If you take off-road vehicles seriously, you may be disappointed with the over-appointed 4x4s that sit on lots today. You are probably not happy with the sticker prices either.For the diehard fans there are a few off-road vehicles that rely on your skill and experience rather than sensor feedback to negotiate a trail. All of these off-roaders have long histories and all pay more attention to performance than comfort and convenience.The American Off-Road Icon: Jeep WranglerIn 1942 when the first Jeep put tires on the ground, off-roading frequently meant dodging mortars and scrambling across open ground. The Willys-Overland quarter ton truck became the icon of American infantry. Incredibly reliable and almost indestructible, the Jeep started off as a double tough off-road mover that rewarded skilled drivers and punished those who weren't.While the automotive industry changed, the Jeep remained true to its beginnings regardless of who was building it. In 1970 Willys came under the AMC umbrella until it ended up with Renault in the early '80s. Chrysler eventually grabbed it but under the Chrysler Daimler alliance the Jeep became German for a while.Today Jeep is the crown jewel of the Fiat-Chrysler group bringing in sales that are keeping the other brands afloat.Changes to the Wrangler over the years have always been minor in order to retain the vehicle's personality and capabilities. After 74 years of history the Jeep Wrangler still looks like a Jeep, behaves like a Jeep, and is one of the most popular off-road vehicles in the country.The Russian Enigma: Lada NivaIn 1977 the Russians were looking for a utilitarian vehicle that would allow a farmer to drive across his fields but also drive in relative comfort in the city. With the help of Fiat designers and Fiat parts they came up with what could arguably be called the first crossover, the Lada Niva.Russia doesn't really have a reputation for solid, reliable automobiles of any kind, so when they get one that's a hit, they don't risk messing it up by updating it. That was the case with the Lada.It looks like a nice clean '70s SUV (except there weren't any SUVs then). It has incredible clearance, a 1.7L 83 hp 4 banger, full time four wheel drive and can do 85 mph. The interior of the 2016 is almost an exact copy of the 77 model when the term ergonomic hadn't been invented yet. Crank down windows, high and low range controls that look like they came off a Soyuz capsule, a rear deck release accessible only from the back seat, and an ash tray big enough to handle a Cuban cigar are all "features" of this bare bones off-roader.Oh yes, then there is the price. In Russia these sell new for about $6,600. Across Europe and South America they sell for $10,000. They drive over anything, they handle wonderfully on ice, they look like they should fall apart but they don't. The Lada is an enigma.It Just Keeps On Keeping On: Land Rover DefenderThe Defender's heritage traces back to the original Land Rover Series launched in 1948. Designed to be a rugged all terrain 4x4 vehicles, the Defender (the official name since 1983) is heavy on performance and light on convenience and comfort. Like the Jeep, the Defender was updated each year but in ways that were barely noticeable leaving it today with that "raw" 40s feel.It's noisy, underpowered (2.5L turbodiesel), can barely hit 85 as a top speed and is far more comfortable on a forest trail than a city street. It is however unarguably practical and reliable for those who want a reasonably priced ($22,000) rugged 4x4. Land Rover had scheduled it to discontinue the Defender in 2016 but sales continue at a healthy clip meaning the "ugly duckling" may have another year ahead of it.The Ultimate Off-Roader for the Rich: Mercedes-Benz G ClassAbout the same time the U.S. Army was looking at the Hummer, the German Army was in need of a "Geländewagen" or off-road vehicle. Mercedes-Benz teamed with the Canadian firm Magna Steyr and created the monster G Class that more than satisfied the German Army's requirements.Unlike Hummer, Mercedes saw the huge potential for a civilian model of their geländewagen and promptly brought out a model to market to the general public. It was, and remains, a hit.Like the other models in this story, the G Class has retained its original boxy, militaristic profile. However, that is where the similarities end. If required this thing will perform with the best of the off-roaders and it should. The off-roader comes equipped with an obscene 610 hp V12 biturbo engine, coil springs and gas-pressurized shock absorbers. Front stabilizer bar, permanent all-wheel drive with 2-speed transfer case and other off-road features it has the stuff it needs.Inside however, this thing is all hand sewn leather luxury. Like the Hummer, this $220,000 off-roader has found a huge market for folks who think a gravel parking lot is off-roading but love the look and status of the G Class.African Queen of Off-Road Vehicles: Toyota Land Cruiser J70If you need a ride that will take you across mud, snow, ice, loose sand, up an impossible incline or over a monster boulder or even cross a river, then you want a Toyota Land Cruiser J70. That's a "J70" not the $80,000 V8 Land Cruiser that is sold in the U.S. today. Unfortunately to get one of these original off-road warriors you have to live in Africa or Australia.The J70 has been legendary among drivers dealing with rough terrain from jungles to deserts to mountain tracks stretching back to 1960. The J70 series is the worker bee among Land Cruisers, a virtually indestructible vehicle and one that has a lot of energy in it. Like many of the rides mentioned here, the Toyota started out as a tough number and changes from the original design have been modest. When you have a good thing, and you focus on a single mission, it appears that staying the course is the road to success.