Buyers have always found 4x4s appealing, and it’s easy to see why. For the most part, these vehicles should offer a great balance of everyday practicality along with exceptional off-road performance.
It’s an easy formula, though many automakers can’t seem to get it right. Many 4x4s are terrible on pavement, while others are simply useless in the real world.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo
Porsche probably would be out of business today, if it wasn’t for their flagship SUV. It was first introduced in the early 2000s and has been a vital part of the automaker’s lineup ever since.
Although the Cayenne remains more durable off-road than most of its competitors, early versions of the car suffered from awful reliability issues. The first generation of the Cayenne, particularly the variant fitted with a turbocharged 4.5L V8 motor, was notorious for serious engine issues.
The fact that the SUV market has shifted in the last years is no secret. Just a few decades ago, off-roading capabilities were one of the most crucial factors for SUV buyers. Today, however, things are quite different.
The BMW X5 is a prime example. Though this SUV may have some off-road-inspired features, such as a 4×4 drivetrain, it certainly wasn’t developed with hardcore off-roading in mind. In fact, most owners of the BMW X5 have probably never taken their vehicles off the beaten path.
There is absolutely no doubt that Jeep has made some truly spectacular 4x4s throughout the years. Sadly, the original Jeep Wagoneer was not one of them. In fact, quite the opposite.
The Wagoneer debuted back in ’63 as a durable SUV with a station wagon body style. Sadly, the vehicle lacked quality when it came to both the powerplant as well as the suspension. Note that this was back when Kaiser Jeep Corporation was responsible for this automobile.
Audi A6 Allroad
The Allroad was Audi’s attempt at creating a somewhat off-road version of the Audi A6 station wagon. The biggest issue of the A6 Allroad, apart from its questionable off-roading capabilities, is its unreliability.
In fact, over half of Allroad owners reported problems with their vehicles in a year, according to New Atlas. If you’re looking for a reliable off-roader, you’ll probably be better off with an SUV anyway.
Much like the previously mentioned Audi A6 Allroad, the XC70 was developed to be a station wagon with some off-road capabilities. Just like the Audi, the Volvo XC70 isn’t exactly the best 4×4 of all time.
What makes the XC70 a truly awful vehicle to own is its reliability, or lack thereof. In fact, Warranty Direct called it the least reliable vehicle back in 2010.
To be fair, the Honda CR-V isn’t a bad vehicle at all. There’s a reason why it remains one of the favorite picks among buyers within its price range. The CRV boasts relatively good fuel economy, plenty of space for occupants and cargo, as well as a smooth and quiet ride.
Despite all of its strong points, it’s not a secret that the CR-V wasn’t built for off-roading. It may have a 4×4 drivetrain, though its off-road capabilities are virtually non-existent. Owners of a CR-V may want to stay on paved roads.
One thing is for sure, the Liberty is far from the best-looking Jeep of all time. As a matter of fact, It could arguably be considered the ugliest Jeep.
What’s more, it was introduced on the market as a replacement to the Cherokee XJ. Most Jeep fans weren’t too pleased with that, to say the least. Die-hard fans of the brand never considered the Liberty to be a true Jeep automobile. The first-gen Liberty was pulled from the market just 5 years after its debut.
The coolest feature of the Samurai is its name, according to many owners. Despite the cool design and a relatively low sticker price, the Samurai left a good chunk of its owners disappointed.
One of the worst things about owning a Suzuki Samurai is the fact that they were likely to roll over when cornering at higher speeds. The car’s small body paired with a high suspension did not improve its handling, that’s for sure.
Mercedes-Benz G Wagon
Today, the G-Wagon is widely considered to be one of the best luxury SUVs on the market. Although the lavish vehicle has become more of a status symbol in recent years, the modern G-Class is capable both off-road and on pavement. This wasn’t the case a few decades ago, though.
The original G-Class was a truly utilitarian off-roading beast. However, it didn’t perform as well on the roads. In fact, it needed almost half a minute to reach 60 miles per hour!
The original Hummer was a massive hit. It was essentially a military Humvee converted for road use. The Hummer H1 was spartan, radical, and ridiculously huge. That’s exactly what buyers fell in love with.
In the early 2000s, GM decided to create a more toned-down alternative to the H1 that would appeal to more buyers. The H2 was more upscale and a lot less capable off-road. In reality, the H2 has gone down in history as one of the worst SUVs of the decade. It’s difficult to understand why anyone would pick this hideous thing over a Hummer H1.
Frankly speaking, the CJ-8 is famous for its exceptional off-roading performance, much like the majority of old-school Jeeps. While its durability and off-road capabilities are as good as it gets, the CJ-8 has one major drawback.
One of the biggest issues of the CJ-8 is its awful fuel efficiency. It may not be much of an issue when off-roading, though it does make this vehicle very expensive to drive on a daily basis. Then again, the CJ-8 wasn’t exactly developed to be a regular daily driver.
Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet
By now, most automakers have realized that drop-top SUVs are flops most of the time. The Murano Cross Cabriolet was no exception.
This ugly SUV debuted back in 2011. The drop-top Murano made headlines, as it was the first all-wheel-drive convertible SUV in the world. For buyers, however, this weird creation proved to be impractical and awful to own.
The Ford Excursion debuted a little over 2 decades ago. This heavy-duty SUV was made to compete with other monstrosities, such as the Chevrolet Suburban. At first, its sheer size managed to draw in quite a few buyers. Ford managed to sell nearly 70,000 units within the first year.
Shortly after the car’s debut, the demand for such an absurd vehicle began plummeting. So much, in fact, that the car was mentioned in Time’s Top 50 Worst Cars of All Time ranking in 2007.
The VehiCross looks more like a concept vehicle than an actual production run. Don’t let that fool you, this weird creation was actually on the market for four years! It was developed with both off-roading and on-road performance in mind. Sadly, it was awful at both of them.
The car ended up being discontinued in 2001 due to low sales, and the nameplate has not made a return since.
Don’t let the sleek styling fool you. The Jeep Compass may seem like a decent vehicle, especially considering the attractive price tag of second-hand units.
The Jeep Compass has loads of issues. The poor fuel economy of the 2.4L Tigershark motor remains the worst one by far, closely followed by its emissions problems and even interior water leaks. Buyers often report a whole array of different electrical problems, too.
Mercedes-Benz M Class
The German automaker launched this large SUV back in the late 90s. At the time, it was an upscale automobile that promised decent off-roading performance thanks to its all-wheel-drive drivetrain. Sadly, things went south just a few years later.
Buyers quickly found out just how unreliable the M-Class was. In fact, Warranty Direct named it the eighth-most unreliable 4×4 SUV of all time back in a 2010 study. You might want to stay away from them, unless you have very deep pockets.
At first sight, many petrolheads would probably mistake the Thar for a Jeep. However, this awful creation has nothing in common with a Wrangler, apart from ripping off its exterior design.
The Mahindra Thar has launched for the Indian market a little over a decade ago. The vehicle was only offered with an underpowered flat-four under the hood. What’s more, the Thar quickly became infamous for its notorious quality issues.
For some odd reason, Hummer decided that the previously mentioned H2 was still to large to appeal to all buyers. That’s why the American automaker developed the H3, the smallest vehicle ever sold by Hummer.
The Hummer H3 debuted for the 2006 model year and ended up being one of the main reasons why the company filed for bankruptcy. Buyers were simply not interested in a gas guzzler that was more toned-down than the spartan H1, which wasn’t much of a best-seller either.
The Chevrolet K5 Blazer is an absolute legend in the off-roading community. Taking one through mud or playing around in the snow is an absolute joy. On the other hand, it is quite difficult to drive one of these monstrosities on the roads.
The K5 Blazer is so wide that navigating around tight streets is an absolute nightmare. While the car’s off-road performance is exceptional even by today’s standards, the same cannot be said about its handling on pavement.
Toyota Land Cruiser Bundera
The mighty Toyota Land Cruiser is perhaps the last vehicle you would expect to see on a list like this. Sure, it is unarguably one of the greatest and most reliable 4x4s to date. However, the Bundera edition is an exception to the rule.
The Bundera edition of the Land Cruiser featured an all-new suspension system, which turned out to be a lot worse than the system found in the regular Land Cruiser. The revised suspension essentially made the Bundera Edition impossible to drive, especially at higher speeds or on rough terrain.
At first sight, a used Volkswagen Touareg can seem like a great pick. The vehicle has exceptional off-road performance, combined with the practicality and comfort of any other Volkswagen product. The car does have a major downside, though.
Unfortunately, the first-generation Touareg shared most of its components with the previously mentioned Porsche Cayenne. As a result, both cars were notorious for reliability issues. At least the average repair cost of the Touareg was a bit lower than the Porsche.
The Suzuki X90 could just be the weirdest automobile ever released by this Japanese manufacturer. Although it’s technically classified as an SUV, it’s far from your average off-roader.
This two-seater is as quirky as an SUV can get, complete with a Targa T-Top for whatever reason. The X90 was an absolute flop in terms of sales- under 6,000 units were made during the car’s short 2-year production run. A few years ago, Top Gear called the X90 one of the worst cars of all time. It’s hard to disagree.
Modern Volvos are famous for their exceptional safety ratings. In fact, it’s one of the top factors that continues to lure in buyers year by year. When it comes to great safety, the XC60 is no exception.
The biggest downside for owners of an XC60 SUV is its reliability issues. Moreover, the average repair cost for a Volvo XC60, much like every other modern Volvo, is through the roof.
Range Rover Evoque Convertible
The Range Rover Evoque Convertible is yet another prime example of how the SUV market has changed in the last years. Although this monstrosity is theoretically classified as a subcompact SUV, it’s best not to take it off-road.
The Evoque does not even come with a 4×4 drivetrain as standard. Instead, buyers can only choose it as an extra option. For some odd reason, Range Rover decided to release a drop-top variant back in 2017. Unsurprisingly, it was discontinued just two years later.
The Durango hit the market for the ’98 model year. The car is based on the Dakota midsize pickup truck and features the same body-on-frame construction. The two vehicles even share the same exact front-end design!
Despite its exceptional off-roading performance, the Durango isn’t free from issues. In fact, Dodge ordered tens of thousands of units to be recalled due to faulty airbags. According to the automaker, affected vehicles may not have their airbags deployed on impact. That is a serious safety concern!
Ford Bronco II
The original Bronco remains one of the most legendary 4x4s of all time. The history of this vehicle dates back to the 60s. The first-gen Bronco was easily one of the most capable SUVs of its era.
Sadly, things went south as soon as Ford launched the Bronco II in the 80s. Its weak V6 motor peaked at a mere 140 horsepower. Unlike its bigger brother, the Bronco II was never offered with a V8.
This subcompact SUV surely looks familiar, doesn’t it? That’s because the Landwind X7 is a blatant copy of the previously mentioned Range Rover Evoque. If you thought it can’t possibly get worse than a drop-top version of the Evoque, wait until you find out about this awful thing.
The Landwind X7 was released in China back in 2015. Jaguar immediately took legal action, though the case was quickly dismissed. There was no law in China that would prevent companies from copying cars at the time.
Mercedes-Benz G63 6X6
This absurd six-wheeler proves that European manufacturers are capable of creating vehicles that are just as ridiculous as their American counterparts. The G63 is not theoretically a 4×4 and rather a 6×6, though it still deserves a spot on this list.
The six-wheel G class is known for its exceptional off-roading performance. However, its sheer size makes it virtually impossible to use it on regular roads. It’s completely useless in the real world.
The original Nissan Juke is infamous for its awful exterior design. It was luckily replaced by a less horrendous second-generation model after 2017. However, questionable styling is far from the vehicle’s only flaw.
Although the base model came fitted with front-wheel drive, buyers had the option to upgrade to an all-wheel-drive drivetrain at an extra cost. Despite having 4×4, the Juke remains absolutely awful off the beaten path.
The previously mentioned XC70, as well as the XC60, aren’t the only two 4×4 Volvos that are notorious for serious reliability issues. The XC90, however, is even more unreliable than the XC70, at least according to a study conducted by Warranty Direct.
Owners of a Volvo XC90 can expect to spend around $700 for every visit to the repair shop. That makes it one of the most expensive vehicles to maintain within its price range!
This horrendous SUV has an awful reputation within the car community, mostly because of its questionable design. Its production run lasted merely half a decade. An all-wheel-drive drivetrain was available, though only as an extra upgrade over the standard front-wheel drive.
Production numbers peaked at a little under 28 000 units. In comparison, General Motors needed to sell at least 30 000 Azteks every year to break even on the model. As a result, the Aztek proved to be an expensive failure for the automaker.
The LM001 is a precursor of both the LM002 and the Urus, Lamborghini’s flagship SUV. It was a prototype of an off-roading military vehicle developed for the American military, based on the Lamborghini Cheetah. Thankfully, only one unit was built.
The LM001 suffered from serious handling issues, both when off-roading and on the pavement. Its 180-horsepower V8 motor borrowed from Chrysler was quite underpowered, too.
Land Rover Discovery
Older Land Rovers have become infamous for their reliability issues. Despite upkeep costs that are absolutely through the roof, the Discovery is still a popular choice on the used car market. Unfortunately, many buyers seem to be unaware of just how expensive owning an older Land Rover can get.
According to a study by Warranty Direct, a visit to the repair shop will cost over $500 on average. The Discovery was also listed as the seventh most unreliable 4×4 on the market.
Daihatsu developed the Rocky, also known as the Feroza depending on the market, as a small SUV that would be capable of some serious off-roading. To maximize the car’s versatility, Daihatsu installed shock absorbers with three different settings for the driver to choose from.
Sadly, the shocks didn’t exactly work as well as Daihatsu promised. While these shock absorbers were a strong selling point, especially in the late 90s when the Rocky debuted, they didn’t quite live up to the expectations.
At first, the Sorento may seem like a solid pick. The first-gen SUV had plenty of room for the occupants and cargo, and an all-wheel drive was available as an extra option. Despite all this, the Sorento proved to be far from the best pick in its price range.
Shortly after its 2002 debut, the public was alarmed by the Sorento’s poor safety ratings. In addition, many owners reported serious engine issues that were very expensive to fix.
The Lada Niva does indeed look like it’s capable of some serious off-roading action. While that is partially true, this car is primarily known for its poor quality and a wide array of mechanical issues. In effect, it’s one of the most unreliable 4x4s money can buy.
If you ever find yourself behind the wheel of a Lada Niva, you can expect to hear an entire symphony of worrying click-clacks around the interior, as well as weird sounds coming from the powertrain.
The GLA first hit the market for the 2014 model year. It was developed to be the ideal mix of sporty performance and off-road capabilities. In reality, its performance was average at best.
The Mercedes-Benz GLA shares most of its undercarriage with the Nissan QX30. The main differences between the two vehicles are minor stylistic touches, and a much higher price tag for the GLA. It’s a hard pass.
The Aspen was essentially a re-modeled Dodge Durango, at least at first. It was developed to be a more upscale alternative to the Durango. The Chrysler Aspen was meant to compete with the Chevy Tahoe or the Ford Expedition.
The Aspen may not have been a bad vehicle in its own right, though it was an absolute failure sales-wise. Chrysler sold just 30 Aspens in its last year on the market!
Durability is key to creating a successful off-roader. Afterall, most automakers are well aware that the owners of such machines will push them to the limits. Jeep seems to get it right most of the time. However, there have been a few exceptions throughout the years. The CJ-5 is one of them.
The Jeep CJ-5 suffered from one particular issue- the axle shaft was prone to breaking. Its V8 powerplant, on the other hand, remains one of the best motors built by the American manufacturer.
The second generation of the Isuzu Trooper, also known as the Holden Jackaroo in Australia, debuted back in the early 90s. It was completely redesigned, and the automaker promised a massive improvement over its predecessor.
Although the Trooper did perform quite well off the beaten paths, the SUV was notorious for frequently breaking down. Buyers who picked the diesel-powered variant reported the highest number of issues.