The 2009 Motor Trend Sport Utility of the Year judging is underway, and we're testing, poking, prodding, and otherwise flogging this year's field of 13 contenders. It's a diverse bunch, which reflects the way the sport/utility segment is atomizing into a series of niches -- everything from heavy duty body-on-frame machines to thinly-veiled cars.
As with all of our OTY contests, Sport/Utility of the Year isn't a comparison test. It's also open only to all-new or substantially upgraded vehicles that have gone on sale in the 12 months from November 1, 2007. We look for the pick of each year's crop of new SUVs, not to revisit vehicles that have been on sale for the past five years.
Each SUOTY contender is being evaluated against three simple criteria:
1. Superiority. We look at engineering excellence, advancement in design, utilization of resources, and safety. Vehicle concept and execution are important, as are use of materials, packaging, dynamics, styling, and fuel consumption.
2. Significance. How well the vehicle does the job its maker intended. And how it impacts its particular market segment, influences consumer perceptions, and transforms product-development trends.
3. Value. How each vehicle compares against its direct rivals. A vehicle with a low sticker price might not be as good a value as a more expensive vehicle that delivers outstanding performance, quality, and functionality.
So without further ado, here is this year's field. What do you think? What's your pick as the early favorite? Stay tuned to MotorTrend.com and the December 2008 issue of Motor Trend for the complete story and more on this year's field, our testing process, and the vehicle that will take home the calipers.
* BMW X6
* Chevrolet Traverse
* Dodge Journey
* Ford Flex
* Honda Pilot
* Kia Borrego
* Infiniti EX
* Infiniti FX
* Lexus LX570
* Nissan Murano
* Subaru Forester
* Toyota Sequoia
* Volkswagen Tiguan
Photo by Brian Vance