Top Five 4x4s loves the reassurance of four-wheel-drive – particularly on treacherous winter roads. loves the reassurance of four-wheel-drive – particularly on treacherous winter roads. We therefore enthusiastically conquered the highest mountain (okay, hill) to evaluate the top five 4x4s. So, which terrain tamers make the grade?

The 2009 Subaru Legacy Tourer makes a triumphant entry into position five. This stylish workhorse is the 4x4 for motorists who appreciate traditional estates. There is a choice of two engines, the most economical being the 2.0-litre diesel. This produces 148bhp, hits 60mph in 9.6 seconds, and achieves a combined average of 46mpg. The Legacy is also more comfortable than most armchairs and robust enough to become a family heirloom.

The Volvo XC90 swerves past the Legacy to finish fourth. Launched in 2002 this stylish 4x4 was initially available with two engines – the 272bhp 2.9-litre six-cylinder and the 163bhp 2.4-litre diesel. These were later joined by three additional petrol units including the thrilling 4.4-litre V8. These engines are smooth and refined and beautifully complement the excellent handling. However, consider the XC90 a capable road car with limited off-road ability – and not a hard-core mud plunger.

The 2007 BMW X5 leap-frogs the Volvo into third. Like the XC90 it prefers cruising on tarmac to crawling through undergrowth – but this leviathan is by no means useless on the rough. On-road handling is particularly impressive partly due to the firm suspension which minimises roll. The ride is therefore rather harsh but X5 remains a capable, versatile, and beautifully constructed vehicle.

Missing out on the top spot by a whisker is the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser. This rugged 4x4 is extraordinarily capable across the most horrendous terrain - even the school run. Power comes courtesy of a 171bhp 3.0-litre diesel which propels the runner-up to 62mph in 11.7 seconds. The Land Cruiser is also enviably reliable, beautifully equipped, and extremely comfortable. On-road handling is less accomplished than off-road, but its 'go anywhere' abilities more than compensate.

So, those are the runners-up in's top five 4x4s. The winner is the enviably talented Land Rover Discovery (2004 onwards). This prestigious beast is the ultimate four-wheel-drive. On-road handling is composed and comfortable and its off-road capabilities are staggering. This is partly due to the 'terrain response' system which allows motorists to change the set-up. Factors such as ride height can be adapted to cope with challenging conditions such as mud, gravel, deep ruts, etc.

Whichever vehicle you choose everything on this list is a worthy purchase. However, the 'best choice' is always the machine that meets your specific criteria. So, if you fancy driving a bright pink dustcart - go for it!

Choosing a 4x4 is very much a personal choice and depends largely on what you want to use it for. I have owned 3 Volvo XC90s largely for reliability, safety and on-road performance. I&aposm never going to go off road.I tried 3 of the other 4x4s here in the top 5 list and can only say that I found the BMW okay but too expensive, the landcruiser was uncomfortabl after 230 miles, the Disco was fine but reliability problems abound and just look at the number of Discos with only one brake light working on the roads - why? Because it is a major job to replace the bulb - I have never seen a Volvo with a rear light or brake light inoperative. Tomorrow I collect a Volvo XC60 2-wheel drive - who needs 4x4 capability? And I will get 47 mpg (the demo care returned 49.5 mpg over a day&aposs motoring). Road tax is just 150 compared with 400 for the XC90 and I get free servicing for 3 years. The part-ex price was excellent from a Volvo dealership losing only 5000 over 2 years. It&aposs simply a Choice!

Try these cars on some real off road terrain like we have here in Australia. Subaru is not a 4WD its an AWD and in the mud I wouldn't want to be in one. BMW poor little toy careful it doesn't get scratched. Don't even rate here. Volvos - Well they are only for Volvo drivers !!!!. Like the BMW oops don't scratch it!! Now the Toyota: You selected a smsmall model that is far insuperior to the Discovery. No doubt so that the Disco (a UK car) won. Nicely done people. Next time try the bigger model and maybe the Nissan Patrol.Not a fair review at all. Designed for the UK model to win.

I wonder how many of these vehicles are actually used for the purpose that they were built ? For the majority the only mud that gets on them comes from Caravan Sites and very often they have far larger engines and weight than is required to tow the Caravans that they are pulling. In short for the majority of users they are unnecessary Battering rams protecting the occupants at the expense of the rest of us.

@ walter: You're posing the wrong question: ALL five of them are used what they have been designed for: Subaru for snowy & muddy roads, maybe some trails. BMW for roads. Period. Oh! And to show off, of course! Volvo: Just as the Beemer. Minus the showing off. Toyota: To carry anything anywhere. And the Landie? Well, given its price tag it probably is designed to be the "all-the-car-I-ever-need" for higher earners from west *put metropolitan city of choice here* that need to be well equipped for regular spontaneous golf trips to the Gobi desert. And indeed, it is! Else: As we're talking "need". 90% of all people should sensibly buy a Fiat Panda Diesel, a Toyota Prius or maybe even a Smart ForTwo. Wanna go off-road: Rent a Land Rover Defender. Wanna go racing: Rent a Lotus Exige. Wanna go on family holiday. Rent a Volkswagen Bus! Noone - I repeat - no one, will ever need(!) a Mercedes S-Class, a Ferrari, a BMW M5 or even a VW Golf. But we still want them. N'est-ce pas?

aggree with most of the coments above disco been there unreliable and thirsty land cruser just to big and thirsty for uk roads x5 to common scooby and xc90 not a 4x4 so I bought a car that is not even in your top 5 vw touareg 30 mpg reliable and build quality land rover can only dream of and it did not make it in to the top 5 ?

I agree that 4x4s are mostly an ego trip and seldom used off-road, at least in the UK. I drive perhaps the smallest 4x4 - a Suzuki Jimny - but only because the driving position,fuel economy and carrying capacity suits my needs perfectly. So how do you set the criteria for what's best?

Come to Canada for some REAL trials of AWDs/4wds. I've had a 1998 Subaru Legacy since new.....nary a problem & skips through the snow & over the ice no problem.