Ford recently announced that they were going to stop selling cars in the United States – opting instead to focus on manufacturing and providing SUVs to American consumers. And while we’re sure much of that will go the way of the crossover, we’re hoping that at least some of the impact is thanks to adventure enthusiasts who want more rugged vehicles to take off-road. We also hope other manufacturers take note and follow suit.
As far as off-the-beaten path activities go, there’s one that is especially near and dear to our hearts: overlanding. A strange thing to explain to those not in the know, overlanding requires a very specific kind of vehicle. And no, it’s not the same as your average off-roader – which can range anywhere from dune buggies, to side-by-sides, to old beaters, and more. If you’re going to get into overlanding and you want to get your start with a brand new vehicle off the lot, the following 8 vehicles are the best overlanders you can purchase and drive off the lot today.
What Is An Overlander?
Before endeavoring into the world of overlanders, it’s important you know exactly what to look for in an appropriate vehicle. After all, overlanding isn’t the same as off-roading for a multitude of reasons. For starters, overlanding is intended to be spent over a longer period of time (sometimes weeks or months), whereas off-roading is often limited to day trips or shorter jaunts. That means you don’t just need a capable vehicle, but you need one that can hold enough gear to get you and the folks you travel with through it all.
Similarly, off-roading often entails trekking over dangerous terrain – pushing the limits of your vehicle in activities like bouldering, wall climbs, etc. While an overlander should be able to hold its own over rough ground, you wouldn’t necessarily try to scale a 25% grade in one unless you had no other choice. Besides, that will likely send all your gear flying. At the end of the day, what makes the vehicles on this list different from standard 4x4s is that, along with being off-road ready, they also have to be well equipped to tackle long distances while hauling a wealth of gear.
Off-Roading vs. Overlanding
If you want to get more acquainted with the intricacies of these two subjects, a great place to start is with our off-roading versus overlanding article.
Jeep Wrangler JK Sahara 4-Door
If you are reading this article and you didn’t expect to see a Jeep on the list, then you might need to refresh your vehicular knowledge – because Jeeps are some of the absolute most capable USA-made vehicles ever built. To those who aren’t surprised, good – we’re on the same page. In theory, you could make an argument that any version of the Wrangler (and a good number of their other models) is a worthwhile overlander, but we’re quite fond of the JK Sahara. Coming standard with the brand’s Command-Trac 4×4 system, flared fenders, a decent ground clearance, an optional Radio 430 NAV system with a high-tech touchscreen and more, this SUV is just begging to be taken out on the trails for long stretches of time. Our favorite part, however, is that the hard top and the doors can be completely removed and the windshield can be dropped for the complete open-air driving experience – which is a huge bonus when the weather is nice.
Vehicle Class: SUV
Torque: 260 ft-lbs
Towing: 3,500 lbs
Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
There’s no rule that says an Overlander has to be an SUV. Especially if you need more room for gear and less room for people, a pickup truck is likely a much better option. And this one from Toyota is certainly one of the absolute best (that you can get in the USA). Not only do you get the brand’s legendary reliability, but this trim also comes loaded with premium options that include a 1/4″ skid plate for undercarriage protection, a cat-back exhaust, Rigid LED fog lights, Fox shocks, multi-terrain driving modes, an electronically locking rear differential, and so much more. That’s to say nothing of the tech housed within the cabin, or even the extra utility features – like a 120V outlet mounted in the bed for powering whatever high-tech electronic gear you’ve brought with you.
Vehicle Class: Pickup Truck
Torque: 265 ft-lbs
Towing: 6,400 lbs
Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
If you like everything that Toyota’s Tacoma pickup truck has to offer, but you were hoping for something with a little more cabin space – be that for additional passengers or just gear that you don’t to subject to the elements, then we have good news for you. Their TRD Pro trim is also available on their 4Runner SUV. For all intents and purposes, with the exception of a bed versus an extended cab, they are the exact same vehicle. Which means this 4Runner can go anywhere the Tacoma can with the exact same amount of ease. But, this one has a higher measure of comfort, thanks to the size of the interior. It’s also a better option for those hoping to do some car camping, because you can fold the back seats down flat and sleep in the back if you so desire. There’s even a greater measure of safety from front to back, as the 4Runner is equipped with side-impact door beams that stretch the length of the vehicle. Not a bad tradeoff, at all.
Vehicle Class: SUV
Torque: 278 ft-lbs
Towing: 5,000 lbs
If you’re cued into classic SUVs, then you’ve probably heard of the Nissan Patrol. If not, let us tell you, that vehicle stood right alongside the likes of Jeep, Land Rover, and Ford when it came to both style and capability. What you might not know is that over the years it eventually transformed into the Armada (at least here in the United States). And while the present-day version of the Patrol doesn’t carry the same weight as its old-school counterparts, it still makes for an excellent overlander SUV. With seating for up to 8, a hefty tow capacity, great ground clearance and suspension, internal tech (for a more enjoyable cabin experience), solid reliability, and a standard roof rack – you could do far worse in your search for a worthwhile overlander.
Vehicle Class: SUV
Torque: 394 ft-lbs
Towing: 8,500 lbs
Ford F-150 Raptor
Ford’s F-150 was just in the news for a pretty shocking reason: the truck is so popular, they’ve run out of parts needed to manufacture them. That says a lot about the quality of the base model, let alone the far-more-rugged Raptor edition. Seriously, this truck is badass from tip to tail and would make an excellent overlander for anyone. Hell, even if you’ve got a full brood of little ones, the Raptor has a beefy cab large enough for five to sit in relative comfort – and then it still has a full-length bed out back to store all your gear. Sure, it doesn’t have the best MPG rating (15/18), but it does come standard with a 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine, a lift kit, Fox Racing Shox, an independent front suspension, electronically locking rear differential, a host of beneficial towing controls, six driving modes, and the list just goes on and on.
Vehicle Class: Pickup Truck
Torque: 510 ft-lbs
Towing: 6,000-8,000 lbs
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4×4
While a pickup truck or SUV is more than enough for some people, we’re aware that others need a little more room in an overlander. And that’s doubly true if you extend the length of your overlanding trip for a bit longer than with which others might be comfortable. Yes, we mean months to potentially years. If you’re interested in getting off-road for the long haul, you can do no better than the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4×4. Based on the brand’s panel cargo van, this off-road friendly version is the top choice for long-term adventurers around the world. With enough space to pack your whole life inside, this beefy adventure van is ready to tackle any terrain – thanks to its light weight (the 4×4 off-road system only adds 265 lbs to the total weight), electronically controlled low-gear differentials for navigating steep inclines, and four available body styles that give you varying lengths and heights to meet your requirements exactly.
Vehicle Class: Cargo Van
Torque: 325 ft-lbs
Towing: 7,500 lbs
Mercedes-Benz G 500 4×4²
While it’s the most expensive SUV on our list (by a long shot), the Mercedes-Benz G 500 4×4 Squared can’t be beaten when it comes to style, luxury, and performance. A jacked-up, ultra-ruggedized version of the brand’s iconic G-Class sport utility vehicle, this edition benefits from a massive lift (with a whopping 17.72 inches of ground clearance), a beefy 4.0-liter Biturbo V8 engine (with NANOSLIDE cylinder walls that are twice as hard as conventional cast-iron), permanent all-wheel drive paired with all-terrain tires, and the ability to ford waters as deep as 40 inches. And while there’s all that ruggedness and capability on the outside, the inside is as comfortable as a 5-star hotel – with black top-grain leather upholstery and accents, a fully-featured entertainment system, and all the other beautiful bits that make Mercedes vehicles as highly coveted and sought after as they are. If you’ve got the money, this is the SUV to get.
Vehicle Class: SUV
Torque: 450 ft-lbs
Towing: 7,000 lbs
Yes, a third Mercedes-Benz closes out our list. And, honest to god, it’s probably across-the-board the most rugged non-custom off-roader on the market. The Unimog is legendary – not just in off-road circles, but also amongst the industrial and military worlds. Originally released after WWII as an agricultural vehicle designed to haul and operate saws in forests and harvesting machines in fields, this massive truck has been operated on some of the most unforgiving terrain in the world. And it has done so with grace and without ever quitting. From deserts, to jungles, to mountains, and so on, there’s no road this vehicle can’t handle. Hell, the Unimog has even participated in the Dakar truck rally raids. It definitely comes with a paycheck to match its sheer size and capability, but if you want the absolute toughest overlander ever made, this is it
Vehicle Class: Semi-Trailer Truck
Torque: 664 ft-lbs
Towing: ~45,000 lbs
Pelican Soft Cooler: Keeping Food And Drink Fresh For Days
Looking for the perfect overland companion for your provisions? Pelican’s adventure-ready lightweight soft coolers are an ideal alternative to cumbersome hard top options. Available in 12, 24, and 48-can sizes, each Pelican Soft Cooler is not only extremely durable, waterproof, and leakproof but its able to hold ice for up to 72 hours – keeping all perishable items fresh for days at a time.