If you’re in the market for a sport utility vehicle with four-wheel drive, odds are you’re planning to do something a bit more aggressive than drive the kids to soccer practice in it. The best four-wheel drive SUVs offer robust construction and go-anywhere capability. If you need a vehicle capable of transporting you over any type of terrain you might encounter, this is the automotive category to consider. The good news is these capabilities can be had across a broad price spectrum and with a wide array of comfort and convenience features. Here’s a selection of the best four-wheel drive SUVs currently available.
The Dodge Durango combines sturdy construction with comfort and a premium look and feel at a relatively affordable price point. With seating for up to seven, the Durango also offers a great deal of versatility. While it isn’t one of the more capable machines off road, Durango offers up to 7,400 pounds of towing capacity. To get four-wheel drive, you’ll order the 5.7-liter V8 with 360 horsepower and 390 ft-lbs of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and a two-speed transfer case complete the powertrain. Standard features include tri-zone automatic climate control, heated exterior mirrors, and a touchscreen interface. Pricing starts at $42,195 for a four-wheel drive equipped Durango R/T.
Jeep’s Wrangler has a pedigree going all the way back to the 1940s when it was developed for the U.S. military to use during World War II. Standard features include cruise control, front and rear tow hooks, foglights, and a removable top. Power comes from a 3.6-liter V6 with 285 horsepower and 260 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed manual transmission with hill-start assist is standard, but a five-speed automatic with hill start assist and hill descent control can be had as an option. A variety of four-wheel drive choices include short gearing configurations with upgraded transfer cases, and an extra-low gear ratio for rock crawling. Wrangler pricing starts at $22,695.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the most capable vehicles on the market when it comes to four-wheeling. A variety of 4x4 drive systems are offered, along with an optional off-road specific package with an adjustable air suspension system giving the Grand Cherokee up to 11.3 inches of ground clearance. Because of this, you can tailor Jeep’s flagship to your particular needs. Power output ranges from 240 horsepower and 420 ft-lbs of torque for the diesel to 475 horsepower and 470 ft-lbs of torque for the street-oriented GC SRT V8. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard for all. Jeep Grand Cherokee pricing starts at $29,895.
Land Rover Range Rover
Its name synonymous with luxury, the Land Rover Range Rover is justifiably notable for delivering an outstanding degree of comfort, luxury, and utility. Range Rover heartily embraces the British luxury car dictum of grace and applies it to an off-roader. No other SUV can outperform the Range Rover in an off road setting. Further, none offer the style and craftsmanship of the Range Rover’s interior accommodations. If Rolls-Royce ever did a sport utility, this would likely be the result. It is, quite simply, the benchmark. Engines range from a 340-horsepower supercharged V6 with 332 ft-lbs of torque, to a 510-horsepower supercharged V8 with 461 ft-lbs. Pricing starts at $83,495.
Mercedes-Benz G Class
Originally developed for use by the Israeli military, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUV is without question one of the toughest vehicles ever made. Largely old school, where many of its contemporaries rely upon computer-assisted hardware, the G-Class is straight-up mechanical. Power comes from a 5.5-liter V8 with 382 horsepower and 391 ft-lbs of torque. There is also an AMG-powered version fitted with a twin-turbocharged version of the 5.5-liter, good for 536 horsepower and 560 ft-lbs of torque. The seven-speed automatic transmission feeds a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a low-range transfer case, a limited-slip rear differential, and locking front, center and rear differentials. Pricing starts at $115,400.
One of the last truly capable off road SUVs in the mid-size class, the Nissan Xterra is the genuine article—right down to its body on frame construction. Xterra is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 with 261 horsepower and 281 ft-lbs of torque. You’ll choose between a six-speed manual and a five-speed automatic transmission. If you’re looking to go hard-core off roading, the Nissan Xterra Pro-4X is the one to get. Features include an electronic locking rear differential, hill-start assist and hill-descent control, a set of rugged 16-inch alloy wheels and off-road tires, along with Bilstein shock absorbers and strategically placed protective skid plates. Xterra Pro-4X pricing starts at $30,590.
Porsche’s Cayenne SUV combines the best attributes of a roadgoing crossover sport utility with the eager capability of the best off road 4x4 SUVs. And, while pretty much every example you see of the Porsche SUV will be shuttling around the tonier parts of your town, rest assured if these people ever ventured into rugged terrain, the Porsche would be well up to the task. Available powertrains include gasoline and diesel-fired V6 engines as well as a gasoline/electric hybrid, and a twin-turbocharged V8. Power output ranges up to 520 horsepower with the top of the line Cayenne Turbo. Pricing starts at $58,300.
Toyota’s 4Runner is another mainstream mid-size SUV remaining close to its roots as a capable off-road machine. One of but a few remaining SUVs to utilize body-on-frame construction for serious off-road capability, Toyota’s 4Runer is the real deal. Regardless of trim level, each 4Runner comes fitted with mudguards and skid plates. Taking things up a notch, the four-wheel-drive 4Runner models add a dual-range transfer case, hill-start assist and hill-descent control. Power comes from a 4.0-liter V6 with 270 horsepower and 278 ft-lbs of torque. A five speed automatic is the only transmission offered. A variety of four-wheel drive configurations are available, enabling the buyer to get just as much capability as they feel they need. Pricing starts at $33,010.
Toyota Land Cruiser
Another entry in the luxury 4x4 category, the Toyota Land Cruiser is outfitted with an outstanding array of comfort and convenience features. Further, the interior is upholstered in fine leather while the Land Cruiser manages to deliver both a comfortable ride on pavement and demonically capable off road prowess. Power comes from a 5.7-liter V8 with 381 horsepower and 401 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission, along with full-time four-wheel drive completes the powertrain. Land Cruiser also features a locking center differential, five-speed crawl control, and Off-Road Turn Assist. Pricing starts at $79,905.
Volkswagen’s Touareg is definitely one of those books to avoid judging by the cover. Like its Porsche Cayenne cousin (the two were co-developed on the same platform), The VW Touareg delivers outstanding comfort on the street, while also possessing the ability to slog through mud, crawl over rocks, and traverse any sort of terrain at which you choose to aim it. Touareg offers a gasoline powered V6 engine, as well as both diesel and gasoline/electric hybrid variants. Power output ranges from 280 to 380. An eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard across the board. Pricing for the Volkswagen Touareg starts at $44,570.