10 Indestructible Classic SUVs Worth Their Weight In Gold
Aug 01, 2023
These SUVs were built to stand the test of time, and they are as impressive today as they were back when they came out.
SUV stands for "Sports Utility Vehicle". Easy enough. Now, it is to be emphasized some vehicles are much better wearers of the Utility badge than others. Whether an SUV has more ground clearance, better towing capacity, or can fit a decent amount of passengers inside, it should have some features that make it stand out from the pack. One of those factors one may consider, though, is how long a vehicle will last. Perhaps the most useful aspect we can point out in an SUV is that it can take a beating, serve an amazing amount of years, and still keep running.
We've all been there: it's not easy to find a car, or in this case, SUV, that truly lasts an impressive while before taking some damage. Coming across the right machine to fulfill all needs outside the city is in itself a task. And for those who are looking for their perfect match, we've compiled a list of the best, most reliable, most useful, and most durable classic SUVs out there, which are sure to get you far. These can, and will, fight their way through the harshest of conditions, truly highlighting the U in SUV.
We made this list with the help of data sources such as Edmunds, Recalls List, and Carsurvey.
The list kicks off with one of Germany's finest. The Volvo XC90 is one most people will recognize by the sheer looks of the thing: the appealing design of the first generation lasted for quite a handful of years. Revealed to the public back in 2002, it wouldn't be until 13 years later that its appearance would differ. Volvo's perfect family SUV by definition, the XC90 came with two options for an engine in 2004: a base-model 2.5-liter turbocharged 5-cylinder engine, and a 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged 6-cylinder one. For all your more demanding needs, the former offered the option to order it with AWD (as opposed to the standard FWD), while the latter came with said traction as a standard.
2004 XC90 owners seem to be fairly satisfied with the SUV, with an Edmunds Consumer Review average of 4.5/5.0 stars, across an impressive 389 reviews. Some comments claim they're driving their Volvos after 200,000 miles and are still going strong, with only minor replacements and regular service costs involved in owning one. One big problem stands out, though: the T6 — the 2.9-liter twin-turbo I-6 one — seems to have frequent transmission problems, given the torque sent to the wheels on such a heavy vehicle. It would be best to avoid this trim altogether, or, alternatively, know the history of the unit very well, to assure the proper servicing instances at the proper times.
The Nissan Patrol is among the oldest family of SUVs out there. Formerly called 4W60, it made its way to the Japanese market in the year 1951, and as it slowly opened up to the world, it became one of the most sought-after vehicles out there. Whether you call it a Datsun Patrol, Nissan Safari, Nissan Armada, or Infiniti QX80, it's honestly quite unlikely you've never seen one. The fifth generation, born in 1997, is especially praised because of its reliability. This particular model is, in fact, so durable, countries like Morocco still sell this very Patrol, brand-new, as if newer generations never arrived.
The '98 Patrol has made itself a reputation of being really tough and resisting use and misuse very well. Some claim its 4.5-liter, 6-cylinder engine can last for well over 350,000 miles without the need of serious replacements. Like all things, though, that number is closely related to how well the car has been treated over its life: service it accordingly, and problems are much less likely to wave their undesired hellos.
Related: Watch This 3000-HP Nissan Patrol And Ferrari SF90 Drag Race End In Tears
Some say the Wrangler is among America's most reliable SUVs out there. Not only that, but it also has managed to keep itself an icon of the segment for literal decades. Its boxy look is distinct and unmistakable, and has gained critical acclaim since its launch in 1986. The second generation, offered from 1996 to 2006, became a staple of beachgoers and casual teenagers, all without leaving behind its signature square lines and tough design. No fancy interior, just performance improvements from its predecessor, and, of course, the hunger of an SUV to conquer all terrains equally.
Earning a 4.6-star rating on Edmunds, the '97 Wrangler truly lives up to the hype. Its 4.0-liter I-6 engine has proven, time and time again, that the Wrangler is a vehicle ready to go virtually anywhere, taking little to no damage as time goes on. With a MPG average of 18 miles per gallon, though, it's safe to say you'll have to spend a tiny bit extra on fuel for it. But, at the end of the day, it's a small price to pay for an extremely durable vehicle like this one.
This one is as iconic as the Wrangler, but aimed at a different audience. The Suburban is one of Chevrolet's stellar SUVs, and it is also the oldest. Starting its life as far back as 1935, the Chevrolet Suburban currently sees its twelfth generation, which went on sale two years ago. Its sturdiest unit, though, is that of the eighth generation. Fitted with a 5.7-liter V8 engine, you could be sure this thing can get you virtually anywhere. An even greater 7.4-liter V8 was available, for those who felt the base model was not enough, somehow.
A 4.4-star Edmunds review show '93 Suburban owners are mostly happy with their monster of a truck. Some claim they're nearing 250,000 miles with little problems. This iteration of the old nameplate serves as the perfect ally of a big family, allowing for day-to-day usage, as much as a couple of trips to the countryside. Even though the mileage averages 14 MPG between city and highway, its 43-gallon tank lets the driver cover incredible distances before having to worry about a stop at a gas station.
This one is yet another SUV icon. Made famous before the term SUV even came to be, the 1995 Jeep Cherokee made headlines due to its top-notch marketing strategy stealing customers from other car types. This one was portrayed as a sportswagon, and people seemed to like it. With tons of trims spanning from a 2.0-liter I-4 to a 4.0-liter I-6, potential customers had a lot of options to choose from. What's more, the second-gen Cherokee proved to be as useful as it was sporty, for a perfect balance between sports and utility.
"It's a shame they don't make vehicles like these anymore", is one of the first comments you'll see when looking for the Edmunds page dedicated to this very Jeep. Reviewers say they've had these machines escape the most damaging situations with ease and leaving no trace of their beat past, as well as having run past the 250k mark on the odometer. The 1995 Cherokee has made itself a name for being a true warrior on four wheels.
Related: Trail-Ready Transformation: 10 Mods To Enhance Your Jeep Cherokee
Great Britain also has a say on today's list. And that's because its defining SUV, the Defender, rightfully earned itself a very positive reputation. Built to last, the formerly-called 90 and 110 evolved to not only focus on its towing abilities and overall off-the-asphalt performance, but also provide the average customer the required comfort to use it as a daily. Just enough, though. True to its roots, features like air conditioning would only come as a special variant.
Even though the 90s years of the Defender had basically no comfort elements, these things do last a lifetime. They were engineered for that very goal in the first place. Owners on Edmunds claim they have a love-hate relationship with that aspect of the Defender, plus its small gas tank, plus a habit of leaking. Even factoring in those details, a 4.2-star Edmunds Customer review — plus a ton of comments backing it up on the site — prove the 90s Land Rover is, ultimately, a friend on the road, and off the road too.
Granted, a car as old as the '66 Ford Bronco was built in a time very different to today, and for that it may not suit all the average consumer needs. But, if you look past the technology difference, there's a really solid SUV waiting to be driven. 13 inches of ground clearance beat most of today's market, and for that it is bound to be a superb alternative for those who need a car that can get them through rocky, uneven terrain.
Designed and engineered to last, all parts that make up the Bronco can take up a considerable amount of abuse before giving up on you. There's also the fact that the little SUV's components are, reportedly, easy to work on. So, all in all, this one, though older than many, may be a great grab for those who can find joy in its vintage driving experience.
Some Blazers (not to be confused with Trailblazers) are certainly a make or break situation, such as the second generation ones (the K5s for the aficionados out there). Well, that is not the case of the '06 Trailblazer at all. This truck has everything: it's sporty-looking, truly serves a utility purpose, and has "American" written all over it. The 4.2-liter inline-six engine offered as the base option was certainly enough, but Chevrolet offered extra options up to the 6.0-liter V8. This SUV also features a very interesting user-regulated traction choice, controlling if the Trailblazer would use 2-wheeled traction, or 4WD.
An Edmunds Consumer review of 4.1 stars over 99 reviews truly shows the Trailblazer is quite reliable. Mile after mile, if you take good care of this truck, it's certain to give back. Users seem the most impressed by its ability to cross the 150,000-mile mark with no sign of aging, and the power of the base engine trim. Gas will be a bit of an expense, though, with a combined economy of 14 MPG. Still, you can't ask for much more: it's and SUV that screams and roars whenever you floor it. And it certainly is a responsive flooring of the pedal.
Where to start with this one? It's a Hummer, it's got to be capable to withstand the weight of a thousand trucks and not slow down a single digit. Born literally for military purposes only, AM General decided somewhere along the line they'd release one for the civilian guys. And that's basically how the Hummer brand was born. Its iconic war-resembling design makes you suspect this SUV can deliver a ton of power and last the age of the Universe. You'd be right.
A 6.5-liter turbo diesel V8 powers this beast, for a near 100% chance of success everywhere you take it. These things can go over 100,000 miles with no problem other than the normal wear of their components. Comfortably sitting four people plus a ton — and that's A TON — of extra stuff in the back, the front, the roof, and any other place you decide, you're sure to get anywhere, and in true military style too. Bonus points if you use the tire filler, because, yes, you can actually switch a knob from the inside to inflate a flat tire.
Related: Here's Why The Hummer H1 Is Still Badass
Toyota's longest-running series, the Land Cruiser, was bound to make the list at some point. It was actually bound to catch the gold medal. Also born in 1951 like the Nissan Patrol, the Toyota SUV wasn't really that stylish... until it was. Over time, the boxy, military-like look morphed into a much more family-friendly one, letting comfort inside. A 4.0-liter inline-6 engine powered this truck to the confines of the road, and farther. Sitting seven passengers and giving the ability to carry 5,000 pounds, the '97 Land Cruiser became a force to be reckoned with.
An outstanding Edmunds Consumer review of 4.9 out of 5 should give the cue right away: this one is among the most reliable pieces of engineering ever. 165,000, 330,000, even 500,000 (!) miles on, and still goes strong, according to some reviews. One of the few reported problems is the antenna. Not the engine, not the transmission, not fluid leaking, the antenna. The '97 Land Cruiser is one of the few vehicles that nearly don't depreciate, just because of how much of a reliable car it is.
With a strong passion for the automobile world since he was a child, Felipe, a music producer and DJ, has grown to love cars big and small. He loves mid-2000s Audis as much as he loves writing, and it's his dream to have an A4 for a daily one of these days. He also works as an Editor and Writer at EDMTunes, covering the latest happening in the Electronic Music industry.SUVHighest Mileage Reported On Carsurvey: Recalls:Worst XC90 Year To Buy Used:Highest Mileage Reported On Carsurvey:Recalls:Worst Patrol Year To Buy Used:Highest Mileage Reported On Carsurvey:Recalls:Worst Wrangler Year To Buy Used:ChevroletHighest Mileage Reported On Carsurvey:Recalls:Worst Suburban Year To Buy Used:Highest Mileage Reported On Carsurvey:Recalls:Worst Cherokee Year To Buy Used:Highest Mileage Reported On Carsurvey:Recalls:Worst Defender Year To Buy Used:FordHighest Mileage Reported On Carsurvey:Recalls:Worst Bronco Year To Buy Used:Highest Mileage Reported On Carsurvey:Recalls:Worst Blazer Year To Buy Used:Highest Mileage Reported On Carsurvey:Recalls:Worst H1 Year To Buy Used:Toyotareliable carHighest Mileage Reported On Carsurvey:Recalls:Worst Land Cruiser Year To Buy Used: