Don't Blame Us If your Favorite Didn't Win
Every year since 1974, Four Wheeler has collected and tested the newest 4x4 SUV offerings to select a winner of the coveted Four Wheeler of the Year award. And every year, no matter which 4x4 wins, we receive plenty of complaints and hate mail because a specific reader brand-favorite didn’t take home the trophy. Well, the fact is, that brand, or vehicle in particular, whatever it may be, might not be the best vehicle in that class.
People are often blinded by brand, but when you put the vehicles side-by-side like we do, sit in them, and drive them over the same sections of road and trail for an entire week, it’s usually painfully obvious which is the best 4x4. So, if your favorite vehicle didn’t win this year, don’t be mad at us, we don’t build ’em. We only test them the way we think you would or should use them.
This year seemed really close, though. There was a lot of speculation during the competition about which 4x4 would take the prize. One competitor was surprisingly maneuverable with awesome visibility and traction, another had great ground clearance and a more analog feel that some testers enjoyed, a third was the sleeper jack-of-all-trades, and so on. Each vehicle was really good at something, and unfortunately, not so good at something else. It really made for a great competition this year. The real surprise for most of us was the ’14 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. As much as I wanted to hate this 4x4 because of the look of the front end, I couldn’t deny its off-road ability. Don’t laugh—for a stock 4x4, it traversed pretty difficult trails with ease. It would certainly out-trail anything in its class. And as much as readers complained about it taking over the same badge as the ’84-’01 XJ, I suspect that stock-for-stock, the new Cherokee would outperform the old on- and off-road, of course without taking the addition of aftermarket parts and ease of modification into consideration. We may actually test that theory later on.
Anyway, as with every year, the 2014 Four Wheeler of the Year winner is sure to cause a commotion. But let me throw out some facts and figures before you turn the page to see who won and flip your lid to fire up the hate-mail machine. The tech specs alone should ease your mind as to why it’s our winner. Forget about your favorite brand for a minute. Imagine an SUV with a supercharged V-8 engine that punches out 510hp and 461 lb-ft of torque between 2,500 and 5,500 rpm. Attach that engine to an awesome-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission that helps explosively propel the vehicle from 0 to 60 in just five seconds. Give it a 2.93:1 low-range transfer case. Suspend the SUV with over 11 inches of ground clearance and almost as much wheeltravel as a Ford Raptor, give the driver the ability to use all that power and suspension without electronic nannies curbing the fun, and install some of the most adjustable and comfortable seats you’ve ever sat in surrounded by a plush interior with every amenity you can think of, including a built-in mini-fridge. Sound like a winner yet?
Just as with every Four Wheeler of the Year, I’ll be looking forward to the comments and complaints, especially the irrational hate mail—that’s my absolute favorite. I’ve even included my email address here for your convenience.