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Shoppers’ Guide: 5 Affordable Crossovers Better Off-Road Than The Honda CR-V

The well-rounded Honda CR-V defines the family crossover segment. However, Honda does not offer an off-road trim for this versatile vehicle. Here are options for those buyers that want to get mud on the roof of head out before the plow trucks in winter storms.

The Honda CR-V defines its segment. However, Honda has withheld many off-road features that some drivers need or want. Here are five vehicles with abilities beyond the CR-V’s to consider if you are one of those shoppers.

Related Story: Is All-wheel Drive In Your Crossover Enough, or Do You Really Need A True 4X4?

Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
The Jeep Cherokee is available in many different flavors and personalities. The one you want if off-road capability is your top priority is the Trailhawk. So what does it offer that the CR-V does not? For starters you can opt for a full-size matching spare tire. Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction control system with up to five customized modes (Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock) in the Trailhawk is also more robust than the other options on our list. Then there are the little things.

We tested Jeep’s Cherokee Trailhawk in a blizzard once and found the all-season tire selection to be perfect for that mission. And if you are off-road in the dessert someplace, the hood’s matte finish will keep the glare out of your eyes.
Subaru Outback image by Subaru media supportSubaru Outback Onyx Edition XT
All Subarus are great when the paved road ends. However, not all Subaru crossovers are created equal. The Outback is a perfect example. It’s Onyx Edition XT has features that other Outbacks don’t. For example, dual-function X-MODE w/ Hill Descent Control. X-MODE is a system that Subaru developed to take their all-wheel drive systems up a notch. It allows for better operation in deep snow and deep sand. We’ve tried X-Mode multiple times in sloppy muddy conditions and feel that it offers drivers more security than conventional all-wheel drive does.

In addition to the Outback’s standard off-road equipment, the dealer can fit your vehicle with skidplates to protect the engine and other critical components from being damaged by impacts. The Outback can even be equipped with hill-descent control. We’ve tested that technology on a steep icy hill in rural New Hampshire, and credit it with saving us from an accident.
Subaru Forester
Like the Outback, the Forester’s basic abilities can be augmented with skidplates, hill-descent control, and X-MODE. We have taken foresters with and without these features off road. On a Land-Rover-designed off-road course in the mountains of New York we were astounded by how capable the Forester was. It kept pace with Jeep Wranglers, Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro trucks, and Range Rover models on the majority of the courses and obstacles.
RAV4 TRD image by ToyotaToyota RAV4 – Adventure, Limited, and TRD Pro
The basic RAV4 is a capable vehicle on all road surfaces when equipped with optional all-wheel drive. However, not all RAV4’s are equal. Certain trims have more capabilities. Some have downhill assist and torque-vectoring AWD to augment Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select. Toyota also adds a smidge more ground clearance to the special off-road trims.
RAV4 Adventure image by John Goreham
We tested a RAV4 Adventure off-road in deep snow and became believers in the model’s capabilities.
Honda Passport
Honda fans need not leave the Honda dealership in order to find a two-row crossover with a bit more off-road chops than the CR-V offers. The new-generation Passport has many great things going for it. They include size (it’s bigger than all of these other crossovers), a V6 engine that you know and love if you have been a Honda fan for a while, and it’s a bit burlier than the CR-V and has a four-mode Intelligent Traction Management system with torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. You’ll pay a bit more for the Passport, but it overlaps the CR-V’s pricing range, so it’s not that far out of reach for those shoppers with a budget under $40K.

The truth is, most crossover shoppers never take their vehicle off the beaten path. The Honda CR-V is our top-pick as a family crossover for those buyers. It is well-rounded, and is the top-seller to families in this segment. For those that do plan to push the limits of their crossover, these five offer the promise of more capability when the road ends.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career to chase his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

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