This is our fourth annual 10 Best Buys in Four-Wheel Drive list, which differs from our Four Wheeler of the Year competition in that it includes every four-wheel-drive vehicle on the market for consideration, and not just those that are all-new or significantly improved. We pick what we feel are the rigs in each category that will get you on the trail fastest, work as a solid foundation for aftermarket upgrades, and give you the most factory capability for the money. We have changed up our categories slightly from years past and now include recognition for the best four-wheel-drive system available. Here are our picks for 2008's 10 Best Buys in Four-Wheel Drive. Feel free to tell us what you think, or what your picks would have been, at www.fourwheeler.com.
Base Price: $28,240
Consecutive years on the list: 4There is only one true contender in this category, at least until Hummer's anticipated H4 comes out in a couple of years. But for now, the Wrangler is unchallenged in how it goes about its business. With go-kart maneuverability, solid axles, front and rear lockers, long-travel coil-spring suspension, a 4:1 transfer case, 32-inch BFGood-rich Mud-Terrains, monotube shocks, electronic disconnecting front sway bar, and factory rocker protection, the Wrangler is a solid choice for anyone with a need for some serious trail work. Add in a configurable hardtop system (or soft top, if you prefer) and navigation system availability, and it is also refined enough to be used as a daily driver.
Others Considered: None
Base Price: $33,560
Consecutive years on the list: 1With a reasonable base price and all-around great city manners, the H3 has always been a favorite of the Four Wheeler staff, and this year it has managed to woo enough staffers to bump Nissan's Xterra off of the list, despite the Nissan's lower base price. Perhaps it is the available rocker protection and 4:1 transfer case with a 69:1 crawl ratio (on manual transmission variants) that makes the difference to our experts. For less than $35,000 you get a solid body and chassis, rear locker, and an adequate 3.7L I-5 that gets a respectable fuel economy rating of 14/18 and really shines on the trail. For trail work, the I-5/manual is our favorite combination. With that suggested setup, you will be able to lug down to 350 rpm without stalling and will have enough torque down low to crawl over just about anything in your way.
Others Considered: Toyota FJ Cruiser, Nissan Xterra NISMO
Base Price: $57,590
Consecutive years on the list: 4There is no question that the H2 is the most trailworthy fullsize SUV available. With its 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires, a rear locker, and seating for seven, the H2 will get you and your family through all but the narrowest of trails. We've spent thousands of miles in the H2 covering freeway commutes, cross-country jaunts and hard chase and race miles on the Baja Peninsula, and they are built stout and have arguably the best drivetrain and body protection of anything on the market. One look at its recovery shackles, and you know the H2 is a serious player. For 2008, the H2 gained a more upscale interior and a more powerful and fuel-efficient drivetrain in the form of a 6.2L V-8 and six-speed automatic transmission with a lower First gear that bring the crawl ratio to a satisfying 39:1.
Others Considered: Chevrolet Suburban Z/71