Like the rest of us, Motor Trend is sick of seeing so-called "capable" off-roaders wasted in suburban environments, which is why they dragged four popular lux-utes through the unforgiving Death Valley landscape to see if they can, as their advertising often suggests, really handle sand and rocks and steep hills and otherwise difficult conditions. The $54,980 behemoth known as the Infiniti QX56 is the caboose here, as despite a strong powertrain it can't overcome a generally unsettled chassis and unrefined build quality. The $63,095 Lincoln Navigator grabbed third place thanks to a surprisingly functional AWD system and massive V8 engine, but it's held back by a four-speed auto (the others have five-speeds), cowl shake over rough terrain, and serious heft that makes it none too nimble in tight situations. The $70,087 Lexus LX470 surprised everyone with a silver medal thanks to genuine off-road ability combined with a drop-dead gorgeous cabin. The top spot goes to the $74,250 range Rover HSE. It is the most comfortable off-pavement, it can handle like a sports sedan when necessary, and its supremely smooth BMW-designed engine is a benchmark in flexibility. A Rangie winning an off-road competition? Say what?

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