5 Best Cars for Mountain Driving and Off Roads in the US

Choosing a good car for mountain driving in the USA is not the same as in other places in the world. Of course, there are many similarities, but think about it like going off-road in Colorado or Nevada, and compare that with driving an SUV in Washington State or near Yellowstone or anywhere in Minnesota. In other words, some vehicles work well for specific off-roading conditions while others offer more control in different places with lots of rocks and unstable lands.

In this guide, we’ll show you the top 5 recommended cars for mounting roads, so, keep reading:

1. Toyota Land Cruiser Prado

Toyota and its Land Cruiser Prado especially is the number one brand in the world known for its exceptional reliability and incomparable off-roading capabilities. It does not matter if you want to drive in the mountains when it’s raining or going for a trip very long-distance thousands of miles away, or even snow or isolated places where there are no roads at all, this vehicle is the one that proved itself to be the kind of off-roading for decades.

Toyota Landcruiser is a solid SUV that works better than any other car on mountains, that’s because of its well-built chassis, body reinforcement, and high level, and also, taking your family for a trip across America won’t be a problem on rivers, rocks, wet dirt roads, etc…

Toyota Land Cruiser and its Prado version have some differences like engine sizes, and types of equipment. However, it’s the best car you can count on for driving long distances no matter what the type of ground is; it’s just a legendary SUV.

While Toyota is a great option for rough roads, mountains, hills, and bad conditions, it’s always thirsty for fuel, and that’s fine, we’re talking about a heavy full-size SUV that weighs 4,167 lbs, and that needs more power, unfortunately, diesel engines for Toyota are not going to be offered any time soon, and if that was the case, expect like 30% more miles per gallon with diesel engines compared to gas.

Diesel engines are complicated and cost more money to produce. In addition, it’s not that easy to meet governmental requirements for gas emissions. That’s why Toyota sells petrol engines only in the US.

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2. Jeep Wrangler

Lots of people share the same idea that Jeep is no longer the real solid vehicle they used to drive on mountains, hills, and beaches, and that’s somehow true since the new owner FIAT Chrysler added more plastic parts in an attempt to sell the car for cheap prices.

That being said, the car body and performance have not been downgraded, and in fact, there is more power and better performance on bad roads, so, yes, there are some issues with plastic covers, but that does not mean the car is not the old Jeep, it’s just the ownership change. And Jeep Wrangler is still among the best vehicles for mountain driving that millions of customers trust and keep for decades.

Also, the Jeep Wrangler is a good car to cross mountain trails. Its medium size body allows for easier maneuvering without the need to use advanced electronics and sensors with other makes.

Now, think about its size, dimensions, and body. Jeep Wrangler is one of the best cars for hilly areas, the 2021 Jeep wrangler 4 XE, for example, comes with 375 horsepower, 470 pound-feet of torque, and of course, it’s hybrid. Thus, drivers get an extra boost thanks to the electric engine that goes hand in hand with the car’s main DOHC direct-injection Turbo PHEV engine with 2L L4 cylinders. All that means more power and better fuel consumption thanks to the gas and electric combination system.

3. Land Rover Discovery / Sport

It’s not a surprise that Land Rover is among the best cars we recommend for off-road driving and outdoor. Unlike other cheap options, you get a luxurious driving experience while maintaining security at its highest levels no matter if the weather is snowfall, rain, sun, or even going on desserts. It’s a solid car that you can enjoy driving even if there are no roads at all.

The 2021 and 2020 models of Land Rover Discovery come with 4 Wheel Drive, a 9-speed automatic transmission, and a 2.0 liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine, all of which work well in providing the power needed to drive on the mountain hills smoothly.

In addition, there is a body height control just like the Land Rover Sport HSE or AutoBiography model. Inside the driver’s cabin, there is a button to raise or lower the height of the vehicle body, and this allows the driver to adjust the suspension depending on the mode he chooses.

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4. Ford Explorer

Ford has a long history of car building that keeps improving each year, and when it comes to safety when driving on difficult mountain roads, the Ford Explorer is another recommended SUV to buy. The Ford Explorer is a luxury SUV for families and adventurers who look for comfort, safety, and power at the same time, it comes with rear-wheel drive, but the 4 Wheel Drive model is better for off-roading.

So, choose that if you’re planning to explore the country, go for a long-distance trip, or simply, see the best mountains in your region or elsewhere.

The car comes with an auto headlight high beam, so, there is no need to turn on high or low beam. That happens automatically thanks to the camera in front and other electronics. Additionally, Ford Explorer comes in petrol and also in hybrid engines, and you have the option to choose from, based on budget and needs.

The Ford Explorer is similar to the Land Rover Discovery, and if you look closer, you’ll see the details in the body design and options. However, if you’re planning to go for a trip with lots of items and luggage, I’ll recommend adding a top cargo.

5. Land Rover Defender

With its Approach Angle of 38.0? On-air suspension and Departure Angle of 40.0? Land Rover Defender is the ultimate vehicle for mountain driving, especially if there are lots of holes and rocks, it works better than other competitors, and surprisingly it’s doing better without the need for more power. Even if the old Land Rover Defender is a legendary off-roading vehicle, this one is lighter, smaller, and handles bad roads better.

What’s even more fantastic with Land Rover is the extra features offered depending on what road conditions you look for; for example, the Country and also the Explorer Packs come with the following:

  • Wheel Arch Protection
  • Portable Rinse System
  • Front And Rear Classic Mud Flaps
  • Loadspace Partition
  • Bright Rear Scuff Plate
  • Expedition Roof Rack
  • Exterior Side-mounted Gear Carrier
  • Raised Air Intake
  • Matte Black Hood Decal
  • Spare Wheel Cover
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That’s only a few other options for personalization and extra tools and gadgets you can buy for your Defender car and make it a great option for driving on mountain roads.

Making your car work better on mountain roads

Buying a car that handles mountain roads better should be the first step if you really want to take the vehicle to the next level. Things like suspension upgrades, or optimizing the engine for higher RPM is what most auto adventure travelers do these days. In fact, Toyota Landcruiser Prado, for example, has a solid and well-built body chassis with bad road conditions and vibrations in mind.

So, the designers of the car and also the engineers focus on common issues that most people struggle with, and thus, they’ll satisfy the common needs of most drivers, but what if you’re going to extremely rocky roads?

Well, the car still works well, and it can handle holes, rocks, and hills, but for better performance and security, it’s a good idea to buy bigger size tires and wheels that are larger and from a trusted brand. Just search Google for the car you want from this list and add words like “big tire” or “modified” and you’ll be impressed by photos that others posted online.

The same thing applies to Jeep and other well-known cars famous for their off-roading capabilities; by upgrading the suspension and adding body protection covers, you’ll have a really more solid SUV that goes anywhere you want and make it last longer.

When it comes to Diesel versus petrol, most people in the USA prefer focusing on the gas emission issue, and that’s fine because of the laws that target CO2, however, the truth is that diesel engines produce more torque, and go up to 35% more miles per gallon compared to petrol, in addition, diesel engines make 12% more emission, but compare that with the miles per gallon, and you’ll find that diesel is better for long-distance driving.

This is the list of the top five options for now. We’ll test if there is any other car that should work well for off-roading no matter if it’s in the mountains or in other places.

About Cartipso Writing Team

When every piece of information should be verified, we have the best experts in automobile, and car-related topics to share their latest tips, tricks, and guides with you, every writer double-checks the article, so, readers get real how-to's from mechanics, engineers, and technicians.

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