Overlanding is more popular as ever — We love off-road machines that can take you and the essentials into the wilderness without a hitch. SUVs, trucks and even vans make great platforms for overlanding rigs, and we found plenty of great examples while covering the 2020 Chicago Auto Show.
Here’s a list of ten great vehicles that work as the base for your overland rig, so you can decide which one is right for you.
10) Mercedes-Benz Metris Weekender
The Weekender starts our list off strong with a pop-up roof that adds extra space to the cabin. Two can sleep in the elevated roof area, while two more can sleep below on the rear bench which opens into a bed. The rear bench seat can be slid back and forth for extra cargo space, and the front seats can be turned to face backwards towards the living area.
While the adjustable seats make room where you need it, an extra battery provides power without the worry of draining the starter battery. If that wasn’t enough, the van can even be optioned with solar panels, an awning, a lift gate tent, and a pull out kitchen at the back. The Weekender will be available in dealerships soon, though Mercedes hasn’t announced official pricing just yet.
9) Ford Expedition
Springing for the Expedition takes you on a whole different route than the Mercedes. However, what the Expedition lacks in camping modifications, it makes up for with four-wheel drive and its ability to tow nearly 10,000 pounds.
The FX4 package also helps the Expedition off-road, with a locking rear differential and skid plates assisting the 3.5 liter EcoBoost along trails. Add in seating room for eight and you get a pretty appealing package overall.
8) Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator
Its nearly impossible to have a discussion about off-roading and not bring up the original. Both the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator have proved themselves to be worthy rocks crawlers thanks to tough solid axles, locking differentials, and even a disconnecting rear sway bar.
The Wrangler starts at $28,295 for the two-door Sport, whereas the roomier Gladiator starts at $33,545 (prices exclude destination). The Mopar parts catalog also supports buyers with a wide range of modifications that can contribute to overland functionality and off-road performance. However, factory options and modifications hike the price tag uphill as quickly and effortlessly as the Jeeps climb rocks.
7) Classic Land Cruiser
Theres a reason these old Land Cruisers hold their value so well. Few vehicles in the world are as reliable as the Toyota Land Cruiser, and it’s been that way ever since the beginning. These SUVs are way over built mechanically, that’s why so many people trust them off-road where other trucks fall to pieces.
Pricing on Land Cruisers depends on which model you get and its condition. Regardless of which you choose, Toyota’s flagship SUV is a work horse that will take you wherever you point it.
6) 200 Series Toyota Land Cruiser
While the classic Land Cruisers hold up over time, the new models continue to improve. With each generation comes a noticeable increase in refinement and some off-roading goodies like crawl control, while the drivetrain fundamentals remain old-school. Though they aren’t at the cutting edge of technology, sticking to the tried and true helps guarantee that there won’t be any issues with reliability.
As great as the 200 series and its 5.7 liter V-8 are, the Land Cruiser pack a massive price tag. $85,415 for an SUV that first debuted in 2008 is a lot, but some are willing to pay that premium to create some of the best overlanding rigs around.
5) Ford Transit
Not everyone needs a purpose built off-road truck. The Ford Transit offers tons of space for “van life” outdoor explorers who want to convert their panel van into a tiny home. Even without the extra off-road features offered in other vehicles, the Transit is pretty capable of taking you most anywhere you want to go despite its two-wheel drive.
A van like this can be outfitted DIY at a fairly reasonable price, but a professionally built van from companies like Explorer can go upwards of $70,000. Really, depending on how berserk you want to go with your build, the sky’s the limit on pricing.
4) Toyota 4Runner
Like the Land Cruiser, the 4Runner has been a staple of off-roading genius since its conception. Though the 4Runner isn’t as substantial as the Land Cruiser, it is lighter, cheaper, and nothing to shrug at when the pavement runs out. That being said, the 4Runner is similarly showing its age and lack of modern adornments.
Flaws such as this are far more excusable at a starting price point of only $36,120. Sadly though, the TRD Pro models do inflate that price all the way to $49,865. Modding beyond that can raise the price even further, to well north of $50,000.
3) Honda CR-V
We’ve grown so accustomed to seeing crossovers in urban settings, its easy to forget that they are intended to have some semblance of off-road capability. Thanks to its AWD system and respectable clearance, a CR-V with the right tires performs reasonably well when confronted with dirt and snow.
At $25,050 base price and gas mileage around 30MPG, the CR-V is as economical and practical of an overlander as you would probably expect it to be.
2) Lexus GX
The Lexus range of SUVs mixes Toyota reliability with an extra dimension of luxury. This GX features a 4.6 liter V-8 and four-wheel drive with crawl control to automatically take you up and down steep grades just like the Land Cruiser. An electronic differential lock helps further push the Lexus when surfaces get slippy.
The GX starts at $53,000, making it similarly priced to the TRD Pro 4Runner. Each is aimed at a different customer segment, but both have their perks.
1) Land Rover Defender
After 67 continuous years, the beloved Defender was replaced with a new model causing both excitement and outrage from Land Rover fans. Though its impossible to please everyone, the new Defender goes into battle with a slew of off-road features to make sure its namesake remains synonymous with rugged utility. With AWD, low range, and an electronic differential, the Defender boasts some impressive performance statistics.
This includes an approach angle of 38 degrees. The 2 liter inline-four puts out an impressive 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed ZF automatic. The SUV is fairly expensive at $49,900, but luxury features like air suspension and a handsome interior help justify that price.