These are the best cars when the road ends.
Though most truck and SUV owners will rarely take their vehicles off the pavement, this hasn't stopped automakers from releasing some awe-inspiring off-road-capable models this year. The winner of the CarBuzz Off-Road Warrior award is the vehicle that we'd most want to take on an unpaved adventure. Different forms of off-roading, including rock crawling, hill climbing, dune running, and mudding, are considered here.
In the award's inaugural year, the 2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD-Pro was declared our Off-Road Warrior. This year, the competition heated up with some stiff competition. Some vehicles that just missed the cut include the Ford Super Duty Tremor, GMC 2500 AT4, Lexus GX, Lexus LX, and the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. The Off-Road Warrior winner and our nine other award winners will be announced on December 21.
Here are the three finalists for Off-Road Warrior:
No list of off-road capable vehicles could ever be complete without a Jeep. Though the 2020 Jeep Gladiator is not an all-new model, the addition of a new Mojave trim reinvigorated the lineup for this year. The Mojave trim sacrifices a bit of the Rubicon's low-speed capability in exchange for improved high-speed handling. Off-roaders that live in areas with more sand and open trails will prefer this Gladiator to the old-school Rubicon.
In our opinion, the Mojave is the best Gladiator yet. Not only is it capable off-road, but the heavy-duty Fox Racing shocks also make it more comfortable on the road than a normal Gladiator or Wrangler. Of course, the roof and doors are still removable, making it even more enjoyable to drive.
The Jeep Gladiator was nominated as a finalist for last year's Off-Road Warrior Award. Jeep hopes the addition of the Mojave trim will help it take home the victory this year.
The 2020 Land Rover Defender is the return of an icon. Though it differs greatly from the original utilitarian Defender, Land Rover seems to have stumbled upon the ultimate SUV formula with this new model. The interior is far less posh than a Range Rover, but it still feels luxurious yet somewhat utilitarian inside. Land Rover's clever use of materials and design elements such as exposed screws give the Defender a rugged vibe without feeling spartan.
Under the hood, buyers can choose between a turbocharged four-cylinder or inline-six, both with mild-hybrid assistance for added smoothness and performance. It may be a luxury vehicle, but the Defender doesn't shy away from an off-roading challenge. This car's clever electronics make it easy for a novice off-roader to hop in and conquer treacherous inclines.
It's easy to be distracted by the latest and greatest technology, but dependability is still one of the most important factors when selecting an off-roader. Few vehicles are more reliable than the 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser, and even fewer can match its capability. There is a reason why Land Cruisers occupy some of the least hospitable regions of the world; they are bulletproof.
When we tested the Land Cruiser Heritage Edition earlier this year, we watched as a group of lifted trucks failed to get up a steep, sandy incline. We tossed the Land Cruiser into its high range and crawled up it without issue, dropping the jaws of the truck owners. It may not be the newest model on this list, but the Land Cruiser hasn't lost a step.