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Best off-road SUV – take on anything with our top picks

Looking for an off-road SUV? Go anywhere and get home again with our selection of the top models on offer best suited for countryside living

Land Rover Discovery 5

The new fifth-generation Land Rover Discovery R-Dynamic SE D250 alongside an earlier model

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When it comes to having a dependable, solid off-road SUV, there are many factors to consider. You want something that has a big, wide boot that can hold not just your shooting equipment but also your family’s luggage. You want something that is affordable, reliable, perhaps even stylish, and above all else, any keen Shot needs something that can get them into the middle of nowhere and back. You need something that is good off-road.

But these days, with the proliferation of SUVs in the market, there are so many to choose from. We have put together a list of what we consider the very best options when considering an off-road SUV that will not only look the part, but also get you to parts unknown and back again.


1. Toyota Land Cruiser, 8 D-4D Icon 5dr Auto 7 Seats

Best overall

  • Fuel type/size: Diesel/2.8 litres
  • Transmission: Automatic
  • Boot space (seats up/seats down): 640/1,270 litres
  • Max load weight: 850kg
  • Max towing weight (breaked/unbreaked): 3,000/750kg

+ Legendary reliability, almost indestructible
+ Rugged, tough-as-old-boots engine
+ Lots of internal storage space
+ Good people-carrier
+ Rides high so great departure angle

+/- Feels a bit more agricultural than its rivals

– Surprisingly average load space
– Basically no boot in 7-seat mode


If you’re looking for a true workhorse of an off-road SUV, something that will get you anywhere you need to go, no matter how bad the terrain or weather is, and get you back again safely, then the best overall choice has to be the iconic Toyota Land Cruiser. Almost indestructible, this off-road SUV ticks all the boxes if you’re looking for a no-nonsense, rugged and dependable companion that will serve you well for many years to come. It’s not without its faults, no off-road SUV is, but it’s probably the most reliable vehicle on offer today.

It’s a little bit more agricultural and less refined than some of its rivals in the full-size off-road SUV marketplace (and it’s infotainment screen is really quite bad when compared to a Discovery or something like a G Wagon) but that’s not what this car was built for. And in some cases, you might even prefer that feeling. This car was built to work, and if that’s what you need it for, there is no other choice. It’s not cheap by any stretch, but Land Cruisers retain their value so well because many owners keep them for years, and sometimes even decades, before even thinking of reselling. This particular Land Cruiser has done 34,000 miles, which by Land Cruiser standards is pretty much brand new.

When reviewing the LCV Land Cruiser, Shooting Times’ car reviewer said: “The Toyota Land Cruiser Commercial ticks many boxes for the rural workforce. It is large enough to accommodate feed bags, feeders, tools and so on and certainly big enough to do the monthly shop at the supermarket. Ideal for day-to-day chores around the farm or shoot, it would also be a good choice for pickers-up.

Click here for the full Toyota Land Cruiser review



2. Land Rover Discovery, 3.0 TD6 HSE Luxury 5dr Auto

Best for practicality

  • Fuel type/size: Diesel/3.0
  • Transmission: Automatic
  • Boot space (seats up/seats down): 1,137/2406 litres
  • Max load weight: 940kg
  • Max towing weight (breaked/unbreaked): 3,500/750kg

+ Very respectable 7-seat boot space
+ Ideal family car
+ Lighter and better mpg than Discovery 4
+ Gigantic boot in 5-seat mode
+ Great off-road but also luxurious

– Suffers from JLR’s poor reliability reputation
– Divisive re-design looks
– Feels very big and wallowy to drive
– Quite pricey for decent spec


As the old saying goes: “A Land Rover will get you anywhere in the world, but a Land Cruiser will get you home again.” Such has been the rivalry between these two behemoths of off-road SUV makers for decades. No, the Discovery isn’t quite as rugged and tough as the Land Cruiser, and yes, it’s nowhere near as reliable, but what you get in place of that is a much nicer place to be if you’re going to spend large amounts of time behind the wheel with 3 or 4 kids in the back. The quality on the interior finishing is superb, the infotainment system is very sleek yet it has physical temperature buttons which come in very handy, and it just, on the whole, feels far more upmarket than the Land Cruiser.

This off-road SUV is still extremely capable, that can’t be argued – it’s near undisputed off-road and is infinitely practical, having the biggest and best-shaped boot by miles in its class – but more than that you’re also getting a large slice of luxury that it’s stablemates in the full-size off-road SUV market just can’t match (except for a Bentayga and the like, but who in the real world buys one of those?). It’s the ultimate family car; it won’t cost you as much as a Range Rover (plus it’s bigger), but has all the luxury of one. Plus, it’s a Land Rover, which just feels right.

Some people may not be fans of the redesign of the Discovery 5, but even though it’s lost its trademark boxy, rugged, go-anywhere look, it has gained significant features such as improved aerodynamics, making for far greater mpg than the outgoing model, it is now lighter, which helps the aforementioned, and it looks a bit more contemporary – you could imagine this off-road SUV being just as comfortable parked in a muddy field with a load of kit shoved in the boot as parked in the middle of Knightsbridge.

What was Ed Coles’ conclusion? “The new Land Rover Discovery 5 goes above and beyond its predecessors. I was really impressed with it, particularly off-road. It could be the perfect sporting vehicle. There are a lot of settings and gadgets but, once you familiarise yourself, it’s pretty user-friendly.

“The main point of contention is the price. The standard R-Dynamic SE starts off at an OTR price of £59,605. Throw in the extras of metallic paint, lockable rear diff, advanced off-road pack, privacy glass, electric tow bar, fancy headlamps and wireless phone charging and this Discovery comes out at £64,640. That isn’t cheap, but it’s not bad compared with some competitors. It has the same level of kit, but far more capability.”

Click here for the full Land Rover Discovery 5 review




3. Land Rover Defender, 2.0 D240 First Edition 110 5dr Auto

Best for pure off-road use

  • Fuel type/size: Diesel/2.0
  • Transmission: Automatic
  • Boot space (seats up/seats down): 857/1,946
  • Max load weight: 902kg
  • Max towing weight (breaked/unbreaked): 3,500/750kg

+ Immensely capable off-road
+ Exterior design looks great
+ Still looks and feels like a Defender
+ Great boot size
+ Very practical (with loads of storage space)
+ Doesn’t feel as big as it is when driving
+ Brilliant wading depth and departure angle

– Expensive
– Sideways (and heavy) opening rear door is impractical around town
– Small engine for such a heavy car


Land Rover fans have been waiting for years for a fully realised redesign of the countryside icon, the Land Rover Defender, and even though we fieldsports fans are hugely fond of the outgoing model, being full of character and charm as well as rugged dependability, let’s not pretend it was any fun to drive. It was awful on the road, if excellent off it, the steering wheel was the size of a ship’s wheel, the manual gear box was a chore, it was cramped, uncomfortable and it had atrocious fuel economy. Yet even with all that, we loved it. So, JLR had a lot to do when releasing the updated design. And for our money, they have succeeded. It looks so much more modern and contemporary than the outgoing model, yet still retains the heart and character of the Defender we all love.

And this is a proper off-roader; don’t be fooled by the plush, luxurious interior (even if it is more utilitarian than many of its price-rivals). It has the best wading depth and departure angle in its class, it has off-road technology in spades, and it has an improved ‘limp-home’ mode, so that if something does go wrong, you won’t find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere. Some may not like the redesign, arguing that it’s not a proper Defender, but JLR have done just about everything they realistically could do in this day and age to keep the Defender true to itself, right down to the side-opening boot door, which, though we love and is practical in the field, is a bit of a pain in the real world (good luck opening it in a supermarket car park). Besides which, it’s in a different league to the old Defender on the road. It feels relatively light and agile considering it’s taller even than a Range Rover or a Discovery, and it doesn’t feel quite like a barge on tight country lanes, which the Discovery sometimes does.

Only time will tell as to whether it has managed to shake off Land Rover’s notoriously poor reliability reputation, but for the time being, what we have is an incredibly capable, practical off-road SUV that pays homage to its forebears in just the right way whilst also bringing itself fully into the 21st century. Perhaps this will be rectified in the future, but one thing to consider also for the time being is the engine size. 2.0 is just too small for a car this size, and longterm reliability is something we are concerned with as the years and the miles build up. You do have the option of the Defender 110 or the Defender 90, the latter of which having no rear doors. For our money, you’d thank yourself for going for the Defender 110 (and Hardtop if you can). The 90 is cheaper, but if you can afford it then having those rear doors just makes life a little easier.

On the Defender 110, Ed Coles said: “The new Land Rover Defender 110 Hardtop is, like its predecessor, very capable off-road. But, unlike its predecessor, it is actually rather good on the road. With masses of space in the back, the Hardtop is definitely a worthy workhorse and I was a bit reluctant to give it back. This modern take on nostalgia does come at a premium, though, and this 110 starts off at £53,735. That isn’t cheap but, given the level of kit and capability, it’s probably worth it.”

Click here for the full Land Rover Defender 110 review
Click here for the full Land Rover Defender 90 review



4. Volkswagen Touareg, 3.0 V6 TDI 4Motion R-Line 5dr Tip Auto

Best value for money

  • Fuel type/size: Diesel/3.0
  • Transmission: Automatic
  • Boot space (seats up/seats down): 810/1,800
  • Max load weight: 855kg
  • Max towing weight (breaked/unbreaked): 3,500/750kg

+ Great claimed mpg for a car of this size
+ State-of-the-art infotainment system
+ Great-looking interior
+ Very good off-road

– Not as capable off-road as its rivals

This is by far and away the best value off-road SUV on this list. If you strip the badge and some of the components away, this car shares much of its design and body with the Bentley Bentayga (no surprise, given that VW own Bentley) just with a different badge and slightly less leather inside. Obviously, it’s nowhere near as nice to be in as the Bentayga, but you can spend an awful lot less with the Touareg and still get much of the same experience. And yes, don’t let that VW badge fool you, this off-road SUV is just that. It’s not as capable as the Defender, Discovery or Land Cruiser, but in the UK it can tackle most of what our weather and terrain has to offer. Unless you really find yourself in tricky waters, you probably won’t get stranded any time soon in the Touareg, and with that you get a very stylish, technological interior, a great-looking car, and generally a very up-market feel. This is an off-road SUV very much for the 21st century. It doesn’t have the same countryside heritage as Land Rover, but if you’re not precious about a badge, then this off-road SUV takes some beating.

Of the Touareg, Ed Coles said: “A standard black edition starts at £61,540. It’s not cheap, but it’s a lot of vehicle and the quality and performance is spot on. It’s more than capable of dealing with family life and impresses doing a bit of country life.”

Click here for the full Volkswagen Touareg review

Or if you’re looking for something a little cheaper and smaller, why not consider the Touareg’s little sibling, the VW Tiguan?



5. Suzuki Jimny, 1.5 SZ5 ALLGRIP Auto 3dr

Most affordable

  • Fuel type/size: Petrol/1.5
  • Transmission: Automatic
  • Boot space (seats up/seats down): 85/377 litres
  • Max load weight: 300kg
  • Max towing weight (breaked/unbreaked): 1,300/350 kg

+ Very reliable
+ Light and nimble

– Only has three doors
– Basically no boot with 4 seats in place


It’s small and compact, but the Suzuki Jimny has often come to the rescue of much bigger, seemingly more rugged off-road SUVs when the going gets tough, being known to drag off-road royalty out of the bog at a moment’s notice. And in many ways, that is no surprise. Many experts tell you that what you really want in a capable off-road SUV isn’t power and size, rather, you want lightness and agility. Think of this as the automotive equivalent of a mountain goat to the Land Rover’s great lumbering grizzly bear: both formidable, just in different ways. The Jimny is tiny compared to some of the entries on this list, but if all you’ll need it for is to haul you and your kit around, then it does the job perfectly; it has a very capable 4×4 system, which coupled with its light frame means that it’s pretty much unstoppable off-road. And it’s pretty great on road, too!

You do get a trade off, obviously, with size and price. For starters, it doesn’t have four doors, which can be a real pain if you have a family. And on top of that when you have all four seats in place there is basically no boot. So in the real world, the Jimny would suit two people rather than a family. But if that’s you, then for the money you won’t get a better off-road SUV anywhere in any market. It’s obviously not as luxurious as a Discovery or even a Land Cruiser, but if that’s not high on your list of priorities, then this off-road SUV could be perfect for you. And if you wanted to go for the LCV, if you can put up with a load space that could be better (but is by no means terrible) this could be the perfect little workhorse for you.

Our resident car reviewer Ed Coles was absolutely smitten with the Jimny, saying: “The Jimny LCV ticks many boxes — the main one being that it makes me smile while driving. More than capable off-road, it’s a near-perfect shoot run around. It’s a versatile and hard-working little 4×4. The Jimny LCV starts off at £16,796 (plus VAT) which is good value, but getting hold of one may be a problem as supply is limited. With that in mind, I don’t want to give it back. If Suzuki can please send the bill to Shooting Times.”

Click here for Ed Coles’ review of the Suzuki Jimny LCV




6. Volvo V90, 2.0 D4 Cross Country 5dr AWD Geartronic

Best to drive

  • Fuel type/size: Diesel/2.0
  • Transmission: Automatic
  • Boot space (seats up/seats down): 723/1,526 litres
  • Max load weight: 588 kg
  • Max towing weight (breaked/unbreaked): 2,400/750kg

+ Huge boot
+ Very stylish
+ Beautiful, minimalist interior
+ Very capable off-road
+ Lower centre of gravity means better handling
+ Much easier to navigate around town
+ Impressive towing weight for an estate

– Lack of physical buttons in cabin could be annoying
– Mpg is not as good as Volvo claims
– Sluggish auto gearbox (and no manual option)


This is a bit of a cheat, as it’s technically an estate. But we think that the Volvo V90 Cross Country is so durable and capable, that it should be considered an honorary SUV. For us, it even beats out it’s bigger SUV counterparts, the XC60 and XC90, because it is far closer to the road, meaning it’s infinitely more manoeuvrable and practical if you’re using your car for the school run as well as in the field, as well having a bigger boot than all other Volvos save for the XC90. Volvo have had a huge makeover in the past few years, and now sit very comfortably in the luxury range of the car landscape. The interior is achingly stylish and minimalistic, the seats are very plush and comfortable, and the exterior, with the Cross Country package, looks suitably beefed up as to rival the aesthetic of other off-road SUVs on this list. To put it simply, it’s just a very nice place to spend a long time.

There are draw backs. When it comes to the tablet-like infotainment screen, much like you’d find in a Tesla, everything is controlled via the touch screen, meaning that when you’re driving it can be a few button-pushes too many to find even basic things like temperature control. Plus if you’re using this car to commute as well as to rove around the countryside, the automatic gear box is a little slow to kick down, meaning that you might struggle to overtake cars at high speeds. But this is a gripe that most people won’t even notice. Yes, it’s an estate car, but it’s the estate’s estate. If what you need is a practical car that is good off-road that can hold loads of stuff whilst also looking at home among the cars of your fellow Shots, then this car is for you.

Or, if you’re in the used market for an estate that can hold its own off-road, why not consider the VW Passat Alltrack?



If you’re in the market for a new workhorse or family runner but you’re hesitant to pay too much, then you should read: Second-hand 4×4 trucks: what can you buy for under £12,000?