These are perfect for tackling the UAE’s spectacular landscape…

While going on a guided desert safari tour is something of a UAE rite of passage, nothing quite compares to getting behind the wheel and taking on the wadis and dunes for yourself.

Here’s our selection of the best off-road vehicles… 

Ram 1500

Engine: 5.7-litre HEMI V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Power: 395hp/400ps @ 5,600rpm
Torque: 410ft-lb/556Nm
Off-roading features: Hill-descent control; underbody protection (including skid plates for transfer aand petrol tank); optional air suspension system
Price: Dhs199,900

Ram’s latest iteration of its flagship truck has undergone a complete overhaul, shedding 102kg of total weight compared to its predecessor, but without compromising its off-roading credentials. The new 1500’s lighter frame is 98 per cent high-strength steel to ensure rigidity and durability. The air suspension system offers best-in-class ground clearance, departure angle and breakover angle, with the added benefit of load-levelling capability – so even if your gear calls for all the 1500’s payload capability (an impressive 834kg), the truck will automatically detect and adjust the suspension to improve the ride.

Suzuki Jimny

Engine: 1.5-litre inline 4-cylinder
Transmission: 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic
Power: 102hp/103ps
Torque: 96ft-lb/130Nm
Off-roading features: Selectable four-wheel drive; hill hold; hill descent.
Price: Dhs67,000 (approx)

The latest Jimny might sport a fresh design, but underneath the vehicle retains the off-road capabilities that have won over its many admirers. Rigid axles, a low-range gearbox, locking centre differential and optimised traction control make it a highly capable off-roader. The GCC line-up only includes the three-door widebody model, so space (for passengers and luggage) is a little limited. What’s more, the Jimny lacks many of the bells and whistles of its more high-end competitors, and the plastic-heavy interior is far from luxurious. But it’s a fun, capable car that won’t balk at rugged terrain.

Mercedes-Benz G-Class

Engine: 4-litre V8 biturbo
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Power: 422hp @ 5,250-5,500rpm (G500)
Torque: 450ft-lb/610Nm @ 2,000-4,750rpm (G500)
Off-roading features: Low-range gearbox setting; enhanced braking; independent front suspension and rigid rear axle; permanent all-wheel drive.
Price: Dhs600,000 (approx)

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class (often referred to as the G Wagen) is right at home on the streets of the UAE, but it also boasts some serious off-roading capabilities. The luxurious interior and seemingly endless driver assistance features bely the G-Class’s all-terrain prowess, with both engine options offering substantial torque at slow speeds thanks to a low-range gearbox setting on the centre console. Steep inclines, tricky descents and extreme terrain are met with plenty of power, while optimised braking ensures vehicle control in even the most challenging of conditions.

Toyota FJ Cruiser

Engine: 4-litre V6
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic
Power: 270hp/274ps @ 5,600rpm
Torque: 280ft-lb/381Nm @ 4,400rpm
Off-roading features: Crawl control; rear differential lock; active traction control; part time four-wheel drive (automatic transmission); front double wishbone and rear four-link rigid axle suspension.
Price: From Dhs147,000

Given that its chassis development draws on the experience gleaned from the Land Cruiser Prado, it’s no surprise that the FJ Cruiser is an off-roading favourite. With high ground clearance, high approach and departure angles, and instrumentation that include compass, thermometre and inclinometre, the FJ is just as comfortable on a dune run as it is the highway. And with a wealth of off-road assistance modes (accessed from an optional overhead console which also includes map light controls), Toyota’s workhorse is not only capable of tackling the deserts and canyons of a UAE expedition, it’s also got you covered in case you wind up stuck in the sand – crawl control automatically adjusts acceleration and brake pressure for rough or slippery terrain.

Land Rover Defender

Engine: 4-cylinder diesel; 4-cylinder petrol; 6-cylinder petrol (including mild hybrid tech)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Power: 200hp and 240hp/203ps and 243ps (diesel); 300hp/304ps (4-cylinder petrol); 400hp/405ps (6-cylinder hybrid)
Torque: 317ft-lb/430Nm (diesel); 295ft-lb/400Nm (4-cylinder petrol); 406ft-lb/550Nm (6-cylinder hybrid)
Off-roading features: All-wheel-drive; torque balancing; electronic traction control; twin-speed transfer box; extendable ride height; electronic active differential; configurable terrain response; hill launch and descent assist.
Price: Dhs200,000 (approx)

Land Rover’s Defender has an off-road heritage that few other vehicles can match, so development of the newest iteration of the venerable model placed a heavy emphasis on extreme driving conditions. Available in a mind-boggling array of specifications (with multiple wheelbase, engine and accessory pack options) it’s essentially possible to configure the new Defender to whatever kind of off-road experience you want. Select the configurable terrain response and you can tailor the steering, differential and traction to suit rock crawling, sand or whatever else you encounter. Or opt for automatic terrain control and let the car select the best setting. There’s even a rooftop tent option!

Mitsubishi Pajero

Engine: 3-litre V6
Transmission: 4-speed automatic and 5-speed automatic
Power: 175hp/177ps @ 5,250rpm (3-litre)
Torque: 191ft-lb/259Nm @ 2,750rpm (3-litre)
Off-roading features: All-wheel control; active stability and traction control; rear differential lock; selectable two- and four-wheel-drive with locked centre differential.
Price: Dhs96,900 (approx)

Alot of Mitsubishi’s advanced control technologies were developed for first use in rally cars – so the Pajero is certainly equipped for the challenges of UAE off-roading expeditions. Independent suspension ensures control over a wide range of terrain conditions, and the ability to switch between two- and four-wheel drive means that, whether you’re roaring down a dune or crawling over boulders, the car balances the power to each wheel. If you want to carry a lot of equipment, the five-door model boasts more space and, though the interior spec might not be the most exciting or luxurious, the Pajero might well be one of the most common sights heading out to the UAE desert. That many people can’t be wrong.

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Ford F-150 Raptor

Engine: 3.5-litre V6
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Power: 415hp/421ps
Torque: 500ft-lb/678Nm
Off-roading features: Terrain-management system; four-wheel-drive Torque-on-Demand transfer case; off-road displays
Price: Dhs269,745 (approx)

Ford might be a mainstay of the US truck market, but the F-150 Raptor also has serious off-road ambitions. The Ranger Raptor unveiled in 2019 is only available with a turbocharged diesel engine, but the US-centric F-150 Raptor retains its 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine, giving it plenty of power to tackle dunes. It might not be the most economical off-roader around, but with its high-strength boxed steel frame and aluminium alloy construction, the F-150 Raptor is light and rigid enough to take on the most challenging terrain. The Raptor has a choice of six preset modes (including rock crawl and mud-sand), tailoring performance to environmental conditions.

Jeep Wrangler

Engine: 3.6-litre V6
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Power: 285hp/289ps @ 6,400rpm
Torque: 256ft-lb/347Nm @ 4,800rpm
Off-roading features: Selec Trac and Rock Trac 4×4 options; off-road transfer case; electronic locking front and rear differential; active sway bar system (Rubicon).
Price: Dhs146,000 (approx)

Much like the Land Rover Defender, the Jeep Wrangler has become synonymous with off-roading. Few vehicles offer the kind of all-terrain customisation you get with a Wrangler – it’s hard to think of many other cars with windshields that can fold down and doors that can be removed. But the Wrangler’s off-road prowess isn’t just cosmetic. With a choice of four-wheel drive systems (including the option for automatic switching to two-wheel drive), reinforced axle configurations, as well as upgradable battery and alternator specifications, the Wrangler is a purist’s 4×4. Tellingly, the Wrangler has the option to fit front and rear tow bars – perfect for rescuing other stranded vehicles.