Best Off-Road Cars Of 2023: Top 5 Rugged Rides, According To Experts

The thrill of adventure is something that appeals to many people in the world. No matter what country you live in, nature provides some thrilling moments of this adventure that are best experienced behind the wheel of a car. Using the technology and horsepower of certain cars outfitted for off-roading can lead to exhilarating moments that let you see the amazing views and nature where you live or are traveling to. Some of the best off-road cars can conquer any terrain and look cool while doing it.

It shouldn’t take much to convince you that spending time in nature is beneficial to your health. Researchers from The University of Warwick, Newcastle University, and The University of Sheffield have put together the first study ever to investigate and demonstrate the connection between natural, green areas and mental wellbeing on an individual level. 

These nature-filled adventures are starting at an age where normally people think about “settling down.” Researchers found that individuals feel most comfortable pursuing lofty interests outside of the daily grind when exiting their twenties. The respondents explained that they felt a newfound feeling of liberation at 30 by having already established strong careers and social networks.

Kauai TV defines what off-roading actually is: “the act of driving a vehicle on unpaved surfaces, such as dirt roads, mud, sand, rocks, and even snow. It can be done in almost any type of vehicle. Many people enjoy off-roading because it gives them a chance to explore places they would never be able to see if they were stuck on paved roads. It’s also a great way to get some fresh air while having a lot of fun!”

Ready, set, go! Let’s start those engines and get them dirty as StudyFinds set out to do the research for you, visiting 10 expert websites to put together this list of the best off-road cars of 2023. If you’ve got your own suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!

The Jeep Wrangler is the best Doomsday vehicle, according to experts.
Jeep Wrangler off-road (Photo by Dan Gomer on Unsplash)

The List: Best Off-Road Cars Most Recommended by Experts

1. Jeep Wrangler

The Wrangler has been a popular choice for off-road enthusiasts for decades, with its exceptional off-road capabilities, high ground clearance, and rugged design. Top Lift Pros talks about its stellar design: “Jeep vehicles feature a solid axle design, which is preferred for off-roading. A solid axle runs straight from each side of the vehicle. While most 4x4s have this setup, Jeep has been using this suspension system for decades. This design is more durable and less likely to suffer damage from hazardous terrain. As its name suggests, this is because it’s more solid and requires fewer parts to fix if it needs repairs.” 

Jeep Wrangler driving off-road
Jeep Wrangler driving off-road (Photo by cody lannom on Unsplash)

This belief is mimicked by Off Road Handbook, “Jeep Wrangler is so good for off-roading because of the dynamic 4×4 drivetrain and hardy front and rear axles. They are supported by powerful transmission and a coil-over suspension. It is easier to climb the steep terrain when the wheels get close to the front and back of the vehicle.”

“While they may bring plenty of trail-chewing prowess to the table, it is honestly quite difficult to compare with something like the Jeep Wrangler. While the Jeep Wrangler has been a champion of the trail since its initial introduction in 1986. It comes from a long line of SUVs that have been specifically designed to roll through dirt, ice, snow, mud, and rock without so much as a second of hesitation. So, if you’re looking for a used SUV for sale that is ready for rough and tumble riding, you should opt for a Jeep brand vehicle, and more importantly, the Jeep Wrangler,” claims Auto Influence.

2. Toyota 4Runner

The 4Runner is known for its durability, reliability, and off-road capabilities. With features like high ground clearance, a sturdy body-on-frame construction, and an available four-wheel-drive system, the 4Runner can handle even the toughest off-road terrain.

Toyota 4Runner on a dirt road
Toyota 4Runner on a dirt road (Photo by Lance Asper on Unsplash)

Carmax says this about it’s design, “The Toyota 4Runner is one of but a few SUVs suitable for off-roading straight from the factory. And by off-roading, we mean real off-roading, not just a brief foray on a dirt parking lot or gravel road. The 4Runner’s high ground clearance and rugged truck-based architecture allow it to drive over rocks or hills that would stymie most crossovers.”

Even the older model still works well, “the 3rd-gen 4Runner still continues to go up in value, all thanks to its indomitable legacy. The SUV even backs it up with its off-roading chops that still hold up over two decades later. In that vein, let’s take a look at 10 reasons why the Toyota 4Runner from its third generation remains one of the best off-road vehicles ever made,” says Hot Cars.

The Oakland Press reviewed the car and said this: “Off-road is where the 4Runner will shine moreso than on the main streets, so the breed of folks who actually take the time to venture away from the city often to navigate difficult terrain and weather conditions and explore the great outdoors will find this vehicle quite useful…Towing is another strong point, with the 4Runner capable of pulling 5,000 pounds.”

3. Ford F-150 Raptor

The Raptor is a high-performance off-road truck that is designed to take on even the most challenging off-road conditions. With features like Fox Racing shocks, an electronic locking rear differential, and a Terrain Management System, the Raptor is a top choice for off-road enthusiasts.

“Locking or limited-slip differentials and drive modes programmed for different types of terrain let the F-150 Raptor take on everything from sand dunes to mud pits to rocky trails. Although it’s capable of rock crawling, the Raptor is tuned more for handling and speed,” says Motor Trend.

Outdoor Life talks about the guts of the car here, “Clearly, the Raptor is no ordinary F-150, but it’s fair to ask what makes this Raptor special. While Ford did include plenty of technological and design upgrades to the truck, the engine and shocks make all the difference. The high-output twin turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 is not new to the Raptor, but it does stand out from the competition.”

It’s been a stalwart in the market for years, “The first generation F-150 Raptor won the Pickup Truck of the Year award in 2011, the second generation won the award in 2017. Now, Ford did it again with the 2022 F-150 Raptor. The 3rd generation came with a full refresh and Ford engineers and designers worked hard to get the pickup in line for its 3rd award,” remarks Forbes.

4. Land Rover Defender

The Defender has been a favorite of off-road enthusiasts for decades, and the latest model continues to impress with its advanced off-road technology, rugged design, and exceptional capability. A Jack-of-All Trades when it comes to off-roading, “The current Defender is a different beast entirely. Chunky body aside, there is nothing remotely tractor-like about the way it tackles challenging terrain. Its Swiss-Army-knife list of off-road gear includes a host of electronic aids, a height-adjustable suspension, and brake-actuated differential locks,” says Auto Trader.

You get a nice chunk of safety with it’s design, “The Defender also boasts an impressive 11 inches of ground clearance and 35.4 inches of wading depth with its air suspension in its highest setting. Its completely flat underside is also well-protected and doesn’t put any of the drivetrain at risk of getting hung up on obstacles,” says Motor Trend.

It’s other factors of how it takes on terrain can be found here by Car Buzz, “Dimensions are the key ingredients for an off-road vehicle, and Land Rover’s engineers benchmarked the original Defender when it comes to angles. All the approach and departure angles either match or improve on the original. The approach angle is 38 degrees, it has a 31-degree break-over, and a 40-degree departure angle in SWB 90 configuration. ”

5. Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

The ZR2 is a midsize pickup truck that is designed to handle even the toughest off-road terrain. With features like a lifted suspension, Multimatic DSSV shocks, and locking differentials, the ZR2 is a great choice for off-road enthusiasts who want a smaller, more maneuverable vehicle. “The Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is considered one of the most reliable off-road trucks on the market. Its off-road capability is impressive. Chevy went to great lengths to make sure that no matter what challenge you encounter while navigating rural trails, the Colorado ZR2 can handle them,” says Motor Biscuit.

This trim was made to tackle the elements, “The base model 2020 Chevy Colorado is a mid-sized workhouse designed for mostly on-road and occasional off-road use. In ZR2 trim, however, the Colorado is an entirely different beast. At first glance, it’s obvious the 2020 Colorado ZR2 is no run-of-the-mill grocery-getter. With an aggressively shaved front bumper, an imposing 3.5-inch wider track stance, and rugged all-terrain tires, this is a pickup that means business,” as put by The Manual.

Motor Trend puts it simply, “The most capable of the lineup is the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, which has a plethora of suspension upgrades and cladding to make it the best off-road small truck money can buy.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.