Off-road 4x4 mega test

Ten of the most capable four-wheel-drive SUVs go toe-to-toe to establish what you should be driving when the going gets rough...

Off-road 4x4 mega test
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What Car? team
25 Oct 2019 10:00

The contenders

Dacia Duster Blue dCi 115 4x4 Comfort

List price £17,995
Target Price £17,824

Dacia Duster off-road

Suzuki Jimny 1.5 Allgrip SZ5

List price £18,499
Target Price £15,999

Suzuki Jimny off-road

Subaru XV 2.0i SE Premium Lineartronic

List price £26,525
Target Price £26,525

Subaru XV off-road

Jeep Renegade 2.0 170 4WD Trailhawk ATX

List price £31,230
Target Price £30,248

Jeep Renegade off-road

Mitsubishi Shogun Sport 2.4 Diesel 4WD 4 auto

List price £32,499
Target Price £32,499

Mitsubishi Shogun Sport off-road

Toyota Land Cruiser 2.8 Diesel 177 AWD Utility 3dr 

List price £34,745
Target Price £33,088

Toyota Land Cruiser off-road

Jeep Wrangler 2.2 Multijet-II 200 Rubicon 4dr

List price £49,455
Target Price £47,111

Jeep Wrangler off-road

Land Rover Discovery SD6 Landmark Edition

List price £59,995
Target Price £56,072

Land Rover Discovery off-road

Range Rover SDV6 Vogue SE

List price £90,225
Target Price £80,793

Land Rover Discovery off-road

Mercedes G-Class G350d 4Matic AMG Line

List price £94,065
Target Price £94,065

Mercedes G-Class off-road

While we appreciate the appeal of a lofty driving position and rugged styling in an SUV, we don’t often recommend one with four-wheel drive if it’s available with just two driven wheels. That’s because most people only drive on the road and would rarely benefit from having four-wheel drive. It also makes cars heavier, more complex and pricier to buy and run, while suspension systems that work well over rough terrain don’t usually offer a comfortable ride on the road.

But what if you need something that can plough through mud or climb a steep, rock-strewn hill? What’s your best bet then? To find out, we’ve gathered together 10 of the most capable four-wheel-drive SUVs you can buy and paired them up in five price brackets. 

The bargains of the group are the sub-£20,000 Dacia Duster and Suzuki Jimny. They may be similar in price, but they’re very different from each other under the skin. 

For those with up to £35,000 to spend, we’ve got two contenders from brands with loads of four-wheel drive experience: the Subaru XV and the Jeep Renegade, in its most capable Trailhawk trim. Push your budget to £45,000 and things get even more serious, with the rugged Mitsubishi Shogun Sport going up against the legendary Toyota Land Cruiser

In the £45,000 to £60,000 price bracket, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon tussles with the Land Rover Discovery, and if you’re lucky enough to be spending even more than that, we’ve got the ever-capable Range Rover and the mighty Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

Of course, such worthy 4x4s need a suitably challenging venue in which to test them. We’ve been to not one but two off-road courses – one at Millbrook Proving Ground and another at a disused quarry – where we’ve found out how they climb, crawl and wade through terrain that would stop lesser SUVs dead. 

We’re concentrating on a handful of obstacles, starting off with four relatively smooth gravel hills ranging from 26% to 35%. If each 4x4 can handle this, it’s on to sand and silt hills that are slipperier and far more rutted. Even trickier is the Horseshoe, a slippery, churned-up hill with a sharp bend at its peak. We also have offset ditches and humps to test suspension travel and a range of easier trails to assess driveability. The winner from each price band will go into contention to be crowned overall champion.  

Next: Dacia Duster vs Suzuki Jimny >

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