If you're looking to go off-road, we have a few suggestions. You probably already know you should choose an SUV with a lot of ground clearance and good approach and departure angles. But we've rounded up some modern off-roading features you might want to consider to have more fun off the pavement.

Adjustable Suspension: Most off-roaders will tell you that you don't need adjustable suspension for a good trip off-road -- but it helps. Many modern SUVs, especially high-end luxury models, boast suspension systems that can raise and lower the vehicle. That makes entry and exit easier when the SUV is closer to the ground, while off-road driving is easier when it's elevated. Although some off-roaders buy suspension just to "lift" the SUV, it's nice to go back to a normal height if you just want to cruise around town.

Crawl Control: This feature is specific to several high-end Toyota models. It offers a unique benefit: It can control the vehicle's forward motion in low-traction situations. Basically, the system monitors the terrain and decides exactly how much power -- and braking -- to give the wheels. All you have to do is steer.

Hill Descent Control: Once limited to upscale models from Land Rover and other luxury brands, hill descent control is more common on all off-road-oriented SUVs. The reason is it works wonders when you're going down a hill. Like crawl control, hill descent control monitors the terrain and controls forward motion. Unlike crawl control, which works on rough terrain, hill descent control is done on a steep descent. That means you don't need to worry about your speed, and can instead focus on steering safely down the hill.

Locking Differential: A locking diff, called "lockers" by off-roaders, is one of the most important features of a modern off-road vehicle. While a typical vehicle might have traction issues deep off-road, that won't happen if you have a locking diff. A locking diff doesn't allow wheels to spin; instead, it forces both wheels to turn at the same rate. Thus, it overrides the common problem of one wheel not getting enough traction in serious off-road situations. Some of the best off-roaders have two sets of lockers: one for the rear wheels and another for all four wheels.

Low-Range Gearing: Low-range gearing overcomes a major problem when you're off the pavement; namely, that conventional gears are tuned for road use and thus send power to the wheels as if you're driving down a flat, normal street. For drivers who are instead climbing a boulder and need only a specific amount of power, low-range gearing is right for the job. It sends a lot of power to the wheels without turning them fast, allowing you to climb whatever it is you're climbing.

Tow Hooks: No matter what, you'll eventually get stuck. So you'd better have tow hooks on your off-roader, which will help your partner pull you out. After all, even if your vehicle has all the above tools, it's important to remember you should never go off-roading alone in case something unexpected happens.

author photo

Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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