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War Horses: Five Family SUVs For Your Off-Road Summer


2011 Nissan Xterra PRO-4X

2011 Nissan Xterra PRO-4X

Sometimes you just want to get away from it all, kick city life in your rearview and get out there in the pristine wilderness – or a reasonable facsimile.

Just don’t expect to do it in any strictly-for-the road sedan or even a semi-capable crossover. Nope, for serious outdoor trail-trekking, you need a fully-capable SUV or truck. Let’s stick with SUVs for now, since we are talking about vehicles that can take you and your family members (small families, not big ones) off the beaten track.

For that, FamilyCarGuide has compiled a list of ten of the best SUVs for off-road, what we’re calling the war horses of the pack. We’ve split this list into two, so here’s part one.

Nissan Xterra

Built on solid truck underpinnings – a ladder-type frame and rugged suspension – the 2011 Nissan Xterra is a champ when it comes to going off-road. Plenty of power with the 261-horsepower 4.0-liter V-6 engine gets you going, but for serious off-roading, opt for the PRO-4X model (4X4 only) with standard locking differential, skid plates, Bilstein shocks, BF Goodrich off-road tires, hill descent control and hill start assist. Yes, there’s room enough for a small family and the Xterra is extraordinarily easy on the wallet. Proven around the world in some of the worst terrain imaginable, you can’t go wrong with the Nissan Xterra if you hanker to be out there in the wild. Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) ranges from $24,260 (X) to $29,670 (PRO-4X).

2011 Jeep Wrangler Mojave

2011 Jeep Wrangler Mojave

Jeep Wrangler

There’s no mistaking Jeep Wrangler, the iconic war horse of, well, real wars. The name Jeep is synonymous with off-road expertise for generations, from Audie Murphy to Lenny Kravitz. What is it about Wrangler that’s so appealing to off-road enthusiasts? For one thing, the Wrangler is virtually unstoppable. Want to crawl up the side of a mountain (where that’s permitted) like it’s a walk in the park? Go for the 2011 Jeep Wrangler, marketed by Jeep as “Capability without compromise.” Powered by a 202-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 sequential multi-port injection engine mated with six-speed manual transmission, the Wrangler features the Command-Trac shift-on-the-fly 4WD system. Wrangler is available in Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Sahara 70th Anniversary, Mojave and Rubicon. Starting price is $22,045 to $29,820.

 

2011 Toyota 4Runner

2011 Toyota 4Runner

Toyota 4Runner

The mid-size, truck-based Toyota 4Runner, all-new last year, seats five or seven, depending on trim. That should be ample room enough to cart around your pals or family members for an excursion off-road. Power comes from a 270-horsepower 4.0-liter V-6 engine and the 2011 model you really want is 4Runner Trail with part-time 4WD with active traction control, locking rear differential, multi-terrain select and crawl control, hill start control, skid plates and more standard. Note that the 4Runner Trail only seats five. Fuel economy is pretty decent, 17 mpg city/22 mpg highway. Prices begin at $36,555 for 4Runner Trail, although you can dude it up with lots of electronic options to make off-roading not nearly as isolated. See why TheCarConnection gives Toyota 4Runner a 7.7 overall rating (out of 10) in this review.


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