Four-wheel drive sport-utility vehicles aren't just for going off-road - there are a number of different uses for these versatile trucks. Therefore, when compiling a list of the best 4x4 SUVs, it's important to make sure that you are specific about what each model excels at. We've searched high and low to bring you 10 of the best 4wd SUVs currently available, and tried to discern what, exactly, each of these particular vehicles does best.
Let's take a look at 10 of the best 4x4 SUVs and sneak a quick peak at each of their unique strengths.
The Best 4x4 SUV For Rock-Climbing - 2012 Jeep Wrangler
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler - when ordered in the Rubicon trim level - is the best 4wd SUV out there for hopping from one rock to another. Named after the famed Rubicon trail, which is one of the most demanding environments for any off-road vehicle, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon comes with a host of gear that is intended to help make short work of a field of boulders. The Rubicon's front sway-bar can be remotely detached from inside the cabin for increased articulation, Dana 44 axles sit front and rear for extra strength, and a special Rock-Trac four-wheel drive system with an ultra-low 4:0:1 gear ratio means that the Wrangler can put its power down as precisely as it needs to. Throw in a 285 horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6, full-length rock rails, and the choice of either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, and it's clear to see why the Wrangler Rubicon leads the rock-climbing pack.
The Best 4x4 SUV For Tech Lovers - 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
Want a healthy dose of high technology to go with your four-wheel drive SUV? The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class has you covered. The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class can be had with an air suspension system, electric power steering, active roll-bars that help to enhance handling, and even a self-parking system that takes all of the anxiety out of slotting the full-size 4x4 into a parallel spot. The SUV's safety features also count towards the high tech column, as they include a lane keeping system, blind spot detection, a collision detection system with automatic braking, and the ability to stabilize the vehicle in a violent crosswind by way of its anti-lock brakes.
The Best 4x4 SUV For Affordable Luxury Seekers - 2012 Land Rover LR2
Land Rover has long been known for combining copious amounts of comfort and luxury with exceptional off-road prowess, and the 2012 Land Rover LR2 is no exception to the brand's reputation. The five-seat LR2 is aimed at city-dwellers who crave the ability to cut loose on the trail from time to time - or maybe just brave snowy and icy conditions on the way to and from work. The Land Rover's affordable starting price includes full leather seating, dual automatic climate control, and a panoramic sunroof, and it can also be outfitted with a heated windshield, HID headlights, Bluetooth connectivity, and a surround sound system. The heart of the LR2 is a 230 horsepower, 3.2-liter engine that also produces 234 lb-ft of torque and is connected to its four-wheel drive system via Land Rover's Terrain Response system.
The Best 4x4 SUV For Taking The Whole Family Off-Roading - 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser
The 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser is the most expensive vehicle in the Toyota lineup, and it's also one of the most capable when it comes to conquering rough terrain. The Toyota Land Cruiser features full-time four-wheel drive, Crawl Control for descending or ascending steep grades, and a Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that actively manages the suspension while the vehicle is in motion. It also seats up to seven passengers in the utmost comfort and luxury, which makes it an excellent option for holding a family picnic out where other SUVs fear to tread. Tying it all together is a 5.7-liter V-8 engine that generates 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque.
The Best 4x4 SUV For Making An Indelible First Impression - 2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
The 2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is big, brash, and surprisingly fuel efficient around town. The Cadillac Escalade Hybrid offers 20-mpg in stop and go driving, which is 25 percent better than the standard Escalade, and it follows that number up with a 23-mpg highway rating. These figures are made possible by a gasoline / electric drivetrain that consists of a 6.0-liter V-8 that works together with a pair of electric motors to generate 379 total horsepower. Inside, the Escalade Hybrid maintains the high standard of luxury set by the domestic brand, and outside it has other, lesser hybrid sport-utility vehicles quaking in their boots.
The Best 4x4 SUV For Confusing The Neighbors - 2012 BMW X6
What is the 2012 BMW X6? Is it a crossover? And SUV? A Coupe? The BMW X6 is marketed as all of these things, and its plunging rear roofline and 2+2 interior seating configuration are strong indicators that this particular SUV suffers from somewhat of an identity crisis. Saving the X6 from this puzzle are a pair of exciting drivetrains: a 3.0-liter, turbocharged six-cylinder that makes 300 horsepower, and a 4.4-liter V-8 that also makes use of turbocharging in order to crank out a hefty 400 horses and 450 lb-ft of torque. With the latter installed, the heavy BMW out-hustles its curb weight and delivers surprising acceleration.
The Best 4x4 SUV For Towing - 2012 GMC Yukon XL 2500
The 2012 GMC Yukon XL 2500 is an extended-length, heavy-duty SUV that can not only transport up to nine passengers or up to 137.4 cubic feet of cargo, but also turn in an impressive performance when it comes time to tow a heavy load. The GMC Yukon XL 2500 is capable of hauling up to 9,600 lbs, which puts it near the top of the SUV class. The Yukon XL 2500's towing brawn is delivered by a 6.0-liter V-8 engine that delivers 352 horsepower and 382 lb-ft of torque, managed by a standard six-speed automatic transmission.
The Best 4x4 SUV For High Performance Driving - 2012 Porsche Cayenne
The 2012 Porsche Cayenne is an SUV that has been engineered not only to be practical (as its five-passenger seating and 62.9 cubic feet of total cargo space attest to), but also fleet of foot. The Porsche Cayenne is available in a diverse number of editions, and the most spectacular of these is the Cayenne Turbo. This beast can count on 500 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque from its turbocharged, 4.8-liter V-8, allowing the SUV to spring to 60-mph in a brisk 4.8 seconds. An eight-speed automatic transmission handles the gear shifting duties for the sport-utility vehicle, which can also carve corners with the cunning of a sport sedan thanks to the attentions of Porsche's suspension design team.
The Best 4x4 SUV For Traditional Luxury Seekers - 2012 Lincoln Navigator L
The 2012 Lincoln Navigator L is another extended SUV, but instead of focusing on towing prowess it instead indulges owners with old world luxury. The Lincoln Navigator L comes standard with three rows of leather-wrapped eating, heated and ventilated front buckets, the SYNC vehicle interface, a navigation system, a surround sound audio system, and dual automatic climate control. Available gear includes a sunroof and rear-seat entertainment, and the vehicle's suspension is tuned to tame even the roughest roads. Under the hood, the Navigator L features a 310 horsepower, 5.4-liter V-8 that is also capable of generating 365 lb-ft of torque.
The Best 4x4 SUV For Daily Driving - 2012 Dodge Durango
The 2012 Dodge Durango is a great compromise for drivers who want the option of being able to rough it off-road on occasion without sacrificing too much when it comes to on-pavement smoothness. The Dodge Durango provides seven passenger seating, copious amounts of cargo space, and the compliant ride of a unibody platform. The Durango starts out with a 3.6-liter V-6 that is good for 290 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, with the upgrade of a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 also available. The latter churns out 360 ponies and 390 lb-ft of twist.