-liter V6 engine, which is paddle-shifted to a 10-speed automatic, gives you a whopping 450 HP. Should you need to accelerate rather quickly through the patch of muddy road, feel free to take advantage of the near-5 seconds 0-60 mph time. With the all-wheel drive, each axle—and each tire—receives the power, which the tires should, as they look nice and ready to tackle the adventure with you. Much like the RAM, this one has dampers and an underside skid, along with the other standard stuff. The bumpers are a bit stylish, although, not as “full” as Ram’s Rebel. Unfortunately, Ford doesn’t produce the Raptor anymore.
9 Nissan Patrol
The four-wheel-drive SUV is made in Japan and sold throughout the world. In production since 1951, currently, the Patrol is in its sixth generation. Since 2017, all models had the same seven-speed automatic transmission, unlike the previous models, which had options of a five- or six-speed automatic. This off-roader offers locking front and rear differentials, extra wheel articulation through the disconnecting sway bar, and the Hydraulic Body Motion Control suspension system, all of which provide the amazing off-road prowess. Now, Nissan has released the Armada, which is a derivative of the Patrol, for US customers. The Armada is not truly as good of an off-road SUV as the Patrol, though, but the Patrol isn't sold in the US due to cost effectiveness and return on investment.
8 Lexus LX
You might internally berate me for putting another costly vehicle on the list, but save that for an actual pricey item down the list. I think I was writing about SUVs when I first boasted about LX’s off-road capabilities. But before I dive into that, let’s not forget the due credit to the luxury brand name, something that only the Mercedes—and another one!—has on the list. The SUV’s Spindle Grille looks sharp, although the sedan model gets it completely right. Anyways, the LX also packs an electro-hydraulic suspension and a multi-terrain select system; the former helps with keeping the car level and bouncy as needed, and the latter changes the traction and response according to the landscape. These are on top of what the Land Cruiser offers.
7 Bentley Bentayga
If you ever have the kind of money that Bentayga requires at near-$200,000, you should put this on the top of your list. Like some of the other beasts here, the Bentayga has amazing off-road capabilities. The only difference is that luxury isn’t compromised off-road. You can still start your endeavor of going through the slimy roads, treacherous ruts, swampy lands, and steep roads with an infant sleeping in the back, and once you get through the hurdle, the infant will still be asleep. The engine doesn’t start making obnoxiously loud noises once it’s in the middle of the storm. The ground clearance of the SUV is markedly high at 10 inches, and the power is tremendous—the 6-liter twin-turbo W12 produces 600 HP, 663 lb-ft of torque, and a 4-second 0-60 mph time. The on-road numbers aren’t the weakness of Bentayga, either.
6 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
Actually named after the state Colorado, the mid-size pickup has earned accolades from all over the 50 states. The Colorado was introduced in 2004, replacing Chevrolet S-10/GMC Sonoma compact pickups. Although the LT trim is the most common, the base trim has 16-inch steel wheels, vinyl seating surfaces, power windows and door locks, and a chrome front grille. The ZR2 is the off-road version. It has off-road tires, aluminum-alloy wheels, leather-trimmed seats, and a rear bed-mounted light bar. All these will make your ride more doable in the off-road conditions. The tapered bumper is new to the model, which allows the front wheels to have more “legroom.” And by no means does that demolish the look for the ZR2, for the exterior looks sharp as ever.
5 Land Rover Discovery
The Brits also have a couple of good rides on their little island, from Jaguar to Lotus to Aston Martin. While the Land Rover Discovery wasn't listed among those rides due to its class, be assured the Discovery is a true discoverer. I intentionally chose this picture to display the feats of the 2018 Land Rover Discovery. It made it through the extremely slippery and steep terrain shown in the picture. Despite probably being a better-than-average driver, I’m sure the driver couldn’t see squat from his high cabin—but he came down without damaging the jutting flora or the Discovery. Equipped with either a 340-HP V-6 or a 254-HP turbo-diesel V-6 and the off-road electronics, you can ride it through a relatively shallow pool of water in the viscous bottom as if it’s no biggie. And it probably isn’t for the Discovery.
4 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL
Considered a legendary off-road vehicle, the Wrangler is now in its fourth generation. And the fourth generation is just spectacular. It has some improvements but also some new features. You don’t have to worry about zippers in the Sunrider soft tops; just push at the right places, and it'll fold properly. Of course, you've got the ability to fold flat the windshield on your off-road adventures. Certain models allow you to remove the side windows, and like in the previous models, the doors can also be removed with the given tools in the new Wrangler JL. Don’t worry; you won’t lose the tools because they're nicely stowed in the cargo area. You can essentially disassemble it in pieces for your convenience. You can take this car wherever your heart desires—you don’t go on a trail with the Wrangler JL; you create one.
3 Scorpion MK1
They stopped producing this beast decades ago. One look at it, and you'll know why. It can do “illegal” things in the arena of off-road vehicles. The one you're looking at was built in 1978 (assuming production began a year before the model was released). Its creators? Who else if not Jeep? If you look closely at the picture, you can see that the boulders are taller than the tires, yet it got up there. And it’s not as if someone brought a crane, lifted the beast up, placed it such that one of the front tires landed on a stone and one of the rear tires on another boulder. It’s like all four tires are at different angles, at various heights. But that's feasible because the axles do provide 90 degrees-plus approach and departure angles. What a beast! It used to frequently be used in government endeavors.
2 Mercedes-Benz Unimog
While the Scorpion MK1 was what it was, the medium truck Unimog is something even more. It’s seen serving a wide array of functions in much of Europe; however, the same can’t be said of in the US, where only the modified versions make it and, even then, in limited quantities. But the Unimog is a beast for all types of terrains—the drivetrain is modified to do various specialty tasks, including mowing and towing; doing railroad maintenance and construction work; and serving as military vehicles. Unimogs can operate in deep water and access the inaccessible remote areas due to the design and powertrain; the ground clearance itself is half a meter. While I showed this cool picture of a civilian Unimog, they're more widely used in the military.
1 Custom-Built Tube Frame Off-Roader
There's probably only one thing that beats the Unimog: a vehicle created by the genius you. If you have the expertise or even the enthusiasm, you can create your own off-roader. Want the wheels to have more approach and departure angle? You got it. Want to have the biggest tires on the planet? You have it. Want that V-8 instead of the V-6? Sure, give it a shot. Want the top-notch suspensions instead of the standard ones? Have a go at it. Even if you have the necessary experience, it’s a good idea to learn the tools of welding, though. Now, if you don’t have any experience in off-roading or cars, then you might consider all the others on the list; but if you know what you want, you can make it happen.
Sources: roadandtrack.com; fltruck.com; motortrend.com;