Just like aqua terra, I'm changing the climate with my 2004 Silverado 3/4 ton crew cab 4X4... I got it used off the lot with low miles for a good deal a few months ago. It's got the Vortec 6.slow V8 with auto which is just fine for me, I didn't need the diesel although it was tempting.
As an offroad vehicle so far it's proven itself to be alright... it does have the locking differentials (causing all 4 wheels to spin at the same speed, wreaking havoc as soon as I get traction on a tight corner
) and it desperately needs more agressive tires and I'd like to put a beefy bushguard and a winch on it.
If gas mileage is a concern, NO 4X4 will live up to your expectations... mine gets about 11 city/18 highway but it's got boatloads of power. If you get a smaller vehicle with a 4-banger you'll still be lucky to get 30 mpg highway because they're underpowered but still fairly heavy and geared low to make up for the lack of power. And you won't be able to pull anything.
The best compromise would be a Toyota with a V6 I think, if they just weren't so damned expensive.
If you're serious about offroading, I'd get something older that I wouldn't care about scraping up the doors on, and be prepared to get a bushguard, winch, roll cage etc. I have a co-worker who's really passionate about off-roading, she's a moderator on this site: www.whiteknight.ca
. Probably a good source of info, though I've never checked it out much.
She said 'I'm going out with my girlfriends,
margueritas at the Holiday Inn',
Lord have mercy, my only thought
was Tequila makes her clothes fall off...