Off-roaders have gone from being hardy cars bought for their off-road ability to machines bought as much as a fashion statement as for their family-friendly credentials. As off-roaders have become ever more civilised, many conventional cars have gained four-wheel drive.
This new breed of 4×4 gives families all the off-road ability that they are ever likely to need, along with high comfort levels and often price tags that undercut traditional off-roaders. Here we’ve rounded up five of the most appealing new machines with four-wheel drive and raised ground clearance that do without the dimensions and boxy styling normally associated with 4x4s.
Subaru has a long history of making tough off-road machines and the Outback is no different. This four-wheel drive estate has a raised driving position and a comfortable interior. Despite its car-like shape, the Outback boasts healthy ground clearance of 200mm and a sophisticated all-wheel drive system.
As a result, this is an extremely capable car off-road, taking rough surfaces, bumpy terrain and even deep water in its stride. More importantly, though, the Outback provides a very smooth ride on the motorway and high refinement levels, meaning that there’s no day-to-day penalty for its added off-road ability.
VW Passat Alltrack
Taking a leaf out of Audi’s book, Volkswagen has fitted its four-wheel drive system to this new large estate car, to create a spacious family hold-all that should be able to cope with mild off-roading duties and gains a chunky SUV style of its own.
With its punchy, economical turbocharged engines the Alltrack offers a strong combination of acceleration and low fuel consumption, though an added 28mm ground clearance over the standard Passat makes the Alltrack a little more capable off the Tarmac.
Volvo S60 Cross Country
Where most junior off-roaders have an estate body, the S60 Cross Country has created a new niche as a saloon car with added off-road ability. Replicating the qualities of the V60 Cross Country off-road estate in saloon form, this upmarket machine offers all the comfort of the standard S60 plus a substantial 65mm extra ground clearance.
With its sleek silhouette and raised profile, this unusual-looking car should prove just as capable over rough terrain as the Outback above. Add into the mix several powerful turbocharged motors and the S60 should prove a fast and comfortable on-road machine too.
Suzuki may have introduced the compact off-roader several decades ago, but the company has been quite quiet on the 4×4 front for a few years. It has, however, just replaced its long-in-the-tooth Vitara with a brand new model that looks much sharper than its predecessor, while retaining some off-road ability.
With a striking colour-coded dashboard, smoothed-off styling and what should be competitive prices, the Vitara should make a convincing alternative to the extremely popular Nissan Qashqai.
Seat Leon X-Perience
Where the Vitara looks like a scaled down off-roader, the sharply-styled Leon X-Perience looks very much like a sleek, sporty estate that has been pumped up to gain a little off-road ability. With plastic body cladding, silver metal trim and raised suspension, this Leon stands taller than its estate car sibling with four-wheel drive for added traction on slippery surfaces.
This Seat is available with two strong turbocharged diesel engines, which can fire the X-Perience to 62mph in as little as 7.1 seconds, while claimed fuel economy for both models is equally impressive at 57.6mpg.