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5 Best Jeep Models for Off-Roading

Jeep has undoubtedly established itself as a leading name brand with a reputation for producing high-quality on-road and off-road 4x4s. And in the past decades, it has grown increasingly popular with off-roading enthusiasts and adventurers. But because of its vast selection of offerings, it can be challenging to determine which models are the best for off-roading.

Numerous online sources have their respective take on the best off-road Jeeps. Collectively, however, the top off-roading models include the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, Jeep Renegade Trailhawk, Jeep Gladiator, and all generations of the Jeep Wrangler.

Note that these Jeep models are considered the best on rough terrain and do not include universally recognized off-road trailblazers. If you want to learn where the likes of Willys MB, Hemi-powered Jeeps, and older Cherokee trims fall in this list of greats, then continue reading this guide.

White Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Gladiator

What Is the Best All-Time Off-Roading 4×4?

There are at least a couple of good reasons this is considered one of the most worthwhile things you can ask an off-roading enthusiast. One, you will surely be met with hour-long tales of outdoor adventures and woes. Two, the question is guaranteed to stir lots of debate, not just answers.

I searched online to see what the majority of consumers had to say. And expectedly, I found no definitive answer. While there are a lot of contenders for the title, like Toyota Land Cruiser, Land Rover Defender, and Ford Bronco, there is only one Blue Jeans of 4×4 — the Jeep Wrangler — which segues us to the gist of today’s article.

Off-Roading Game Changers

The Wrangler was a culmination of different labels and decades of design trials and errors. Interestingly though, its predecessors were designed for military use. It was not until the mid-1940s — during the post-war consumerism boom — that incarnations of the Jeep were publicly seen as a viable option for off-roading, agriculture, and other work-related applications.

Since then, the marque has produced some of the most iconic four-wheelers to hit the trails and the steps of the United States Capitol (source: Washington Daily News).

Out of the lot, here are the rigs that made the biggest impressions on hobbyists and serious adventurers (source: Wikipedia) — leading to the birth of the premiere off-roading Jeep models:

Jeep Willys MB

The Jeep Willys was the first 4WD Jeep produced for the U.S. military during WWII. It goes by other names, such as the U.S. Army Truck, 1⁄4-ton 4×4 Command Reconnaissance, Willys Jeep, and the G503.

Rugged and reliable, the Willys MB’s stock design was ideal for rough terrain and logistics. Modified, the forerunner of off-roading vehicles aptly performed other functions outside these roles.

Jeep CJ-5 & CJ-7

The Jeep CJ series is a range of off-road vehicles and pickup trucks mass-produced as a commercial version of the Willys Jeep (hence, the designation CJ for “civilian Jeep”). Although the product line ran from 1945 to 1986, it was not until 1954 that the first signature traits of the modern Jeep manifested in the label, in the form of the CJ-5 and, later, the CJ-7 iterations.

The Korean War M38A1 Jeep and nouveau ideas from the then-new OEM Kaiser influenced the CJ-5’s design. In contrast to the few body and chassis changes in its initial years, the CJ-5 sported a number of considerable powerplant and drivetrain options that countered the lineup’s previous underpowered reputation.

The Buick V6 Dauntless engine, power steering, and Trac-Lok limited-slip differentials are a few of the performance-enhancing features that augmented the vehicle’s undeniable off-roading capabilities.

Jeep Cherokee XJ

This 2nd generation Cherokee (produced from 1984 to 2001) was a pioneering model that helped introduce and popularize SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicles) in the off-roading scene. As opposed to the usual 2-door or 4-door framework that utilized the C-pillar, it sported a much-wider D-pillar that extended the rear section of the vehicle and eliminated the need for window area support.

The initial objective behind its design may have been on-road practicality and comfort. However, the Cherokee XJ was more successful in inadvertently laying the groundwork for present-day overlanding vehicles, making the off-roading experience sweeter.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Another highly-capable off-road vehicle, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is a larger successor of the Cherokee XJ boasting multiple 4WD systems (Quadra-Trac I & II and Quadra-Drive II), Quadra-Lift air suspension, and Selec-Terrain system — all of which optimize performance on a range of terrain types.

Additionally, underbody skid plates and TCS (Traction Control Systems) ensure the four-wheeler keeps moving in low-traction areas while protecting undercarriage components from sharp rocks and other obstacles.

Of its 13 trims, the Trailhawk and Overland are considered the best for off-roading. The former is designed with off-roading at its core and comes with A/T tires, an off-road-tuned suspension, tow hooks, and other features that help realize this goal. The latter trim shares the same function but is tempered with on-road luxury and comfort.

The Jeep Wrangler is the 5th item on this list. But because it is also considered one of the best off-road Jeep models of all time, I thought it best to include a detailed peek into the said label in the next section.

Best Off-Road Jeep Models

Red Jeep Off-Roading on Rocky Terrain in a Forest

Jeep savant or not, off-roaders know how capable Jeep vehicles are. Their robust build and 4WD systems generally make them the go-to option for tackling challenging terrain and harsh riding conditions.

However, the operative word here is “generally,” as not all Jeep models are created equal. Like in any other riding segment, only the best stands out in the crowd. That said, here are the Jeep models with the most feats and accolades in off-roading:

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon & Unlimited Rubicon

The 4th generation Jeep Wranglers undoubtedly best the older Wrangler models when it comes to off-roading. They are specifically designed for off-pavement use and have features better suited for harsh terrain than their standard namesakes.

There are several packages to choose from. But of all the trims produced since 2017, the most preferred are the Rubicon and Unlimited Rubicon models.

The Wrangler Rubicon features heavy-duty Dana 44 axles (view on Amazon), 5-link coil suspensions with stabilizer bars, off-roading tires, Tru-Lok front, and rear locking differentials, electronically disconnected sway bars, and a 3.6-L V6 Pentastar power mill spewing 285 hp and 352.5 Nm (35.9 kgf-m, 260 lb-ft) of torque. Additional powertrains, such as a 2-L turbocharged I4 and 2.2-L turbodiesel I4, are available too — depending on the market.

Jeep Wrangler (YJ to JK Models)

1st to 3rd-generation Jeep Wrangler models come in second, having been responsible for solidifying Jeep’s reputation in 4×4 and off-roading vehicle craftsmanship. First introduced in 1986, the label quickly became the most iconic Jeep of all time — giving birth to more modern Rubicons and hybrid 4xes.

The YJ and TJ models share the same 2.5-L Inline-4 and 4-L straight-six engines, with slight but noticeable output improvements.

From the original 117—180 hp and 183—298 Nm (18.7—30.4 kgf-m, 135—220 lb-ft), performance figures improved by 2.6—5.5% in horsepower and 3.7—6.8% in maximum torque for 2nd generation Wranglers.

3rd-generation incarnations, on the other hand, had almost double these values and were the basis for the powertrain of the JL series.

But it wasn’t just the engine configuration that set the Wrangler apart from its competition. Its distinctive boxy design, removable doors and windshield, replaceable rooftop and casing, and impressive off-roading capabilities made the lineup the symbol of adventure and freedom it is today.

Jeep Cherokee & Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

Both trims have several features that make them ideal for off-road driving. The Quadra-Lift Air Suspension system is one such feature, with air springs replacing traditional coil springs and automatically raising or lowering the suspension per the selected driveline mode. This results in better ground clearance when navigating rough and bumpy terrains.

The Quadra-Trac II system in the Trailhawk models helps navigate unpredictable off-pavement surfaces by optimizing torque levels when required and utilizing the Brake Traction Control System (BTCS).

Another noteworthy feature is the Selec-Terrain® Traction Management System, which adjusts power distribution to the front and rear wheels to ensure improved handling and traction maintenance.

For slow-crawling sections and other extreme situations, the Trailhawks come with a two-speed transfer case, low mode locks, and a class-IV receiver hitch like Reese 44748 Class III-IV Custom-Fit Hitch with 2″ Square Receiver Opening (view on Amazon).

Last but not least, these Cherokee trims have also received great crash test results and are Trail Rated, further enhancing their appeal to safety-conscious buyers.

Jeep Gladiator

Be it the Rubicon, Mojave, or more-recent EcoDiesel trim, the Gladiator is another 4×4 that would undoubtedly make it to the list of best 5 off-road Jeep models. Being one of the first Jeep pickup trucks, it boasts impressive towing and payload capacities, Cruise Control with steering wheel controls, and an excellent Command-Trac 4×4 system.

The series received a 3.8-L AMC Tornado Straight-6 power mill offering 140 hp (102 kW) when it was first launched and went through other powerplants until it settled on the 24-valve 3.6-L DOHC Pentastar engine.

Regarding 4WD systems, the Gladiator Rubicon has a Rock-Trac 4×4 system featuring a robust transfer case and a 4:1 low-range gear ratio — perfect for high-torque, low-speed scenarios.

Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

“Small but terrible,” the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk makes the final cut of our list of best off-road Jeep models. It boasts an impressive ground clearance of 8.7 inches, a specially tuned suspension system (with unique front and rear shocks, skid plates, and raised front suspension), an Active Drive Low 4×4 system with Selec-Terrain Traction Management System, and a 30.5° approach and 34.3° departure angles.

The drive system includes Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud, and Rock driving modes for optimized off-road performance. Meanwhile, approach and departure angles lend to safer handling on steep grades.

At the heart of this four-wheeler is a 2.4-L Tigershark MultiAir power mill mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. This drivetrain may not be as powerful as the ones above (producing only 180 hp and 237 Nm/24.2 kgf-m/175 lb-ft), but it performs excellently outdoors nonetheless. The stock engine can be swapped for a 1.3-L turbocharged mill, giving the vehicle a 20% increase in torque output.

Special Mentions

  • Jeep Wagoneer
  • Jeep J10 Shortbed
  • CJ-8 Scrambler
  • Jeep CJ-2A
  • Jeep Commander (5.7 Hemi V8 engine)

Best Off-Road Jeep Models (Per Category)  

Red Jeep Wrangler Sport on a Dirt Road


  • Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
  • Jeep Wrangler Sport
  • Jeep CJ-7


  • Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
  • Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk  



  • Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
  • Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk


  • Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
  • Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
  • Jeep Compass Trailhawk


  • Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
  • Jeep Comanche
  • Jeep J-Series

For those wondering, “What Jeep is better at off-roading, 2-door or 4-door?” the answer is purely contingent on your lifestyle and personal preferences.

If you value off-roading capability and maneuverability, 2-door Jeep models might be the better choice. They have a shorter wheelbase and overall length, making navigating tight trails and obstacles easier.

Moreover, these vehicles feature disconnecting sway bars (view on Amazon) and locking front and rear differentials that improve traction and suspension articulation on challenging types of terrain.

Conversely, 4-door Jeep models may be more efficient if you prioritize passenger and cargo space without wanting to sacrifice off-roading performance.

These four-wheelers work best for avid off-roading aficionados who typically bring a lot of gear (and company) on their travels. 4-door models are built longer and offer more interior space, making them a more practical choice for longer trips and everyday use.

Conclusion — Best Jeeps for Off-Roading

Whether you dig the Willys Jeep (Mother of all Jeeps) or the Jeep Wrangler (Blue Jeans of 4×4), you are guaranteed an unforgettable riding experience. These models all share the same off-road adeptness and free spirit.

Hopefully, this guide has helped narrow Jeep’s vast selection of four-wheelers. But if your ‘weapon of choice’ is not on this list, as long as you are safe and have fun outdoors — that’s cool too!