..... SUV OF THE YEAR

Motor Trend - - Contents - Scott Evans

ACURA RDX • BMW X2

BMW X3 • BMW X4 • CADIL­LAC XT4

FORD ECOSPORT • FORD EDGE • FORD EX­PE­DI­TION HYUNDAI KONA • HYUNDAI SANTA FE • INFINITI QX50 JAGUAR E-PACE • JAGUAR I-PACE • JEEP CHERO­KEE JEEP WRAN­GLER • LAND ROVER RANGE ROVER VE­LAR LEXUS RX 350 L • LIN­COLN NAV­I­GA­TOR MERCEDES-BENZ G-CLASS • MIT­SUBISHI ECLIPSE CROSS NIS­SAN KICKS • SUBARU AS­CENT • SUBARU FORESTER TOY­OTA RAV4 • VOLVO XC40

If you’ve ever stood next to a pi­ano, you’ve prob­a­bly felt the urge to tap ev­ery key, just to hear what they all sound like. Put 36 SUVS in front of our judges, and you get the same re­sult.

Some years it’s more like play­ing chords than in­di­vid­ual notes: lots of crossovers strug­gling to stand out while slav­ishly copy­ing one an­other. This isn’t one of those years. It’s as dis­cor­dant as a cat strolling across the key­board, which makes the job of pick­ing the best SUV that much harder—and that much more in­ter­est­ing.

Take a peek un­der the lids of this year’s pack, and you’ll find live axles and in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sions. Three-, four-, six-, and eight-cylin­der en­gines paired with six-, seven-, eight-, nine-, and 10-speed au­to­mat­ics, plus the oc­ca­sional stick shift or con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion and a few sin­gle­speed re­duc­tion gear­boxes. Gaso­line en­gines and elec­tric mo­tors, some­times to­gether and some­times sep­a­rate. Tur­bocharg­ers, su­per­charg­ers, elec­tric as­sist, and plain old nat­u­ral as­pi­ra­tion. Front-drive, front-drive-based all-wheel drive, rear-based all-wheel drive, and man­u­ally and elec­tron­i­cally shifted four-wheel drive. We even have a vari­able-dis­place­ment en­gine and two AWD sys­tems with no me­chan­i­cal con­nec­tion be­tween the axles.

When it comes to find­ing the high notes among dozens of SUVS, our judges are con­cert pi­anists. Armed with crash safety re­sults, price com­par­isons, equip­ment lists, reams of our own test data, and more than two cen­turies of com­bined ex­pe­ri­ence, we ex­am­ine the com­po­si­tion of ev­ery con­tender against our six key cri­te­ria.

Eval­u­at­ing each ve­hi­cle in such a man­ner al­lows us to fairly se­lect a win­ner from a field that in­cludes cheap and cheer­ful starter rides, six-fig­ure lux­ury ve­hi­cles, pur­pose-built elec­tric ve­hi­cles, ev­ery­day fam­ily haulers, and the SUV that in­vented SUVS.

Find­ing mid­dle C among 25 mod­els and their nu­mer­ous vari­ants isn’t easy, but when you hear it, you un­der­stand why it’s right in the mid­dle of the key­board.

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Words Mo­tortrend staff Pho­to­graphs Robin Tra­jano

HPC fea­tures a high-speed oval, a wind­ing road, and an off-road course.

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