Are these the greatest off-roaders of all time?
Not all classic cars find their home on tarmac – with some enjoying the looser surfaces off the beaten track. Here are some of the best all-wheel-drive action heroes
In the Eighties and Nineties there was a huge boom in popularity of SUVs and four-wheel-drive cars, with some of them now seen as established classics.
Here are some of the best 4x4s that have become icons of their era.
It’s not big, but the Japanese-built Jimny can scramble over just about anything. Although the newest Jimny is the most capable yet, older versions can still easily surmount most terrains and challenges thrown at them.
The cute little 4×4 has been in production since 1998, following on from the legendary SJ series that could trace its roots back to the early Seventies and was designed to fit in with Japan’s strict Kei car guidelines. Although it’s small, the Jimny is mighty, as it comes with selective four-wheel drive and peppy 1.3-litre OHC engines – its five-slot grille and asymmetrical windows are Suzuki SUV trademarks.
Land Rover Defender
If you’re British and live in a rural area, you still see Defenders everywhere – and there’s a reason for that. It may not be the nicest to drive with a hard ride, cramped cabin and haphazard switchgear layout, but the old Defender is an iconic off-roader.
Its boxy shape and go-anywhere capabilities have made the Defender a faithful companion for many, with a 33-year production run. The Defender came in many different forms – but most popular are the 90 and 110, named after the length of their wheelbase in inches. Although the new one is now with us, nothing can beat the original for ability, iconography or outright coolness.
Building on the heritage of the Willys MB and Jeep CJ, the Wrangler has a lot of off-road pedigree behind it. It also looks like an off-roader should, with four-wheel drive, a squared-off body and plenty of ground clearance to get it over the roughest terrain.
Although the latest model –released in 2017 – is said to be the ablest off-roader of the lot, older versions built their reputation on the back of their off-road ability. They were more utilitarian but characterful, and were impressive vehicles off the beaten track.
Toyota Land Cruiser
With 10 million of them sold worldwide since it was introduced, it’s difficult to ignore the popularity or ability of the Toyota Land Cruiser. Used all over the planet, the Land Cruiser is one of the biggest off-roaders, and has served all tastes from purely utilitarian to luxury SUV.
Although the current J200 is incredibly capable, the previous model – the J100 – was arguably the coolest of the bunch, coming with a V8 and a series of durable in-line 6-cylinder units. Or for looks alone, the original FJ Land Cruiser is the most iconic.
Okay – it’s not an SUV or a typical “off-roader”, but the turbocharged Quattro can still hold its own when the going gets rough. Made famous for its exploits during the Group B era of the World Rally Championship, the Quattro’s four-wheel drive system made it an absolute beast on loose gravel and snow – especially at high speeds.
With mercurial policeman Gene Hunt also having one in Ashes to Ashes, there’s something particularly special about the Quattro, with the boxy shape epitomising 80s style. It also set the template for future Audis, with the brand’s four-wheel drive system named after the famous model.