Of all the sedans and smaller cars on the market, only a handful has enough strength and power to drive off-road with solid performance.
The best off-road sedan needs suitable ground clearance and solid power and torque. We recommend these six best vehicles as the top options.
- Subaru Impreza WRX
- Audi A4
- Mitsubishi Mirage
- Volvo S60 Cross Country
- Toyota Avalon
- AMC Eagle
While cars won’t compare to a truck or SUV on rugged terrains, they can still provide enough performance. This guide includes the best options, tips, and information to use a sedan off-road successfully.
6 Best Off-Road Sedan
No sedan is genuinely built for off-roading because of a lack of height, power, durability, and overall performance. But some of them have unique designs and are easily customizable, so they make good options.
It is worth noting that while these cars can handle some challenging terrains, they’re not built for severe off-roading at high speeds. It is best to check with the manufacturer or consult a professional mechanic about modifying the car first.
Below we have listed the six best off-road sedans. Consider these when deciding the best car to handle these rugged terrains.
1. Subaru Impreza WRX
The Subaru Impreza WRX is the best off-road sedan with impressive performance, comfort, and capability. The Subaru's all-wheel-drive system makes it excel in any conditions you can throw at it, providing a secure and surefooted ride.
Performance-wise, the turbocharged engine delivers plenty of power for spirited driving, while the sport-tuned suspension offers excellent handling on city streets and back roads. The cabin is comfortable and well laid out, with ample passenger space in the rear seats.
This sedan is small, with a lightweight chassis that can hold up well through off-road terrain. The suspension on many models is stiff but transfers power easily during harsh handling.
We love the turbocharged options because of the improved engine airflow and vehicle efficiency. Anybody using this sedan can perform excellently after installing a lift kit because it has all the necessary driving capabilities.
Pros Of The Subaru Impreza WRX
- Quick acceleration and elite handling capabilities
- Spacious interior cabin design
- Boxer engine
- Available in both automatic and manual transmission trims
Cons Of The Subaru Impreza WRX
- Lower ground clearance than the average sedan on many models
- Stiff riding
- Wind and road noise
2. Audi A4
The Audi A4 is one of the best luxury sedans suited for off-road driving. It is perfect for combining power, style, and luxury into a high-performing vehicle. With a range of engine options from gasoline to diesel, it provides drivers with the performance they need for urban and rural roads.
The luxury sedan interior is well-appointed with advanced safety features such as Adaptive Cruise Control, an active lane keeping system, Blind Spot Detection, and Rear Cross Traffic Alerts.
Additionally, the cabin is designed to provide maximum comfort using superior materials that support ergonomics for extended journeys. This makes it a reliable family sedan too.
The A4 comes equipped with a Quattro all-wheel drive system, which helps keep it stable in slippery conditions while providing enhanced grip in off-road terrains.
This high-quality sedan also sports an 8-speed transmission, allowing smooth shifts between gears and optimizing the vehicle’s performance regardless of our traveling surface.
The Audi A4 deserves its reputation among those seeking an exceptional experience with their car. It provides power-packed travel across rugged terrains or dynamic luxury cruising within cities and towns, offering impeccable acceleration balanced by comfortable handling capabilities.
Pros Of The Audi A4
- Quattro AWD is standard
- Satisfying and consistent acceleration
- Above-average fuel economy
- Amazing technology
Cons Of The Audi A4
- No manual transmission options are available brand new
- Costly and expensive to maintain
3. Mitsubishi Mirage
The Mitsubishi Mirage is a midsize sedan with a lightweight, powerful engine with great acceleration and excellent handling. The suspension is tuned to be extremely responsive and provides exceptional traction in any terrain or weather conditions.
With an impressive fuel economy of 28-40 MPG and its low starting price tag, it’s no wonder why so many people choose the Mirage when they want an affordable vehicle that can take them off-road without breaking the bank.
This sedan delivers sublime performance on road trips and offers some ruggedness off-road. Look no further than the Mitsubishi Mirage, offering superior handling combined with modern conveniences, all at an affordable price point.
It also has all-wheel drive capabilities, and it’s easy to add off road tires to help with better performance. This midsize sedan is worth trying with solid highway comfort too.
Pros Of The Mitsubishi Mirage
- Provides decent traction in the snow
- Excellent engine design with good torque
- Extremely comfortable at highway speeds
Cons Of The Mitsubishi Mirage
- Not the best steering accuracy
4. Volvo S60 Cross Country
The Volvo S60 Cross Country is one of the best luxury sedans on the market. It’s also got plenty of features like standard rear wheel drive to help with off-road handling.
The car is designed to be comfortable on the pavement and in rougher terrain by incorporating several features that make it adept at tackling any surface. This is a great example of a car that looks good on the road but can also confidently handle off-road conditions.
This car has a raised ride height to reduce its center of gravity and make it easier to traverse uneven ground. Together, these features increase this model's traction to help it travel confidently over rocks or mud.
The suspension system of the S60 Cross Country helps swap out traditional steel springs for stronger and more durable air shocks that absorb bumps better than regular systems.
This improved dampening makes navigating up and down hills easier while ensuring passengers remain comfortable on smooth roads.
Pros Of The Volvo S60 Cross Country
- Firm and comfortable ride quality
- Comfortable interior for driver and passengers
- All-wheel-drive system
Cons Of The Volvo S60 Cross Country
- Handling could use a bit of improvement
- Not as fun to drive as other options
5. Toyota Avalon
The Toyota Avalon is one of the best midsize sedans. It offers a comfortable ride and dependability that can be trusted on long drives, as well as off-road trips. For those looking to explore some terrain off the beaten path, the Avalon can easily handle most situations.
Overall, these features combine, offering just enough power and capability to traverse challenging trails safely while providing an enjoyable driving experience.
Regarding off-roading, the Avalon can hold its own in challenging terrains thanks to its powerful 3.5 liter V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission system.
On top of that, Toyota's durable all-wheel drive powertrain will make light work of slippery surfaces or difficult terrain.
Additionally, the ground clearance is above average and allows for better maneuverability. This makes it easier to take on uneven roads without worrying about scraping up against rocks or other obstacles along the way.
Pros Of The Toyota Avalon
- Impressive winter performance in deep snow for a car in its class
- Upscale standard features
- Hybrid models are available for better efficiency
Cons Of The Toyota Avalon
- New versions are more expensive than other options
- Limited all-wheel drive availability
6. AMC Eagle
The AMC Eagle is an older vehicle and is not typically seen on the roads today. But because of the amazing ground clearance, it must be mentioned as one of the best cars on the market to go off-road.
The Eagle could also be had with either 4WD or AWD variants of its suspension system, further enhancing its off-road capability. We can mention enough how well this car handles tough terrains.
The 6.89-inch ground clearance is an industry-leading design. This means it only needs about 1 inch of lift to get enough clearance to handle steep terrains.
It provides a unique driving experience. The body is larger, with a wide wheelbase to help with driving stability too. We also love the handling accuracy despite the size of this sedan.
Pros Of The AMC Eagle
- Bigger body with excellent durability
- Ground clearance
- Unique body styles
Cons Of The AMC Eagle
- Poor fuel efficiency
- Not easy to find this car today with no new car models
What Modifications Do You Need To Off-Road With A Sedan?
Off-roading is an adventurous activity that involves driving a vehicle on unpaved, rugged terrain. While it has been traditionally associated with large, heavy-duty vehicles such as all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and Jeeps, some people are now beginning to explore the outdoor backcountry in their car.
When taking a car off-road, it’s essential to understand that we must make several modifications before safely driving on any terrain. We have listed a few of the most critical ones below.
Upgraded Tires For A Smooth Ride
We also want to ensure that the car's tires are suitable for off-road conditions; investing in a set of high-traction all-terrain tires will give us improved grip while reducing wheel spin and improving cornering ability.
Depending on the extreme terrain, it may be necessary to fit an upgraded set of wheels with mud tires, too. These are designed to handle various types of mucky surfaces without getting stuck or spinning out of control like regular road tires would do under similar circumstances.
Life Kit For Ground Clearance
Installing a lift kit is an essential modification we need to make. This allows for greater ground clearance and will help protect the car's underside from damage as we cross rocks, roots, and other obstacles.
Upgraded Suspension & Shocks
A suspension, shocks, and coil springs upgrade is also recommended to improve the car's overall handling and stability over uneven surfaces. It will help the vehicle and provides a limited slip differential so the tires maintain traction better.
Is It Safe To Take A Sedan Off-Roading?
In most cases, taking a car off-road with at least 8.5 inches of ground clearance is safe. The ideal range for a vehicle hitting the trails and riding off the beaten path is 8.8 inches to 10.8 inches of ground clearance.
It’s possible to ride below this range when speeds are lower, and the plan is to only ride through flat areas. But this is still risky, and we typically recommend modifying sedans that drive on a non-traditional road.
Some of the risks include bottoming out and causing damage to the vehicle. It’s also possible to get a flat tire unless the sedan has a pair of durable all-terrain tires.
Do Sedans Have Off-Road Capability?
Sedans do have off-road driving capabilities. But there must be suitable ground clearance. Otherwise, it can be dangerous and many sedans only have standard features or a base model trim level not suited for off-road driving.
Also, many off-road drivers considering a sedan are likely looking for something other than a rock crawling vehicle. In this case, sedans are more likely to be the better budget option to handle mild off-road driving situations.
It’s also possible to customize a sedan with lift kits, new tires, and other features that can provide more power, better ground clearance, and improved sporty handling for off-road driving needs.
Do You Need All-Wheel Drive To Off-Road With A Sedan?
Yes, you will need all-wheel drive to drive on off-road terrain with a sedan. Otherwise, it’s too difficult to maintain vehicle control and traction. A traditional family rear wheel drive sedan will struggle in these conditions.
It’s also possible to only use four-wheel drive and still get the same results. But this is not all we need for a smooth ride through challenging trails. We also mentioned the need for better tires and higher ground clearance.
We prefer an all-wheel drive sedan for off-road driving because of the varying power sent to each wheel. This helps with traction and reduces the risk of getting stuck or losing road grip unexpectedly.
About THE AUTHOR
Corey has been off-roading all his life, starting from a very young age on ATV's and dirt bikes. As he's grown older, his interests have focused more on larger off-roading vehicles like Jeeps and Toyotas. He lives for the slow and calculated crawl up (or down) steep terrain.Read More About Corey Brooks