Hmm... I will consider that. I owned an '85 4runner in to mid 2000s, and it was a lot of fun. Was not built for overlanding. It did have electrical gremlins however.How about a first gen 4 runner. If you find one I am working on a fwc type shell popup for them or can fit any truck.
We need more perimeters on how far off road you are going to get; how much clearance you need and number of passengers. Overlanding has a lot of romantic connotations but none that pertain to everyone. My idea of Overlanding, and I don't even like the term, is long term, self contained travel, sometime over awful roads or trails. I've had 13, 4WD's including many hard core rock crawlers and boulevard queens, and only a few were deemed Overlanding approved. If you just want to go on a few rutted or snow/ice/sandy dirt roads taking very little stuff, then my answer was a new Subaru Cross Trek, mostly because of the very small package, improved drive/traction system with 'X-Mode' and great mpg- possible 35 mpg and 500+ mile range. I was going to add a 1-1/2 inch lift for better deep rut manners, but decided against it because the trailing arms hang down too far giving too little down swing. While the clearance is very good, the worst part is the approach angle. I can see they did that for aerodynamics, but it cuts down on the approach. Also a negative, no transfer case. with the new metal belt driven CVT the need is less for a t. case. But it's good enough for short or long runs and trying to get to town from our ranch on the West Slope Northern Sierra Nevada in winter. One other car comes to mind with your wants: a 1991-2001 Jeep XJ (the not-so-grand Cherokee). I've had 3 of them and driven about 300K miles in them. This is one of the best on/off road rigs ever and has stood the test of time. Why? Lightweight: 3000 pounds. Narrow. Not tall. Solid axles. Great approach, breakover, and departure angles. Towable without disconnecting the driveshaft. Great drive system (with the AW-4) and legendary 4.0L engine. They are getting harder to find, but still out there. I still have this 1999 with True Tracs and 2 inch lift:
Another item is: how much time do you want to have invested in fixing whatever you come up with to "Overlanding" standing? Many Japanese export small rigs have limited fix up support compared to the amount of aftermarket for the XJ.
As far as my 'Overlanding' rig it is a RAM pickup with a big drivetrain upgrade and an old Lance Lite Camper that will allow us to make our 120 day circumnavigation around the U.S., clockwise, staying within 200 miles of a international border or ocean, and camping on every beach that will allow vehicles.
VW Currently makes the AllTrack Golfs which are AWD and get excellent fuel economy.. can get em in 6MT, and are wagons.. but they are not setup like the country was for rough terrain, skid plates and a lift would likely be needed.Now this is what I'm talking about. However, the subaru crosstrek is proably a better and modern version!
Crosstrek's are nice. What about Forresters or if you don't want the toyota tax a Colorado or Frontier? Did you have a budget in mind? That may help narrow it down.Thanks for the detailed answer. At this point, the subaru cross trek sounds like the best option. I intend to do a lot of road tripping on the interestates and a bit of light off-road/dirt road type of driving. In the past, I had a 02 toyota tacoma regular cab 4x4. It had everything I needed and more, except that it was too small. I would get another one 05-14, but they are expensive for what you get.