Call of the Wild: Best Cars for Outdoor Enthusiasts
, Automotive Editor – June 21, 2012
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, summer is the perfect season to pack up your gear and head out on an epic adventure. But not all cars are designed to handle the rugged beauty of mother nature. That’s why it’s important to find a ride that offers enough power to get you where you need to go and enough room to fit everything you want to bring with you. Whether you call the mountains your home, or are just an off-roading weekend warrior, you can’t go wrong with any of the vehicles listed below.
$22,970 – $30,920
The Toyota Tacoma is a midsize pickup that offers the perfect blend of practicality, capability, and amenities. It’s not too big and bulky that you can’t use it for the daily commute, yet it’s capable enough for frequent trips to the lake or cabin. If you plan on going full-bore, the Tacoma can be fitted with the TRD Off-Road package, which features a heavy-duty suspension, hill start assist and hill descent control, a locking rear differential, sport seats and skid plates.
$17,935 – $28,895
$30,485 – $41,860
Named after the treacherous and desolate wilderness of Australia, the Subaru Outback wagon is a great option for families trying to tackle inclement weather and unforeseen obstacles. With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, an integrated roof rack, underfloor storage and Symmetrical all-wheel drive, the Outback wagon is small enough for city driving, but capable enough to handle the great outdoors.
The Honda Pilot isn’t flashy by any means, and it doesn’t really excel in any one particular area. What the Pilot does do, however, is seat eight adults while providing a dependable and sturdy driving experience. All-wheel-drive is available and automatically distributes up to 70 percent of power to the rear wheels when front slippage occurs. If you find yourself towing a heavy load and need to call in the reserves, the “lock” feature routes maximum torque to the rear wheels at low speeds.
Granted, the Nissan Xterra looks cool, but you’re not going to buy one for the daily commute. The Xterra oozes off-road ruggedness and is the perfect compliment for your sporty and outdoorsy lifestyle. Nissan’s Utili-Track system incorporates two vertical channels with adjustable cleats in the cargo area, helping you to tie-down and organize your gear. The Easy Clean cargo area is made of hard plastic, so you can store wet items like surfboards, kayaks and wetsuits along with dirty and muddy gear.
If you’re looking for the comfort of a car, and the utility of a truck, the 2012 Honda Ridgeline is for you. Unlike most trucks around, the Ridgeline drives smooth like a car, with several non-trucklike comforts. An 8.5-cubic-foot lockable In-Bed Trunk compartment is big enough to fit a 72-quart cooler and other items.
Not exactly what you’d want to drive on narrow city streets, the Toyota FJ Cruiser is what you’d call a traditional, dedicated SUV in every sense of the word. The FJ Cruiser can tackle sand dunes, rocky roads and pretty much every type of driving condition imaginable. It’s funky exterior adds character, while its pedigree offers vintage Toyota dependability.
Because it’s a Jeep, and Jeeps by nature are built for dirt roads and rugged conditions, the Jeep Liberty SUV is perfect for outdoor weekend warriors. Two and four-wheel-drive systems, available tow hooks, skid plates, and a telescoping rear driveshaft that adjusts for small changes in suspension scream off-roading fun.
Sure, the Toyota 4Runner looks cool and is fun to drive in the city. But that’s like keeping an eagle in a cage. The 4Runner is built for dirt roads, snowy mountains, and adverse conditions. Its body-on-frame construction (truck-based) doesn’t provide the paved-road comfortability of other SUVs. Adventurous options include mud guards, Crawl Control, water-resistant seat fabric, automatic deploying/retracting running boards, sliding rear cargo deck lid, off-road tires and KDSS off-road suspension.