If you live in a mountainous area, or you simply want a weekend car that is capable of taking you into the heights, there are lots of options to choose from. Almost every SUV out there is available with a four-wheel-drive system and ample ground clearance, but some are definitely better than others.
Besides SUVs, raised hatchbacks and crossovers are also a fairly common sight in many mountainous areas because they combine comfort and on-road compliance with a raised up ground clearance for perfect off-roading capabilities.
As such, the Subaru Outback, Ford Expedition, Honda CR-V, Jeep Grand Cherokee are all regular options for such purposes, and for a good reason. But if you want a more luxurious mountaineer, something like a Mercedes G-Class or the Range Rover are both equally capable and comfortable.
Whether you just want a car for skiing trips or a permanent mountain resident, all of these are capable of traversing snow, country roads, and uneven terrain without any issues. Besides the off-roading capabilities, they are also fairly compliant on-road.
The Subaru Outback is a no-nonsense do-everything type of car. The comfort is adequate, space is plenty and the capabilities are vast. The Outback offers great visibility and practicality as it manages to pack loads of stuff in its cargo compartments.
The Outback offers a permanent legendary Subaru four-wheel-drive system capable of traversing all kinds of terrains without breaking a sweat. Besides the off-roading capabilities, the Outback is also spacious enough for car camping, and it is also fairly family-friendly.
The Ford Expedition is a default family car in the US, and it’s easy to see why because it offers ample space, comfort, and off-roading ability. Even though the Explorer is mostly designed to reside in a suburb family driveway, it can be used to go through a bunch of tricky weather conditions.
The best thing about a Ford Expedition is the ability to pack in your entire family, your dog, and a bunch of skiing equipment and just go where ever you want. Even though the Explorer is not made for any serious off-roading, but if you do come across regular snow and country roads, you ought not to worry.
The Honda CR-V is more or less the same as the Ford Explorer when it comes to the targeted audience and the general suburb usage scenario. The CR-V is fuel-efficient but still punchy enough while offering seating for up to 5 and a bunch of trunk space as well.
The CR-V also comes equipped with an automatic transmission as standard which makes the CR-V easy to drive no matter the terrain. It’s no wonder that the CR-V is so incredibly popular in the US, and as far as mountains are concerned, the CR-V is amply capable of negotiating most types of road surfaces.
Mercedes Benz G-Class
The Mercedes Benz G-Class is somewhat of a statement car these days, but that’s not to say that the G-Class is not capable of extreme off-roading. The roots of the G-Class firmly stretch into military usage, and it’s obvious the second you come across rocks, snow, or mud.
If you combine that with amazing luxury, amazing engines, and amazing design, the G-Class seems like a perfect car. The only huge drawback with the G-Class is the high entry prices, but you do get a lot of luxury, and pretty much everyone out there loves a G-wagon.
Mercedes-Benz cars perform well in snowy conditions <- read more.
One of the greatest competitors to the G-Class is the Range Rover. The Range Rover drives a bit more luxuriously thanks to a more aerodynamic design which is not as prone to lots of wind noise as the G-Class is. It looks great and it drives great, but it does cost as much as a G-Class does, but it definitely is worth it.
Besides the seemingly questionable reliability, the Range Rover ticks every box imaginable. Even though it looks luxurious and mostly aimed for on-road usage, the Range Rover is incredibly capable off-road thanks to many off-road associated features and technology solutions. So much so that it gives the G-Class a run for its money.
You might also want to read about Volvo and snow.
Which cars should be avoided for mountain driving?
Something like a sedan is not made for mountainous roads, but there are a few exceptions. Hatchbacks are also a no-go as they usually offer only front-wheel-drive, low ground clearance, and fairly low-profile tires. Bar a few exceptions made by Subaru, these cars should be avoided for mountain driving purposes.
You should also avoid front-wheel-drive SUVs because they are not as capable as one would expect from an SUV. That being said, anything without a four-wheel-drive system is bound to get stuck on snowy roads. Besides the powertrain, you should never go into the mountains while on summer/all-season tires during the winter.
Does off-roading damage your car?
Off-roading can definitely damage your car, but if you do it safely with a purpose-made car, you shouldn’t worry all that much if you know what you are doing. Nevertheless, any type of extreme terrain is not all that safe even when driving something like a Mercedes Benz G-Class.
The chances of damaging your car while off-roading is considerably higher, and because of this, many insurance companies are either keen to charge you higher premiums or they don’t cover any costs associated with off-road use. Be sure to get a car with a decent amount of underbody protection as this is key if you want to keep your car safe.
What are the key aspects of a great mountain car?
A great mountain car offers permanent four-wheel drive at a minimum. Besides the four-wheel drive, a raised-up driving position and ground clearance are also essential. Superior visibility and suspension setups are also fairly important when it comes to driving on rough mountain terrain.
Besides these, cars equipped with low-range gearboxes such as the Range Rover and the Mercedes Benz G-Class are also considered essential. Additional underbody protection, locking differentials, lots of wheel travel, and lots of torque are also incredibly important when it comes to serious off-roading driving conditions.