Every year we do our SUV of the year testing, and there always seems to be one vehicle that surprises us, going above and beyond our expectations. This year that vehicle was the all-new Mitsubishi Endeavor.

With chunky styling on a car-based unibody platform, we expected the Endeavor was just another new SUV with a bold look designed to capitalize on the current SUV trend. Our judges were split on whether they liked the stand-apart styling. But after spending some time with the Endeavor, we realized that the true beauty of this SUV was in its function.

Under the hood is a 215hp 3.8L DOHC V-6 mated to a four-speed Sportronic automanual transmission. This engine has plenty of grunt, even in the AWD guise, and the transmission makes the most of the power. Our judges thought the Sportronic transmission offered the best automanual setup of any vehicle in this test, including the Porsche. The Mitsubishi Sportronic allows you to select a gear, and it will hold that gear all the way up to the rev limiter without shifting. Finally, an automanual trans that doesn't think it is smarter than the driver. This just added to the driving experience and helped to soften the original views of the judges.

On the road, the Endeavor shines. It has a quiet and compliant ride with a driving position that was comfortable for everyone who drove it. The brakes were awesome, stopping the Mitsubishi within 5 feet of the test-leading Volkswagen Touareg from 60 mph. Steering was also well matched to the chassis, and the Endeavor handled everything that we asked of it, albeit with a little more body roll than we like.

The interior offered good visibility and an organic/industrial look that some testers took time to appreciate. All of the controls worked well, and everything was placed within easy reach. We were also entertained by the compass and information center, housed at the top of the center stack. If there were any complaints about the Endeavor's interior, it was focused on the stiff rear bench seat, otherwise, this Mitsubishi is an easy vehicle to live with and an even easier one to like.

While it is true that the Endeavor is not as flashy or as luxurious as the competition, it is an SUV that offers all of the basics in a package that works exceptionally well. We think the Endeavor is the best bang for the buck in its class, and as one editor said, "Put some new wheels on it and drive it home." It's that easy.

From the Logbook:
For the price, the Mitsubishi makes for a great daily driver.
Editor Steve Warner

The interior is spacious, with extra legroom.
Feature Editor Travis Noack

The transmission and engine combo is a homerun for Mitsubishi.
Associate Editor Dan Ward

I am surprised at how nice of a vehicle this is for the money.
Associate Editor Sean P. Holman