For those who think the ‘S’ in SUV stands for ‘soft’, there are manufacturers who will still offer you a legitimately capable off-road 4×4.
These vehicles feature an array of technology to help them keep going when the road ends. Separate bodies and chassis, high ground clearance, low-ratio gearboxes, permanent four-wheel drive and no end of electronic systems make sure these Goliaths don’t get bogged down in the rough stuff.
Unlike SUVs, 4×4 trade on their ability off-road so we took this into consideration when judging this category. We also considered their practicality and all-round driving experience.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
This Jeep Grand Cherokee is an American leviathan that comes from one of the most famous names in off-road driving. Certainly, reviewers are left luke-warm about its on-road abilities – many praise the decent ride quality on the optional air suspension and the refinement at speed, but little else.
Where it has talent by the armful is off-road. The rugged chassis, four-wheel drive, low-range gearbox and lockable differentials all add up to a car that’s very comfortable when the going gets muddy.
Toyota Land Cruiser
It may only have a niche following in the UK, but travel to many middle-eastern countries and you’ll realise how ubiquitous the Toyota Land Cruiser is. Like most ‘proper’ 4x4s, the Land Cruiser isn’t happiest when it’s on the road – it has an unsettled ride and the engine feels very slow in modern traffic. Take it off-road and that perception changes entirely. The high ground clearance, body-on-chassis design and beefy four-wheel drive system mean the Land Cruiser is essentially unstoppable off-road.
Land Rover Discovery
Both the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport could’ve featured here, but considering the Land Rover Discovery has more interior space and costs significantly less, it’s the one we’re shortlisting. Its body-on-chassis design and clever terrain-response system mean it has the ground clearance and the strength to haul itself over almost any terrain you can throw at it.
Where the Discovery wins serious kudos, though, is on the road, where many rivals are compromised. It rides with a level of sophistication few can match and, with a diesel V6, has enough power to make relaxed progress.