Quick reminder: To qualify, a vehicle has to be all-new or significantly revisited from a previous model. We typically don't allow a vehicle to qualify with a new engine or new body styling or some new interior features; however, if it has a new chassis and suspension, some new engine technology, and a redesigned dash and center stack, we'll likely accept it. Vehicles have to be on sale by January 1 of the year in which it is competing (here, meaning 2009), and must expect to sell approximately 2000 units in a 12-month period.
We run each of these SUVs through a battery of tests, then take them on the road over the course of several days, over multiple types of terrain and road surfaces, looking for their smallest defects. Of course, some of these vehicles (and we'll let you guess which ones) have some serious weaknesses that make themselves known pretty much the first time you hit pavement or a dirt road.
We'll be judging this year's competition with three distinct criterions in mind: Superiority (in their competitive segment, as well as the auto industry at large), Significance (for their own manufacturer, as well as the industry at large), and Value (how much bang do you get for the buck).
Clearly, as you can tell from the makeup of this group, the segment is shifting. Three of these vehicles could actually be considered sport-activity coupes (X6, FX, and EX). They're all amazing to drive and could easily be some of the best-handling vehicles we've ever tested.
Three others (Kia Borrego, Lexus LX 570, and Toyota Sequoia) have more traditionally setup platforms, meaning a body-on-frame with a separate and engagable four-wheel-drive system with a low-range gear.
The rest (Chevy Travers, Ford Flex, Honda Pilot, Nissan Murano, Subaru Forester, and VW Tiguan) are somewhere in the middle, each with their own distinct personalities and sporting a wide variety of all-wheel-drive technology.
Which do you think we picked? Stay tuned for more as we get closer to our announcement date near the beginning of November (which really isn't that far away).
Of The Year: The Contenders - 2009 Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the Year Video
MT Editor-In-Chief Angus MacKenzie introduces the thirteen contenders vying for this year's Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the Year award.