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Looking to head off-road with the family? New Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, Isuzu MU-X, Land Rover Defender and other rugged SUVs worth considering

Toyota's LandCruiser Prado might reign supreme in off-road SUV sales, but there are plenty of new and upcoming alternatives.

Planning your next adventurous weekend or epic camping trip? Then you’ll need the right transport.

While ‘SUV’ has become the default term for any high-riding wagon, the truth is not all SUVs are built to tackle the bush or desert.

Which is why you’ll need to check out this list to see what’s just arrived and what’s coming in the world of proper off-roaders - the kind that don’t mind getting muddy and climbing over rocks.

Looking to head off-road with the family? New Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, Isuzu MU-X, Land Rover Defender and other rugged SUVs worth considering

2020 Land Rover Defender

The reborn Defender has just started hitting Australian showrooms.

The Defender is the origin of the species, the first go-anywhere vehicle that has spawned so much of what we see on the road today. Which is why Land Rover spent so long developing this all-new generation of the classic nameplate.

While it retains the name, everything about this Defender is fresh - a new platform and powertrains underneath a modern interpretation of the classic boxy looks. There are three engine options; a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with either 147kW/430Nm or 177kW/430Nm, or a 3.0-litre turbo-petrol in-line-six  making 294kW/550Nm.

The reborn Defender has just started hitting Australian showrooms (at least in ‘110’ five-door form), kicking off at $69,990 before on-road costs for the D200 variant and stretching to $137,100 for the P400 X.

The three-door Defender 90 will arrive by the end of the year to complete the initial range.

2021 Toyota LandCruiser Prado

The entry-level Toyota Prado, the GX, is a robust touring-friendly platform.

Toyota Australia is staying mum, but reports from Japan suggest the popular Prado will get an update either before the end of 2020 or early next year.

The family-friendly SUV will likely benefit from some of the changes seen on the upgraded HiLux ute. The biggest difference could be the engine, with an updated version of the 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel getting a 20kW power boost to 150kW.

In its domestic market, the Prado has also received changes to its Toyota Safety Sense system - daylight bicycle and night-time pedestrian detection, yaw assist function with its lane departure alert, and road sign recognition are all now standard in Japan. And some models also get rear cross-traffic alert too.

We’ll keep you posted if and when Toyota Australia confirms these changes for the Prado.

2022 Isuzu MU-X

The arrival of the all-new D-Max ute means the SUV version can’t be too far behind.

The arrival of the all-new D-Max ute means the SUV version can’t be too far behind. While there’s no official word from Isuzu, it’s expected to hit Australian roads before the end of 2021.

The MU-X is a popular choice for Australian families who want to get off the beaten path, with the latest sales data placing it as the third best-selling large SUV in the country; behind only the Toyota Prado and Kluger.

With that in mind Isuzu is unlikely to mess with a successful formula, so expect the new MU-X to utilise the same underpinnings as the new D-Max. That means motivation from a 140kW/450m 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine paired to a six-speed automatic transmission.

It will be mated to a proper four-wheel-drive system that will include both high- and low-range modes and a locking rear differential.

Isuzu MU-X

Isuzu MU-X
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)

2022 Ineos Grenadier

A key design feature of the Grenadier includes a blank canvas for accessories, which will be compatible with parts from the brand and third parties.

The new Defender was always going to have a hard time living up to the original because it has such a loyal and hardcore fanbase. None more hardcore, it seems, than British billionaire James Ratcliffe who tried to buy the rights to keep making the original Land Rover and, when he failed, decided to do it himself.

Ratcliffe is taking his chemical company, Ineos, into the automotive world with the Grenadier - an off-roader that obviously takes its inspiration from the old Defender.

It looks remarkably like the Defender with its boxy, utilitarian styling - so much so that Land Rover tried to file a trademark application for the shape but failed.

Given the company’s obvious lack of experience in designing and building cars, Ineos has partnered with Austrian specialists Magna Steyr to lead the development.

It’s also partnered with existing carmakers to shortcut the process in order to go on sale in Australia by 2022. BMW will supply 3.0-litre six-cylinder engines - one petrol and one diesel - to power the Grenadier, both mated to a ZF-sourced eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission and two-speed transfer case.

2022 Ford Everest

Expect the new Everest to hit the market by the end of 2022 or early in 2023.

We may miss out on the new Ford Bronco, but the consolation prize is a new-generation Everest. While, understandably, most of the attention has been taken by the upcoming Ranger that’s due to be unveiled late next year, it will inevitably mean a new Everest too.

Because the Bronco is built on an evolution of the Ford Australia-developed ‘T6’ platform - dubbed T6.2 - it’s expected that many of the upgrades for the US off-roader will be adopted by the Ranger/Everest.

It means new engines are likely too, with a pair of V6s replacing the current four- and five-cylinder diesels. There’s expected to be a 2.7-litre turbo diesel option as well as a 2.7-litre twin-turbo petrol under the bonnet. The 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel that debuted in the Ranger Raptor is expected to be carried over too.

However, it’s important to remember that the Everest is a significantly different model to the Ranger and the new model is likely to maintain its unique rear-end that provides a more composed ride, while maintaining off-road and towing capability.

Expect the new Everest to hit the market by the end of 2022 or early in 2023, so be prepared to wait if this all sounds good to you.