8 Great Cars (and a Truck) to Consider for Country Driving

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/javism/

Last month, we ran a piece showcasing nine cars that are ideal for urban and city environments, where factors such as ease of parking, fuel economy, small footprint, and maneuverability play big into the buyers’ decision process. To follow that up, we threw together a collection of vehicles that perform well in the near-opposite conditions — the country, that is.

Like the city, countryside living has its own set of unique quirks to deal with. While traffic and tight spaces may not be among them, those in more rural environments often have to deal with more poorly maintained roads, mud, snow, and other forms of undesirable terrain (or desirable, depending). Physical environment aside, those living outside the urban epicenters will find longer commutes, and may need to take a more calculated approach to shopping (i.e., bigger trips), as the corner store may not be just down the block.

When searching through the myriad of vehicles that would perform admirably in these conditions, we took a few factors into account when determining which would be best — fuel economy (for the lengthened commutes), cargo space and volume (for those larger grocery runs, etc.), and off-road (or poor-road) capabilities. Here’s what we came up with — what would you add? Notably, the following vehicles are not ranked, just listed.

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1. Subaru Outback

Subaru’s venerable Outback has garnered respect from all types of drivers, from suburbanites to hardcore outdoor enthusiasts. The Outback offers plenty on interior space, full-time all-wheel drive, and commendable fuel economy. In its top spec, the inside of the Outback is as nice a place to be as a bona fide luxury car as well.

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2. Volvo XC70

Like the Subaru, Volvo’s XC70 wagon/crossover has found itself as at home in urban settings as it does in the wild. However, it’s off the beaten track where the XC70 really shines. “The Volvo XC70 is an all-weather version of the now-discontinued V70 midsize wagon that boasts all-wheel drive as well as increased ground clearance and SUV-like styling cues,” Edmunds points out.

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3. Mercedes-Benz G Class

When swathed in the luxurious leather and wood trimmings of the Mercedes G Class, it’s easy to forget that you’re actually sitting in a completely capable off-road vehicle. While its fuel economy isn’t spectacular and the car is on the higher-end of expensive, the G Class offers a great option for the affluent country-dweller.

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4. Ford F-150

The Ford (NYSE:F) F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for several months running now probably because it’s just damn good at everything. While it’s a fully functioning work truck, numerous options allow the buyer to deck the cabin out in trims that make it feel more like a comfortable car or SUV than a pickup. Moreover, the EcoBoost engine option will offer comparable performance, but with 18 miles per gallon combined.

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5. GMC Terrain

To start, it’s called the ‘Terrain,” so one would hope that GMC’s (NYSE:GM) crossover utility vehicle can handle various kinds of it. A potent V6 offers a healthy shot of 301 horsepower, though the more efficiency-minded can opt for the 22/32 mile per gallon in-line four. The Terrain also comes with a vast menu of options, including four-wheel drive and numerous interior appointments.

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6. Toyota 4Runner

Though the new Toyota (NYSE:TM) 4Runner looks decidedly less-rugged than its previous generations (no thanks to the new chrome additions), Toyota has still provided a very practical, very capable SUV that is as happy on the side of a mountain as it is on asphalt. “The 4Runner retains the traditional body-on-frame underpinnings that give it a robust off-road capability that’s increasingly hard to find,” Edmunds notes.

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7. Jeep Grand Cherokee

If you’re looking specifically for off-road prowess, the Jeep (FIATY.PK) would be the way to go, but for a bit more refinement, the Grand Cherokee hits all the right boxes. Additionally, the Grand Cherokee has a new 3.0 liter diesel unit coming its way, which will offer 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque — enough to bail you out of just about any snow drift or mud puddle you may come across.

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8. Honda Crosstour

The Honda (NYSE:HMC) Crosstour is essentially a more practical, raised version of the Accord sedan. “If you’re drawn toward the composed ride and handling dynamics of an Accord sedan but want more cargo space and/or the option of all-wheel drive, then the Crosstour is worth considering,” Edmunds says, before admitting that the odd styling is not for everyone.

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