It’s true. There isn’t a better job than having to test 4x4s. Not that it is easy, but it sure is gratifying. Pushing a new rig to its limits and beyond is what makes our world go around.
Once a year our job description includes testing and picking a winner in our 4x4 of the Year test. That means researching what vehicles are new or substantially revised compared to a previous year’s offering in a way that would make them perform differently (hopefully better!) than before. Ideally the different OEs would all have something to offer and would be willing to let us test their rigs as they should be tested: in the dirt, rocks, sand, and even snow if we could find it.
Some manufacturers are a bit reluctant to let their brand-new 4x4s be tested this way, as other magazines don’t test to our high standards. They test in a way that minimizes damage and really doesn’t show true off-road ability. In fact, we’ve been asked to water down our test to the lowest common denominator, to make sure the least capable vehicle has a chance. Our answer to that is, of course, “No way.” That’s like making sure everyone on opposing football teams gets a trophy and there is no winner. What the heck is that all about? Our test is a competition that stands above the others. You can rest assured that regardless of what vehicles are entered, the one that wins will be the most capable one of the bunch and entitled to wear the crown of 4x4 of the Year.
This year we had a competent group of 4x4s that we enjoyed testing the tar out of. They all survived somewhat unscathed. While we do not condone or try to damage vehicles, the only way to ensure that would be to leave them in the garage. Our judges have more years of combined experience than any other 4x4 test around, and we know how to drive and prevent damage—if the vehicle is capable.
Also, our playground is the same as yours, and it is also our testing grounds. Over the years we have refined and sculpted each area and terrain we tackle to give us real-world indicators of what you would attempt. If one vehicle can traverse a trail without damage where another tears its bumper off, then we have to judge accordingly. While other mags would change their test trail because it was too tough for the competitors, we feel that the competitors were too weak for the trail, and hence we judge them by our standards. We also know that the most new 4x4 buyers won’t push their vehicle to the extreme wheeling limits we do, but that’s the point. We do it for you. Somebody has to do it!