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Here Are The Most Fun-To-Drive SUVs Under $30,000

HotCars logo HotCars 5/20/2022 Sam Gross
© Provided by HotCars

SUVs are ubiquitous in today’s world. 80% of new cars sold are either trucks, SUVs, or crossovers. So why is it that so many people are driving SUVs? There are three reasons. First, buyers like knowing that they have enough room for family, friends, and all the stuff they need. The second reason is that an SUV seems practical, and even if it can go faster than some sports cars, it can do so without people assuming the driver is having a midlife crisis. The third reason is probably the least common, which is using them for what they are intended for, having a good time going off-road.

Research

If you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in fun. Those who want to go fast look at the engine to see how much power it can produce. Those who want to go off-road also look at the engine to see how its power can translate to a good time on the trails. The good news, the SUVs on this list have plenty of power, and it's paired with some incredible suspensions and snappy gearboxes for true fun on any terrain.

2014 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

The Jeep was initially built for utility during World War II, but the true mission of the Jeep Wrangler today is to deliver a good time. They're fine for daily driving, but they are most enjoyable when you take them off-road. If that's what you're looking for, you want a Rubicon.

The Rubicon has bigger rims, tires, diamond plating, and locking Torsen differentials. It also has a gear differential that improves handling, making it excellent on uneven terrain. A used Rubicon won't be rough on your wallet, and a good time can be had for around $26,000.

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

The Jeep Grand Cherokee was built to have a great time. Its athletic look appeals to many buyers and has resulted in Jeep creating enjoyment for twenty years. At first, they came in two trims, Laredo, the base model, and Limited, the more upscale version. Since then, other versions have been created like the Trackhawk, SRT8, Altitude, Summit, Overland, and the most off-road focused, the Trailhawk.

That version has a lifted suspension, skid plates, an Active Drive 4x4 system, hill descent control, tow hooks, and the Select-Terrain traction management system. It’s not just for fun on the weekends, however. It has average SUV handling on the road and plenty of options to make the inside comfortable. A new one is expensive, but a used and not abused version can be bought for around $27,000.

Related: Side-By-Side Comparison of the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT And Trackhawk

Land Rover Discovery SE

The Discovery is Land Rover’s mid-sized offering but delivers full-sized good times. It has a 4.6L V8 engine and can seat five, with the option of seating seven. Land Rover also included plenty of standard features that make it pleasurable for daily driving.

It's equipped with Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and a Terrain Response system that makes off-road driving easier for beginners, allowing computers to take over complicated operations. The driver chooses a terrain type, and the onboard computer selects the correct gearbox settings, adjusts the suspension height, the differential lock settings, and the throttle response. A used version costs around $30,000 and is the perfect vehicle for anyone looking to get into the pleasures of off-roading.

2011 Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged

The Range Rover was initially built for practical reasons but has become more and more about ride quality and luxury over time. That doesn't mean they can't be a good time. Quite the opposite is true. They are still some of the best vehicles for off the beaten track.

In 2011, you could buy a supercharged version that made it better on the road while maintaining its abilities off it. Its air suspension could lift it 2 inches for additional clearance, and it also featured the Terrain Response System that helped it excel on rocks, sand, and rocky terrain. It also controlled the throttle response and breaking, which gave the driver additional confidence. All of this pleasure can be bought for around $15,000.

Related: Here's Why We Love The 2019 Land Rover Range Rover 3.0L V6 Supercharged HSE

2016 Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition

People think of Toyota as a company that makes boring family cars and underpowered SUVs. The reality is that there are entertaining vehicles if you're willing to play hide and seek with their lineup, and the 4Runner is one to look for. With ample cargo room and standard features for everyday usability, the 4Runner is especially capable in Trail trim.

Beyond a dual-transfer case and raised suspension, the 4Rununer offers several systems that help it excel on the trails. Multi-Terrain Select changes the amount of wheelspin for better control in loose mud or deep dirt. For large rocks, there is Crawl Control which uses sensors to judge driving conditions and adjust the vehicle's operation. The optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) uses hydraulics that stabilizes the body for better wheel articulation and control on bumpy ground. A 4Runner with these toys is available on a used 2016 model for just below $30,000.

Related: Which Off-Roader Wins: The Jeep Rubicon Or The Toyota 4Runner TRD PRO? [VIDEO]

2009 Lexus LX 570

Toyota's Land Cruiser is one of the most capable and indestructible off-road vehicles. While this is great for owners, the ones available on the used car market have lived long lives, racking up to 300,000 miles, and the younger ones cost an arm and a leg. Another option is the Land Cruiser's luxury cousin, the Lexus LX 570. It's as much of a good time but available for just under $30,000 on the used car market.

It has a full-time four-wheel-drive, Traction Control (TRAC), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), and Crawl Control that automatically manages the throttle and brakes at low speeds. These features and the assistance of hill-start assist control (HAC) keep challenging operations automated. While all of this is quite technical, it's also what makes it more fun to take on the trails.

Hummer H2

Like GM says, “Hummer, it’s like nothing else.” In 2002, GM decided to make the H2. It became very popular and could be found in parking lots everywhere. The worry was that it would never live up to the original's abilities and be a failure. While nothing would ever be able to challenge the H1, GM did do a good job making something that could deliver a lot of the same thrills.

The H2 has a 6.0L V8 that produces 325hp paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. It delivers a quiet and smooth ride but can ford streams 20-inches deep, climb 16-inch rocks, and go through deep sand easily. It has a strong frame, five-link coils springs, and a solid rear axle to make it maneuverable. All of that entertainment makes it very thirsty, so you need to make sure you bring enough fuel unless you also enjoy camping. 2007 models with 80k miles are available for $27,000.

Related: 10 Most Badass Hummer Models, Ranked

2002 Mercedes-Benz G-CLASS

Mercedes originally developed the G Wagon as a military vehicle, but it's also become a popular civilian vehicle over the years. Mercedes finally brought the party wagon to the U.S. in 2002. The G-Wagen was the top dog when it came to raw horsepower and, with a few other features, made it a great off-roader. Its low gear ratio makes more torque at slow speeds and can shift from high to low range at up to 25 mph and then back into high at 43 mph. It has three locking differentials for traction control and terrain management systems that automatically adjust the shocks.

Today the G-Wagon is more known as a status symbol for celebrities that want to have a good time around town. The farthest off-road they will probably go is the rumble strip on the side of the highway. Even though It's capable of climbing over rocks, it's more likely to be seen climbing over the curb at a Starbucks. A new one will cost you over $100,000, while a used 5.0L V8 model can be yours for just under $29,000.

BMW X5 M E70

The X5 M is no regular SUV. BMW even describes it as a Sports Activity Vehicle. This high-performance model uses a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 that makes a whopping 555-horsepower that can go 155 s-miles per hour. It comes standard with xDrive, a stiffer suspension, and Recaro sports seats. The inside is exceptionally well-thought-out, with a rich finish and all the bells and whistles of a luxury sedan.

The X5 has little off-highway ability since xDrive was developed and designed for use on slippery roads and sporty driving, rather than for trails and river crossings. What it can do is soar down the road like a genuine sports sedan while also being able to tow your deck boat, a pair of jet skis, or whatever you need to live your best life at a price of under $25,000 when bought used.

Related: Here’s What We Know About The 2022 BMW X5 M Competition

2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo

If you're looking for something that feels even more like the sports car you dreamed of as a kid, perhaps the Cayenne Turbo is for you. You probably wouldn't attempt taking the X5 M off-road, but the chances are even slimmer that you'd think about doing it with a Porsche. What it will make you do is forget that you aren't in a sports car. Under the hood is a 4.8-liter twin-turbo aluminum V8 that makes 500 hp. That's as fast or faster than many sports sedans and coupes. It has a Tiptronic transmission that adapts to the driver’s throttle behavior and shifts like a dual-clutch automatic.

Inside, it's made with superior materials, intelligent control locations and design, as well as form-fitting seats with a vast range of adjustability. There’s plenty of room inside for second-row occupants and gives them adjustable seats for comfort. It has a prohibitively high price when new, but you'll want one anyway after driving it. Fortunately, used versions are available for just under $28,000, far less than a used 911 Turbo, and just as much fun.'

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