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Four Wheeler Of The Year: Through The Years

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on February 6, 2012
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Four Wheeler of the Year, our annual new 4x4 competition, was started way back in 1974, with our inaugural winner being the fullsize ’74 Jeep Cherokee. Back then the award was simply called the “Four Wheeler Achievement Award.”

This award was handed out to the editors’ choice of the best new 4x4, eschewing the head-to-head competition you know today. We lauded the Cherokee as being the “First all-new sports utility vehicle to enter the 4x4 market for some time” and said, “It is an all-new vehicle from the ground up, with many unique features to appeal to the modern, sophisticated 4-wheel-drive owner. The Cherokee combines rugged off-road performance with superior passenger luxury and comfort in a nifty, small 2-door vehicle that can go nearly anywhere in the boondocks.” We also noted at the time that, “We did get an extraordinary amount of silt in the power operated tailgate window, which caused it to operate with difficulty.” A 10,000-mile test, including an uneventful trip through 1,500 miles of Baja backcountry without any mechanical issues solidified our choice.

Pickup trucks were split off in to their own class in 1988 to avoid “apples-to-oranges” comparisons, when the Chevrolet K1500 Sportside pickup beat out the Jeep Cherokee, winner of the SUV class, to win Of The Year, but it wasn’t until 1990 that we offered two separate tests and trophies. That year it was the ’90 Mitsubishi Mighty Max V-6 that took our first Pickup Truck of the Year trophy after beating out the Ford Ranger SuperCab 4.0L, GMC S-15 Sonoma Club Coupe, and the Nissan Hardbody King Cab pickups. This was also the year that we encouraged reader’s to vote for their own OTY winner via their “touch-tone telephone.” Of course, we only charged $0.95 per minute for the pleasure.

Over the past 60 competitions, including both Four Wheeler of the Year and Pickup Truck of the Year, we have handed our award out to 13 different manufacturers, with Jeep and Dodge/Ram leading the pack tied with 10 trophies each. Chevy has nine and Ford rounds out the top three spots with eight. Some of the more notable recipients include the ’76 International-Harvester Traveler (International’s only win), the ’77 Dodge Macho Power Wagon, and the ’97 Jeep Cherokee XJ – still a crowd favorite to this day. Jeep’s Grand Cherokee is the model with the most awards, with five. Oddly enough, Lexus won back-to-back titles with their GX470 in 2003 and 2004 and the Wrangler didn’t earn an award on our list until 2007. Other manufacturers to take back-to-back trophies are Ford, Dodge/Ram, Jeep, and Land Rover. No manufacturer has won both Four Wheeler of the Year and Pickup Truck of the Year in the same year.

Four Wheeler of the Year Award History
Four Wheeler of the Year:
’74 – Jeep Cherokee
’75 – Chevrolet Blazer
’76 – International-Harvester Traveler
’77 – Dodge Macho Power Wagon
’78 – Ford Bronco
’79 – Chevrolet LUV
’80 – Ford Bronco
’81 – Toyota SR5
’82 – Dodge Power Ram 50
’83 – Chevrolet S-Blazer
’84 – Jeep Cherokee XJ
’85 – Toyota SR5
’86 – Jeep Comanche
’87 – Nissan Pathfinder
’88 – Chevrolet K1500
’89 – Range Rover
’90 – Ford Explorer
’91 – Ford Explorer two-door
’92 – Chevrolet K1500 Blazer
’93 – Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ
’94 – Land Rover Defender 90
’95 – Land Rover Discovery
’96 – Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ
’97 – Jeep Cherokee XJ
’98 – Dodge Durango
’99 – Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ
’00 – Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
’01 – Nissan Pathfinder
’02 – Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland ZJ
’03 – Lexus GX470
’04 – Lexus GX470 (w/Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System)
’05 – Volkswagen Touareg V-10 TDI
’06 – Toyota Land Cruiser
’07 – Jeep Wrangler Rubicon JK
’08 – Hummer H3 Alpha
’09 – Nissan Xterra Off-Road
’10 – Toyota 4Runner Trail
’11 – Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland WK2

Pickup Truck of the Year:
’90 – Mitsubishi Mighty Max
’91 – GMC K2500 HD
’92 – Dodge Dakota Club Cab
’93 – Ford Ranger SuperCab
’94 – Chevrolet S-10 ZR2
’95 – Ford F-250 SuperCab Power Stroke
’96 – Toyota Tacoma XtraCab
’97 – Dodge Dakota Club Cab
’98 – Toyota Tacoma XtraCab TRD
’99 – Chevrolet Silverado Z71
’00 – Dodge Dakota Quad Cab
’01 – Toyota Tacoma Double Cab TRD
’02 – Dodge Ram Quad Cab
’03 – GMC Sierra Quadrasteer
’04 - Nissan Titan
’05 – Dodge Ram Power Wagon
’06 – Dodge Ram TRX4
’07 – Chevrolet Avalanche Z71
’08 – Ford Super Duty FX4
’09 – Hummer H3T
’10 – Ram Power Wagon
’11 – Ford F-150 SVT Raptor 6.2L

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