11 Fun 2 and 3-row SUVs Designed for Adventure and Value

Buyers craving off-road adventure have more options than ever: Automakers have beefed up these popular SUVs to make them as good at overlanding as they are at carpooling.

Camping In Style On The Wilderness
Camping gets a lift on the Subaru Outback Wilderness. Photo: Terri Marshall

Are You Ready for Adventure?

Borrowing words from one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.”

And isn’t that the goal for so many of us these days? To get out, get away, to tune out the world and focus on what matters. This has fueled the trend of buying SUVs for overlanding, a journey of adventurous exploration. It is the road less traveled.

Overlanding has become a cultural thing. It emphasizes the journey more than the destination. Imagine owning a car that you enjoy so much that you trust its reliability to move you through remote and challenging terrain.

It used to be that an SUV that filled these needs would run on the expensive side. But no more. Recognizing that buyers want necessity during the week and adventure on the weekend, car makers have adapted versions of their popular SUVs specifically for the off road. Now, you can have your cake and eat it too. 

Here are 11 adventure-capable SUVs that deliver great value and will feed your inner nomad.

Related: Taking Her Passion On-and Off-the Road: Expedition Overland Creator Rachelle Croft 

Subaru Outback Wilderness

Front angle of the Subaru Outback Wilderness. Photo: Kim Croisant

Subaru Outback Wilderness

Beginning with the Subaru Outback Wilderness, this undeniably rugged-looking 5-seater model comes standard with all-wheel drive, 9.5 inches of ground clearance, a front skid plate and roof rails.

The all-terrain Yokohama Geolander tires give you maximum traction in any weather or trail condition; there is even a full-size spare tire hidden below the cargo area for that extra piece of mind. The 260-horsepower Subaru Outback Boxer engine delivers 277 pound-feet of torque and has a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.

Things We Love:

  • LED cargo lamp helpful for finding gear
  • Rugged interior with water-repellent upholstery
  • 12-speaker Harmon Kardon premium audio system
  • X-Mode dual-function system that recognizes road conditions (with settings for dirt, snow, or deep mud, this function allows for additional wheel slip to power through adverse conditions)
  • The heated steering wheel now comes standard

The Subaru Outback is available in nine trim levels, with the base model coming in at $30,190, the Wilderness edition starts at $41,255, and the top-of-the-line Touring XT trim begins at $44,090.

Related: The Subaru Outback Wilderness….. Rugged, Wild, and Free

Camping In Style On The Wilderness

Camping gets a lift on the Subaru Outback Wilderness. Photo: Terri Marshall

Subaru Forester Wilderness

The Subaru Forester Wilderness seats five passengers and will impress you with its rugged good looks and a slightly lower price than its Outback sibling.

It has enhanced off-road capability with an 8.7 ground clearance and front skid plate. The Forester shares some similarities with the bigger Outback: the Yokohama Geolander tires come standard with the full-size spare in the cargo area, the same interior details, rear LED cargo lamp, and Boxer engine.

The Outback is slightly longer (roughly 9 inches), while the Forester is taller, giving you more head room. The Forester has a panoramic moonroof; the Outback has a traditional-size moonroof. The Forester still has plenty of sufficient towing capability at 3,000 pounds.

Things We Love:

  • Extra wide rear gate opening with 69.1 cubic feet of cargo space
  • Protective material in the cargo area for wear and tear from passengers, pets, and gear
  • 180-degree front view monitor
  • Versatility: there are so many options for the Forester

The Forester base model is $26,500 and can climb to $36,800; the Wilderness edition is priced from $34,320.

Related: Why We are Wild about the Wilderness

Toyota Rav4

Rugged trails in the RAV4. Photo: Toyota

Toyota RAV4 TRD Pro

The RAV4 looks adventurous with its sporty design and beefy fenders; it just has an ‘I’m ready for anything’ attitude about it.

All Toyota RAV4 trims seat five passengers and are fitted with Falken All-Terrain tires, skid plate, hill climb assist and a ground clearance of 8.6 inches.

The TRD Pro comes standard with all wheel drive, which helps enhance responsiveness and stability; combined with a TRD-tuned suspension, your ride quality just improved.

RAV4 features a 203 horsepower engine with an 8-speed transmission, and multi-terrain select drive mode selector on all wheel drive gas models; you can choose between four drive modes: mud and sand, rock and dirt, snow, or normal for enhanced traction. This will maximize driving performance on different surfaces.

Things We Love:

  • Variety of unique paint/color schemes, making your RAV4 all your own.
  • 11-speaker JBL premium audio system with subwoofer and amplifier
  • 360-degree overhead view monitor in low-speed drive and reverse
  • Convenient passenger shelf between the upper and lower dash for storing smaller items
  • Power outlet in the rear cargo area of the TRD Pro and the Hybrid Woodland Edition
  • Intuitive ‘Hey Toyota’ user interface system

Your Toyota RAV4 will tow up to 3,500 pounds, so you can tackle the trails with ATVs or taming the pavement with a fifth wheel.

Prices range from $28,275 for the base model to $34,025 for the Hybrid Woodland Edition, $37,895 for TRD Pro, and $39,530 for the Hybrid Limited.

Related: Your Family’s Next Adventure, the Toyota RAV4 TRD Pro

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

This do-it-all SUV is known for known for being solid on the trails. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is ‘Trail Rated,’ meaning it’s passed Jeeps critical tests for off-road readiness: they are traction (strong grip on terrain), water fording (high air intakes and special water sealing to help get you through water), maneuverability (steering over and around obstacles), articulation (maintaining contact with terrain as you climb), and ground clearance (clearing underside of vehicle).

The Cherokee Trailhawk features standard 4-wheel drive and is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbo engine delivering 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet torque. It can tow up to 4,000 pounds.

The Altitude Lux Jeep Grand Cherokee  starts at $37,695, while the Trailhawk comes in at $54,630.

Things We Love:

  • Jeep App that includes vehicle health (fuel level, odometer reading, tire pressure monitor)
  • The hotspot connects all 5 passengers to Wi-Fi on the go
  • Tire Fill Alert: an audible notification when you have filled your tires to the suggested pressure
  • Multi-level cargo area
  • Jeep Air Filtration to help minimize particles entering the cabin
  • Easter eggs are a fun hunt on and around the vehicle

Related: Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk: Luxury on the Inside, Muscle on the Outside

Compact Suv

A side view of the Jeep Renegade. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Jeep Renegade

The Jeep Renegade seats five passengers and has five trim models. This is a fun, everyday, adventure-boosting small SUV. Prices range from $28,345 for the base model up to $32,970 for the Limited edition. The Trailhawk 4×4 runs $32,465 and boasts the badge of honor, the official Trail Rated Badge.

For overlanding, the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is the SUV you would want. It comes standard with skid plates and two front tow hooks and will tow 2,000 pounds of toys with a four-pin harness and a class III receiver hitch. 4-wheel drive is available on various trims.

With 177 horsepower and 210 pound-feet torque, the Renegade has a Select-Terrain Traction Management System, which adapts to various terrains like snow, sand, and mud. The Trailhawk model features Rock mode and Hill Descent Control for added control.

Things We Love:

  • Dual-pane panoramic sunroof
  • Heated exterior mirrors
  • Just Ask Alexa (ability to connect with your Renegade from the comfort of your home)
  • Jeep Wave Owner Loyalty Program

Related: Jeep Wave, a Membership with Benefits

The Ford Bronco Sport Is One Of Our Favorite Small Suvs

The Ford Bronco Sport is one of our favorite small SUVs. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Ford Bronco Sport

There is a rich history with the Ford Bronco. In 1965, Ford introduced the Bronco and an American classic was born. It has even been called “The Goat,” meaning “Goes Over All Terrain.” Designed for action, this crossover SUV was made to maximize your ability outdoors with a standard 4×4 and 7.8 inches of ground clearance. The Badlands and Heritage Limited editions come equipped with metal bash plates to protect the underbody of your SUV.

While the Bronco Sport carries a smaller engine than the full-sized Bronco, either 3 or 4 cylinders and up to 245 horsepower, it’s no slouch on the trail; the it won the crossover class at the Rebelle Rally three years in a row. We were impressed when we took it off road at the Bronco Off Roadeo.

There are six models of the Ford Bronco Sport to choose from, including the Base model, Big Bend, Heritage, Outer Banks, Badlands, and Heritage Limited. Depending on the bells and whistles you desire, this five-passenger SUV begins at $29,215 and ranges up to $44,655.

Things We Love:

  • 180-degree camera with split view
  • Safari-style roof for extra headroom
  • Beer opener in the rear hatch area (on every model)
  • Cool Easter eggs throughout
  • Rubberized floor/cargo mats

Related: Steep Hills, Dusty Thrills at the Ford Bronco Off-Roadeo

2022 Mazda Cx-50 In Zircon Sand. Photo By Mazda

2022 Mazda CX-50 in Zircon Sand. Photo: Mazda

Mazda CX-50 Meridian Edition

There’s a lot to love about the Mazda CX-50 Meridian edition. I personally love the simplicity of having two color choices: Polymetal Gray Metallic or Zircon Sand Metallic. And, it’s Mazda: owners love it for its driving experience, which is tight and fun. 

The CX-50 Meridian comes with standard AWD, 18-inch all-terrain Falken tires, and a ground clearance of 8.5 inches. It has three driving modes: sport, off-road, and towing. Speaking of towing, you can haul 3,500 pounds behind you in the CX-50.

Performance power is the same in the Meridian edition as fellow CX-50, a 2.5-liter turbo-charged engine that generates 227 horsepower.

This edition runs right at $40,000.

Things We Love:

  • High-beam control headlights
  • Appealing Side rocker garnish
  • Sporty rear spoiler
  • Rear privacy glass
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • Rear window defogger with timer

Related: The Mazda CX-50, Built for Outdoor Enthusiasts

2023 Honda Pilot Trailsport

2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport is stunning in Diffused Sky Pearl blue. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Honda Pilot TrailSport

The Honda Pilot TrailSport gives Honda Pilot fans more room to roam – off road. With 8.3 inches of ground clearance, standard skid plates and an interior designed to be resilient, this version of the popular 3-row SUV is a natural on the off-road trail. And with standard Continental terrain contact tires, which adhere to various terrain conditions exceptionally well, it’s sure-footed.

Also, the all-wheel-drive TrailSport can carry up to 7 passengers. The more the merrier, right?

All can enjoy discovering all the trails with the seven available drive modes: normal, ECON, sport, snow, trail, sand, and tow. The towing capacity is 5,000 pounds, which we definitely consider another pro. 

Pricing for the Honda Pilot TrailSport begins at $49,000.

Things We Love:

  • Full-size spare tire
  • 2nd-row captains chairs
  • Upscale cabin overhaul for 2023
  • Storage in the dash
The Rear End Of The Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition

The rear end of the Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition

Nissan’s answer to the Overlanding obsession is the Pathfinder Rock Creek edition. This 3-row SUV seats 7 passengers with third-row seating; the second row comes standard with captain’s chairs.

The Rock Creek edition is all-wheel-drive and comes with all-terrain tires and seven drive modes. Towing capacity is 6,000 pounds, so grab those extra ‘toys’ and go!

The tires on the Pathfinder Rock Creek edition are chunkier, and they are meant more for the dirt, mud, and snow than the pavement. Just know that these tires are a bit noisier on the road.

However, the Rock Creek edition lacks the underbody skid plates you might need for off-roading; be sure to plan to add them if you do go off the pavement.

With a 3.5-liter V6 engine and 295 horsepower, the Pathfinder is up for just about anything. Pricing for the Rock Creek edition starts at $43,140.

Things We Love:

  • Standard 2nd-row captain chairs
  • Leather and cloth seats with contrast stitching
  • Tubular roof rack for extra gear
  • Rear Sonar system
  • Tri-Zone Temperature control
  • 12 cup holders

Related: Built for Adventuring Families, Nissan’s Rock Creek Pathfinder

The Front End Of The 2023 Kia Sportage

The front end of the 2023 Kia Sportage. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Kia Sportage X-Line and X-Pro

There are slight differences between Kia’s Sportage X-Line and X-Pro SUVs; the X-Line has a rugged look, but the X-Pro has even more rugged capability.

Both 5-seaters come standard with all-wheel drive with multi-terrain modes, a ground clearance of 8.3 inches, and a towing capability of 2,500 pounds. The X-Line and the X-Pro have a 2.5-liter engine that generates 187 horsepower.

The X-Pro has exclusive matte black wheels and a two-tone paint option with a black roof. On the roof are high utility roof rails for your active lifestyle. The X-Pro has standard skid plates and a few more creature comforts inside. 

Pricing for the X-Line is $31,090, and the X-Pro starts at $35,290. For $4,000 more, the X-Pro is worth it for better off-road performance.

Things We Love:

  • The amount of legroom in the 2nd row
  • 12.3-inch dual panoramic display
  • Standard heated steering wheel
  • Rear passenger seat-side charging ports
Gray Kia Telluride Parked On The Street

The Kia Telluride provides both luxury and muscle for going off-road through a Northwest Forest. Credit: Jill Robbins

Kia Telluride X-Line and X-Pro

If the phrase ‘rugged luxury’ was a thing, Kia could coin it. They keep improving, enhancing, and upgrading their line of cars, and the Telluride is no exception.

The distinctive X-Line and X-Pro editions have black headliners and interior emblems that set them apart from other Tellurides. The X-Line has exclusive 20-inch black alloys, while the X-Pro has 18-inch black alloys with all-terrain tires.

What is similar? Both have 8.4 ground clearance and will hold 7 or 8 passengers with gear in tow. The only difference is towing capability. The Telluride X-Pro tows 5,500 pounds while the X-Line tows 5,000. 

Oh, and the price is slightly different, too; the X-Line starts at $60,995 and the X-Pro starts at $62,595.

Things We Love:

  • Intelligent Speed Limit Assist
  • Off-Road ‘Comfort’ mode
  • Multimedia screen
  • Seat belt hooks
  • Digital rear-view mirror
  • Rear seat climate control

Hopefully, this list will give you the value you are looking for and the adventures you crave as you take the road less traveled.

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I teach 6th grade social studies, travel the world in the summer, write auto/moto news between grading papers and... More about Tabatha Chovanetz