Alright, so we know that a Land Cruiser is awesome...and so is a Defender—but sometimes awesome can be really, really boring. The last we checked, adventure is supposed to be exciting, spontaneous, challenging, unique and memorable. So the editors here at Expedition Portal have assembled the top five vehicles that are awesome for different reasons, and somebody should (no—they must) take them on a grand overland adventure.
So as not to make this an empty challenge, we will drop the gavel and send you $100 (or donate the money to the Muskoka Foundation on your behalf) if you have one of these vehicles and have actually used it (or go and use it) on a seriously fun trip. Respond in the comments below and send an email to matt (at) expeditionportal.com with a brief description and a picture or two. So leave the Jeep JK in the driveway and steal your wife's Honda Element for the weekend – we dare you!
1. Toyota RAV4 Two Door AWD
This car is far cooler than given credit. Look at the approach, departure and break-over angles. It is available in AWD and some even had a center differential lock (CDL). If you wanted to spend some money, install an LT tire and a few skid plates. You would be shocked where this car can go.
Challenge #1: Drive the Alpine Loop in Colorado. Park it at the top of Engineer Pass and ask the local Jeep guys where the nearest Starbucks is. "I think my GPS might be broken. . ."
Challenge #2: Ship it to Morocco and drive the high Atlas into the Western Sahara. Be sure to stop and ask all the Brits if they need help setting up their roof tents.
2. Mercedes-Benz 240D (ok, any diesel Mercedes sedan)
Photo Credit: DieselCruiserHead via ExPo
I picked this car because I had one – and loved it. Put a couple skid plates on the bottom and install a taller tire. Bonus points if it has the vinyl interior and the vacuum locks actually work. It will run forever and if you run out of money it will be easy to sell to the locals. Chris Scott drove a diesel Merc all over the Sahara – he gets it!
Drive it to Tuktoyuktuk, Canada in the winter. I wouldn't suggest shutting the motor off after Whitehorse.
Drive it to El Salvador with surfboards on the roof and sell it to a local for enough money to fly home.
Complete the Maya Rally with the 240D, cause shenanigans, and laugh at broken down 4wd's.
Here's some more Merc inspiration:
3. Land Rover Range Rover MKIII
The MKIII (2003 - Present) is completely legit as an overland vehicle, yet almost no one actually uses them as designed. We know of at least one London to Cape Town adventure with the MKIII, but seriously, these trucks are reliable, super comfortable and completely capable. Install some better tires and start driving south. This does not apply to the P38 – I would not recommend taking that out of your zip code.
Drive the Continental Divide trail in a suit and (with a lady) party dress. Drive the trail by day and stay in some schwank places at night. This will get you started: http://www.duntonhotsprings.com/
Pick any route in the world and just go. Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego? No problem. London to Cape Town? Been done, and without an issue. Silk Road? Do it, and party at the end in Beijing. The MKIII is really that good.
4. Honda Element AWD (preferably with an e-camper, because we want one)
This one is a bit of a guilty pleasure. We have liked the Honda Element since it was first released, and for a bunch of reasons. Features like AWD, traction control (later years), hose-out interior, boxy shape and decent clearance (for a car). Plus, it looks funky and the e-camper is available for it.
Drive to Mike's Sky Ranch in Baja and watch the Baja 500 go by. Finish the trip by going back north to Laguna Hanson and on to Mex 2 via the old road – it'll make it – promise.
Drive the White Rim trail and ask all the guys how to put the Element in 4wd. You get bonus points if this exchange is caught on video.
5. Suzuki Grand Vitara 4WD with low range (second generation)
This vehicle is cheap, efficient and completely legit. Pick any major overland route in the world and this little truck can do it. Wakhan Corridor? No problem. Atacama Desert? Easy. There are tons of aftermarket accessories for these trucks, including locking differentials, skid plates, lift kits, etc. It can all be done on a budget and you can laugh as you actually see the world instead of paying the credit card bill on that fancy 80 series with every modification known to man—sitting in the driveway.
Pick the trail or route and the little Vitara can do it.
Don't think these cars can go anywhere? Here is a little inspiration!
Bonus: Lotus Elise
We have a strange obsession to drive a Lotus Elise to Ushuaia, starting on the ice roads in winter. Imagine how fun that would be, and isn't travel supposed to be all about fun?
Notes: Only one winner per category. . . meh!