What is the Best SUV to Buy for Off Road Driving

June 9, 2014

Today's modern SUVs are built for a variety of driving conditions which may include tasks that involve off road driving. There are many different types of SUVs on the market and it sometimes can be hard to decide which one would best suit a persons needs. The type of SUV that would be considered best for off road driving depends on the type of driving it will be used for. Here are a list of a few of the possible off road conditions, and which SUVs would be well suited to the driving conditions.

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Light Snow and Light Off Road conditions

These conditions would include 2 to 6 inches of snow, state maintained logging, dirt roads, open fields, and light trails. Most of the time a hardcore SUV is too much for this type of terrain, so it is better left to something else. Most standard 4 wheel drives such as the Chevrolet Equinox, or the Ford Explorer, will be more than able to drive in these conditions. Some of the newer crossovers are also very capable in these types of terrains. The Honda Pilot, Ford Escape, or Toyota Highlander, all come with an automatic all wheel drive system, that would be very effective in these driving conditions.

Medium Conditions

These would include larger snowfall amounts, creek crossings, harder to reach areas, and mild trails. Most of these situations would require a little more ground clearance than the typical crossover would provide, all terrain tires, and a low range transfer case. Vehicles that would be well suited to these types of conditions include the Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Tahoe, Jeep Grand Cherokee with the Selec-Trac transfer case, Toyota Sequoia, Jeep Wrangler, or the Nissan Xterra. These vehicles provide the needed 4 wheel drive systems and ground clearance required to traverse this type of terrain.

Heavy or Extreme Conditions

These conditions include deep snow, water crossings, light rock crawling, or deep mud. There are only a few SUVs that come from the factory equipped to handle this type of terrain, and these include the Jeep Grand Cherokee with the Quadra-Drive system, Toyota FJ Cruiser, and the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. This type of terrain requires some form of locking axels, more ground clearance, and mud terrain tires. The Rubicon edition of the Wrangler comes with 33" Goodyear MT Tires, 4 to 1 low range transfer case, front and rear selectable lockers and a power disconnecting front sway bar. The Quadra-Drive system in the Cherokee combines an automatic transfer case with automatic axel lockers, to transfer power to the wheels with the most grip. Both the FJ Cruiser and the Wrangler have a short wheel base which provides them with excellent approach and departure angles.

When it comes to driving off road, the expected conditions need to be taken into account when deciding what vehicle to purchase. If good on road manners with the ability to cross light to mild terrain is what is desired, then any of the offerings on the market should do the job just fine. If extreme conditions are going to be crossed, then the Jeep Wrangler or Toyota FJ just can't be beat.

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Related Questions and Answers

Are there any Off-Road Driving Schools?

Yes, there are off-road driving schools located across the country. Although the majority of them seem to be located in the West and South. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Bill Burke's 4Wheeling America takes its students through the basics of off-road driving in areas around its Tempe, Arizona location. The Back Country Driving School of Roanoke, Virginia, educates you in military-style off-road driving and runs courses for first responders in disaster situations. The Off-Road Experience is a three-level course, starting with a beginners course and minimal class-time. You graduate through three levels where you are taught map reading and navigation techniques. This course is located near Reno, Nevada. Two other courses are Badlands Off-Road Adventures in Redondo, California.

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