Click for Coverage
  • JP Magazine
  • Dirt Sports + Off-Road
  • 4-Wheel & Off-Road
  • Four Wheeler
Subscribe to the Free

2010 10 Best Buys In Four Wheel Drive

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on September 1, 2010
Share this
Photographers: Four Wheeler StaffCourtesy of Manufacturer

Is it irony or cruelty when the world is trying to lock up access to places to wheel, yet the auto manufacturers are creating some of the most compelling and capable vehicles ever built? Real rigs are built-not bought-goes the famous wheeling cliché, but these days there are plenty of great rigs that can be bought and wheeled right off of the showroom floor. And because of the robust components made for the trail, they also happen to be really great foundations to build off of as well. Sounds like a win-win for everybody. Unlike the objective criteria of our Truck of The Year testing, our 10 Best Buys in Four-Wheel Drive is a subjective assessment by the Four Wheeler staff of every 4x4 on the market. We pick the best 4x4s available today, ones that have comprehensive off-road packages, solid aftermarket support, and more than 1,000 units produced.

Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
Base Price: $38,995
Consecutive Years On List: 1
Under $40,000 for a truck that takes on desert terrain at freeway speeds? And it comes with a full warranty? Sign us up. The SVT Raptor might just be the most extreme truck to ever come from the factory, and will no doubt join the ranks of the Bill Stroppe Bronco and the like in wheeling immortality at the end of it's production run. It is to desert whompers what the Lamborghini Countach was to a generation of adolescent boys-an aspirational vehicle worthy of display on bedroom walls. Except this one is affordable. Not only does the Raptor have schoolyard-arresting styling, but the list of standard equipment rivals the 4 Wheel Parts catalog: Fox internal bypass shocks, 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires, 4.10:1 gearing, any-speed rear locker, Off-Road Mode, auxiliary switches, full skidplating, and a foot of suspension travel are just the beginning of the list of goodies. Four-wheel drive, a low center of gravity, and a 45.1:1 crawl ratio make sure it isn't just a one-trick pony, either.

Jeep Wrangler/Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
Base Price: $29,525 (Wrangler)/ $32,800 (Unlimited)
Consecutive Years On List: 6
The Jeep Wrangler is arguably the best factory 4x4 ever built. And we only say "arguably" because we all have that one friend who likes to debate hot when we say cold, chocolate when we like vanilla, and Coke when we crave Dr. Pepper-even when he is wrong. How do you dispute solid axles, flexy coil-sprung suspension, 4.0:1 transfer case and front and rear lockers? Don't forget that the Rubicon also upgrades the treads to special 32-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/As and monotube shocks. The electronic disconnecting sway bar is no gimmick either; disconnect it when crawling through the boulder field, then lock it up for better stability on a side slope-or the ride home. Today's Jeep Wrangler comes in two body styles, with your choice of removable hard or soft top, removable doors and a fold-down windshield. Does anyone really need a fold-down windshield? Probably not, but it just goes to show the lengths that Jeep Wrangler engineers were willing to go to make sure that the Jeep Wrangler stays true to its roots. There is retro and there is authentic, and after nearly 70 years of production, today's Jeep Wrangler is as Jeep-authentic as ever.

PhotosView Slideshow

Ram Power Wagon
Base Price: $45,780
Consecutive Years On List: 6
This is a real truck. A man's, man's truck. A corn-fed, blue-collar, hearty-work-ethic kind of a truck. It is the kind of truck you climb up into and the kind of truck you want to drive when you have 1,940 pounds in the bed, five close friends and a boulder-strewn route between points A and B. At the heart of the Power Wagon are front and rear lockers stuffed into massive solid axles with 4.56:1 gearing. Front electronic disconnecting sway bar used in conjunction with front coil springs makes it an RTI ramp champ, and when the going gets really rough, you have Bilstein monotube dampers and 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires mounted on 17-inch forged wheels to rely on. And just in case you find yourself just a little bit too far on the road less traveled, the standard factory-installed 12,000-pound Warn winch is there for the assist. For 2010, the Power Wagon inherits the latest in Dodge styling and crew cab comfort, making long trips a pleasure for everyone who is along for the adventure. Just be careful, though-the Power Wagon is so darn capable, you might have to hide the keys from the neighbors.

Nissan Xterra Off Road
Base Price: $29,500
Consecutive Years On List: 2
Anyone who offers a functional, no nonsense SUV should be rewarded, so we awarded the Nissan Xterra our Four Wheeler of the Year in 2009. We liked the sturdy and rugged F-Alpha platform, the torquey 4.0L V-6, the Off Road package which adds a rear locker, 32-inch BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires, skidplates, Bilstein shocks and roof-mounted auxiliary lights the Nissan Xterra have. Kudos goes to the flexible cargo area with adjustable tie-downs and wipe-down plastic. Sweetening the pot is the fact that you can have it all for under $30,000. The Nissan Xterra is function personified and makes one heck of a weekend warrior machine.

Nissan Frontier PRO-4X
Base Price: $25,010
Consecutive Years On List: 6
Like its SUV brother, the Nissan Xterra, the Frontier is based off of Nissan's F-Alpha platform. If you squint your eyes just right, it is like a Nissan Xterra with a pickup bed. The PRO-4X model is the pickup equivalent to the Nissan Xterra Off Road, and has the same great 4.0L DOHC V-6 engine, same pushbutton rear locker, and same BFGoodrich tires, although what it lacks in awesome roof rack and roof auxiliary lights, it makes up for in usable bed space, a factory spray-on bedliner and Utili-trak bed rail system. And with the Crew Cab model, you don't lose a whole lot of passenger space versus the SUV. We'd even venture to say the King Cab, manual transmission-equipped model, is one of the most fun-to-drive 4x4s out there, on or off highway. At just $25,010, this is probably the best 4x4 value around. It comes down to needs, and whether you need a pickup or SUV, Nissan has your back.

Toyota FJ Cruiser All-Terrain Package
Base Price: $30,170
Consecutive Years On List: 2
So it looks a little funny with its retro grille and space-aged butt, but on the trail there is a whole lot of fun to be had behind the wheel of Toyota's FJ Cruiser. Another affordable option in the midsize SUV segment, the FJ was designed with the Four Wheeler reader in mind. Based off of the robust Prado platform, the FJ brings to the trail a rev-happy 4.0L V-6, rubber flooring, and Japanese flair. Click off the All-Terrain package and you net a rear locker, 31-inch BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires, Bilstein shocks, A-TRAC Active Traction Control and a multi-information display that offers up an inclinometer compass, and exterior temp. Automatic-equipped FJs get part-time four-wheel drive, while manual-equipped models get full-time four-wheel drive. Rumors still persist that a next-generation FJ won't be part of Toyota's product portfolio, so now is as good a time as ever if you've been looking.

Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition Package
Base Price: $38,454
Consecutive Years On List: 1
Like a prodigal son who denies his family to go out and experience the world, but then returns when the realization is made that his pedigree wasn't so bad after all, the 4Runner has returned. The 4Runner has always been synonymous with trail capability, but over the last couple generations, it seemed as if the 4Runner had lost its way in an effort to compete with the more mainstream SUVs, getting awfully close to luxury territory. After a thorough redesign for 2010, we can tell you the 4Runner is back. Our 2010 Four Wheeler of the Year winner, the 4Runner Trail Edition Package takes some of the technology from its Land Cruiser big brother, such as the awesome Crawl Control. The Trail Edition Package starts with an SR5 and adds A-TRAC, electronic rear locker, a Torsen limited-slip center differential with locking capability, and Bilstein shocks. The excellent Lexus-sourced Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System is also an available option. All this technology doesn't come cheap, though, so don't expect the 4Runner to slot into the same part of the market as it did when it debuted in 1984. This is yet another reason the '80s should be brought back.

Ram 1500 TRX4
Base Price: $30,455
Consecutive Years On List: 2
When the Ram was redesigned for 2009, it instantly became one of our favorite designs on the market. However, beauty isn't just skin-deep on the Ram, as the 1500 TRX4 has some very desirable qualities for those who have a need to hit the dirt. Take, for example the revised suspension tuning, a tight rear helical limited-slip, coil-sprung rear suspension, skidplates, 3.92:1 axle ratio, 32-inch Goodyear tires and an available 5.7L Hemi V-8. While the Ram works great on the pavement, what is surprising is just how well this fullsize truck works on the trail. Take it to the soft terrain, such as deep sand, and the link-coil arrangement in the rear harnesses all of the Hemi power without a hint of axle hop. Best-in-class ride highway ride and available Ram Box functionality seal the deal for us.

Hummer H3/H3T Adventure Package
Base Price: $33,320
Consecutive Years On List: 6
The brand may officially be dead, but that doesn't change the fact that the Hummer H3/H3T was one of the best factory off-road vehicles ever produced, and a perennial favorite of ours. Incredible approach and departure angles, 33-inch Bridgestone Dueler tires, front and rear lockers, full skidplating, rock rails and a 4:1 transfer case made the H3 and H3T beasts on the trail. The H3 Alpha won our Four Wheeler of the Year competition in 2008, and in 2009 the Hummer H3T took top honors in our Pickup Truck of the Year shootout. With inventory waning, killer deals can be had (how does less than $30,000 sound?) on the H3/H3T until supplies are exhausted. As a bonus, GM will still service them and back your warranty. Hummer had its image problems, but the vehicles work on the trail and worked well. There will always be a soft spot for the Hummer brand at Four Wheeler.

Ford Super Duty FX4
Base Price: $32,780 (2011 pricing)
Consecutive Years On List: 6
It's no surprise that when you arrive at the trailhead, you see Super Dutys everywhere towing trail rigs. It could very well be the poster child for people who tow. The big Ford is available in countless configurations, and while you are more likely to come across a Power Wagon on the trail, it is the Ford that you see hauling the majority of the toys to and fro. Ford doesn't make a half-bad package in the FX4, either. Checking off that box on your tow rig adds Rancho shocks, 33-inch tires, Hill Descent Control, an electronic rear locker, and skidplates. A luxuriously trimmed cabin with room for all and the ability to yank whatever you want to hook up to it makes solidifies the Super Duty's return to our 10 Best list.

Connect With Us

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to the Magazine

Browse Articles By Vehicle

See Results