Brands revealed the best new off-road vehicles for the 2019 model year at the North American International Auto Show. Our reporter was on hand to find the top adventure trucks and cars hitting the market this year.
This year’s North American International Auto Show has been a busy one for new vehicle launches, especially on the truck and adventure vehicle side of things. Automakers have listened, and are offering more capability, better performance, improved fuel economy, more gear storage, and lots of options.
Do any of these new adventure rigs tick the boxes on your adventuremobile checklist?
2019 Subaru Ascent (available early summer 2018)
The Ascent will be the largest Subaru ever made. It has three rows of seating for up to eight. It looks like a large mashup between an Outback and Forester, and is built on an enlarged version of the global Impreza/Crosstrek chassis. To move the big Ascent, Subaru developed a brand new 2.4L Boxer engine. It offers 260 hp and 277 pound-feet of torque. The new chassis and engine combine to offer an impressive 5,000-pound towing capacity.
This new bigger Subi retains the go-anywhere adventurous spirit the brand is known for. It offers symmetric all-wheel drive as standard, 8.7-inch ground clearance, and a full 500-plus-mile range. All that adds up to capability in any weather and on a wide variety of terrains.
This Ascent can get your whole family, or a big group of friends, way out into the wilderness. It is also perfectly set up to haul a ton of gear and has a comfortable place to sleep. The dirtbag Subi life has never been more comfortable!
While pricing and fuel economy numbers haven’t been released just yet, it’s easy to say that the new Ascent will be a great addition to the Subaru lineup. You’re sure to see lots of these at adventure destinations soon, as well as at local kids’ soccer games.
2019 Jeep Cherokee (available late first quarter of 2018)
Slated as “the most capable mid-size sport utility vehicle,” the 2019 Cherokee will hit dealer lots very soon. The new Cherokee is bigger, more refined, more capable, and arguably better looking than its predecessor.
With 1,000-pound cargo capacity and 27 cubic feet of cargo room (up to 54.9 with the rear seats folded), this new SUV has plenty of capacity to haul your adventure gear quiver and a few friends. A new 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine option offers up impressive performance (270 hp and 295 pound-feet) and towing capacity (4,000 pounds), but Jeep does recommend to feed it premium fuel. That won’t be easy on the wallet.
The real reason to buy any Jeep is its “Trail Rated” capability. The new Cherokee doesn’t disappoint, with a full 8.7-inch ground clearance, lots of wheel travel, and impressive approach, breakover, and departure angles.
If you opt for the Trailhawk model you’ll also get a locking rear differential, proper low range, a crazy low crawl ratio, 1-inch lift, skid plates, signature red tow hooks, Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction control system, hill-descent control, and 17-inch wheels wrapped in 29.5-inch AT tires.
Bottom line, this Jeep is ready to go off road. It’ll handle any weather conditions you can throw at it, especially if you tick the right boxes on the order form.
2019 Mercedes G-Class (available late 2018)
Mercedes fully rebuilt the iconic “G” to bring it squarely into the 21st century. From afar, it looks very much the same as the boxy off-road beast we all know and love.
But get a little closer. You’ll see a much more refined shape as well as luxury and technology in every direction. You’ll also notice that it’s quite a bit larger – 2.1 inches longer and 4.8 inches wider. With over 300,000 G-Classes built, and nearly 80 percent of those still on the road, the new G will build upon an impressive legacy.
The solid thud of closing doors has been retained. There’s still a passenger grab handle on the dash (Oh, sh*t!). It’s ready for rough trails with full locking differentials, a rear tire carrier, prominent corner indicators, and the familiar BiTurbo V8.
But otherwise the 2019 G-Class is a completely new beast.
The refined interior has gone even further upscale. It now offers a full 5.9 inches more rear passenger leg room and over 2 inches more elbow room for all passengers. Off-road prowess has been improved even further, with a new suspension setup that utilizes IFS up front and a trailing arm solid axel setup in the rear. While this will piss off purists that swear by solid axels at both ends of the vehicle, it actually improves the ride in all conditions, betters fuel economy, and allows for more wheel travel.
While the new G-Class is sure to have a six-figure price tag, it is also sure to impress anyone that gets behind the wheel, both on and off road. The huge amount of interior room also makes it a great gear storage locker and bedroom/living room while traveling. I must admit though, getting mud on the truly luxurious interior would feel criminal.
2019 Ford Ranger (available early 2019)
The new Ranger is a modified version of the truck the rest of the world has had since 2011, originally developed for the Australian market. It will be the first time in over seven years a new Ranger will be available on U.S. soil. We’re excited for the return!
Ford has only announced one powertrain so far, a new 2.3L EcoBoost. But rumors are flying about a small diesel option. A class-exclusive, 10-speed automatic transmission should provide great fuel economy and performance. No word yet on the much-anticipated Raptor version of the Ranger hitting American shores, but there is still hope to hang onto.
For us adventure hounds that like to get off the beaten path, Ford offers an FX4 Off-Road package. A fully boxed steel frame, frame-mounted steel bumpers, and proper skid plates should help this truck take a beating and keep on rolling. The optional rear locking differential will make it all that much more capable.
2019 Chevy Silverado (available fall 2018)
Marking Chevy Truck’s 100th anniversary, the unveiling of the all-new Silverado aims to elevate the half-ton, full-size truck market in big ways. The truck is more spacious, carries more gear, offers much improved aerodynamics, and is stronger, safer, and has a ton of new technologies that should improve the user experience.
Chevy offers eight distinct new models, with six different powertrain configurations.
The biggest news is the availability of an all-new 3.0L inline-6 Duramax turbo-diesel mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmission. This should take this impressive truck to new heights of fuel economy and usable power.
I can’t sum up the new truck in just a few paragraphs. Be sure to read my full take on this impressive 2018 Chevy Silverado here.
2019 RAM 1500 (available late 2018)
The all-new RAM 1500 will hit the market late this year with a new distinctive style, high-tech interior appointments, and a more spacious cab. It will be the most aerodynamic full-size truck on the market. It also sheds about 225 pounds off the current model. Both specs should help improve fuel economy and performance.
RAM did not announce a new EcoDiesel yet. But it did hint that an announcement would come later in the year, and it would rival the competition. That’s a tall claim, especially with the impressive new Silverado and F-150 diesels hitting the market soon. Ram did announce a 3.6L V6 and 5.8L V8 HEMI, both offering a new mild hybrid system.
A massive new 12-inch touchscreen dominates the dash and hints at the tech packed into this RAM truck. Besides a plethora of driver assist aids, safety features, and an awesome new 360-view camera system, an ear thumping Harmon Kardon audio system is on offer. That means 19 speakers, a 900-watt amp, and a 10-inch sub. BOOM!
For off-road adventures, you’ll surely want the new RAM Rebel. It offers up true capability and a very distinctive style. Making this Rebel one of the most off-road capable full-size trucks available are big 33-inch tires, a rear e-locker, proper tow hooks, full skid plates, and a choice between a 1-inch lift/coil springs/remote reservoir Bilstein shock setup or air suspension. The only real drawback to the Rebel model is that it won’t have the new 12-inch screen, instead offering up a 9-inch version.
2018 Ford F-150 Diesel (available spring 2018)
If you’re anxious to get your hands on a new adventure ride, the new F-150 Diesel might be a great option. It will be on dealer lots in just a few months. Ford fully redesigned the F-150 for the 2018 model year and continues to dominate the U.S. truck market.
The new 3.0L V6 Power Stroke diesel will give up to 30 mpg and 250 hp with 440 pound-feet of torque. Combined with a 10-speed auto transmission and equipped with start-stop technology, this new power plant should be extremely usable in a wide variety of driving situations. And with the 2,020-pound load capacity and 11,400-pound towing capacity, you shouldn’t need to leave any of your gear or friends home on your next adventure.
The new diesel will be available on F-150 Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum edition SuperCrew models with either the 5.5-foot or 6.5-foot bed, as well as the SuperCab models with the 6.5-foot bed.
BONUS: 2018 GMC Sierra 2500 HD All Terrain X All Mountain Concept (not available from OEM)
It’s not the go-fast snow access machine like Ken Block’s Raptortrax project from a few years ago (see below). But it should be plenty fun and capable to seat you and five of your closest friends in heated comfort while accessing fresh tracks.
No, you can’t buy it. But you can have one built if you have the means. That said, I’m pretty sure a lifetime season pass at your favorite resort and a handful of heli-ski trips would score you more fresh powder for less money. But still … wicked cool.