Car hunter: Rugged off-roaders

3 Jan, 2013 11:00am

Our reader has £10,000 to spend on a 4x4 with genuine off-road ability

Dear Chris,
I’ve just moved to the country, and I now need a rugged off-roader to get to my new home. What can I get for a budget of around £10,000?
John Rice, E-mail 

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The best buys:

The obvious choice: Land Rover Defender

Land Rover Defender front

For: Ultimate 4x4, choice of body styles
Against: Poor on the road, high prices

No list of rugged off-roaders would be complete without the Land Rover Defender – the original and, in the eyes of many, the very best of the bunch.

A separate low-range gearbox and locking differentials, plus near-perfect ground clearance, make short work of the rough stuff. That said, the Defender is hard work on the road, with lots of wind noise, little ventilation and a surprisingly cramped cabin.

Your choice of long-wheelbase, short-wheelbase, crew cab or panel van will ultimately dictate what you get for your money. We found a 2002 SWB 2.5TD three-door, with 62,000 miles on the clock, for £8,995.

The reliable option: Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon

Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon front cornering

For: Reliability, equipment, lusty diesel
Against: Thirsty, rare on used market

The Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon has a reputation for never going wrong, and the chassis is ideal for off-roading thanks to the separate low-range gearbox and differential locks. If you’re looking for toughness and reliability, it’s ideal.

Most vehicles come with plenty of equipment, so expect to see air-conditioning, leather and seven seats.

For your cash you could have a newer model of the standard Land Cruiser, but the Amazon is much more rugged. Yes, it commands a higher price and you’ll be looking at 100,000-mile cars from around 2000, but the 4.2-litre diesel engine is bulletproof. We found a W-registered diesel on 113,000 miles for £9,490.

The rare classic: Mercedes G-Wagen

Mercedes G-Wagen

For: Cult following, excellent off-road
Against: On-road manners, old, scarce

If you like the idea of a Defender, but want some extra comfort and prestige, the Mercedes G-Wagen is for you. It’s almost the equal of the Land Rover off-road, with three locking differentials and a separate low box, but its on-road manners leave something to be desired.

Both three and five-door models were made, with petrol and diesel engines, although many of the latter did without a turbocharger and are painfully slow.

The G-Wagen’s a rare sight on the used market and is much in demand, so for your budget you’ll be looking at a near-20-year-old example. Our search found a 1991 H-reg 3.0-litre petrol car (112,000 miles) for £8,995.

Disqus - noscript

Hard to choose from these three tough off-roaders. If on-road manners are as important as off-road capability then the Toyota Land Cruiser wins this contest hands down.

I am sure that Land rover freelander 4 wheel-drive 2007 onwards are as tough as this lot, in off-road with much more stylish on-road and some high mileage 07/57 model are under 10k. How about Land rover discovery? some 53/04 model are under 10,000 pounds as well.

I'd rather of spent half that on a Suzuki jimny which is just as capable as any of the above without murdering you on costs

Yes. the Land cruiser's the one I'd pick here.

whats wrong with a Jeep, or a nissan patrol/pathfinder/terrano, or mitsu shogun? the toyota & merc choices are plain OLD silliness

This feature offers precisely zero buying advice. What about a Mitsubishi Shogun? You can get a well equipped facelift model for under £10k. For something more car-like, farmers favour the Subaru Forester, which tells you all you need to know about the off road ability of the car.

Seriously Auto Express, a 23 year old Merc?? If you like
the idea of a defender but with creature comfort surely a Range Rover P38 would be a better bet, you should be able to secure a 2003 with around 100k miles, a lot easier to get and secure parts for as well. If you're willing to spend a little extra over your budget the new Dacia Duster 4x4 starts at £10,995, and for that you get a new car with 3 years warranty, if it's good enough for Eastern European roads, it might just stand a chance with ours or like Les said the Jimny is good option as well.

Dacia Duster 4x4, Fiat Panda 4x4, Suzuki SX4 etc. May not be as accomplished off road as these 3 but will be infinitely easier to live with most of the year, not to mention £££'s cheaper to run, still in warranty yet will still get you about in the snow, mud and wet grass.

Unless you need acres of space, the best off road ability or the maximum towing capability, it's a no brainer.

what kind of crap suggestions are they talk about the obvious. some creative writing please think out the box...... Discovery.... Nissan patrol (if it's good enough for the UN I'm sure will do English countryside) Pathfinder ... shogun ........ landcruiser (non amazon) plus all the 4 door pickups inc Navara. ............ so many options with luxury and off road the writer had to come up with the obvious ........was it worth writing in?????