Best 4x4 2024
Don’t assume any SUV will take you off-road. If you want to do so with confidence, you need four-wheel drive. Here are the best 4x4 options on the market
A few years ago, it was easy to identify a 4x4 that would plough its way through mud and water, tow a massive trailer, climb the side of a mountain or crawl its way over loose rock faces, simply because it looked the part.
Today, though, it’s not so straightforward, as there are plenty of beefy-looking SUVs on sale that are actually no more capable of going off-road or towing heavy weights than the front-wheel-drive hatchbacks that they’re often based on. So what if you want a proper 4x4?
It’s what lies beneath that counts. A good 4x4 is generally a vehicle that has been properly engineered, with all types of terrain in mind, often with a choice of high and low-range transmission and different settings for different terrains, with permanent or selectable four-wheel-drive.
When you’re looking at the best 4x4s, though, there’s more to it than just confirming whether they can go off-road or not. Some models will be better suited to driving through deep floodwater than others, while some cars will have more astute systems ready to tackle snowy winter conditions. Bear in mind, too, that a heavy-duty 4x4 won’t necessarily have the road dynamics of a car-based SUV.
Best 4x4 2024
- SsangYong Rexton
- Land Rover Defender
- Jeep Grand Cherokee
- Toyota Land Cruiser
- Jeep Wrangler
- Subaru Forester
- Land Rover Discovery
- Ineos Grenadier
- Suzuki Jimny
- Mercedes G-Class
Best 4x4 you’ve never heard of
Our pick: SsangYong Rexton Ventura Plus 2.2d Auto
Read our SsangYong reviews
South Korea’s SsangYong is probably the most competent manufacturer of heavy-duty 4x4s that you’ve never heard of – and it’s now tried to address that anonymity by rebranding to KGM...
It has a history of making capable cars, although they are not renowned for being the best lookers. However, the latest SsangYong Rexton is not only great off-road, but much easier on the eye. Underneath is a ladder chassis which is a hallmark of a tough off-roader, as it is ideally suited for driving over challenging terrain.
Meanwhile, a locking centre differential and low-ratio gearbox mean the SsangYong Rexton will keep going on the kind of surfaces many SUVs can’t even look at. All use the same 2.2-litre diesel engine, but there is a choice of manual or automatic transmission and five or seven seats.
Best 4x4 for brand pedigree
Our pick: Land Rover Defender 110 SE
Read our full Land Rover Defender review
The Land Rover Defender has been a 4x4 synonymous with heavy-duty off-roading for decades – thanks largely to its popularity with the armed forces and farmers.
The new Land Rover Defender lacks the original’s pared-back utility, but still packs quite a punch off-road, and can safely wade through 900mm of water, making it one of the best cars for dealing with floods. It has a low and high-range transfer box transmission and two locking differentials, giving it peerless off-road ability.
Among the two body styles on offer are the 90 and longer 110. The latter comes with variable air-suspension as standard, while the former has more traditional coil springs. Furthermore, practical equipment such as easy-clean rubber flooring and cameras which feed video footage of the area around the vehicle into the cockpit make for safe off-roading.
Best 4x4 for affordable luxury
Our pick: Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 3.0 V6
Read our Jeep reviews
If you want a capable 4x4 that has some of the luxury of a Range Rover, but without the eye-watering expense, then the Jeep Grand Cherokee is an option worth exploring. After all, exploring is what it’s best at.
It has a choice of two different off-road systems – Quadra-Drive II or Quadra-Trac II, offering automatic or manual off-road function selections. Power comes from a 3.0-litre V6 diesel with eight-speed automatic transmission or a new 4Xe petrol-hybrid.
Equipment levels are great, it’s superb to drive both on and off-road and it has towing and off-road ability that’s up there with Land Rover and Range Rover models.
Best 4x4 for reliability
Our pick: Toyota Land Cruiser GX
Read our full Toyota Land Cruiser review
The Toyota Land Cruiser has long been regarded by many as the 4x4 of choice to get from A to B while driving in the harshest environments across the world – and far away from any kind of mechanic. Proof of this is the number of aged Toyota Land Cruisers still motoring up and down some of the toughest roads on the planet.
The latest model is as well suited to going off-road as ever, even if this means it feels a little less refined on the road than some of its mud-fearing rivals.
Since 2015, all UK models have come with a 2.8-litre diesel engine which is supported by low-range gears, a locking centre differential and a ladder-frame chassis. Both a manual and automatic gearbox are on offer.
Best 4x4 for overall character
Our pick: Jeep Wrangler Sahara
Read our full Jeep Wrangler review
The Jeep Wrangler is the USA’s equivalent of the Land Rover Defender, but it hasn’t evolved in quite as civilised a way. But both come from the same ancestor, with strong military lineage. Much like the British model, the Jeep Wrangler is very capable off-road.
In terms of specification, you must first decide if you want the smaller two-door or larger four-door model. Both come with low-range gears, an automatic gearbox, front and rear locking differentials and the option of petrol or diesel engines. Plus, Jeep has designed the Jeep Wrangler so that you can easily remove or fold down many panels (including the doors, roof and windscreen) so you can feel closer to the outdoors.
A Jeep Wrangler won’t be the cheapest 4x4 to run and isn’t exactly the last word in comfort, but it does have a huge following, not to mention a cracking range of aftermarket accessories on offer.
Best 4x4 for on-road driver appeal
Our pick: Subaru Forester XE Lineartronic
Read our Subaru reviews
For those unfamiliar with Subaru off-roaders, they have two unique selling points: their symmetrical all-wheel-drive systems and boxer engines, both of which are used throughout the range.
The latter refers to engines that are laid on their side rather than being upright, which together with that sophisticated all-wheel drive helps deliver agile roadholding and strong levels of grip.
While the Subaru Forester may trail some of those on this list when it comes to locking differentials and low-range gearboxes for really tricky terrain, it represents one of the best options for those after a slightly smaller 4x4 with impressive off-road credentials. All have an automatic gearbox and a 2.0-litre petrol engine.
Best 4x4 for all-round excellence
Our pick: Land Rover Discovery Dynamic SE
Read our full Land Rover Discovery review
With its offset number plate housing and strangely curved rear end, the fifth-generation Land Rover Discovery was seen as quite challenging by some customers when new, but it is now a familiar sight on our roads.
It’s exceptional off-road, with amazing grip and traction thanks to Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system, while it also offers seven-seat family versatility. It’s a tremendously capable car.
There’s no other model like it for the combination of comfort and all-round ability that it offers, either as a family car, an off-road machine or as one of the best towing cars that money can buy, with the ability to pull up to 3.5 tonnes.
Best utility 4x4
Our pick: Ineos Grenadier 3.0D Trailmaster
Read our car reviews
It’s neither cheap nor luxurious, but the Ineos Grenadier is arguably the only remaining utility off-roader. It was introduced in 2022 and unashamedly follows in the muddy wheel tracks of the original Land Rover Defender.
The Ineos Grenadier was created by adventurer and businessman Jim Ratcliffe to plug the huge hole in the market left by the departure of the British icon. It has uncannily similar styling and dimensions, along with permanent four-wheel-drive and a fresh, wipe-clean cabin, plus superb off-roading ability.
Power comes from a choice of 3.0-litre BMW-sourced engines – a petrol and diesel, both powerful and capable units, albeit quite old-fashioned. Production is limited and demand is high, so you’re unlikely to find a bargain and will most probably face a bit of a wait, but there is nothing else quite like it.
Best 4x4 for navigating narrow tracks
Our pick: Suzuki Jimny SZ4
Read our full Suzuki Jimny review
No 4x4 list is complete without the cheeky Suzuki Jimny. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in rugged charm and the ability to squeeze down narrow lanes that standard 4x4s simply can’t cope with.
Powered by a 1.5-litre petrol engine – with either a manual or automatic gearbox – the Suzuki Jimny comes with a tough ladder-frame chassis and selectable four-wheel drive, with the option of low-range four-wheel drive for tackling the steepest slopes or most slippery ground.
Equipment levels are impressive throughout the range, with Bluetooth, DAB digital radio and lane departure warning included as standard. Interior space is poor, though. If you want to transport a number of passengers and luggage, you will more than likely need a roof box, since load space is tiny if the rear seats are in use. It does hold its value remarkably well, though.
Best 4x4 for a showbiz image
Our pick: Mercedes-Benz AMG G63 G-TRONIC
Read our Mercedes reviews
The Mercedes G-Class – also known as the G-Wagen – traces its roots to the 1970s, when the manufacturer set out to create a vehicle that mixed cross-country and road-going ability. Fast forward nearly 50 years and it has held on to these qualities, while retaining the iconic, boxy looks of the original.
Nowadays, the Mercedes G-Class enjoys a reputation for being the car of choice for the rich and famous, beloved of Premier League footballers. And while this means that few will actually see even the smallest amount of mud, all variants will absolutely dominate any off-road challenge you can throw at it.
The showbiz image has driven prices sky-high, with top-spec models commanding over £200,000. These models are usually in Mercedes AMG G63 or G65 guise, with a V8 or V12 engine. But, if you’re more interested in this car for off-roading rather than driving down Kensington High Street, then opting for a diesel-powered Mercedes G-Class will bring the price down considerably.