Ten Best Cars for Lovers of the Great Outdoors
Up here in New England, we’re spending every waking moment outside right now, enjoying the beautiful spring weather. We’re taking advantage of it while we can, as no one here knows exactly how long it will be until Mother Nature decides it’s time for more snow—could be 6 months, could be 6 hours. One thing that is for sure: We’re going to enjoy every last drop of this sunshine while it’s here.
While it’s great to look out over Harvard Square and see smiles on faces, birds chirping and trees in bloom, we can’t help but want to get out of the city a bit to go enjoy the mountains, rivers, lakes and beaches that New England calls its own. While a lot of different cars will do the trick of getting people to the great outdoors, a select few can make the experience even better.
10. In our tenth spot is a car that blends on-road comfort and off-road ability: the Volkswagen Touareg. Since its introduction in 2002, the Touareg has gradually moved closer and closer to the luxury SUV segment while never quite giving up its off-roading roots. This is precisely what makes it one of the best cars for people who like to spend time in the great outdoors, but don’t necessarily need something trail-rated. Sure, the Touareg might not excel in Moab, but if you’re looking to pack up all your stuff, do a little bit of light off-roading and do it in pure comfort, the Touareg is your ride.
9. If you need something a bit more heavy-duty, the Ford F-150 could be the right choice for you. Long America’s best-selling car, the F-150 is nothing short of a giant. That giant status allows Ford to produce a myriad of F-150s, meaning there really is something for everyone. Depending on your budget, you can choose anything from a simple and economical XL with a 6-cylinder engine (capable of towing 6,500 pounds) to an awesomely bonkers SVT Raptor with a 6.2-liter 8-cylinder. With 4-wheel drive, plenty of cargo space and plenty of towing capacity for the toys you can’t fit in the back, the F-150 is a great choice for those planning to do a lot more than a little hiking or camping.
8. For those who want serious off-road capability without sacrificing comfort, the Land Rover Range Rover is the car. Available with a supercharged 8-cylinder capable of pushing 510 hp to all 4 wheels through the standard two-speed transfer case, the Range Rover and its 11.9 inches of ground clearance can get just about anything and anyone anywhere. Where the Range Rover truly exceeds, however, is on the inside. After you’ve packed all your gear into the back, sink into the plush leather seats, pump up the available 825-watt sound system and head to your destination in style. No matter where you go (and you can go almost anywhere), you’ll certainly never be roughing it in a Range Rover.
7. If practicality is more important to you than luxury, the Honda Ridgeline could be calling your name. One of the most polarizing trucks on the market, fans love the Ridgeline for its reliability and versatility, while others deride it for its looks and unibody construction. For those who don’t plan to do serious work with their truck but want to haul a bunch of gear into the wilderness, the Ridgeline is the answer. Capable of seating 5 adults comfortably, the Ridgeline has a 5-foot bed for everything you can’t fit in the cab. If that’s not enough, it also has a watertight trunk underneath the bed. Still need more room? Kick out your rear passengers and fold the seats flat into the back wall. With plenty of room for you and your stuff, legendary Honda reliability and the smaller size that comes along with a midsize truck, the Ridgeline is a good choice for those who enjoy the outdoors and are willing to get the best of many worlds by accepting a little compromise.
6. Moving up we come to a king: the Toyota Tacoma. Long the gold standard of midsize pickups, the Tacoma has dominated the segment for years and seemingly has no plans to stop. What makes the Tacoma great for people who love the outdoors is that the truck is small, capable and versatile. Unlike a lumbering full-size pickup, the Tacoma is small enough to drive in everyday life, while also being able to fit a good amount of gear and navigate most terrain standing between you and the coolest of destinations.
5. While the Tacoma may be a bit easier to live with in everyday life than some other cars for outdoor enthusiasts, it is not quite on the same level as our next pick: the Subaru XV Crosstrek. Based on Subaru’s popular Impreza, the XV Crosstrek sits a few inches higher than the Impreza and is aimed at being a jack of many trades. Small enough to comfortably fit into city life, the car can also fit 5 passengers and a decent amount of gear, provided you make efficient use of the hatchback and roof rails. When you tire of the nine-to-five, load it up and head for the hills (while getting 33 mpg on the highway). With 8.7 inches of ground clearance and Subaru’s much-praised Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the XV Crosstrek is perfectly at home both in the city and off the beaten path.
4. Going off the beaten path not enough for you when you head out? Want to forge your own path? Sounds like you’re looking for a Toyota 4Runner. The symbol of a dying breed, the 4Runner is one of the last truck-based SUVs out there. While sitting on a truck platform doesn’t do wonders for fuel efficiency, the 4Runner makes up for it in pure off-road prowess. Able to seat 5 adults comfortably, the 4Runner also has a large rear cargo area, meaning it can fit you, your friends and all your gear and probably still have some room left over. Using the 4Runner’s durable 4-wheel-drive system, you can get almost anywhere with all that cargo, too. Once you get where you’re going, open up the tailgate and set the stereo to party mode. Or don’t—depends how you choose to enjoy the great outdoors when no one else is around.
3. If you want to go anywhere, seriously anywhere—we’re talking some of the most remote places on earth—you probably won’t be able to beat a Jeep Wrangler. Born out of necessity during World War II, the Wrangler is the direct descendant of the Willys Jeep and has been one of America’s favorite cars since its inception. While it may lack many of the creature comforts expected in other cars, there is no other car that can come remotely close to beating the Wrangler at its own game—the off-road game. With a short wheelbase, high ground clearance and tight overhangs, the Wrangler is capable of crawling over the worst of obstacles. Space is tight (although a 4-door version with a longer wheelbase is available), so don’t plan on bringing too much with you, but if you’re the kind of person who enjoys seeing parts of nature others don’t even know exist, the Wrangler is the car for you.
2. One of the best all-around pickup trucks out there right now is the Ram 1500. Like the F-150, the Ram 1500 is one of the country’s most popular vehicles, allowing Ram to experiment with all sorts of different versions to suit different lifestyles. For lovers of the outdoors, things don’t get much better than the Ram 1500 Outdoorsman. Designed specifically for people who like to hunt, camp, fish, boat, etc., the Outdoorsman is a fantastic example of a brand designing a car for a particular set of special-interest buyers. With a towing package and RamBox Cargo Management system standard, the Outdoorsman can get you, your gear and your toys where you want to go—pretty comfortably, too.
1. Pull into a parking lot at any mountain, beach or hiking trail, and there is one car you are bound to see: the Subaru Outback. The Outback has long been a favorite of active and outdoorsy people everywhere, and for good reason. Originally a trim of the Subaru Legacy, the Outback was broken out as its own model in 2000 and hasn’t looked back since. Like all Subarus (with the exception of the BRZ), Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive comes standard on the Outback, meaning the car has no trouble handling the unexpected. Add to that 8.7 inches of ground clearance and an available 3.6-liter 6-cylinder engine, and light off-roading becomes a non-issue. What really sets the Outback apart, however, is its versatility. Unlike its big brother, the Legacy, the Outback is offered only in wagon form, giving you plenty of room for people and gear. Combine all of that with Subaru’s reputation for safety, reliability and durability, and it’s easy to see why the Outback is such a popular choice among people of all walks of life. While there are many cars that excel at different things outdoorsy people look for in a car, there are none that satisfy all of them as well as the Outback.
What is your favorite car for the outdoors?
Used Volkswagen Touareg
Used Ford F-150
Used Land Rover Range Rover
Used Honda Ridgeline
Used Toyota Tacoma
Used Subaru XV Crosstrek
Used Toyota 4Runner
Used Jeep Wrangler
Used Ram 1500
Used Subaru Outback