Uganda is well known for its poor road networks with some regions considered nearly inaccessible to cars due to the bad state they’re in and if you don’t have an off-road vehicle strong enough to get there, then you’re totally out of luck.
Look at locations like Bundibugyo, Karamoja to mention but a few, if you think a Toyota Spacio or a luxurious Mercedes Benz M class is the best option to go playing Tomb Raider, then you definitely dreaming. A lot can go wrong from having a damaged transmission to losing control of your entire all-wheel-drive system because the terrain is so demanding it pushes the car to its limits.
However, don’t lose hope yet, there cars that are well known and battle-tested to handle some of the harshest and toughest terrains the world has to offer.
In this article, we’re going to list some of those hardcore vehicles well known for their durability and can get you where you need to be while taking a serious beating.
Top 12 best and toughest off-road cars to drive in Uganda
12. Subaru Outback
The Subaru Outback is marketed as an SUV, but it’s firmly regarded as a station wagon version of the brand’s Legacy midsize sedan. It may not be as tough as the other cars on this list, but it does have the capabilities and most importantly the power to take you places.
The Subaru Outback doesn’t have enough ground clearance, or knobby tires, or a locking differential as expected of standard SUVs, but it can prove to be surprisingly useful off road. The 2019 Outback starts at $26,345 (UGX 96,637,833) holding a 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder engine paired with a standard Lineartronic continuously variable transmission and AWD (all-wheel-drive). It offers ample space in an extremely versatile package with solid, car-like handling.
11. Isuzu D-Max AT35
If you’re wondering what the ‘AT’ stands for, it literally means Arctic Trucks. The Isuzu D-Max is modified by Icelandic expedition specialists to enable it to go anywhere on earth, including the North Pole. That says something.
Built to conquer the toughest terrains, the Isuzu D-Max is already among the more ruggedly robust and capable pick-up trucks with its Arctic Trucks’ dedicated off-road tires, 125mm increase in ride height and upgraded Bilstein suspension earn it a spot on this list.
Its solidly built and equipped with an array of new practical and stylish features, making every part of the vehicle ready for anywhere possible.
One should, however, be aware that this car is designed for a much-specialised off-roader, which means it doesn’t come cheap since you pay for the phenomenal ability coupled with exciting drive capability. Starting price is at £49,131 (UGX 235,187,586).
10. Mahindra Thar
Mahindra Thar is the most-preferred off-roader in India, which technically means if it can handle that country’s vast terrain, then it’s a good solid pick for Africa. Mahindra has made a name for itself when it comes to building practical and reliable SUVs.
Dawning a powerful 2.5-liter CRDe engine, a Borgwarner 4WD system, and mechanical locking rear differential, the Mahindra is capable of withstanding the toughest of road conditions. The reason why it looks like a Jeep is because the company had a license to manufacture the original Willys Jeep in India, a standing 70-year old history.
The Thar comes in different variants with a starting price of Rs. 9.60 lakh (UGX 49,232,377).
9. Nissan Patrol
The Nissan Patrol has been known for being rugged, tough and powerful. They’re also well known for their durability and performance especially the pickups which are considered legendary masters of off road.
The Nissan Patrol is built for harsh and unforgiving terrain, with a wider rear track, powerful diesel and gasoline engines that make it good for the adventurous fanatics. A Patrol can cost you around $75,990 (UGX 278,743,934).
Nissan is also known for other good and tough brands such as the Nissan Pathfinder and Hardbody, which have stood the taste of time.
8. Mitsubishi Pajero
Mitsubishi has been one of the champions off road cars for Africa for a long while now, with many sharing stories about how the Pajero in particular, took on vast challenges when it came to dealing with tough terrain.
The Pajero has a proven record for having a reliable 4WD system, center, and rear diff-locks that offer a stable and reliable driving experience. The 2018-19 models come with a tried and tested3.2-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that produces 190 BHP and 441 Nm of torque, teamed with a five-speed automatic transmission, which gives you the needed power to push the vehicle through almost anything.
However, the production of the Pajero brand ended in 2019, with more than 640,000 units of the car sold from 1982 to date. The production ended with the Final Edition, a special variant. You can still buy one though at a starting price of around $40,489 (UGX 148,520,373).
7. Suzuki Jimny
Don’t let the looks fool you one bit, The Suzuki Jimny is a very tough car and also is the world’s only lightweight proper off-roader as marketed by Suzuki, which is undeniably true.
Weighing at just over 1100kg, it uses a ladder-frame chassis with the rigid-axle suspension at each end and a low-ratio four-wheel-drive gearbox. It doesn’t come with locking differentials which are no surprise since its priced below £16,000 (UGX 76,591,182).
The Jimny can take on all kinds of terrain and is a capable competitor against the Jeep Wrangler with its overhangs, break-over and departure angles which can’t be taken lightly. Having a 1.5-liter petrol engine, it’s not considered really economical and not forgetting its tiny boot and everything else for that matter.
6. Ford Ranger FX4
For those that have had the opportunity to drive the Ford Ranger series, the 2019 Ranger FX4, in particular, makes adventuring possible for any off road fanatic. It’s a strong car fitted with modern technology such as a turbocharged powertrain, intelligent terrain-management system, and advanced safety features.
The FX4 package which is valued at $1,295, adds off-road shocks, all-terrain tires, and a terrain management system.
One thing you should know though is that all Ford Rangers are created as near equals because they all offer the best there is for off-road trucks. All Rangers can tow about 7,500 pounds in weight, which puts them in the leading class.
They also have the same 126.8-inch wheelbase, ground clearance and break-over, approach, and departure angles befitting of them as one of the best options for handling hard terrain. Standard pricing for a Ranger starts at $24,300 (UGX 89,136,433).
5. Ford F-150 Raptor
Some consider it as the creator of the off-road-ready production segment, the Ford F-150 Raptor may be the most well-rounded truck on the list. It embodies a well-tuned 4×4 drive system and can go above and beyond taking on the toughest of terrain.
The Raptor’s 3.0-inch Fox Racing Shox internal bypass shocks render 13-inches of front wheel travel and 14-inches in the rear. The 3.5-Liter EcoBoost V6 offers a cool 510 boost worth of torque, pushing the truck to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds.
Another great feature of the F-150 is the BFGoodrich full-size 35-inch all-terrain tires on 17-inch aluminum wheels, which are arguably the most capable off-road tire/wheel combo. The disappointing factor about it though, is that you get nothing more than a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel under the bonnet for under $50,000 (UGX 183,379,900), which is quite expensive. The vehicle’s capacities are limited, however, it can cover very rough terrain at outrageous speeds.
4. Mercedes-Benz G550
Despite costing more than a liver, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 isn’t just about looks and comfort. It looks very similar to its ancestors but its more bigger, sleeker and more refined than the G-Classes of the past forty years.
The G550 holds are more rounded and aerodynamic front, which is important since Mercedes has decided to make the new version of its slab-sided box five inches wider than before. Having an independent front suspension with 2.2 inches of additional travel, for a total of 7.9 inches of front travel and 9.5 inches of ground clearance, it offers a range of driving modes from Sand and Rock to Sport+.
The G550 may be high maintenance, but it shouldn’t be overlooked as a necessary evil to tackle some of Uganda’s toughest off road experiences. The 2019 model, which takes 100 hours to hand-assemble at the factory in Austria, has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $124,500, plus a destination charge of $995. Ordered with several options such as the Exclusive Interior Package, a G550 can touch $150,000 (UGX 550,139,700).
3. Toyota Land Cruiser
Proven from time to time as one of the best SUVs offered by Toyota, the Land Cruiser is a must-have for anyone who dares to conquer the off-road while knowing that failure is not an option. Despite having a few downsides, the Land Cruiser hold’s its own against almost every terrain obstacle you throw it.
Well, if you think its a joke then ask yourself why large organisations like the United Nations and other government agencies within Africa and other countries around the globe have several of these huge beasts capable of seating up to seven full-grown adults.
The Land Cruiser can be driven off-road to the most remote locations possible not forgetting its Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) which is an intelligent stabilizer adjuster that continually tunes the suspension characteristics as the vehicle drives over rough terrain.
It holds enough power and torque within its 5.7-Liter V8, to push the almost the 3-ton machine without hustle. Its body-on-frame construction declares it as the best option for driving across truly inhospitable areas while having decent features at a reasonable price compared to other expensive counterparts. A standard model starts from $85,315 (UGX 312,901,123).
2. Land Rover Defender
It would be a shame to have a list that doesn’t have one the world’s longest-serving champions in off-road, the Land Rover Defender doesn’t take prisoners.
The Defender has been the vehicle of choice for conservation work, tourist travel and other kinds of adventure-driven initiatives in Africa for a while now and in recent history due to its durability and capable 4WD system, the Defender in the early years didn’t have much to show for with its terrible seats, bad stereo radio, and rugged body shape. It got the job done none the less.
The Defender has had its fair amount of criticisms but all that can be put to rest as of last year, the anticipated 2020 model took many by surprise when it showed off its ability to handle the roughest parts of Africa as it underwent real-world testing in Kenya, assisting wildlife managers to maintain the 14,000-hectare Borana Conservancy.
The Land Rover Defender will come to the US in the spring of 2020, initially in 110, which is the long-wheelbase version. The 90, the two-door shorter wheelbase, will follow it to market in a few months. Prices will start between $50,000 (UGX 183,379,900) and $80,000 (UGX 293,407,840) depending on what model you get and which engines.
1. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Recon
The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most iconic and classic off-road vehicles of all time. The Rubicon Recon version is a special edition that maintains the classic outlook and comes fully equipped to go high and low in whatever wilderness you throw at it.
The Rubicon Recon comes with upgraded Dana 44 axles, 32-inch off-road tires, and a dual vented hood. Add on heavy-duty cast differential covers and model-specific rock rails to provide extra protection against dense objects on the trail, its a must-have.
Its electronic sway bar disconnect switch allows for superior wheel handling on the road, including front and rear steel bumpers to give off an outstanding finish. The Jeep Wrangler will take you places.
The standard Jeep Wrangler has a base price of $28,295 (UGX 103,774,685 ) for the two-door model and $31,795 (UGX 116,611,278) for the four-door Unlimited model, which makes it quite expensive for a SUV.
Author: Allan Bangirana
Allan Bangirana has a taste for all kinds of topics and usually writes about tech, entertainment, sports and community projects that make a difference in society.