Range Rover Sport
Those who seek the everyday practicality of an SUV with no compromise on style, luxury, or driving dynamics may find the Range Rover Sport just right. You’ll pay somewhere close to $70k for it (about $20K less than its larger brother) yet find the same safe, strong, commanding position on the road. And like its brother, the Range Rover Sport stands apart from other brands in its ability to climb mountains without dragging its undercarriage on the rocks and safely wade its way across streams. (The Sport is good for fording through 33.5 inches of water.) With full-time four-wheel drive, an impressive list of standard convenience and safety features, and optional third-row seating, it’s a nice option between the full-size Range Rover and smaller Discovery Sport and Evoque cousins. Ours was equipped with the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6. Handy features included a low-traction launch mode for sure-footing on slippery surfaces and Advanced Tow Assist to guide the driver while backing up with a trailer.
Jeep is a brand that can’t be ignored if you’re looking for go-anywhere capability; and if it’s a crossover SUV you’re after, you may be surprised about how far the Jeep Cherokee has come with standard and available luxuries and improvements in pavement-based performance thanks to front and rear independent suspensions. All this is achieved without sacrificing Jeep’s stand-apart capability off-road or its best-in-class towing capability. The Limited 4x4 model that we drove sheds some of the off-road hardware of the Trailhawk edition and sits just a notch under the range-topping Overland trim level. Loaded with the optional 3.2-liter V6 engine, tech and luxury extras, plus Hill Descent Control, Jeep Action Drive II (low gear range with front and rear axle lock), and Off-Road Suspension, our test model could be had for just over $40k.
If you ever go off-road or just like the assurance of a vehicle designed to handle extremes, you’ll also want to shop Subaru. Standard all-wheel drive and 8.7 inches of ground clearance make the Crosstrek a surprisingly fun hatchback to drive on both paved and dirt roads. The all-new 2018 Crosstrek gets a new Global Platform, upgraded engine and more refined cabin while continuing to deliver huge on value and all-weather capability. While some may salivate over the manual transmission options, the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) adds Hill Descent Control, X-Mode (Subaru’s tricky-spot helper that regulates torque), and individual-wheel braking. It’s hard to find a vehicle among subcompacts that offers as many standard options. Subaru’s EyeSight safety features package comes standard on the 2.0 Premium mid-level trim level and includes emergency braking, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control. The top-of-the-line 2.0i Limited adds auto high beams and reverse automatic braking plus a Harman Kardon audio system, and can still be had for under $25K.