Can You Drive a Sedan Off-Road? What You Need to Know

By Derrick •  Updated: 07/29/21 •  7 min read

Most sedans are known for fuel efficiency, optimal passenger arrangements, low-profile driving, and more. However, sedans aren’t a top choice for off-roading because they don’t offer a high center of gravity, ground clearance, and other seemingly necessary traits. Using a sedan might seem risky, but many people are tackling challenging terrains with their daily commutes.

You can drive a sedan off-road if there’s enough clearance between the ground and the vehicle’s underside. It also needs a AWD or 4WD transmission and the right tires. All-terrain or mud tires are an ideal solution. Add lift kits, winches, and light bars to get the sedan out of loose terrain.

In this article, we’ll discuss how you can make your sedan ready to go off-roading, whether you should use 2WD or 4WD, and which traits influence your sedan’s off-roading experience. We’ll also decide which sedan makes and models are best for off-roading to help you choose the top vehicle.

How Do You Make a Sedan Off-Road Ready?

If you enjoy your sedan for its fuel economy and spaciousness, you don’t have to upgrade to a new vehicle to go off-roading. Sedans are more than capable of driving over mud, hills, snow, and more. 

As long as you use the following four recommendations, your sedan won’t have a problem dealing with all sorts of terrains.

  1. Increase your sedan’s ground clearance with a lift kit. Sun Auto Service explains lift kits are perhaps the most significant upgrade for a vehicle when it comes to off-roading. Ground clearance is the space between your vehicle and the dirt below it. Without enough clearance, your vehicle will scrape and won’t be able to move onward.
  2. Consider adding a winch to pull the vehicle out of sticky situations. Winches are designed to yank a car, truck, or SUV from mud and other challenging areas. The X-Bull Synthetic Rope Winch from Amazon can handle up to 13,000 pounds (5,896.7 kg) and hooks to trees, boulders, and other locking points with ultra-durable ropes. It comes with three handy remotes. 
  3. Use all-terrain or mud tires for off-roading in a sedan. If you drive on the pavement, dirt, snow, and any other surface, all-terrain tires would be the best solution. Those who use their sedan solely for off-roading could use mud tires, but they’ll wear down faster on the pavement.
  4. A roof rack can elevate and protect your personal belongings on top of the vehicle. Cleanliness isn’t the name of the game for off-roading, but you can keep your gear out of harm’s way by using a roof rack. They come in handy when you’re Overlanding or driving far out into an off-road location.

These tips will prepare your sedan for unpredictable terrain, but there are a few preset conditions you need to consider. For example, the engine’s size and transmission affect your vehicle’s off-road performance. We’ll compare two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive sedans on mud, snow, and more in the following section.

If you’d like to see an example of a Toyota sedan off-roading with some of these gear suggestions, review this fun YouTube video:

Should Your Off-Road Sedan Be 4WD or 2WD?

Choosing between a 2WD and 4WD transmission can be tough if you’ve never gone off-roading in a sedan. They both present several benefits, but four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive vehicles handle most off-road scenarios much better than their two-wheel-drive counterparts. 

There’s nothing like optimal traction, better handling, and added weight to keep you in control.

AWD and 4WD Provide Better Traction

AWD sedans, such as the AWD Nissan Altima, always use four tires to propel the vehicle. On the other hand, 4WD vehicles can switch between using four tires or two tires. Both transmissions provide much better handling due to the top-notch traction when using all of their tires.

Note: Almost all four-wheel transmissions in sedans are AWD since 4WD is primarily used in trucks and some SUVs. However, 4WD and AWD function fairly the same.

2WD Sedans Entirely Rely On Their Tires

If you have a 2WD sedan, you can use it for off-roading. However, you’ll need to have the best all-terrain, snow, or mud tires at your disposal. Since they only use two tires, 2WD sedans rely much more on the front or back set rather than the heavyweight specs.

4WD and AWD vehicles are usually heavier because the added weight improves their traction. Without this additional poundage, you won’t have as much power to get out of a rut. How Stuff Works mentions that many modern 2WD vehicles are made with better suspension, improving their ability to adapt to off-roading.

What Affects a Sedan’s Off-Road Capabilities?

So, you’re thinking about taking your sedan out for a weekend of off-roading? Before you start, make sure you know which specs influence its performance. You wouldn’t want to get stuck in the dirt, but using the previously mentioned winch can prevent you from calling a towing service.

These four questions will show you if your sedan is ready to go off-roading:

  • How high off the ground is the sedan? Edmunds suggests that your vehicle should be about 8.5 inches (21.59 cm) off the ground to be optimal for off-roading scenarios. Many vehicles pass this test, but the suspension will affect how it recovers when going downhill or off a small bump in the dirt.
  • Is it a four-wheel-drive or two-wheel-drive vehicle? AWD sedans are much better for handling off-roading and Overlanding situations since they activate all of the tires. It’d be best to stick to flat or semi-hilly surfaces if you have a 2WD sedan.
  • How big is the engine? Four cylinders are notorious for not providing enough power for intense off-roading experiences. A six-cylinder or eight-cylinder vehicle can provide the power necessary for steep inclines. Note: There are very few 8cyl sedans, but 6cyl sedans are increasingly common these days. 
  • Is it a manual or automatic transmission? Manual transmissions let you control the gears to determine how much power or speed is behind your sedan. With a manual transmission, you don’t have to worry about overheating as much, putting too much force into the ground, or getting stuck as often.

Which Sedans Are Best for Off-Roading?

Are you thinking about getting a sedan to go off-roading? There are many options on the market, so let’s cover a handful of the best ones available.

  • The Volvo S60 Cross Country has excellent ground clearance, an AWD transmission, and a powerful engine that’s well above traditional sedans (think of the Camry, Corolla, or Civic).
  • The Mercedes-Benz E-Class brings modern technology to off-roading by adjusting the ground clearance depending on the surface, a roaring engine with more than enough horsepower, and two choices of AWD or 2WD transmissions.
  • The AWD Dodge Charger is often believed to be one of the best AWD sedans because it packs the power of a 6cyl transmission, weighs a bit more than the average small car, and boasts 300 horsepower in the engine.

Whether or not you have these sedans, you can use lift kits and new tires to improve your vehicle’s off-roading abilities instantly. Why not give it a shot and enjoy the outdoors rather than buying a brand new sedan?


Sedans might not be designed for off-roading, but a few minor tweaks can make a world of difference in their performance on slippery, hilly terrain. 4WD and AWD sedans are the best since they’re heavier, provide better traction, and won’t get stuck in the mud. You can add all-terrain tires and lift kits to improve a sedan’s ground clearance.