I've been four wheeling in Chevy pickups since 1967. Well, time for a change, went to a Jeep Liberty 6 speed. It is much easier to drive. Where the Chevy used brute strength - torque and ground clerance to clear obstacles, the Jeep does it by finesse - the coil spring suspension conforms to the terrain providing traction. I love the 6 speed - nice and tight and a good feel. It is very European - snick, snick, snick as I run through the gears. The Liberty is set up for off-road - good articultion and little front or rear overhang. It is not a cross-over car-based SUV like the Honda CRV or Toyota RAV4 - it should not be compared to them in terms of fuel economy and ride.
Six-speed transmission, both on and off road handling, a real two speed transfer case, axle articulation, ground clearance, and minimal overhang. The spare tire is where it should be - out of the way on the tailgate. This helps ground clearnce off the road.
Make skid-plates and tow hooks standard for a four wheel drive vehicle.