Ranked

15 most capable SUVs you can buy in 2021

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a capable and luxurious SUV.

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

What does an SUV's level of capability mean to you? Does it mean more towing, hauling, or people carrying? How about its off-road prowess and its ability to get you home when the weather turns nasty? For most of us, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle of those two things. Many buy SUVs for their ability to carry larger loads, but there's an occasional need to get dirty in the woods.

That's where our list comes in. We've rounded up 15 of the most capable SUVs on the market today. We grabbed some for their all-out off-road capabilities, but others were chosen because they can get you home no matter the weather. Yet others were added because of their ability to carry people and tow heavy trailers. Here's our list of the most capable SUVs of 2021, in no particular order.

Land Rover Defender

Land Rover Defender Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Make no mistake, Land Rover is a luxury brand, but many of the automaker's vehicles are legitimately capable when the pavement ends. The Defender returned in 2020 after a two-decade hiatus, armed with several selectable off-road driving modes, a surprisingly plush interior, and two ultra-capable engines. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 296 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque and the mild hybrid-equipped 3.0-liter inline-six makes 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. Towing numbers are strong too, as the Defender can trailer up to 8,201 pounds in certain configurations.

Ford Expedition

2020 Ford Expedition King Ranch

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Ford Expedition is big in all the right places and has the tech, comfort equipment, and driving dynamics to be a supremely useful people-hauler. The turbocharged 3.5-liter engine produces 400 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque, and available four-wheel drive makes the Expedition a real beast in bad weather. The Expedition can tow up to 6,000 pounds.

Chevrolet Suburban

2021 Chevrolet Suburban

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

The Suburban is one of the longest running nameplates in the automotive business, and for good reason. Chevy keeps making the big SUV better every year, and the newest 2021 model is a marvel of luxury, tech, and capability. With available four-wheel drive and three powerful engine choices, the Suburban can tackle harsh terrain and bad weather with the best of them. The base engine alone is a 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V8, and on top of that there's a 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 and a 277-horsepower 3.0-liter diesel. With body-on-frame construction and powerful V8 engines, the Suburban can tow up to 7,800 pounds.

Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

It's tempting to consider the Bronco Sport the "baby" Bronco, but that's not an accurate description. While it's true that the Bronco Sport is smaller and less capable than its Bronco counterpart, the Sport has some real terrain-conquering tricks up its sleeve. Two engine choices are on offer, which include a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder that makes 181 horsepower and a 245-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. On top of that, the Bronco Sport brings selectable terrain modes and standard all-wheel drive. The Bronco Sport shows its size most openly with its towing stats, which land at up to 2,205 pounds.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

You can have your Grand Cherokee in several different flavors, from basic to luxurious to rugged. The Trailhawk model hits a sweet spot in the lineup, with a mostly reasonable price tag, four-wheel drive, a solid 295-horsepower 3.6-liter V6, and trail-rated off-road capabilities. The Trailhawk can also be upgraded with a 360-horsepower 5.7-liter V8. In some configurations, those engines can help the Grand Cherokee tow up to 7,200 pounds.

Dodge Durango

2021 Dodge Durango

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The Durango isn't an off-road monster, but it can hold its own in towing up to 8,700 pounds and can haul several people in the process. Dodge offers the Durango with four engine choices, from a tame 295-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 to a rowdy 710-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V8. No matter how you order it, the Durango can be equipped with four-wheel drive and can carry up to eight people.

Honda Passport

2020 Honda Passport Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Mfg. Inc.

The Honda Passport takes many of the things that buyers love about the Honda Pilot and applies them to a smaller, more rugged package. The Passport has shorter front and rear overhangs for better off-road driving angles, selectable terrain modes, and a capable 3.5-liter V6 that makes 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Despite its relatively small stature, the Passport can pull up to 5,000 pounds.

Toyota 4Runner

2020 Toyota 4Runner Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

It doesn't get much more legendary than Toyota's 4Runner. The SUV is long overdue for a major overhaul, but it's still got the goods to deliver a solid off-road or bad-weather experience. Power comes from a 4.0-liter V6 that makes 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. The 4Runner can also be ordered with full TRD off-road regalia, which includes special paint colors, wheels, and rugged gear like skid plates and transfer case guards. Its V6 engine allows the 4Runner to pull up to 5,000 pounds.

Lexus GX

2021 Lexus GX

Photo courtesy of Lexus

If you need a side of luxury with your rugged SUV, the Lexus GX brings it, bigtime. The GX is built on the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado platform, which contributes heavily to the Lexus' abilities off-road. Under the hood, there's a 4.6-liter V8 that makes 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque connected to a six-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive. The GX can tow up to 6,500 pounds.

Jeep Wrangler

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

There's almost nothing about the Jeep Wrangler that doesn't scream rugged capability. The SUV's appearance has barely changed since its inception, and it's only gotten more off-road abilities in recent years. The latest model is available with a plug-in hybrid system or with an ultra-powerful 6.4-liter Hemi that puts down 470 ponies. The Wrangler shouldn't be the first choice as a towing vehicle, however, as it's only capable of pulling up to 3,500 pounds in certain configurations.

Toyota Land Cruiser

2021 Toyota Land Cruiser

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

As long as you don't mind spending more than $80,000 on a Toyota, the Land Cruiser won't disappoint. It's got a 5.7-liter V8 that produces 381 horsepower to all four-wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. That's in addition to almost unstoppable off-road capabilities and a tow rating of up to 8,100 pounds.

Nissan Armada

2021 Nissan Armada Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Nissan's big-boy SUV, the Armada, just got a major refresh for the 2021 model year. The truck got ten more horsepower, more torque, and plenty of new tech and comfort features. The 5.6-liter V8 now puts down 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. In addition to that, the Armada manages luxury-level ride quality, ultra-capable four-wheel drive, and a towing capacity of 8,500 pounds.

Mercedes-Benz G-Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

It should be no surprise that one of the most expensive SUVs on the planet is also one of the most capable. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class, also known as the G-Wagen, is a boxy off-road monster that owes its prowess to its origins as a military vehicle. The truck's twin-turbo V8 pumps out 416 horsepower, while the Mercedes-AMG G63 is powered by a 577-horsepower twin-turbo V8. Both models get several off-road-friendly features and the standard G-Wagen can even tow up to 7,000 pounds.

Kia Telluride

2020 Kia Telluride Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Get past the brand name, and the Telluride is one of the best SUVs on sale today. It sports a 291-horsepower V6, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and eight inches of ground clearance to keep things tidy off-road. The big Kia can also tow up to 5,000 pounds.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

A sufficient amount of torque can help get your trusty steed off the line with ease.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

For many, a pickup truck is as much a daily drivable vehicle as it is a tool for getting the job done. How much horsepower and torque a powertrain puts out is a big part of that. Most want enough to get the job done while keeping an eye toward fuel economy.

What's the difference between horsepower and torque? In simple terms, torque is the pull of the powertrain that gets you off the line from a full stop. Horsepower is what gets you going the speed you want and keeps you there.

Diesel engines tend to have more torque than gasoline-powered engines but have less horsepower. There's no perfect torque to horsepower ratio. It's all about which combination works best for you.

The engines on this list have the highest amount of torque and are available in 2021 model year pickup trucks in the U.S. To see the most powerful pickup trucks ranked by horsepower click here. See the 2020 horsepower champs by clicking here and the 2020 torque winners by clicking here.

No. 5 - 2021 Ford F-150: PowerBoost hybrid powertrain

2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

570 pound-feet of torque

Not surprisingly, Ford's new hybrid F-150 powertrain (a 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine paired with a 35-kilowatt electric motor) delivers more torque than almost any other light-duty truck. It's rated at 570 pound-feet, which matches up well with the engine's 430 horsepower to provide up to 12,400 pounds of towing capacity in certain configurations.

No. 4 - 2021 Ram 1500 TRX: Supercharged 6.2-liter V8

2021 Ram 1500 TRX Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

650 pound-feet of torque

The Ram 1500 TRX isn't just the fastest and most powerful light-duty truck on the market, it's also got the most torque. Rated at 650 pound-feet of torque, the supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8 also produces a staggering 702 horsepower. That's good enough for a 0-60 mph time of just 4.5 seconds and an 8,100-pound towing capacity.

No. 3 (tie) - 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD: 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8

2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

910 pound-feet of torque

General Motors' trucks have attracted attention in recent years for their innovative trailering and tailgate technologies, but both Chevrolet and GMC Heavy Duty trucks are offered with a truly attention-grabbing powertrain. The 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8 produces a massive 910 pound-feet of torque, which is in addition to a respectable 445-horsepower output. That gives the trucks a maximum conventional-trailer towing capacity of over 14,000 pounds in some configurations.

No. 3 (tie) - 2021 GMC Sierra 2500 HD: 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8

2021 GMC Sierra 2500 HD\u200b Photo courtesy of GMC

910 pound-feet of torque

Under the hood of the GMC Sierra 2500 HD is a 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8 that produces 910 pound-feet of torque and 445-horsepower, just like the Silverado 2500 above. The truck has a maximum conventional-trailer towing capacity of over 14,000 pounds in some configurations.

No. 2 - 2021 Ram 3500HD: 6.7-liter Cummins diesel V8

2021 Ram 3500HD

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

1,000 pound-feet of torque

Here, we enter the realm of outlandish torque numbers. The 2021 Ram Heavy Duty lineup is available with a 6.7-liter C
Cummins diesel V8 that produces 1,000 pound-feet of torque. It's offered in a "normal" output version that makes 850 pound-feet, but the four-digit torque number available in the high-output version is truly headline worthy. Ram says that the 3500 can pull up to 35,100 pounds with this engine on board.

No. 1 - 2021 Ford F-Series Super Duty: 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V8

2021 Ford F-Series Super Duty

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

1,050 pound-feet of torque

Ford's 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V8 is the top of the torque hill for 2021. It makes 1,050 pound-feet of the stuff, which is in addition to a solid 475 horsepower. The F-450 truck equipped with the engine can tow up to 37,000 pounds, which is both insane and far above the weight limits for a standard Class A driver's license.

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The 2021 Nissan Rogue is made from recycled aluminum.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

While General Motors is busy readying its Spring Hill, Tennessee plant to run strictly on solar power, Nissan is making its Rogue out of recycled metals just down the street. The 2021 Nissan Rogue is the company's first global model built using a closed-loop recycling system for aluminum parts.

Using a closed-loop recycling system has several benefits. It saves 90 percent of the energy that would normally be used to create the parts that are now made of recycled parts. This type of system also helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions compared to the process of making products out of raw materials.

2021 Nissan Rogue The rear doors, which are stamped from aluminum alloy, open wide on the 2021 Rogue. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The process starts when scrap metal is shredded and collected through a pneumatic system. Nissan then separates the different grades of aluminum in order to ensure that the high-quality scrap is collected and sent to suppliers according to which parts they supply. Different grades of material are used to make different parts of the vehicle.

The scrap is then made into sheets of aluminum, which is delivered in rolls to Nissan where it is transformed into parts for the Rogue. The hood and doors of the 2021 Rogue are stamped from the aluminum alloy.

Aluminum, which is lighter than steel, is used to reduce vehicle weight, which helps to improve fuel efficiency and power performance of the vehicle.

Nissan redesigned the Rogue for the 2021 model year. It is more powerful and spacious than its predecessor. The Rogue is also chocked full of family-friendly features and fresh technology including a new high-tech driver information screen.

Nissan builds the 2021 Rogue in Kyushu, Japan, and Smyrna, Tennessee. As part of the recycling process, Nissan has collaborated with Kobe Steel, Ltd. and UACJ Corp. in Japan, and with Arconic Corporation and Novelis Inc. in the U.S.

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