The 5 Best Off-Road SUVs Of All Time

Jeep driving through mud.

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Nothing says “adventure” more than off-roading. If you’re the kind of guy who likes to tread off the beaten track and explore where others dare not, you’re going to need a vehicle to match. That’s where off-road SUVs come in. What would you say are the best off-road SUVs of all time?

SUVs — a.k.a Sport Utility Vehicles — have a large with a high right height, elevated seating positions and an expansive cargo area. They’re more robust and utilitarian than other everyday vehicles. Nowadays, SUVs come in all shapes and sizes. This list will cover the 5 best off-road SUVs of all time. 

The Best Of The Best Off-Roaders

Here’s a brief introduction. This list not only covers vehicles purchasable today, but also ones that left their mark on the SUV industry.

1. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Jeep is one of the first that comes to mind when you think of off-road vehicles. Of all the vehicles under Jeep’s label, the Rubicon stands out as a rugged and fuel-efficient machine. 

The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon comes with a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine. Equipped with an 8-speed automatic transmission, the engine produces 260 hp of horsepower and 442 pounds of torque outputs. Combine that with Jeep’s incredible four-wheel drive and you’ve got the makings of a top off-road contender. 

2. Land Rover Defender

Land Rovers are usually in direct competition with Jeeps when it comes to rugged SUVs and the Defender is a worthy rival. This 4X4 beast eschews the traditional body-on-frame design for a new aluminum monocoque frame that makes the body of the SUV impressively strong while also allowing for improvements to the suspension. 

The result is a callous yet technologically sophisticated machine that can handle almost any situation. For those who want an EV option, the Defender 110 has a plug-in hybrid option that can do 27 miles on electricity alone. 

3. AM General Hummer/Hummer H1

The Hummer brand is still building successful off-road vehicles today, but nothing made an impression quite like the original AM General — known today as the Hummer H1. Originally manufactured in 1995, the Hummer H1 was designed to be the U.S. soldier’s constant companion. With a drivetrain and four-wheel suspension that provided a massive 16 inches of ground clearance, this was the ultimate off-road vehicle of its time. 

In 1999, GM bought the Hummer license and, seeing how iconic it had become, created versions of the H1 for the civilian market. The rest, as they say, is history. 

4. Subaru Outback

Another rival of Jeep, the Subaru Outback, is another name that often comes up on top lists for off-road vehicles. A classic for outdoor enthusiasts, the Outback has been ferrying many adventurers into the wilds since 1998.

Time has been good to the Outback — the latest models, like the Outback Wilderness, combine its signature toughness and all-wheel drive with Subaru’s latest iterations of their EyeSight and X-Mode technology. All of this makes for a vehicle with brains and brawn in equal measure. If you’re the kind of adventurer that likes to be prepared for anything, the Outback might be the right choice for you.

5. Ford Bronco

Many give the Bronco credit for creating the market for SUVs in America. If there was a Hollywood for off-road vehicles, it would have a gold star on the walk of fame.

Unfortunately, the Bronco floundered once competition in the market started getting intense. In 1996, Ford canned the Bronco line of vehicles and started the Expedition series in its place. However, in 2021 Ford revived the Bronco and gave it a modern-day makeover. 

The 2021 Bronco comes with two options for engines. The first is a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine with 300 horsepower and 325 pounds of torque. The second is a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 330 horsepower and 415 pounds of torque. That’s just the beginning of the customizable features the Bronco has to offer.

Although its suspension isn’t as great as its competition, it makes up for it by offering an independent front suspension design far superior to the solid-front-axle method.

The Different Kinds Of Body Construction

Here are some facts regarding the different types of construction that guys savvy about the more technical side of things will find helpful. While the differences may not be as pronounced today, there are still some aspects that might affect your choices if you’re in the market for an off-road SUV. 

The main split between crossovers and SUVs is the frame. SUVs use body-on-frame construction — a skeleton of two parallel rails connected by stiffeners. Like the bones of humans, this frame holds the entire car together. It houses all the essential parts like the engine, suspension, wheels and more. The vehicle’s body is placed on top of the frame like a hat on a head.

In contrast, a unibody is an entire frame and body constructed as one. This distributes the weight throughout the entire vehicle instead of just the frame.

There are a lot of advantages to a unibody frame. Vehicles constructed this way are lighter and stiffer, which improves mileage. Unibody vehicles are also designed to fold in the event of a crash, potentially reducing the force of impact. Handling on a unibody vehicle is generally better because there is room to make the steering and suspension more stable. 

However, a body-on-frame design is considered by most to be better for off-roading. Body-on-frame is less stiff and heavier, allowing it to handle rough terrain with minor damage. In fact, body-on-frame vehicles are tougher than unibody overall — and if a part needs replacing, it’s much easier to do so. 

Driving the Best Off-road SUVS of All Time

Every adventurer has a constant companion. For frontiersmen like Lewis and Clark, it was their horses. For the 21st-century man, it’s an SUV. While it might not be as good for the company as a horse, an SUV will still take care of you no matter where in the world you decide to go.

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