Some of the SUVs we often see on U.S. roads, or, less often, on the trails they were meant to traverse, started out as pickup trucks. Or they were otherwise designed similarly at first, with boxy bodies atop a sturdy ladder frame made to take a beating on the trail and towing on the interstate. These body-on-frame SUVs are still around despite some their designs having been streamlined to look more like modern and eminently comfortable unibody vehicles.
There are still a few boxy bodies out there, thankfully, like that of the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4runner. And although one or two gnarly SUVs have traded their ladder frames for unibodies (ahem, Land Rover), many of the most iconic SUVs around are thriving, especially those that have great off-road performance.
Not every model here is a hardcore off-roader, nor is every one of them meant to be. These are just the SUVs that can still call themselves truck-based in some way, ordered from the least to most expensive based on starting MSRP:
2023 Jeep Wrangler
Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited
Starting at $32,990 (including $1,795 for delivery)
Unlike many SUVs in this list, the Wrangler wasn’t conceived of as a pickup truck with a camper permanently fixed to the bed, but as a light all-terrain vehicle; and it’s one of the oldest models on this list, going back to the Willys MB and Jeep CJ. The Wrangler has come a long way, but you could say the family tree sprouted in another direction with the addition of the four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. It’s also surprising that the Jeep Wrangler is the first on this list, meaning the most affordable. Of course, that can change by opting for capable but expensive models like the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 and 4Xe.
2023 Ford Bronco
Starting at $33,890 (including $1,595 for delivery)
The Ford Bronco is back after a decades-long hiatus. This horse from the Ford stable wears a bucking badge, not one striding in a fast gallop. The Bronco is based on the Ford Ranger and is pointedly a competitor to the Jeep Wrangler, which is obvious from the pricing to the options of two- and four-door models. Ford took Jeep to task with the release of extremely capable off-road models like the Bronco Raptor.
2023 Toyota 4Runner
Starting at $40,140 (including $1,335 for delivery)
The Toyota 4Runner is based on the Toyota Tacoma, but it’s arguably grown bigger in its own right. Physically, of course, but also in terms of its following because the 4Runner is the rare SUV that doesn’t envy much from even it’s nimbler mid-size pickup sibling. The Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro sits at the top of the lineup, but the slightly less extreme 40th Anniversary edition tops my list.
2023 Nissan Armada
Starting at $51,595 (including $1,695 for delivery)
While the previous models were based on mid-size pickups, we’re going to take a big leap here in terms of size and cost. The Nissan Armada is based on the Nissan Titan pickup truck, and it struck me as one of the biggest cars I’d ever seen when I first came across it in the early 2000s. It’s hard to imagine such a big and heavy vehicle being good off-road, but Nissan gave the Armada a beefy 5.6-liter V8 engine and decent 4X4 system. No specific off-road model, though.
2023 Ford Expedition
Starting at $55,670 (including $1,795 for delivery)
The Ford Expedition is based on the Ford F-150, or at least, it used to be much clearer that it was so in previous models. The Expedition has taken on a life of its own, apart from the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., but there are vestiges of the F-150 here and there. While the Expedition Timberline isn’t nearly as capable as the Ford F-150 Raptor, the two machines are not in the same orbit.
2023 Chevrolet Tahoe
Starting at $55,995 (including $1,795 for delivery)
The Chevy Tahoe is an old standard among truck-based SUVs, as the outgrowth of the Chevy Silverado and C/K pickups. As always, I’m going to lament the lack of a two-door model. Bring the K5 Blazer back, you cowards! Chevrolet doesn’t sell a specific off-road model, but the Tahoe Z71 is a decent consolation prize.
2023 Lexus GX 460
Lexus GX 460
Starting at $57,575 (Lexus doesn’t specify delivery charges)
The Lexus GX is not exactly a nicer Toyota 4Runner, but it’s also not not a nicer 4Runner. In any case, the GX 460 is still a body-on-frame machine that’s deceptively capable off-road. Don’t let the luxury fool you; the GX is just as capable as the Toyota 4Runner, it’s just wearing a nicer outfit.
2023 Chevrolet Suburban
Starting at $58,695 (including $1,795 for delivery)
The Chevy Suburban is like a Silverado with a long bed compared to the Tahoe, which is more akin to a Silverado with a short bed and step side fenders. I miss those. The Suburban just adds a third row to the mix, and is also available as a mild off-roader Z71 model.
2023 GMC Yukon
Starting at $59,195 (including $1,795 for delivery)
There are a lot of GM vehicles on this list, and make a note of the wide price ranges where they sit. That’s a fine use of production capacity, I guess, which brings us to the GMC Yukon. This is the Chevy Tahoe’s cousin, but it’s not all about looks: The Yukon is available as an AT4 model, which improves its capabilities off-road by a good margin.
2023 Toyota Sequoia
Starting at $59,895 (including $1,595 for delivery)
The Toyota Sequoia used to remind me a lot of the Nissan Armada, because both SUVs were huge, and both seemed to go often overlooked for such big machines. Like a Ford Excursion, but even rarer. All of that has changed now that the Tundra-based Sequoia is here. The new model looks much better, and even boasts some off-road capability with the latest TRD Pro model option.
2023 Jeep Wagoneer
Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer
Starting at $60,995 (including $2,000 for delivery)
The Jeep Wagoneer is unique in this list for borrowing bits and pieces from a truck not associated with its brand; the Wagoneer is related to the Ram 1500, but it would have to be since Jeep doesn’t make any full-size pickup trucks. The big Wagoneer doesn’t have a specific off-road model, but at least there’s a roomier, longer wheelbase available in the Wagoneer L. And of course, there’s the opulent Grand Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer L, as well. Those are... pricey.
2023 GMC Yukon XL
GMC Yukon XL
Starting at $61,895 (including $1,795 for delivery)
Again, we come to the marvel of the modern assembly line whereby one model, or just one truck base, can spawn so many different models. The GMC Yukon XL is just an extra large Yukon, which in turn is more or less a Sierra with a fixed shell over the bed. The Sierra itself is just a nicer Silverado; indeed, it truly is trucks all the way down. The Yukon XL is also available as an AT4 model.
2023 Infiniti QX80
Starting at $73,395 (including $1,695 for delivery)
Earlier, I said that the Armada and Sequoia were often overlooked, but the Infiniti QX80 outdoes either one. The irony of that is the Infiniti is somehow more ostentatious when it comes to design, in what’s likely an effort to justify its $20,000 price difference, give or take, compared to the Nissan Armada.
2023 Rivian R1S
Starting at $78,000 (Rivian doesn’t specify delivery charges for it EVs)
The Rivian R1S is not a straight-forward body-on-frame design, but it is based on a pickup truck, the R1T. It also happens to be the only EV on this list, which is worthy of praise on its own. There isn’t a specific off-road version of the Rivian, but there are a few options that make it more trail-worthy, such as quad-motors to beef up the standard AWD system in the base model SUV.
2023 Lincoln Navigator
Starting at $81,420 $ (including $1,695 for delivery)
I can’t heap praise on GM and not mention that the Lincoln Navigator is still around, which is the distant cousin of the Ford F-150. Like the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator comes from Ford’s respective pickup truck. Despite Lincoln offering a slew of models, no single Navigator is meant to appeal to the off-road market and that’s obvious.
2023 Cadillac Escalade
Cadillac Escalade, Escalade ESV and Escalade-V
Starting at $81,590 (including $1,795 for delivery)
The Escalade is the final GM vehicle on this list, and it’s rounding out the top three in terms of price. Like the Lincoln Navigator, the Escalade doesn’t make any pretense to off-road capability, even if it’s no less capable than certain Tahoe and Yukon models. There’s a bigger model in the Escalade ESV, but real star is the Escalade-V, which would do the Chevy 454 SS proud with a 0-60 mile per hour time under 4.4 seconds.
2023 Lexus LX 600
Starting at $89,160 (Lexus doesn’t specify delivery charges)
The Lexus LX is why I find big luxury SUVs that forego off-road talent baffling. Sure, the majority of the SUVs in this list are going to be used mostly by people with big families, but the LX is proof that big SUVs are not just mall crawlers. The LX is basically the only Land Cruiser that’s currently available in the U.S.
2023 Mercedes Benz G-Class
Mercedes-Benz G 550 and AMG G 63
Starting at $139,900 (M-B doesn’t specify delivery charges)
We’ve come to the final SUV built on a ladder frame in this list. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class is the highest-priced model here, but many of the previous models can easily reach the $100,000 mark when optioned a certain way. Especially where the off-road focused versions of these models are concerned. The G-Class or G-Wagen (or Geländewagen, if you insist) starts at almost $140,000 but it’s also a capable machine that’s picked up the connotation of mall-crawler through no fault of its own.
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