Hi Mr Rawles,
I saw the letter from someone that was considering an Isuzu Rodeo as a BOV. That is an awful decision. They do not get “30-35 MPG”. (Look up the EPA ratings). They are not reliable, they are cheap because of their poor quality, and parts are rare.
If I were buying a BOV (which I’m not, because I’m in college at the moment.) I would aim for a 1997 Ford Explorer with the V-8, which is compatible with the Mustang’s 302 for after-market parts (however, transmissions on the V-8 were upgraded in 1998 because of an issue with the clutch). The pre-1996 second generation V-6 Explorers had notoriously bad automatic transmissions (which is what caused mine to be junked at 233,000 miles, everything else was solid), but the 5-Speed automatic was much improved. Towards 1998 and 1999, as demand for Explorers was going up quality took a backseat to building as many as possible (this is a rule of thumb I follow for SUVs made from 1998 to 2000 during the dot com boom).
As a second option, a Ford Excursion or Chevy Suburban/GMC Yukon with a diesel would be a good option simply because they were the only major SUVs sold with a diesel and diesel has its inherent advantages, but with less maneuverability and off road handing due to longer wheelbase, and higher weight, the excursion weighs in at over 7,000 pounds. A stock Ford Excursion is useless in mud (firsthand experience), if one plans on using it as a BOV, upgrade the suspension and tires. I would steer away from any newer generation SUVs (2002+ Explorer, 2003+ Expedition, 2000+ Tahoe/Yukon/Suburban, 2002+ Trailblazer/Envoy, etc.) because they were redesigned to get better rollover ratings at the expense of off-road capability, something that literally 99% of SUV owners never did.
Land Rovers should be turned away from because of awful reliability and rare parts. Toyota Land Cruisers and Sequoias are venerable, but are rare. Luxury SUVs such as the Lincoln Navigator, (identical to the Ford Expedition, a decent BOV but built at the wrong times), Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon Denali, Lexus RX or GX, will draw added attention, and one would be wise to avoid that “He has a Luxury SUV, I bet he can afford tons of extra food.” They may have more options and be more comfortable, but every regular SUV counterpart had similar options, but without the Luxury nameplate.
Jeep Cherokees (discontinued) and Grand Cherokees are both very good SUVs in terms of handing off road, but were not as common as the Explorer, my logic being, its better to have a BOV that one can find parts for easily, they are however, more reliable. Some newer models are not “trail rated” and should be avoided if it is to be used as a BOV. Regards, – Sam
JWR Replies: For the record, according to All AutoReviews.com’s review of the 2008 Isuzu Rodeo, the two wheel drive version (with 2.2 Liter engine) gets 19 MPG in the city and 23 MPG on the highway, while the four wheel drive 3.2-liter, V6, 205-horsepower engine gets a pitiful 16 MPG in the city and 20 MPG on the highway. That is a hair less than a 4WD Ford Explorer!