Rugged-Looking SUVs With Killer On-Road Capability

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Redirecting you to view a 2023 Nissan Rogue vs 2023 Toyota RAV4 comparison, a road closed sign is shown.

The sights and sounds of untouched wilderness… The thrill of racing through open deserts at top speed… The adrenaline rush of climbing over giant boulders… These are the sensations that compel people to take their vehicles off-road. If you want to deal with something called a “death wobble,” you can get yourself a Jeep Wrangler, and the local OHV trail will be your oyster. But, folks, let’s face it: this hobby ain’t for everyone. It’s risky, it requires a lot of equipment, and it generally takes place pretty far from the nice hotels where we’d rather spend our vacations.

And not every vehicle is made to rough it out there, either. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we went and built a bunch of roads—like, all over the country, too—specifically so that we could drive our cars like normal people. On-road is the preferred condition of just about any vehicle out there, but there are people and vehicles alike who seem as though they might veer off the freeway and into the nearest protected wetlands at a moment’s notice. It’s the appearance that counts, right? So let’s leave the Wranglers and Broncos behind and get into the real contest: 2023 Nissan Rogue vs 2023 Toyota RAV4 vs 2023 Honda Passport—a no holds barred, seven-card stud high, 24-hour endurance, 800m butterfly, Greco-Roman cage match to the death. Who will come out on top? Who has the most black cladding, or the most aggressively-shaped headlights? Read on to find out…

Nissan Rogue

When adventure calls, put it on hold with this compact crossover—a brilliant ride that has optional all-wheel drive and, uh, that’s the end of the list. But look at those headlights! They look like angry eyes. This thing certainly LOOKS like maybe it could handle itself in a situation. Slap some bikes up there, try not to let them get too covered in cobwebs, and call it a day. The other parents in the PTA will definitely think that you hit up your nearest National Park over spring break—and that’s what you want, right? Falsehoods! And in the places that you’re ACTUALLY driving, you’ll get good mileage and solid handling. Win-win, win.

Toyota RAV4

Okay, so the RAV4 does have an honest-to-the-old-gods off-road trim, with a skid plate and everything. But while it handles going a bit off the beaten path, it’s not exactly a 4Runner, if you know what we mean. (Do you know what we mean?) Plus, it’s like $10k extra, and is that really gonna be worth it for you? Be honest. Instead, just coast off this model’s reputation with the Adventure trim, which looks exactly the same and won’t weigh you down with any of the extra equipment. Make sure to tell all your friends that it’s a TRD Adventure and let them fill in the blanks for themselves.

Honda Passport

Is a compact crossover too small for your super-sized American driveway? Well, never fear. You can still get all the benefits of looking like you’re ready for hiking (or whatever) with the midsize Honda Passport. It’s got all-wheel drive, some actual ground clearance, and a towing capacity that could handle a trailer or a boat if you were actually that kind of person—but we know you’re not. (Come on, it’s just you and me here; let’s be honest with each other.) But if we had to condense the nature of the “TrailSport” trim down into a single character, it would be this: Rugged-Style All-Season tires. Not “All-Terrain” tires, not even “Rugged” tires, but “Rugged-Style.” Chef’s kiss. Perfection. We’ll take two.

Who Wins? Who Cares. (I Win, That’s Who.)

If you want to look like you might maybe go camping sometimes, maybe, then any of these fellas will get the job done. Which name feels the coolest to you? The Rogue? Sure, let’s go with the Rogue; the Rogue’s the winner. But don’t actually try to drive one of these guys up a rocky mountain or something, okay? Or, if you do, don’t come crying to us when it does a tipsy and goes tumby-rumby down the rocky bits.

Just wear one of those puffy vests once in a while and slap one of those white ovals with some letters on it on the rear bumper and call it a day. Your co-workers will never know the difference.

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