Who Wins Our 8-Way Thrashfest?
For the last 24 years we've been bringing you the new-rig skinny on what's hot and what's not in the 4x4 world. Every eligible vehicle vies for the top honors of our 4x4 of the Year test, and this year was no different. We flogged eight new rides into submission over two weeks. On this, our 25th anniversary of our test, it was the same-other than the results. We had some surprises, and some preconceived notions were well founded, borne out by some tough trails and arduous conditions we subjected the vehicles to.
To even get to this point, a competing 4x4 has to be all-new or substantially revised. Vehicles must have more engine power, different suspension, or something which would make a substantial difference, and not just a sheetmetal change. A two-speed transfer case is mandatory to eliminate CUVs and the like, and it must be available for purchase by January 15, 2007. Also, at least 1,500 must be produced and commercially available to prevent one-off ringers. And, of course, we need the vehicle to test by October 2006. Those can be some hard rules to follow, and many manufacturers just can't cut it. Regardless, we had a bumper crop of highly qualified 4x4s this year, all waiting for the rigors of our staff.
Our contestants this year include the Chevrolet Avalanche LT, Tahoe LT, Silverado 1500 Extra Cab LT2, GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab SLT, Jeep Wrangler JK, Chevy Silverado Extended Cab, Hummer H3, Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Kia Sorento EX, and Toyota FJ Cruiser. All were new or significantly different from previous years, and some were more different than others. For instance, the fullsize GM offerings came with the Gov-Lok rear axles, while the smaller players had pushbutton locking rear diffs except for the Kia. Even at that, the testing and number crunching added up to only one winner, which you'll have to read further to find out. Enjoy!
Be sure and check out Page 2 for the results from all the events and vehicles and all the past winners!