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Best cars

Top 10 best 4x4s 2024

While crossovers and SUVs might look rugged, you'll need a proper off-roader to tackle rough terrain. Here are the best 4x4s to buy now

The best 4x4s

If you live in a rural area with few properly surfaced roads or go off the beaten track for fun, you’ll need a rugged 4x4 to cope with the worst weather and terrain. Four-wheel drive gives security in these conditions, outweighing the slightly worse fuel economy compared to two-wheel-drive cars.

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SUVs with off-roader styling have become something of a status symbol in the last few years. Cars such as the Mercedes G-Class and Range Rover are more frequently seen on the clean streets of Kensington than the country lanes of Kent.

With SUV and crossover sales booming, you might be thinking that every SUV is four-wheel drive and has some off-road ability, but the truth is that most of these crossovers are based on hatchbacks, and many only come with front-wheel drive. Some are all-wheel drive, which improves all-weather traction but won’t be of huge help if you’re heading deep into the wilderness.

We’ve picked out the best 4x4 off-roaders on sale now, but you may also want to consider the Toyota Land Cruiser, Jeep Wrangler and Suzuki Jimny if you’re going to be spending a lot of time off road; they’re excellent offroaders, even if they’re not as good all-rounders as the cars that made it on to our final list. You might also want to check out our list of the best cars for winter and if you're not specifically after an offroader but want something with road presence, check out our best family SUVs and best large SUVs.

Land Rover Defender SUV review

Defender 130
Carbuyer rating

4.4 out of 5

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The Defender is a motoring icon and Land Rover has spent the last few years making sure the latest model is a suitable successor to the old one. If you’re used to the spartan charm of the previous version, you’ll scarcely believe the amount of tech on board, making the Defender an undeniably upmarket SUV with a price tag to match. Much of what we’ve said about the Discovery applies here, too, as Land Rover’s state-of-the-art off-road technology is fitted to almost every car it makes. 

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This new car certainly lives up to the Defender name, and you can again choose from three-door ‘90’ and five-door ‘110’ body styles. Finally, for those not worried about sky-high fuel prices, Land Rover now offers a 525bhp V8 version. If you do want to keep running costs down, there’s also a plug-in hybrid P400e option – it gets a 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor producing a combined 398bhp, and can travel up to 32 miles on electric power alone on a charge of the 19.2kWh battery, meaning you could do a few trips around town per week without using any petrol at all.

Dacia Duster review – a great-value SUV that owners love

Dacia Duster SUV
Carbuyer rating

3.7 out of 5

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The Dacia Duster proves you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a 4x4. It’s pretty capable off road, even though it doesn’t come with all the trickery you’ll find on a Land Rover. 

Ideally, we’d like four-wheel drive to be offered on all trim levels, however, choosing it for the Comfort model isn’t too costly, especially on a PCP finance deal. The Comfort trim level includes more equipment than you might expect, with sat nav, a reversing camera, a leather steering wheel and smartphone mirroring.

Ford Ranger pickup review

Best Pickup: Ford Ranger
Carbuyer rating

4.3 out of 5

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The Ford Ranger is our favourite pickup truck, and the latest version is tough off road, and also feels more refined than before. All Rangers get plenty of tech, so they don’t feel spartan on the inside either. The Ranger is definitely one of the most imposing vehicles on the road, although it feels surprisingly good to drive on the road for a pickup this size.

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If you really want the best of both worlds, you could be tempted by the hot Ranger Raptor. This sporty model gets a 3.0-litre V6 engine with 288bhp which sounds good too, and putting it into the sportiest drive mode stiffens up the suspension and means the large pickup feels more agile than you’d expect. Take a detour off the beaten track and put it into its off-road setting and it feels very capable and rugged too.

As fun as the Ranger is to play with on or off road, all its engines – even those in the more pedestrian models – are pretty thirsty, so it won’t be the cheapest to run, but all-in-all it’s a very impressive pickup. If you’re looking for even more refinement and a premium feel, Volkswagen’s Amarok pickup is heavily based on the Raptor, but adds a touch of class to the recipe, albeit at a higher price.

Land Rover Discovery SUV review

Land Rover Discovery SUV
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

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One of several Land Rovers on this list, the Discovery is one of the most capable vehicles on the planet and can cover all but the most inhospitable terrain while transporting up to seven occupants in comfort. With the most recent Defender proving itself as an incredibly capable offroader with more tech and luxury than before, the Discovery’s place in Land Rover’s range has been put somewhat in question, but it’s still one of the best 4x4s you can buy.

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Land Rover’s Terrain Response system is set up for sand, mud, rocks and other landscapes, plus there’s sophisticated suspension and a wading depth of up to 900mm. It still has a mighty 3.5-tonne towing capacity, but the latest Discovery is a massive 450kg lighter than its predecessor. Every engine has plenty of power, and most models have leather upholstery and high equipment levels.

Range Rover SUV review

RR 1
Carbuyer rating

4.4 out of 5

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The Range Rover may now be a rival to opulent cars like the Mercedes S-Class and Bentley Bentayga, but it’s still one of the most capable off-roaders – even if many owners won’t leave the confines of a city in it. 

There are reasonably sensible diesel engines (and a plug-in hybrid) and a couple of 5.0-litre V8 petrol engines that launch from 0-62mph in just 5.4 seconds. Like its Land Rover siblings elsewhere in this list, the Range Rover also impresses with a huge towing capacity, a plush interior and lots of high-end kit.

Subaru Forester SUV review

Subaru Forester SUV
Carbuyer rating

3.6 out of 5

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The Subaru Forester sits on the same underpinnings as the Subaru Impreza, meaning that it’s better to drive on road than the old model. Off the beaten track is where it really shines, though, with good ground clearance and multiple sophisticated off road settings, such as a Snow or Mud mode and a hill-descent control feature.

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It’s not perfect, however – some may not be a fan of its conservative styling which makes it look fairly generic against other rivals, and despite a new mild-hybrid powertrain, the Forester is still fairly expensive to run. Build quality is very good however and the interior is much nicer than that of the old model, plus its off-road capability means this family SUV is actually more rugged than its looks might suggest. It’s clear Subaru hasn’t abandoned its offroading and rally heritage, with the brand also having released its first EV – a crossover called the Solterra which promises to be genuinely capable off the tarmac.

SsangYong Rexton SUV review

SsangYong Rexton SUV
Carbuyer rating

3.3 out of 5

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Unlike other South Korean brands such as Hyundai and Kia, SsangYong has failed to become a household name in the UK, but the company’s Rexton SUV is definitely worth your consideration if you’re after a good-value, off road-capable family workhorse. Whereas most modern SUVs are built on the same foundations as many regular hatchbacks and saloon cars, the Rexton takes a more traditional approach, with a ‘body-on-frame’ construction like that used on the old Land Rover Defender.

Without getting bogged down in the specifics, it means the Rexton is a little cumbersome to drive on the road, and can lean a lot through corners. However, if it’s offroading you’ll be doing most of the time, this is where the Rexton comes into its own, with the large SUV feeling genuinely capable. It’s also one of the best cars to pick for towing capability, and can lug a trailer up to 3,500kg in weight – that’s more than any other car at this price. The Rexton also gets seven seats and a decent amount of tech on the inside, although don’t expect anything groundbreaking in terms of design flair. 

Mercedes G-Class SUV review

Mercedes G-Class SUV
Carbuyer rating

3.5 out of 5

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The original Mercedes G-Class was primarily designed as a military vehicle but became much more fashionable towards the end of its 37-year lifespan.

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Released in 2018, the new model still has the off-road ability that forged the reputation of the last one, even on massive gleaming alloy wheels. It has three locking differentials, a low-range gearbox for slow but steady off-road progress, and a greater maximum wading depth than the last model. The new one was designed to be much more spacious than its predecessor, and it’s upmarket enough to rival the Range Rover and Bentley Bentayga.

Ineos Grenadier review - a capable off-roader, but inefficient

Ineos Grenadier
Carbuyer rating

3.5 out of 5

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If you were disappointed when Land Rover discontinued the long-running classic Defender, then the Ineos Grenadier could be the offroader for you. Heavily inspired by the original Land Rover, the Ineos Grenadier takes a more traditional, utilitarian approach which flies in the face of more high-tech, comfort-focused modern SUVs and 4x4s, including the latest Defender.

The Grenadier won’t be as comfortable as many more modern 4x4 SUV designs, although it’s not as bad to ride in as you might think. Obviously it’s designed with offroading in mind first and foremost, however, and it’s incredibly capable as you’d expect from a spiritual successor to the classic discontinued Defender. Ineos has unveiled a pickup variant with five seats and a load bay at the back if you need the extra practicality.

Toyota Hilux pickup review

Toyota Hilux
Carbuyer rating

3.7 out of 5

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Deemed by many as virtually indestructible, the Toyota Hilux has become a household name in the world of pickup trucks and it's easy to see why.

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Unlike many off-road SUVs nowadays, which feature a unibody construction, the Hilux features a traditional body-on-frame design. This means the body of the car is separate from the underpinnings, offering better ride height, as well as greater strength and flex when traversing rugged off-road environments. This unbreakable toughness is topped off by Toyota’s brilliant five-year, 100,000-mile warranty – not that you’re likely to need it. It’s fallen in our list in recent times merely due to the fact that it’s getting on quite a bit now, with rivals feeling much more modern, but it’s still a hugely dependable pickup.

Wildcard

Mercedes EQS SUV review

Mercedes EQS SUV
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

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Admittedly, there’s a distinct lack of electric vehicles in this list. To date, manufacturers have focused on big-selling family cars and SUVs, and as such, 4x4 capability has proved pretty low on the list of priorities.

However, during a trip to the US in 2022, we tried the flashy Mercedes EQS SUV on a purpose-built off-road route, which comprised ruts, ridges, steep slopes and water splashes – and we came away thoroughly impressed by what the car could do. The standard-fit air suspension allows for generous ground clearance, while the trick all-wheel drive system can instantly send power to wherever it’s needed. Not once did we feel out of depth – even on tracks that might make hardcore diesel 4x4s wince. Better still, the slow-speed nature of the tracks we covered meant it didn’t really eat into our projected range, either. 

The EQS is expensive – prices start from more than £100,000 – but right now there are few more luxurious ways to battle the world’s toughest terrain. On this evidence, it seems the future of off-roading is assured.

Top 10 best 4x4s 2024

  1. Land Rover Defender  
  2. Dacia Duster 
  3. Ford Ranger 
  4. Land Rover Discovery 
  5. Range Rover 
  6. Subaru Forester
  7. SsangYong Rexton 
  8. Mercedes G-Class 
  9. Ineos Grenadier 
  10. Toyota Hilux 
  11. Wildcard: Mercedes EQS SUV 
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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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