There are probably hundreds of websites out there dedicated to offroading, each with its own list of the best vehicles on the market. But let’s be honest—the best trucks or SUVs for offroading in San Diego aren’t the same as those for adventures in, say, Rocky Mountain forests or muddy swamps in the South.
The particular terrain in San Diego’s backyard requires specific offroading capabilities, which is why we’ve rounded up a list of the best vehicles for an afternoon jaunt in East County or a long weekend in the desert.
#1. Ford F-150 Raptor for offroading
Designed to dominate the desert, this souped-up F-150 features 11 inches of wheel travel up front and 13 in the rear—perfect for deep sand running when you get far enough east. It also boasts a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6, a ten-speed automatic, and a new four-wheel drive system with six preset drive modes: Normal (for a trip to In-N-Out); Sport (for well-paved road twists); Weather; Snow/Wet; Mud/Sand Rock Crawl (for mastering East County’s boulder fields), and Baja (for when you’re feeling a little speedy on the sand). In other words, everything you need for all kinds of offroading adventures in San Diego.
#2. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited for offroading
Wranglers have always been a popular choice for offroaders, and when Jeep released the Rubicon version almost 15 years ago, it was a dream come true. But for offroading in San Diego’s deserts, the best Rubicon is the long-wheelbase Unlimited model with larger axles, locking differentials, and a front swaybar that can disconnect for increased wheel travel.
#3. Dodge Ram Power Wagon for offroading
If you want serious power, look no further than the Power Wagon’s massive Hemi V8 or 410-horsepower V8 engine options—either one will really get those 33-inch tires spinning. This behemoth also features a taller suspension than the original Power Wagon, and one of the best standard features is one that will save your tail if manage to get stuck: a front-mounted Warn electric winch.
#4. Toyota Land Cruiser for offroading
The Land Cruiser is both burly—it features a V8-powered beast of an engine—and capable, with four-wheel drive operating at all times. It also comes with Crawl Control, which brakes the outside rear wheel to tighten your turning circle on a narrow trail. And as an added bonus, the Land Cruiser can tow over four tons. That means you can haul along some extra toys when you head out for a day of offroading in San Diego deserts.
#5. Hummer H1 for offroading
The last Hummer H1 rolled off the factory floor over a decade ago, but its drop in urban-driving popularity means you can still find used ones for a steal. And because the Hummers were originally intended as an all-terrain military vehicle, they’re purposely built to rock out in hot, sandy environments. The drivetrain is far up in the chassis, giving you about 16 inches of ground clearance, and if you plan to hit Ocotillo in the morning and the dunes by Yuma in the afternoon, you can reduce tire pressure from inside the cab—an extremely valuable perk when the temps creep toward 100 degrees.
#6. Nissan Xterra Pro-4X for offroading
One of the few dirt-friendly SUVs out there, the Xterra comes standard with sizeable all-terrain tires, plus hill descent control and hill start assist to prevent rolling on steep inclines. And while the suspension isn’t terribly tall, the vehicle itself is trim enough to crawl up tight, rocky terrain without much fear of body damage.
#7. Land Rover Range Rover for offroading
Don’t let the Range Rover’s luxury status fool you. This a serious offroad rockstar, with a long travel air suspension, a computer-controlled four-wheel drive system, aggressive gearing, and the option of a supercharged V-8 engine. And for truly hairy trails, the Range Rover can rise up on its springs for an extra foot of ground clearance, which is well worth the steep price tag.
Turn any truck or SUV into an offroading beast in San Diego & El Cajon
If you don’t already have one of the trucks and SUVs on this list, don’t worry—you can still dominate San Diego’s offroading terrain. At Stereo Depot, we can help you get your vehicle ready for the great outdoors with a suspension lift kit and other offroad optimizations. We offer high quality work at affordable prices, so stop in one of our locations in San Diego and El Cajon today! Give Stereo Depot a call at our San Diego location at (619) 736-9964 or our El Cajon location at (619) 873-4641.