And once again everything is right with the worldAs each of our vehicles were delivered for this year's test, we marveled at how well the manufacturers are beginning to understand our market. If this isn't the modern golden era of four-wheel-drive vehicles, then tell us what is. Sure, we have electronic nannies and suspensions that are more independent than the original 13 colonies, but more and more vehicles are being equipped with real off-road packages these days than ever before. Everything from the Jeep to the Suburban offers extra equipment; better tires, better suspensions, better traction devices, all for the enthusiast or backcountry explorer in you.
As always, Four Wheeler of the Year includes those vehicles which are new or substantially revised for the upcoming model year. In order to be eligible for an invite to Four Wheeler of the Year, vehicles must meet certain criteria, including-but not limited to-having a two-speed transfer case, having at least 500 production vehicles available in the U.S., being all-new from the ground up, being substantially revised or offering a significant upgrade in suspension or drivetrain, and available by January 15, 2007. This year, our seven-competitor field included the Chevrolet Tahoe Z71, Chevrolet Suburban Z71, Hummer H3, Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, Toyota FJ Cruiser, and Kia Sorento. Declining our invites for this test were Chrysler with its new Aspen, Ford with its new Expedition, Lincoln with its new Navigator, and Mercedes-Benz with its new GL-class.
We score each of the vehicles based on five weighted categories that include Trail Performance (30%), Empirical (25%), On-Pavement (20%), Interior (15%), and Exterior (10%).
The Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe are completely new for 2007, being built on the very impressive GMT900 platform, which does away with torsion bars and questionable brakes of the previous generation and gives the General's customers a truly modern platform for these perennial favorites. Both our rigs came equipped with the 320hp and 340-lb-ft of torque 5.3L OHV V-8 with flex-fuel capability and Active Fuel Management, backed by the Hydramatic 4L60 four-speed automatic transmission and equipped with the Z71 off-road package that included a high-capacity air cleaner, locking rear differential, tubular assist steps (which we could have done without), P265/65R18 (31.6x10.4 inches) Bridgestone tires, 18-inch aluminum wheels, skidplate package, and unique styling treatments.
The Hummer H3 is identical to last year's model, with one important exception-a new 3.7L SOHC I-5 replaces the 3.5L from 2006. This change results in an output jump from 220 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque to 242 hp and 242 lb-ft of torque. Ours also came equipped with the five-speed manual and the Adventure package that includes P285/75R16 (32.8x11.2 inches) Bridgestone tires, a 4.03:1 transfer case, 4.56:1 gears, full skidplating, rear locker, rock rails, and specially tuned suspension.
The Jeep Wrangler JK line is completely new for 2007, with virtually no carry-over parts from the TJ. We invited both the two-door (95.4-inch wheelbase) and Unlimited (four-door, 116-inch wheelbase) for our test and both arrived with the 202hp and 237-lb-ft of torque 3.8L OHV V-6 with automatic transmissions and the awesome Rubicon package that now includes front and rear lockers, an electronic disconnecting sway bar, 4:1 transfer case, P255/75R17 (32x10 inches) BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A tires, rocker protection, 4.10:1 gears, and monotube shocks. The only difference between the Wrangler Rubicon and Rubicon Unlimited were the number of doors, a 20.6-inch stretch in wheelbase, and different tops.