Suzuki Grand Vitara

Suzuki Grand Vitara

2. It hasn't been redesigned lately.

With each redesign of a given vehicle, trail-ready chops tend to regress ever deeper into the DNA. Typically, SUVs get designed with all sorts of off-road features (e.g., the first Porsche Cayenne's low-range four-wheel-drive option), and then companies realize that nobody actually drives their Cayenne on the rocks at Moab, so those features get dropped as weight, and simplicity becomes the priority. It's counterintuitive, but if you care about off-road capability, you're generally better off looking at the models that have not been overhauled. The Suzuki Grand Vitara, for instance, has been around in its current guise since 2006, which means it hasn't gotten wussified yet. You can get it with rear-wheel drive and a five-speed manual. The 4x4 models have low range, normally reserved for the big trucks. Mercedes-Benz's Geländewagen, which falls into this category, hasn't been redesigned since 1979.