Weathermen are predicting low temperatures, snow and icy driving conditions this winter. Against the backdrop of cars sliding off roads, or unable to start off at all, those big-wheeled fat-fendered 4x4 SUVs that everyone likes to hate so much, suddenly come into their own. They go from public enemy number one to objects of envy.
Proper four-wheel drive cars (as opposed to faux SUVs or crossovers which barely offer more off-roading ability than your average hatchback) don’t have to be big, or ugly, or even planet-killers. Here’s a rundown of some of the best choices to consider for whatever this season’s weather is about to throw at us!
Affordable off-roader - Dacia Duster
Just £19k-21k will get you into four-wheel drive Dacia Duster (depending on spec), which not only looks the part, but is also reasonably accomplished in tricky conditions. It’s not particularly fast, but that’s not what you need in an off-roader, and 53mpg economy certainly appeals to the thrifty-minded. It may not be the only cheap brand new 4x4 out there – the Suzuki Ignis All-Grip for example can be had for just over £16k, but it can’t match the Duster for interior space and practicality.
American Action Hero – New Ford Bronco
The all-new Ford Bronco is not available in the UK, and nor does Ford have any plans to officially import it for the time being. However, based on the next generation Ranger pick-up (which will come here), these are very hot right now among off-road enthusiasts. Solid 4x4 credentials combined with Hollywood looks and retro-cool style, make the new Bronco highly desirable. Unsurprisingly imports are already being offered for sale here at prices around £70k.
Cute ‘n Capable – 2019 Suzuki Jimny
Sadly, these are only available while stocks last, having fallen victim to emissions legislation that saw them down-graded from four-seaters to two-seat ‘Commercial’ versions, despite only having been on sale for a couple of years. However, these are not only adorable to behold – in person they’re smaller than you’d think (yet impressive accommodating) but also giant-slayers in the off-road world. Fortunately, they sold in decent numbers so you can pick them up used from £25,000.
Electric Dreams - Volvo XC40 Recharge P8
In the next year or two you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice when it comes to awesome electric-only off-roaders, especially if we include American offerings such as the Tesla Cybertruck, the new GMC Hummer EV and the Rivian R1T, not to mention what the likes of Land Rover has in the pipeline. Several electric cars currently on sale also offer all-wheel drive including the Kia EV6 and Ford Mustang Mach-E, however the fully electric new Volvo XC40 Recharge P8, not only looks and feels the part, but actually boasts an off-road mode. And what better car to keep your family safe for the winter in, than a Volvo?
For the Gram - Lamborghini Urus
If you’re searching for the supercar of the off-road world, seek no further. Looking just like a Lamborghini should, the Urus actually shares its platform with the Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne. It’s not just all pose for the Instagram though, the Urus is surprisingly capable on the rough stuff and is aided not only by all-wheel-drive, but four-wheel steering, rear axle torque-vectoring and off-road packages offering multiple terrain modes. It’s quick too. And did I mention? It’s a Lamborghini!
Lumberjack Load Lugger - Isuzu D-Max
The pick-up truck offerings in the UK have diminished of late, but you can still buy the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger. Great cars both, however they are due for replacement or revision soon. This year Isuzu introduced its new, and most car-like D-Max pickup yet. Get the top-spec V-Cross and it comes with a plush leather-upholstered cabin with all the kit you could want, along with driver safety features such as collision avoidance and adaptive cruise control. There’s also hidden storage and sharp looking wheels. Of course, diesel-torque and four-wheel drive ensures it’ll happily climb steep angles, wade through floods and grip wherever you need it to.
Rule Britannia - Land Rover Defender
You’ve seen them undertaking breath taking leaps in the latest Bond movie, and the new Defender, while grabbing its heritage by the scruff and thrusting it firmly into the 21st century, retains rugged do-or-die go anywhere ability, despite switching away from traditional body-on-frame construction. It’s the most comfortable and family-friendly ‘Defender’ ever, and in truth it’s more a spiritual successor to the original Land Rover Discovery from the 1990s, but that just confirms it’s worth as a handsome all-rounder, that can cash the cheques its looks are writing.
Second Chances - Range Rover
Of course, when it comes to cars that are ‘King of the Hill’ there is nothing like the original luxury off-roader that equally appealed to Kings and Queens, Lords, Farmers and Adventurers in its heyday. Now challenged as the world’s best luxury 4x4 by upstarts from Rolls-Royce and Bentley, Land Rover has just announced an all-new version that will lift the game even further. Trouble is, new Rangies are too posh and valuable (starting from around £100k) to be roughing it with. On the other hand, used previous generation cars (2012-2021) can now be had from just £25,000 in the classifieds. Suddenly you CAN be Lord of your Manor!
The Oligarch - Mercedes G-Wagon
Favoured by Sheikhs, Hollywood elite and Oligarchs, the legendary G-Wagon in the Mercedes range, while closely resembling the G-Class that’s been around since the late 70s, was actually substantially revised in 2018, nearly 40 years after the launch of the original. Longer, wider, higher, safer, more comfortable, and dripping in German opulence inside, the G remains as rugged, reliable and imposing as ever. Get the AMG versions.
Unexpected - Subaru Outback
You’re thinking this is just a regular estate car on stilts – and small stilts at that. But the Subaru Legacy-based Outback in four-wheel drive guise is recognised as being the best of its admittedly tiny niche (off-roading estates). Its symmetrical all-wheel-drive system and impressive approach, departure and break-over angles puts some SUVs to shame. In addition to being surprisingly good when the going gets rough, it’s a well-equipped and hugely capacious, comfortable and versatile car. Basically, get this if you live in Camden, and really want an off-roader but your neighbour is a member of the Alliance against Urban 4×4s.
War Veteran - Jeep Wrangler
When it comes to off-roaders, this is the Daddy. From WWII-winning veteran to beach bumming in the 60s, and today a thoroughly modern, family-accommodating, modern-specced, indomitable SUV, that is as happy axle-deep in a bog, as it is rolling into a Sainsbury’s car park. All Wranglers by definition can off-road beyond the needs of most drivers. Acquire a Rubicon spec though, with its remote locking diffs and terrain response systems, and it will traverse the toughest terrain conceivable. Still need more? Countless modifications, whether officially from the Mopar range, or a multitude of after-market suppliers, can turn this into a beast that the tallest mountains will tremble in fear of. It’s an icon.