Motor Trend’s SUV (ish) of the Year Contenders

By Chris Hussey

10.10.2008

Motor Trend has released the contenders for the coveted 2009 Sport/Utility Vehicle of the Year. In a time when the industry appears to be transitioning towards smaller vehicles, there are 13 contenders for the golden calipers. This group includes:

BMW X6
Chevrolet Traverse
Dodge Journey
Ford Flex
Honda Pilot
Kia Borrego
Infiniti EX
Infiniti FX
Lexus LX 570
Nissan Murano
Subaru Forester
Toyota Sequoia
Volkswagen Tiguan

Motor Trend calls this a very “diverse” group. That’s an understatement. Personally, I find it extremely difficult to compare the Kia Borrego to a Ford Flex. Why? The Flex is nowhere near being an SUV. It is, simply stated, the modern-day station wagon, and a very nice one if I might add. Of course, the automobile industry forbids those two words. Therefore, in order to be politically correct, we’ll call it a crossover.

Finding the real SUVs in this bunch is like playing “Where’s Waldo.” According to my calculations, a crossover (wagon) is in some way instantly transformed into a Sport/Utility by adding all wheel drive, regardless of the fact that some sedans have more ground clearance. I find this very disturbing, not to mention, confusing. Therefore, I have a suggestion for Motor Trend.

It’s time to change formulas. The SUV of the Year category should only contain traditional body on frame SUVs. I know this segment is shrinking, but that should make the competition tougher. I’m talking about vehicles that can get dirty, not carry groceries for “hockey moms.” Yes, that was a Palin reference. In addition, a new category, Crossover of the Year, should be added. This is for the “wagon don’t wannabes” and “pseudo minivans.”

Under these new categories, the current field would look something like this:

SUV of the Year
Kia Borrego
Toyota Sequoia
Lexus LX 570

Crossover of the Year
BMW X6
Chevrolet Traverse
Dodge Journey
Ford Flex
Honda Pilot
Infiniti EX
Infiniti FX
Nissan Murano
Subaru Forester
Volkswagen Tiguan

As for winners, I’ll take the Kia Borrego for SUV of the year and the Chevrolet Traverse for Crossover of the year. The Borrego places real off-road ability in an attractive package. The Traverse, while obviously brand-engineered, is the first to offer the direct injection engine.

Another alternative might be to rename the “SUV of the Year” award to something less specific such as “Utility Vehicle of the Year,” not only because of the negative associations tied to SUV name, but also the fact that there are fewer and fewer traditional new SUVs introuduced each year, so naming an award after a segment that quite possibly might not have any more new entrants EVER seems somewhat counterproductive.

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Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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1 Comment

  1. I’d advocate for the second solution (renaming the award to something less specific), because I don’t think it’s appropriate to call it the SUV award when there are few true new SUVs being introduced.

    I would expect that the Flex will win instead of the Traverse, since the Traverse isn’t much more than a slightly restyled Enclave/Acadia/Outlook – the Flex is an all-new package. Both are nice choices, though.

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