Each year, Truckin's SUV tests and evaluates the latest crop of SUVs in order to determine which vehicle is worthy of SUV of the Year, an honor that carries a great degree of respectability, since Truckin's SUV is the only consumer automotive magazine that focuses exclusively on sport utility vehicles. Which new-for-'03 SUV came out ahead of the rest? The staff of Truckin's SUV has thoroughly driven, evaluated, and scored each new sport utility for 2003 in order to make the most educated choice for SUV of the Year. This year, 10 vehicles were pitted against each other for top SUV, all of which are either totally new for 2003, or radically redesigned. The 10 contestants are: Cadillac Escalade ESV, Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT (V-8), Ford Expedition, Honda Pilot, Kia Sorento, Land Rover Discovery, Lincoln Navigator, Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota 4Runner (V-8), and the Volvo XC90.
These 10 vehicles represent all of the new SUVs for 2003 that were available to us at the time of our testing. Some SUV enthusiasts may notice a few vehicles missing from this list, a number of which have been introduced just recently. Because of the newness of these vehicles, or due to some other unforeseen circumstance, several SUVs were not tested, including the following: Nissan Murano, Lincoln Aviator, Isuzu Ascender,Land Rover Range Rover, Honda Element, Porsche Cayenne, Lexus GX470, and the Hummer H2.For testing purposes, each staff member spent quality driving time in each vehicle, becoming accustomed to each one's driveability, styling nuances, working prowess, interior amenities, and drivetrain strengths and weaknesses. Each attribute of the SUV was scored and tallied to check out the sum of these subjective features. On the objective side, we looked at features such as horsepower and torque, curb weight, towing capacity, payload, fuel economy, and of course, price. In addition, we subjected the SUVs to a comprehensive set of performance tests, including quarter-mile times, 0-60 acceleration, and 0-60 braking ability. After careful scrutiny of all of the objective and subjective test data, the staff was close to choosing a winner.
However, other factors in choosing an SUV of the Year must be considered. Since Truckin's SUV is basically an aftermarket-driven magazine, we also looked at the vehicles from a "what could I really do to this sport utility" standpoint. In other words, how well does the vehicle present itself to be modified and improved with aftermarket parts? We also looked carefully at price and value. If an SUV's price tag is in the $45,000-plus range, then its attributes should definitely fit the bill. We've divided this SUV of the Year feature into several parts. The pages after the introduction you're reading here contain detailed information and photography on each of our test vehicles, followed by the announcement of our winner, with further information on that vehicle. Lastly, we end with a look at the best interior of the 10 vehicles, and present our annual Bang for the Buck award. There's also a spec box showing the results of our performance testing on each vehicle - quarter-mile times, 0-60 acceleration, and 60-0 braking tests.
So, after all this testing and close inspection, which SUV won? Read our impressions of the SUVs we tested, then go pick up this month's copy of Truckin's SUV on your newsstand to find out which vehicle is the cream of the crop.