SUV being driven off road in the plains

The 9 Best Off-Road SUVs On The Market Today

Hanna Kielar8-minute read
December 20, 2021

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Any list of the best off-road SUVs has a lot of territory to cover. Manufacturers have brought several innovative new redesigns to market, and each of them has unique strengths that can make an off-road trip one to remember.

How We Ranked The Best Off Road SUVs For 2022

We used a multipart methodology to evaluate and rank the best off-road SUVs hitting the market right now. First, we reviewed some of the leading industry publications, such as Edmunds and Car and Driver, we looked up the manufacturer spec sheets, customer reviews and some of the latest updates from government safety regulators. We then ranked SUVs in several categories, from the best fuel economy to the most luxurious, and from power to cost of operation.

We also underscored ground clearance and approach and departure angles for each of these vehicles. Ground clearance is the space between the lowest point on your vehicle and the ground beneath you, and you’ll want to make sure you have enough of it not to scrape your carriage on any rocks. Once you add angled slopes into the calculation, that clearance can change based on where the center of gravity falls. Approach and departure angles measure the maximum angle your vehicle can tolerate transitioning to from a flat surface without causing any damage to the vehicle.

From the most rugged SUV workhorses to luxury SUVs to the affordable SUVs built to last, these are some of the best off-road vehicles on the market now.

1. Land Rover Defender

Best For: Rugged terrain

MPG: 18 city | 21 highway

Approach And Departure Angle: 30.1 degrees | 40 degrees

Ground Clearance: 8.6 to 11.5 inches

The Land Rover Defender is a study in creative excess. Powered by a tremendous 518-horsepower supercharged engine, the Defender is built for keeping a smooth ride over rough terrain. The overbuilt suspension and dampened frame reduce noises inside the cabin – so much so, that engine noises are actually digitally enhanced for the driver's benefit.

Acceleration on dry surfaces is quick, while handling is impressively tight for a high and top-heavy SUV with the classic Land Rover profile. On surfaces with reduced traction, the Dynamic mode allows for reduced stability control that gives the driver a controlled oversteer when there's power traveling to the 22-inch tires.

Overall, the high power and excellent stability under stress make the 2022 Land Rover Defender the best SUV for rough terrain and loose surfaces where less powerful vehicles lose performance.

Start browsing Land Rover Defender vehicles on the market today.

2. Jeep Grand Cherokee

Best For: Personalization and trim packages

MPG: 19 city | 26 highway

Approach And Departure Angle: 20.5 degrees | 26.6 degrees

Ground Clearance: 11.3 inches

There's a lot of variety to be had in the Jeep Grand Cherokee line. It offers ten trim packages, so Grand Cherokee drivers have the option to maximize whatever experience is most important to them. Note-worthy trim packages for off-roading capabilities include:

  • Trailhawk: The Trailhawk is for serious off-road SUV owners. Heavy-duty front towing hooks are set under the trim-specific grille, and the seats come in leather and vinyl with soft suede inserts for better breathability. Trail modifications include all-terrain tires, air springs, semi-active damping and a cleverly engineered sway bar disconnect that gives much better handling on rough patches. A solid nine-speaker surround sound system keeps things thumping while driving or stopped at a campground.
  • Overland: The Overland package is ideal for off-roading at night or for overnight camping trips. Its premium LED headlights and automatic high beams work great in places with no streetlights, while the 20-inch alloy wheels tackle loose soil and low-traction surfaces like a champ. The dual-pane moonroof is nice for nights out in the open, and the automatic hill-descent control keeps this SUV on track during some fairly steep downhill rides.
  • Summit: The Summit sits at the top of the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee lineup. This premium package has quilted leather upholstery and built-in massage elements in the front seats. The Quadra-Drive II system delivers powerful four-wheel-drive system performance, and a 360-degree camera system helps keep you safe on-road and off.

Start browsing Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles on the market today.

3. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Best For: Steep Terrain

MPG: 22 city | 24 highway

Approach and Departure Angle: 47.4 degrees | 40.4 degrees

Ground Clearance: 12.9 inches

If the best part of driving an SUV off-road is the thrill of the drive, then the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is among the best in its class. Sporting massive 35-inch radial tires, the Rubicon arguably has the best approach and departure angles, plus a solid, almost 13-inch ground clearance that's a great help for getting over rocks and low brush that would be a problem for lower SUVs.

Available in two power options, the V8-powered Rubicon 392 and the plug-in hybrid 4xe, this offering from Jeep posts outstanding efficiency, with a combined 23 mpg and a sporty set of lines that looks like it's itching to veer off the highway and into the wilderness. 

Start browsing Jeep Wrangler Rubicons on the market today.

4. Toyota 4Runner

Best For: Reliability

MPG: 16 city | 19 highway

Approach and Departure Angle: 33 degrees | 26 degrees

Ground Clearance: 9.6 inches

The Toyota 4Runner is a full-size off-road SUV that nearly everybody can find something to love about and is often considered the most reliable off-road SUV. The economical 4.0-liter V6 engine available in the basic trim level delivers a respectable 270-HP with 278-pound-foot of torque for quick pullouts and clearing minor ruts. An optional upgrade to 4WD comes with Active Traction Control that's good for both off-road hill climbs and on-road rain, slush and snow.

Inside, the premium cloth upholstery can be replaced with perforated leather-trimmed seats with heating and ventilation built in. The 40/20/40 second row and 50/50 split third row both fold flat, giving drivers many ways to optimize their cargo space. Optional Hill Start Assist Control, Multi-terrain Select and Crawl Control all work together to make the 4Runner a sporty and easily controllable off roader, while the optional TRD Pro trim featuring TRD FOX high-performance shocks with rear remote reservoirs keeps things smooth enough for cross-country jaunts with the kids in back.

Start browsing Toyota 4Runners on the market today.

5. Toyota Land Cruiser

Best For: Trips with the family

MPG: 13 city | 17 highway

Approach and Departure Angle: 32 degrees | 26.5 degrees

Ground Clearance: 9 inches

The Toyota Land Cruiser seems custom-built for long trips with a large family. Toyota has added length to the Land Cruiser's wheelbase and dropped a full 440 pounds from the curb weight, creating a much more stable platform with a lowered center of gravity without sacrificing the 9-inch ground clearance or the admirable approach and departure angles.

Upgrades from the 2021 line include a standard 9-inch infotainment screen that's also available in a larger 12.3-inch premium option that can keep the kids occupied during hours-long rolls through the salt flats. The vast interior seems to be fully swaddled in soft leather, and the front seat wells are designed like the first-class sleeper pods on transoceanic flights. In the back, there's space for a large family, two pets and enough cargo to move a small retail store into the Canadian Rockies, just in case.

Start browsing Toyota Land Cruisers on the market today.

6. Ford Bronco

Best For: Towing

MPG: 25 city | 28 highway

Approach and Departure Angle: 30.4 degrees | 33.1 degrees

Ground Clearance: 8.8 inches

The Ford Bronco has always been a massive workhorse, and the current generation is clearly the best off-road compact SUV for towing, hauling and whatever serious heavy lifting needs to be done. The roof has a hardened support structure that holds up to 1,370 pounds on the four-door model and can be a stable base for pitching a tent away from the ground.

Available with a powerful 1.5-liter three-cylinder or 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the Bronco delivers up to 2,200 pounds of towing, with a quick take-up and long torque cycle that delivers power throughput from the drivetrain to the tires for maximum efficiency. The undercarriage is kept safe by a tough all-metal bash plate that deflects debris and low obstacles, and high-arched moldings in the wheel wells chew through gravel and mud.

Start browsing Ford Broncos on the market today.

7. Mercedes-Benz G-Class

Best For: Luxury travel

MPG: 17 city | 19 highway

Approach and Departure Angle: 35 degrees | 36 degrees

Ground Clearance: 8.7 inches

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a family of some of the top off-road vehicles for high-end luxury travel through rough terrain. The top-level offering in this line is the AMG G 63, which uses a handcrafted AMG 4.0L V8 biturbo engine to pump 577 horsepower through the powertrain. Over smooth terrain, this translates into a 0-60 acceleration in just 4.5 seconds.

Inside, the top-flight G-Class leaves behind the purely military origin of the class and offers three increasingly luxurious trim lines: Standard, Exclusive Line and Superior Line. Each of these is decked out with a 10-inch interface screen, and the 2022 options bump up the interior ambient lighting from 2021's eight to a full 64 vibrant hues.

Start browsing Mercedes-Benz vehicles on the market today.

8. GMC Yukon

Best For: Entertainment Value

MPG: 21 city | 27 highway

Approach and Departure Angle: 25.4 degrees | 25.9 degrees

Ground Clearance: 8 inches

The design team for the GMC Yukon has increased the interior space of the model by a massive 40% for the current model year. The newest offering comfortably seats eight adults in three rows, with extra head and leg room for everybody. The Denali trim, which sits at the high end of the year's offerings, uses more than 10,000 chrome parts inside the engine and on the exterior body panels. 

Interior amenities include a standard 10.2-inch floating touchscreen, HD and satellite radio with a nine-speaker Bose sound system, wireless CarPlay and Android Auto. Wireless device charging and seven USB ports connect a bevy of smart devices, while the dual-display rear media system creates an immersive home theater experience for passengers. Comfort features such as heated leather seats, a power-adjustable and heated steering wheel and a panoramic sunroof make camping trips with the family a luxurious experience.

Start browsing GMC Yukon vehicles on the market today.

9. Jeep Renegade

Best For: All-around value

MPG: 24 city | 32 highway

Approach and Departure Angle: 17.9 degrees | 29.7 degrees

Ground Clearance: 6.7 inches

The Jeep Renegade offers several premium features in one of the most affordable packages available for the class. The Renegade has a sub-7-inch ground clearance and 177-horsepower engine with limited approach and departure angles. The passenger compartment comfortably seats five, with just enough USB and wireless connectivity available for multiple smart devices. 

Where the Jeep Renegade shines is in combined value and overall cost of operation. A combined fuel efficiency of 28 mpg sets a high standard in comparison to the rest of the class, and the 12-gallon tank can take on 300-plus-mile mile trips off-road between fill-ups. A standard 3-year/36,000-mile factory warranty tops off the value package that makes the Renegade one of the most budget- and family-friendly off-road SUVs on the market.

Start browsing Jeep Renegade vehicles on the market today.

The Bottom Line: Off-Roading Is On With These Top SUVs

Buyers have a range of options when choosing a new SUV for off-road adventures. The top end of the market includes entries that offer outstanding power, performance, efficiency and luxury. Trust that any options in this round-up are more than capable off-roaders that will carry you on new adventures.

The rise of online car buying offers access to the largest possible variety of vehicles beyond your ZIP code. Your next and best off-road SUV may be waiting for you in the Rocket AutoSM marketplace

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    Hanna Kielar

    Hanna Kielar is an Associate Section Editor for Rocket Mortgage focused on personal finance, recruiting and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.