We get this question all the time. Can you off-road with 2wd? Well, we'd like to make note that anything can be an off-road vehicle if you don't care that much. However, today we find out whether or not 4wd is needed to have some fun on the trails.
To do this, we used three different vehicles for testing. We'll go through them here:
First, is the Lexus GX470. This is a full-time AWD SUV that has an electronic locking center differential and manual 4WD shifter to engage low gear. The GX470 is based on the FJ Cruiser but packs a 4.7L V8 up front. This particular GX470 has red Method Race Wheels and 33 inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires.
Ford F-150 PreRunner
Next we have a custom built F-150 PreRunner with the 5.0L V8 and 2WD. It has a fiberglass front-end and bed sides with King coilover shocks with bump stops all around. This truck also has 17 inch Method wheels paired with 37 inch Toyo Open Country MTs.
We started with a pretty steep hill climb. We sent the Lexus up first which, to no surprise, drove up the beaten hill with ease. We'd bet that it could've made it to the top at an even slower speed than it actually went. Next up was the PreRunner. We used a decent amount of speed for this climb but it still wasn't enough as the F-150 only made it about halfway up the hill before getting stuck. Finally, the GMC took a turn. It made it a little bit further than the PreRunner but still never reached the top.
2. Mud Hole
Next we encountered a fairly deep mud hole. The Lexus was able to crawl through without hesitation, of course. The GMC wasn't so lucky as it was able to crawl through most of the mud but when the water got too deep and we needed to back out, it ended up getting stuck. We were still pretty impressed with how far the Venom Power tires got us though. Finally, the PreRunner hit the mud hole at full speed and made it through rather effortlessly thanks to its fully built suspension.
3. High Speed Trail
Last but not least, we took the vehicles on some loose gravel/dirt trails where we could really get some speed. This is where you see the 2WD trucks really shine. The 2WD is a lot lighter than the 4WD vehicles so they're able to pick up speed and maintain grip a lot better than their 4WD rivals. The Lexus did fine in this section but the PreRunner absolutely tore up the dirt. The GMC also did pretty well but was limited due to it's stock suspension.
So can you off-road with 2WD? Absolutely! Just be aware that there are certain types of terrain that you will not be able to tackle. It's always smart to bring a winch or another person with a 4WD vehicle if you plan to take on some of the more intense terrain. If you're just looking to fly down some dirt roads or crawl through some mild trails, 2WD should be fine. If you want to do more things like hillclimbing and rock crawling, definitely find a 4WD vehicle.