Mercedes Benz G-Class
There have been only two generations of the “G-Wagon” and it’s been the three-pointed star brand’s pinnacle of toughness throughout its introduction in 1979. The latest version looks very similar to the previous version, which was essentially unchanged since launch until it was replaced in 2019.
Initially designed for military use - like the Jeep and Land Rover - the G-Class was sold as a civilian version, and has gradually become more upmarket with updates upon updates. It is now comparable to a Range Rover or Mercedes-Benz S-Class in terms of luxury.
The “G” in its name is short for gelände, with geländewagen German for cross country or off-road vehicle. Designed to cope with all that the military can through at it, it’s clear that the G-Class will shrug off 99.9% of drivers’ requirements.
When a company specialises in off-road vehicles, it’s clear that they are going to produce some tough cars. And the D-Max pick-up is one of the toughest around.
A popular choice with the likes of breakdown companies for recovery vehicles, and used for years by Icelandic explorer converters Arctic Trucks - the company that got the Top Gear TV boys to the North Pole in a modified pick-up.
In more “normal” situations, the D-Max is found in ,any fields across Britain as now of the go-to choices for farmers needing a reliable and rugged workhorse.
Speaking of reliable and rugged workhorses, the Toyota is almost the workhorse of workhorses. Again, Top Gear TV tried to kill one off, and failed many times despite increasingly grand plans for its demise.
Used in situations and environments across the globe, the Hilux is recognised as one of the most reliable vehicles around, with a go-anywhere ability that is only matched by its durability.
Now in its eighth generation, with many updates during that time, the Hilux has won the gruelling Dakar Rally, is available in a range of configurations, and even comes in a GR Sport version.
Toyota Land Cruiser
If the Hilux is a little agricultural for you but you need the same core toughness, Toyota has just the thing for you. Frequently seen across mild and forgiving locations such as central Africa or the remote farms of Australia, perhaps it’s most famous configured in plain white with steel wheels.
A popular pick for the United Nations, the Land Cruiser has a long history, starting live in the early 1950s as a rival to the Land Rover and Jeep - and looking like a cross between the two.
It developed more significantly than the British and American icons however, and kept pace with 4x4 developments over the years. Now, it’s Toyota’s toughest passenger car, with the manufacturer itself having a reputation for reliability the world over.
Under the principle that if there’s not much to go wrong, it’s likely to be a reliable machine, the Nomad is basic in the extreme. Ariel even questions just how much bodywork is required.
With an easily visible steel structure, chunky tyres, underbody protection, and an engine from Honda - famed for reliable motors - the Nomad is simple but effective.
Sitting closer to a rally car than a road vehicle, but still road legal, the Nomad has a go-anywhere toughness that is difficult to find anywhere else.
Australians are picky when it comes to tough cars, and many love the Subaru Forester. If nothing else, that should give the Forester more than enough backing to be on this list.
It’s also based on the same underpinnings as the Impreza, when at the time the Impreza was competing in - and often - winning World Rally Championship stages.
It is as such an often overlooked model, but undeservedly so, with all-wheel drive, a crossover design, and estate practicality alongside build quality that will deal with the roughest environments around.
One of the newest models on this list, the Ineos Grenadier looks to resurrect the spirit of the original Land Rover Defender. The actual Land Rover Defender has shifted a little up-market, but retains some of its agricultural traits that made it so popular around the world.
However, the Grenadier is closer to the Land Rover that lasted for decades than the new one. As such, it has been tested in some of the harshest climates on the planet, and the squared-off design an classic 4x4 proportions instil confidence thanks to the likes of the Land Rover, Jeep et al.
It’s not Spartan inside, but has been designed to be less SUV and more off-roader, which means it should be a useful machine for those looking for go-anywhere ability.
The smallest car here, Suzuki’s Jimny looks like a Land Rover that has been on a hot wash. It’s compact, tall, and perfectly suited to narrow country lanes across the country. Where many cars will have to wait for a passing place, two Jimnys will often be able to pass side-by-side.
The latest generation is now a commercial only model thanks to emissions regulations squeeing the life out of the passenger car. The said, both the current version and previous models retain the same dinky characteristics that have made it a popular choice in rural areas.
Add in agricultural but robust build quality, and an interior/kit with little to go wrong, and the Jimny isn’t for everyone. But many enjoy the basic, robust, yet little 4x4.
As safety pioneers for more than 50 years, it’s not surprising that the Swedish firn appears in this list. It was actually a tough choice as to which Volvo to pick, and it was almost the V90 Cross Country.
But then I remembered a video shown at the launch of the XC60 and considering how it has stayed with me, it’s clear that the SUV should feature here.
In crash-tests, the XC60 was subjected to some of the toughest tests on the schedule, and often came off with only a few scratches or some dents, where other lesser cars would be a crumpled mess. It’s tough, very tough.
For years, Volkswagen’s offered a brilliant combination of accessible price and premium build quality, and they still do generally. But Skoda is built the same way and tends to be cheaper. As such, those that use their cars not merely to potter about, but subject them to miles of abuse often pick a Skoda.
The family workhorse is Skoda’s Octavia, and it is well known for regularly placing highly in driver surveys. A combination of reliability, style, and the ability to pick one in off-road specification mean it can often be seen in locations as wide-reaching as taxiing in city centres to hauling kit across fields.
Now well established as a solid choice of transport, the Octavia continues to build on its reputation as one of the toughest cars on the market.