Of all the tests in all the world that really matter, the 4-Wheel & Off-Road 4x4 of the Year is the one that counts. As both our readership and the automotive industry know, our test is the hardest-hitting, no-holds-barred test of a 4x4s real worth. For our readers, this information is priceless when determining your buying preferences. Thats why for the 20th year straight, our staff of pros took nine eligible vehicles out to the boonies and wailed on them til they whimpered.
Our 4x4 of the Year test isnt just an extended testdrive like some other magazines do. Instead we put these rigs through their paces on the road, track, trail, and a few places youd never expect to see these stockers tread.
But not every vehicle can win, and only a select few are even eligible. First, the vehicle must either be all new or have major mechanical changes from the previous version. The vehicle must be available to the public by January 15, and at least 2,500 must be produced to eliminate any one-off ringers. Also, the manufacturers must provide us with the vehicles in time for the test regardless of the introduction date. Most importantly, each must be a 4x4 with a two-speed transfer case, not an all-wheel-drive station wagon.
For this years test we received a stable of nine vehicles which met these standards: the Chevrolet Avalanche, the Ford Explorer, the Dodge Ram 1500, the Isuzu Axiom, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland, the Jeep Liberty, the Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Longbed, the Nissan Xterra, and the Suzuki XL-7. If your favorite new vehicle wasnt in the test, its because it wasnt available or eligible, or the manufacturer declined to participate. It was a very close race for some of the contestants this year, with more than a few surprises to keep us guessing until the last figures were tallied up. Check out what we did and how we came to our conclusions and greet the 2002 4x4 of the Year.