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Honorable Mention - True Off-roaders

Sports Utility Vehicles that are capable but lack true off-road features.

by Steve

TRUE OFF-ROADER — Not all cars are made equal, and it’s a good thing too. Can you imagine if every car company produced the exact same vehicles, even the same color?

What would be the point of all the different auto companies? I for one am glad that there is competition out there because I don’t necessarily like what someone else likes. What I may find attractive, someone else thinks is ugly.

So, it’s a good thing that all SUVs were not made alike because everyone has different needs. If your needs don’t include off-road capable, then you might have a different view of the SUV. So, here is my list of vehicles (in order) that are very capable in their 4WD, but just aren’t made to thrash around on the trails and in the mud.


Outdoor Basics

12. Jeep Commander

The Commander is Jeep’s newest vehicle in production. This 7 passenger Jeep is built on the same platform as the Grand Cherokee. This one almost made the list, but it just didn’t seem to be as up to par as the rest of the Jeeps. This one will do great off road, but the impression I get from it is that it was meant to be an on-road people mover with 4WD.

13. Volkswagen Touareg

This one teeter-tottered back and forth between on the list and off until it finally got pushed off. The Touareg is a very capable SUV and has a long list of optional features that could make it a very capable off-roader. It has an optional ride-height adjuster, or a powerful V8 or V10 motor that would launch it up any obstacle, and maybe even beyond. But the ultimate impression was that it was made more for the Autobahn then the rough country. Built on the same platform that VW shares with the Porsche Cayenne, this is a very comfortable and capable SUV.

14. Mitsubishi Montero Limited

The Montero with its sophisticated 4WD system can get you through tough spots or up tricky obstacles. The Montero also boasts impressive ground clearance (over 9 inches) as well as a very impressive approach angle (39 degrees). From the drivers seat you sit really high up; it feels like a school bus seat it’s so high up. It has great visibility, great functionality, but falls short in the true off-road character.

15. Ford Explorer

The world’s best selling SUV didn’t make it on the Ultimate off-roader list. "Why?" you may ask. Well, it just about did, but have you ever taken an Explorer on rough mountain roads or up steep obstacles? The low clearance and angles cause scraping and bumping. The Explorer does a great job, if not better than the others, at moving people and stuff to and fro, or hauling a trailer with its big V8 motor. It will go through snowy roads or get you out of your icy driveway and makes people feel safe in its cavernous interior.

16. Chevy Trailblazer

Chevy’s Trailblazer has the same destiny as that of the Explorer. It can do many things that SUV owners have demanded from their vehicles. It will do great heading up a dirt road to a trailhead, or driving down a snowy canyon, but is it an ultimate off-roader?

17. Honda Element

The Element almost made the list too but upon looking deeper into this mini-SUV's soul, the ultimate off-road spirit just wasn’t there. This machine has outdoors written all over it. You can do so many things with this, for example go mountain biking and haul your bikes inside of it standing upright. Or take the little guy kayaking and haul your kayak with ease on its roof. But with a car like ground clearance and angles, this can go off-road just fine, but it’s not the ultimate off-roader.

18. Honda Pilot

The Pilot is Honda’s 7 passenger SUV. One of the reasons it didn’t make the list is that one gets the impression that off-roading was an afterthought. The Pilot shares the same frame as the Odyssey, Honda's minivan. The Pilot is 4WD but lacks a Low 4 range, used for maximum torque and for getting in and out of deep snow, mud or in extreme conditions when maximum traction is needed.

19. Toyota Highlander

The Toyota Highlander looks and is very similar to the 4Runner, so why isn’t it on the list? While the 4Runner is built on a truck platform which gives it a stiffer ride, it does not have as good of handling as the Highlander, which shares the same platform as the Camry, Toyota's best selling passenger car. This is meant to give the Highlander a better, more “car-like ride” and because of this it looses some of its off-road capability. For example, the Highlander has a ground clearance of 7.3 inches, only 1.4 more than a Camry. For a smooth ride, it’s hard to beat, but for offroading, there are better.

Back to The Search for the True Off-roader


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