The staff of Truckin' magazine prides itself on putting together the magazine for truck enthusiasts, and as part of our reporting on trends in the industry comes our reviewing new vehicles to let you know what is hot. Not only do we test trucks but we take it a step further and let you know, each year, which SUV is deserving of Truckin's SUV of the Year title.
Just as with the Truck of the Year competition, the first step of narrowing down our winner involves a meeting of the staff to determine which vehicles even qualify. Only those SUVs that are all-new or significantly revised meet the criteria. For 2005, our finalists included the all-new Chevrolet Equinox, Hummer H2 SUT, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, Land Rover LR3, Nissan Pathfinder. We invited the Hyundai Tucson, Mercury Mariner, and Nissan X-terra to join us, but due to their late availability, the manufacturers were unable to provide those vehicles in time for this test.
With the finalists chosen, we made phone calls to the companies and set up each vehicle's two-week stay with our in-house critics. Over the course of the visit, the SUVs were put through a battery of rigorous track tests, challenging off-road trails, weekend driving, work-day commutes, and the sensitive butts of six demanding staffers. On track day, Senior Tech Editor Bob Ryder expertly piloted each vehicle down the quarter-mile, while the rest of the crew was busy recording data and snapping photos of each event.
For the off-road portion of our test, we took the vehicles out for a day of 'wheeling at our local Off-Highway Vehicle area, where the SUVs were put through their paces. A flat tire, a tweaked driveshaft carrier bearing, a staff-modified side step, some desert pinstriping, and a few stucks later, we easily determined which SUVs could take us to the peak of the tallest mountains and over challenging two-tracks, and which one should be relegated to wet parking lots.
However, earning the top spot in our SUV of the Year competition isn't just about track numbers and off-road prowess. We also take in to consideration ride and handling on our expansive freeway network and favorite mountain twisties, as well as passenger comfort, useable space, and available features. We compare each vehicle not only to others in the test, but against its intended market and always keep price as a consideration, since the final points are tallied up at the end.
After two weeks of logbook criticism, maxed-out gas cards, and back-numbing miles, the dust settled and the arguments were made for just one of the six new SUVs to be awarded the winner of our competition. Read about each of the contenders and discover which SUV impressed the staff enough to be named the 2005 Truckin' SUV of the Year.