High-riding SUVs are all the rage these days, with taller and wider vehicles now becoming more popular than the lowered stuff. And none come taller than bona-fide off-roaders, who need that clearance to clamber up and over off-road obstacles.
We've put together a list of standard four-wheel-drives with the best claimed ground clearance, according to manufacturer data. And the best of them all might surprise you.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk – 260mm
The Jeep Grand Cherokee, in Trailhawk guise, gets a boost in ground clearance thanks to adjustable air suspension and a unique off-road wheel and tyre package.
A maximum of 260mm of ground clearance with the air suspension raised is impressive, and an important element in Jeep’s ‘Trail Rated’ system. This means the car has passed Jeep’s off-road tests of traction, water fording, manoeuvrability, articulation and ground clearance. This testing is undertaken on two of the most iconic four-wheel-drive locations in America: the Rubicon Trail and Moab Utah.
While Jeep’s iconic Wrangler might have more outright off-road ability, the Grand Cherokee does have better on-paper ground clearance. And that means something.
Price: $75,950 before on-road costs
Nissan Patrol – 273mm
This might surprise a few people, because the big Nissan Patrol is marketed as a V8-powered family SUV as much as a rugged off-roader, but the combination of independent suspension and 32-inch tyres gives it stacks of off-road ground clearance. In fact, we reckon it's a better off-roader than the legendary Toyota LandCruiser.
Make no mistake, the Nissan is a big vehicle, with a 5.17-metre length and room for up to eight people on-board. But trick hydraulic suspension helps reign in body-roll, and also improves off-road articulation at the same time. And with a 298kW petrol V8 under the bonnet, what’s not to love?
Price: From $78,910 before on-road costs
Ford Ranger Raptor – 283mm
Take an average four-wheel-drive ute, and turn it up to 11. That’s the Ford Ranger Raptor in a nutshell, with race-bred off-road suspension, a wide stance, and big BF-Goodrich all-terrain tyres.
Along with being able to handle jumps and corrugations better than anything this side of a trophy truck, the large tyres and upgraded suspension on the Ford yields great ground clearance and off-road ability.
Plus, the high-end suspension also gives the Ranger Raptor one of the best rides of any four-wheel-drive ute. However, be warned: those tyres offer little grip on wet bitumen, so be cautious in the wet.
Price: $77,690 before on-road costs
Land Rover Defender – 291mm
Using height-adjustable air suspension on Land Rover's heavy-duty aluminium platform, the new Defender is able to gain a huge amount of underbody ground clearance. It’s significantly more than a previous-generation Defender, and a crucial part of this off-roader’s ability.
In fact, short overhangs, good articulation and the option of all-terrain rubber means this new Defender is the most capable offering from the British manufacturer to date.
The new Defender is available as a short wheelbase three-door (90) and long wheelbase five door (110), with an even longer-bodied 130 reportedly arriving soon.
Price: From $71,500 before on-road costs
Range Rover – 297mm
Along with being the most expensive and luxurious off-roader money can buy, the Range Rover also comes with the best ground clearance bragging rights.
Thanks to height-adjustable air suspension, the Range Rover is capable of up to 297mm of ground clearance in its highest setting. And although most Range Rovers spend their time in either bustling cities or manicured estates, the Range Rover has stayed true to form of being a properly capable off-roader in its own right. Just don’t scratch it.
And while we didn’t include it in the list, the platform-sharing Land Rover Discovery has similarly good off-road ground clearance as well, at 282mm.
Price: From $201,000 before on-road costs