Overlanding is where the spirit of adventure and pioneering come together with our love of the automobile. Almost any car can take on a paved road, but an overland vehicle goes beyond that — it marches on, even when the pavement stops, where nature and wilderness start to reclaim the road less traveled.
Knobby tires, lifted suspension and bountiful low-end torque are standard issue for any vehicle that claims it can go off-road. But overlanders are a step above; they have to have more than just chunky tires and a bit of grunt. They have to be self-reliant out in the wild — a roaming base of operations. Though it’s not so much a malicious battle with nature as it is a friendly spar, you still need to have the right tools at your disposal, and these are the best vehicles to have in your overlanding fleet.
2016 Toyota 4runner TRD Pro
Best SUV: The Toyota Land Cruiser gets most of the overlanding spotlight because of its name and heritage, but with an $80,000 price tag, it’s out of reach for most. The 4Runner TRD Pro carries on the frugality of the overlanding spirit by having everything you need and nothing you don’t. While overlanding isn’t exactly about minimalism, it is about keeping things lean, mean and capable. The 4Runner is exactly that.
2017 Ford Raptor Crew Cab
Best Pickup: Some may balk at the move from a 6.2-liter V8 to a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6, but Ford only made the switch to make sure the truck received more torque and power. The smaller, more efficient engine is mated to Ford’s new 10-speed gear box and now the Ford Raptor boasts the kind of MPG gains most overlanders yearn for.
2016 Mercedes AMG G65
Most Powerful Overlander: When it comes to overlanding, unnecessary luxuries can weigh you down. But when you have a V12 Bi-Turbo with 631 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque available at 2,300 RPM, you can afford the extra creature comforts. The price for all that power and luxury isn’t quite the frugal man’s overlanding budget, but for those that need it all, this is your conquer-everything-in-style machine.
2016 Mercedes Unimog
Most Overkill: When you think freightliners, off-roading isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but the Mercedes Unimog has been successfully competing in off-road endurance races like the Dakar for years. With a massive ground clearance, boulder-tackling suspension travel and a driver-controlled Central Tire Inflation system that can adjust tire pressures to adapt to different terrain, the Unimog doesn’t just go over land as much as it plows through it.
2015 Land Rover Defender
Most Iconic: As far as overlanding is concerned, the Land Rover Defender is one of the founding fathers. This overlanding stalwart has been around for decades, but this is the last year of production in its current guise. A new Defender has been long promised and long awaited; we’ll finally see an all-new version next year.
2016 KTM Adventure R
Most Capable Two-Wheeler: If taking the last 15 class wins at Dakar Rally isn’t a statement of capability, nothing is. Over the years, KTM has dominated one of the most dangerous classes in one of the most dangerous races, and the KTM Adventure R is the byproduct of that experience. Obviously, motorcycles are the more vulnerable overlanding choice, but the Adventure R’s lean-sensitive traction control, stability control and ABS is second to none and makes it, as KTM puts it, “the safest bike in the world.”
Best Buggy: Ariel famously carved their way onto the scene in 2001 with the bare-bones track-day hero, Ariel Atom. It was second only to the Ferrari Enzo on the Top Gear Power Lap board that year, with a fraction of the power (and price). Where the Atom conquered the track, Ariel looked to do the same with the Nomad, off-road. Essentially a beefed-up Atom with lifted suspension, a 71-degree approach angle, knobby tires and a 3.4-second 0-60 time, the Nomad handles the rough stuff just as well as the smooth.