Adventure Vehicles of the Year: GearJunkie’s Top Picks from 2021

GearJunkie editors and contributors have driven a slew of new vehicles over the past year to find the best adventure vehicles of 2021.

Despite the global supply chain issues plaguing the industry, there were a lot of new adventure vehicle options on the market. From electric Jeep Wranglers to proven crossovers with an armor upgrade for off-road prowess, automakers are finding ways to make our favorite vehicles even more worthy of adventure.

We have got our hands on the majority of the new vehicles that will hit the market in 2021 for review. So, let’s dive into our list of the best of the best adventure vehicles that have become available this year.

The best adventure vehicles of 2021

Best 4 × 4: Jeep Wrangler 4xe

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe
(Photo / Bryon Dorr)

The 4xe version of the Jeep Wrangler far exceeded any sales expectations anyone could have had for it, and for good reason. The first electrified Jeep Wrangler can go 21 miles on electricity alone, doesn’t lose any of its all-terrain value, and delivers impressive power (395 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, numbers just short of the new Wrangler 392 with Hemi V8 engine).

The key to the 4xe is that it’s a hybrid, not a pure EV, so you can fuel up and keep exploring, no matter where your adventures take you. This plug-in hybrid is truly a Trail Rated Jeep, and a nearly quiet, torquey electric drive is a ton of off-road fun. Read more in our Full review.

Best Mid-Size Truck: Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier Pickup Truck
(Photo / Sean McCoy)

The completely redesigned Nissan Frontier is pretty much a winner across the board. Not only is it competitively priced, but its V6 also offers very competitive power (310 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque). It has an impressive payload capacity (1,610 pounds) and it is packed with the safety and tech features you would expect from a modern American pickup.

In the real world, this truck is bouncy, smooth, and comfortable to ride. The interior is sturdy, but with touch points just nice enough that it doesn’t feel commercial.

The Frontier PRO-4X is, of course, our favorite version of this new mid-size pickup. It comes out of the showroom floor with AT tires, an electronically locking rear differential, Bilstein off-road shocks and steel underbody skid plates. You can read our full examination of the first trip for a closer look.

Best Full-Size Truck: Rivian R1T

2022 Rivian R1T - on track

Yes, after years of waiting, the Rivian R1T won the first American electric truck race on the market. The trucks just hit first investors‘aisles, so he just snuck under the wire for our list of the best 2021 adventure vehicles.

What doesn’t appeal to a truck with over 300 miles of electric range, a properly capable 4×4 system, and a huge amount of secure equipment storage (or even a sliding fitted kitchen) and a unique style? You can read our first thoughts on the Rivian R1T and GMC Hummer EV soon on the market.

We believe there is so much more to come from Rivian as he ramps up production of his pickup and soon his SUV. You can preview his cool new hatchback patent and modular truck bed patent. The future of the electric truck in America is bright.

Best wagon: Subaru Outback Wilderness

Subaru Outback Wilderness
(Photo / Seiji Ishi)

The vehicle that you will find in abundance in every adventure city in America is the Subaru Outback. For model year 2022 (released mid-2021), Subaru improved the off-road value of the Outback straight from the factory by launching the Wild edition.

This new all-terrain-oriented edition gives you lift, skid plate, more aggressive tires for dirt (with a full-size spare tire), and more. It also gets more plastic body liner, fully synthetic and waterproof padding, and rooftop tent roof rails.

The Subaru Outback Wilderness is the “Swiss Army Knife” of cars; long live the AWD wagon! One of our editors, Seiji Ishi, is a Subaru Ambassador and recently put the Outback Wilderness through a ton of real-world testing. Stay tuned for the full Seiji review soon.

Best crossover: Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 AMG

Mercedes GLB 250 AMG
(Photo / Doug Berger for the NWAPA)

The GLB 250 just hit the market in 2020, and the AMG version will be released in 2021. The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 AMG is a surprise winner, as it has impressed in more ways than it should.

This is one of the most efficient on-road CUVs, which does better than you would expect off-road, has one of the best ergonomics for the driver and one of the best interiors in its class. .

The GLB 250 AMG looks crisp and a little different from the sea of ​​crossover competitors, but it’s quite small and not cheap. To see how our CUV winner compares to a load of other adventure vehicles, check out Best AWD / 4WD Cars of 2021: Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year Award.

Best SUV: Jeep Grand Cherokee

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review
(Photo / Bryon Dorr)

We’ve taken the wheel of every trim level, driven both the V6 and V8, and experimented with the two- and three-row versions of the all-new Grand Cherokee. We also had the chance to tow with it, drive hard on winding mountain roads, and even do a bit of crawl.

Needless to say, this new full-size SUV from Jeep is ready for adventure. Read our full examination of the first trip.

The 4xe plug-in hybrid version of this SUV will arrive in 2022 and will likely make this capable and comfortable adventure vehicle even better.

Best UTV: Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R

utv, Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R
(Photo / Bryon Dorr)

The Commander XT-P 1000R sits in that ideal spot between off-road sporting fun and a utility vehicle for working, hunting and / or camping. It has a super impressive Fox suspension with 14 inches of travel, a 100 horsepower motor, and a dump body. And it even comes with features like an integrated winch, selectable differential lock, and light bar.

If you’re looking for a UTV quiver machine that can get the job done – and still have a ton of fun ripping in the dunes, climbing rocky trails, playing in the snow, and getting off the beaten track – then the Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R is for you. Read our full review, which includes a super fun video of our tests.

Best Motorcycle: KTM ADV 890

KTM 890 Adventure
(Photo / KTM)

KTM replaced the 790 Adventure engine with an 890 for 2021, but the bike remains virtually identical otherwise, a bike that received well-deserved praise when it was introduced in 2018.

The KTM 890 Adventure is an adventure bike, with all modern traction control and ABS, that finally delivers the feel of a mountain bike that could go for miles on the highway compared to a street bike that can roll on the earth.

The low-slung fuel tanks have dramatically improved the heavy feel of almost any adventure bike. The factory WP suspension (after some work) proved capable over the most difficult single track terrains our editor rode on an adventure bike.

After more than a decade of settling for sub-par performance on adventure bikes, our publisher finally feels at home on earth. He says he’ll never go back to the bigger adventure platforms. KTM has a winner with the 890 Adv.

The most outlaw: Mitsubishi Delica

delica and yokohama geolanders dirt
(Photo / Mercedes Lilienthal)

Imagine receiving a notice in the mail stating that your vehicle’s registration has been revoked and your vehicle is no longer approved on the road. It would be a tough pill to swallow, especially after you legally import the vehicle and have it titled and registered in the first place.

This exact scenario happened to Mitsubishi Delica owners in Maine this year. If you’re as appalled as we are, you can read all the details our JDM expert and Delica (and owner) Andy Lilienthal unearthed: Registration revoked: Delica Vans is no longer legal on the road.

We know the Delica is not a new vehicle. But, this trend of banning cool imported vehicles is a travesty worth mentioning. And if we see one on the road, we promise to shut up.

GearJunkie equipment of the year logo 2021
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