Buying Guides

The 5 Toughest SUVs You Can Buy Today

They take a beating and soldier on

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

Vehicles these days are better built than ever, with a few exceptions in the industry. Then there are vehicles that can take a beating without skipping a beat, and those are the ones that make us want to get apocalypse-ready. There are a handful of SUVs out there that aren't built just for looks. Underneath it all lies built-in toughness that can handle rough roads/terrain, Egyptian-plague-like weather conditions, and heavy use by its occupants. We've picked five of the best tough SUVs out there today, and you'd be smart to get one in your garage when things get just a bit uncertain in this world.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550

Best

for Affluent off-roaders

  • PROS: Built like a tank, three locking differentials and low gear let you get in and out of just about anything, refined interior belies its rugged nature, powerful twin-turbo V8 has massive amounts of power.
  • CONS: Tall body delivers noticeable wind noise at highway speeds, seriously expensive, makes you look like a rapper in some configurations.

The G-Wagen, as it's called, has been a legend for decades. At one point the brand even considered ending its life to the protest of fans all over the world. The 2020 G 500 might not be the super-potent and somewhat mad G63 AMG, but it's plenty powerful with a 416-horsepower twin-turbo V8. Even more impressive its military-spec body-on-frame construction and three-locking differentials that allow the G 550 to manage just about every terrain you can throw at it.

The interior is more posh than everything else on this list thanks to a high level of interior customization with an array of leather colors and trim types, premium tech like a big 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 15-speaker 590-watt Burmester audio system. While you're bombing the canyons, your passengers might not even notice.

2020 Land Rover Defender

 
  • PROS: Still remarkable to drive off-road with impressive clearance and terrain system, way nicer inside than the previous old-school defender, styling is original and fresh.
  • CONS: Base engine could use more juice, expensive to option out with the Defender's myriad accessories.

Although this is the one vehicle on the list without body-on-frame construction, it uses a monocoque-type aluminum frame that's ultra-rigid and allows the Defender to take on rugged terrain like its body-on-frame predecessor. The new Terrain Response 2 system is one of the best in the business, allowing the Defender to adapt to its driving surface automatically or with manual override.

It has more ground clearance (11.5 inches) than the Jeep Wrangler listed here, and it can ford over 35 inches of water. It also comes in two formats: 90 (two door) and 110 (four door), as well as two engines. The upsized P400 engine is a turbocharged, supercharged 395-hp inline-six with a 48-volt mild hybrid setup. Although the new Defender is super tough, it also happens to drive on-road even better thanks to an independent suspension.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

Best

for Weekend warriors

  • PROS: On-road manners are better than ever, almost nothing can beat it off-road, ample number of roof configurations, Uconnect infotainment is one of the best.
  • CONS: Firm on road ride, second row is tight on legroom, questionable reliability.

The Wrangler Unlimited takes the toughness of the two-door Wrangler and adds space for families. It might not be the most capacious SUV out there, but what you get in return is nearly-peerless off-road prowess that makes it worth it. New for the 2020 model year is a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel engine with 260 horsepower and 442 lb-ft that's just perfect for off-road needs.

The new interior looks so different from the last-gen in terms of technology and refinement, while still keeping the upright setup the Wrangler is known for. Amenities like heated seats, a top-notch Uconnect infotainment color touchscreen, Bluetooth, premium audio, and leather upshift the creature comforts. The numerous roof options, removable doors, and the folding windscreen make the Wrangler Unlimited truly unique in the pack.

2020 Toyota 4Runner

 
  • PROS: Remarkable off-road capability, ample space for second-row passengers and rear cargo loads, some trims can seat seven, TRD Pro trim adds vital rugged componentry for even more rugged adventures.
  • CONS: Dated interior and exterior design, thirsty V6 engine, firm on-road ride.

The 4Runner might be dated, but there's a reason why it still sells so well. Thanks to excellent body-on-frame construction, great reliability ratings, and now a supreme TRD Pro trim that boosts the off-road equipment set, the 4Runner is still desirable.

Those don't care about the best in ergonomics or infotainment screen size (the 4Runner only gets an 8" screen) but want legendary ruggedness should take a serious look at the 4Runner. Everything about screams utility from its 9.6 inches of ground clearance to its locking differential and nifty slide out cargo deck that makes loading and unloading a breeze.

2020 Toyota Land Cruiser

Best

for Overlanders

  • PROS: Luxurious and rugged all at once, vast amounts of interior space, bank vault-like construction, loaded with standard features, new Heritage Edition is a gold and black stunner.
  • CONS: The Civil War seems more recent than the last redesign, caveman ergonomics, thirsty V8 engine, lacks on-road refinement, going away after the 2020 model year.

The Land Cruiser isn't a hot-seller, nor is it modern, but we still love it for its superb construction and almost disguised off-road abilities. The interior, although aging, shows off features like four-zone automatic climate control, perforated heated/cooled leather seats, adaptive cruise control, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

Underneath it all lies the heart of an off-roader. The Land Cruiser gets full-time four-wheel drive along with a selectable low range and a center locking differential. It also benefits from its A-TRAC system, which can electronically mimic the effects of a front and rear locking differential. The KDSS, or Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, senses uneven terrain and actually disconnects the sway bars from improved wheel articulation. Can your BMW X7 do that? We didn't think so. Just make sure you get one while you can since Toyota may very well end the Land Cruiser's life very soon.

What constitutes toughness?

  • Body-on-frame construction.
  • Excellent build quality that can take heavy use.
  • Four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive capability.

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