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2014 Four Wheeler of the Year

The Final Five
Four Wheeler Staff | Writer
Posted December 5, 2013

Five Redesigned SUVs Battle to Win Four Wheeler of the Year 2014

It would be awesome If you could saunter into your local new car dealership, borrow each new sport utility vehicle for a week, and then drive each one in almost every terrain imaginable. Think of what you would learn about each vehicle!

Unfortunately, a week long on-and off-road testdrive probably isn't going to happen. Most dealerships are accommodating, but week long testdrives with a vast majority of the time off-road? Seriously? Besides, even if it were to happen, a week with each new SUV would really suck time from the mandatory things in your life, like your employment.

This is why we host Four Wheeler of the Year, our annual test of all-new or substantially revised SUVs. Since we're not really doing anything anyway, we use our magical powers to round up the newest machines and drive hundreds of miles on- and off road over the course of a week. In addition, we dig into every nook and cranny of the vehicles to use, analyze features, and gather real-world acceleration, braking, and ramp travel index numbers. You can read a detailed summary of how we test the vehicles elsewhere in this story.

To be eligible for Four Wheeler of the Year, each SUV must have a two-speed transfer case (or equivalent), a production run of at least 1,500 vehicles available in the U.S., and be on sale by January 15, 2014. For 2014, we had five vehicles in our test; the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, Dodge Durango Limited, Land Rover Range Rover Sport, and Toyota 4Runner Trail Premium. The Land Rover Range Rover also met the testing criteria, but the company chose to send the Range Rover Sport.

During the week long test, our panel of nine judges was required to take detailed notes and score each vehicle in a variety of categories. You can read about those categories and how scoring is accomplished elsewhere in this story. The job of the judges was to identify each SUV's strengths and weaknesses and then score them appropriately, with off-road performance being the most heavily weighted.

In the end, it was a hard-fought battle. The cost of testing included a slashed tire, a couple of gouged and bent air dams, some trim damage, and dinged-up rockers and skidplating. However, what we learned through the weeklong test was priceless, and hopefully it'll help make your next SUV buying decision.

So what's new with these five rigs? What attributes did they have that worked well? What needs improvement? What SUV takes home the Four Wheeler of the Year 2014 honors? Read on.

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