While the number of SUV model offerings continue to increase, the off-road SUV category has shrunk for the 2015 model year. The vast majority of drivers spend their time on paved roads and since off-road ready models aren’t geared as much for passenger space, cargo space or towing capacity, segment growth has languished. As many automakers go for production volume and focus on profit levels, new off-road models are a hard sell to put into production.
Other factors are the increasing cost of new vehicles and the growth of the off-highway vehicle segment. Models like the Polaris Rzr can seat four-passengers, go more places off-road but don’t have near the price tag of off-road ready SUVs.
The big news in the off-road SUV segment for 2015 is that after an eight year run, Toyota has discontinued its FJ Cruiser. While a strong competitor to the Jeep Wrangler and very capable off-road, the model was never a high volume seller and it’s poor visibility and relatively small passenger and cargo space were an impediment sales.
Here’s an overview of the 2015 off-road SUV models.
The original Jeep is back for 2015 unchanged. The Wrangler comes with two or four doors and the doors can be removed and there is a hard top or soft top option. The model is offered just one engine choice, a 3.6-liter 285 horsepower V6. The Wrangler can be had with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission.
The Wrangler has a starting price at $23,590 but up-level models can exceed $35,000. The 2015 model has a fuel economy rating of 17-mpg city and 21-mpg highway. In addition to off-road capability, the 2015 Jeep Wrangler is expected to have tremendous resale value, according to its IntelliChoice 5-Year Retained Value Score.
4×4 Jeeps are known for their off-road capabilities but the Wrangler is the standout. For a more luxurious interior and more room, consider the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
The Xterra, which debuted in the 2000 model year, it continues on with its 4.0-liter V6 engine producing 261 horsepower. It adds a 5.0-inch color audio display, USB port, Nissan connect with mobile apps, text messaging, satellite radio, and Bluetooth hands-free with streaming audio in the midrange Xterra S models.
Unlike the Wrangler, the Xterra comes in both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models. The Xterra has lackluster fuel economy of 15-mpg city and 20-mpg highway with four-wheel drive.
The Xterra has a starting price of about $24,000 and can top out at over $31,000 with options. In the sub $40,000 price range, the Xterra and Toyota 4Runner offer the most towing capacity of 5,000 pounds in the off-road ready category.
The 4Runner celebrates it’s 31st model year in 2015 with minor changes after getting a facelift for the 2014 model year. Unlike other SUVs in it’s class in the 90s like the Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder, the 4Runner has maintained its truck based platform and doesn’t offer a third-row of seats.
For 2015, the TRD Pro is an off-road ready limited quantity trim with overbuilt shock absorbers, TRD wheels and other off-highway enhancements. Toyota calls the Pro Series “…the most adrenaline-inducing lineup of off-road vehicles ever unleashed…” If you can’t afford or find the TRD Pro unavailable, the Trail model is still plenty capable off-road.
The 4Runner offers a 4.0-liter 270 horsepower V6. The 4Runner is rated at 17-mpg city and 21-mpg highway. It’s starting price is about $34,000 topping out at over $45,000 with the TRO Pro trim line.
Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota has built the Land Cruiser since the 1960s and the model has morphed into a very luxurious model while retaining its off-road credibility. The 2015 model returns unchanged with its 5.7-liter 391 horsepower V8 engine. While the model has a base price of about $81,000, the Land Cruiser maintains a strong resale value.
The Lexus LX570 shares the same platform and engine as the Land Cruiser but has a base price a couple thousand dollars higher.
Land Rover Range Rover
Land Rovers are known for their off-road capability and luxury. The Land Rover Range Rover returns for 2015 with minor option and paint changes and an InControl app suite. The model comes with a 3.0-liter 34-0 horsepower supercharged V6 engine and an optional 5.0-liter 510 horsepower supercharged V8 engine.
The Land Rover Range Rover gets 17-mpg city and 23-mpg highway in base form with a starting price of about $84,500. For a more affordable model, the Land Rover LR2 has a base price of $37,525.
The premium off-road SUV for 35 years, the G-Class returns unchanged. For serious off-roading and superior performance, the model has three independently locking differentials. The model comes standard with a 5.5-liter 384 horsepower V8 engine and an available 5.5-liter 535 horsepower twin turbo. The 2015 G-Class has a starting price of $116,325.