Bentley Bentayga luxury crossover off road
  • Image Credit: Bentley

5 Surprisingly Capable Off Roaders

How times have changed. Today's crossovers are often highly capable off roaders for the way most people are bound to venture into the woods. 

Legislation largely around fuel economy has split the 4x4 world into two categories: Traditional off roaders like the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner, which have separate frames and truck-like suspensions, and crossovers designed primarily to maximize foul weather traction.

If your goal is to buy the most capable vehicle, you'll want to cross-shop Jeep, Land Rover, and Toyota showrooms. But if your needs tend toward more toward recreational use, these five rather surprising off roaders offer above-average capability when the going gets rough.

What makes them especially unique is that they each go about their capability in a different way.  

Research the 2017 Bentley Bentayga
Lexus LX 570 suspension illustration
  • Image Credit: Lexus

5. Lexus LX 570

Toyota has methodically pushed its Lexus luxury division upmarket with its own range of products, but the Lexus LX 570 remains a thinly-veiled Toyota Land Cruiser.

Beneath its leather and wood-lined interior, the LX 570 is a veritable mountain goat with separate frame and a solid rear axle. 

The LX 570 has a sophisticated Crawl Control system that can lope it along at a snail's pace over rough terrain utilizing the brakes and traction control. Additionally, its Turn Assist feature adds brake force to give it an unbelievably tight turning radius at low speeds.

And don't forget about the LX's little brother, the GX 460. Based on the global market Land Cruiser Prado, the GX is also an immensely capable 4x4, albeit one with some exceptionally nice leather seats.

In fact, both have become so popular with off roaders that a Facebook community called "The Lifted Lexus" now caters to those who want a little more comfort exploring the great outdoors. 

Research the 2016 Lexus LX 570
Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium in mud
  • Image Credit: Subaru

4. Subaru Forester

Most of what Subaru builds these days are considered crossovers, and while the Outback and Crosstrek look the part, the Forester is arguably the brand's most capable when the going gets rough. 

The plucky Forester boasts more ground clearance than a Jeep Grand Cherokee, not to mention excellent approach, departure, and breakover angles. 

Moreover, for 2017, almost all Foresters will come equipped with an X-Mode button that activates hill descent control and a traction control mode suited for loose terrain.

Foresters, and Subarus in general, boast an aftermarket scene dedicated to modifying them for increased capability. Think lift kits, skid plates, and more. 

Research the 2016 Subaru Forester
Mazda CX-5 in snow
  • Image Credit: Mazda

3. Mazda CX-5

Mazda may want to be known as a sports car builder, but that doesn't like to get down and dirty.

The company's CX-5 and CX-3 crossovers offer a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system that uses some surprising on-board tools to prepare for slippery roads ahead. For instance, if the crossover's' windshield wipers are on, the system is aware that the road ahead may be slippery.

If you're leaving the pavement and don't need to run the wipers, fear not: The same system watches the vehicle's steering angle, positive g force to determine if it is on an incline, and brake fluid pressure, in order to prepare the all-wheel-drive for additional traction. 

Research the 2016 Mazda CX-5
Volvo V60 Cross Country off road
  • Image Credit: Volvo

2. Volvo V60 Cross Country

It may look like a regular V60 wagon from a distance, but the Cross Country is a remarkably well thought-out effort from Volvo.

The V60 Cross Country sits about three inches higher than its more pedestrian counterpart, and its suspension is actually derived more from the XC60 to allow for more flexibility.

Think of the V60 Cross Country as less of a rock crawler and more of a rally car and you'll begin to appreciate its subtle ability.

Research the Volvo
Bentley Bentayga dune bashing
  • Image Credit: Bentley

1. Bentley Bentayga

Don't let the plush wool carpeting and infinite array of customizations scare you off: Bentley's first-ever crossover is a genuine dune basher.

It has to be. One of its biggest markets will be the Middle East, where buyers in places like Dubai and Qatar consider fast driving through the endless desert a national pastime.  

That said, we don't know for certain if Bentley will warranty the optional ($160,000) Breitling timepiece that is mounted to the Bentayga's dashboard against sand getting in its mechanism.

We're too afraid to ask.

Research the 2017 Bentley Bentayga


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