Why Are Ground Clearance and Off-Road Angles Important for Trail Riding Vehicles?

We hear the terms ground clearance, approach angle, departure angle, and breakover angle referenced regarding off-road vehicles, but do you know what these things mean? If you’re a novice off-roader, you might not have any idea what they mean. To you, a truck or SUV sitting high off the ground with massive tire tread should be all you need. The truth is different types of off-roading require different vehicles and statistics. Let’s dive in and see what these terms mean for your off-road adventure.

Off-road vehicles: the important stats

The best off-road pickup trucks for 2022 includes the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
The Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 off-road pickup truck | Chevrolet

Ground Clearance

4WD Talk tells us that ground clearance is the lowest ride height of a vehicle measured from the ground to the lowest part of your off-road truck or SUV. This is one of the most important factors in selecting an off-road vehicle, but it’s not the only factor to consider.

Approach Angle

The approach angle is the maximum angle between the ground and the lowest portion of your front bumper. The lower the bumper, the lower the angle, and the more likely you’ll scrape when trying to go up an incline.

Departure Angle

The departure angle is the opposite of the approach angle. The departure angle is the angle between the ground and the lowest part of the rear of your off-road vehicle. The higher the number, the better.

Breakover Angle

The breakover angle refers to the angle between the tires and the lowest part of the off-road vehicle’s undercarriage. This is an important angle because you could scrap or become stuck on an object if you don’t ensure you have enough angle to clear the object. Vehicles with longer wheelbases have lower breakover angles.

Does changing the ground clearance change all of the off-roading angles?

Black Chevy Truck Lifted for off-road fun
Black Chevy Truck Lifted | Chevrolet

Yes, as long as everything else remains the same. This means if you add larger tires, wheels, or a lift kit to your off-road vehicle, you’re changing all of the off-road angles for the better. Of course, if you raise or lower one of the bumpers, only one of the angles changes.

What is a good approach angle for off-roading?

2023 Chevy Colorado has more power
2023 Chevy Colorado | Chevrolet

Many off-roaders suggest at least 37 degrees of approach angle. The Jeep Wrangler, a hard-core off-road SUV, has a 40-degree approach angle. Conversely, the Honda CR-V, which never should be taken off a paved road, has an angle of 18.9 degrees.

What is a good departure angle for off-roading?

A white 2022 GMC Canyon AT4 midsize truck model (available in diesel) traveling off-road through a forest
2022 GMC Canyon AT4 | GMC

Similar to the approach angle, you want a higher number. The Jeep Wrangler has a departure angle of 37 degrees, while the Honda CR-V gives you 26 degrees of departure. The Wrangler is made to be one of the most rugged off-road vehicles in the market.

What is the breakover angle of the Jeep Wrangler?

The coolest SUVs under $30,000 for 2022 includes the Jeep Wrangler like this one
The Jeep Wrangler SUV in the desert | Jeep

Using the Wrangler as our off-road vehicle, we find the 2-door models have a breakover angle of 25 degrees while the 4-door versions lower that angle to 22.6 degrees.

What are the best off-road trucks in the market?

2023 Ford F-150 Raptor standard features
2023 Ford F-150 Raptor | Ford

Some of the best off-road trucks, according to U. S. News and World Report, are:

  • Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
  • Nissan Titan Pro-4X
  • Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Trail Boss
  • GMC Sierra 1500 AT4
  • Ford Ranger Tremor
  • Jeep Gladiator Rubicon and Mojave
  • Ford F-150 Raptor
  • Nissan Frontier Pro-4X
  • Ram TRX
  • GMC Canyon AT5
  • Toyota Tundra TRD Pro
  • Ram 1500 Rebel

What are the best off-road SUVs in the market?

Compact SUVs with standard active safety systems like the Ford Bronco Sport
The Ford Bronco Sport SUV in the snow | Ford

Gathering a similar list for the off-road SUVs, we see the top models offered are:

  • Ford Bronco Sport
  • Land Rover Defender
  • Land Rover Discovery
  • Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
  • Land Rover Range Rover Sport
  • Jeep Wrangler
  • Toyota Land Cruiser
  • Toyota 4Runner
  • Jeep Cherokee
  • Land Rover Range Rover
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • GMC Yukon
  • Mercedes-Benz G-Class
  • Ford Expedition
  • Chevrolet Tahoe

Now that you know more about the off-road angles required, you can find the right vehicle to enjoy your adventures out in the wilderness.

Rear angle view of 2023 Jeep Wrangler with purple Reign color, highlighting its release date and price
2023 Jeep Wrangler | Jeep

Next, check out the new Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, or watch some of the best off-road trucks and SUVs in the video below:

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