2014 Four Wheeler of the Year: Day 1

Putting The Latest Trucks and SUV’s to the Test

Agustin JimenezPhotographer, Writer

Every year we round up the latest batch of significantly new trucks and SUV’s and run them through a series of tests in order to find out which one of them will take the coveted titles of Four Wheeler of the Year and Pickup Truck of the Year. This year, we had more than a few vehicles show up for testing and we are pretty stoked about testing them all to find out what they’re made of.

This year’s test kicked off bright and early in our Southern California office as we headed for a short 30 mile drive across traffic filled Los Angeles freeway’s making our way to Off Road Evolution in Fullerton, California to run all the vehicles up a 30 degree RTI ramp. Some of the vehicles made it further than others but what really surprised us was watching some of the vehicles that you normally wouldn't think could flex much more than a soggy toothpick. Once all the vehicles were done trying to get as far up the RTI ramp as possible, we put all three trucks up on the racks to check out what they had going on underneath.

Before Heading out, the Four Wheeler crew gathered around and made predictions as to how this year’s test vehicles would fare. As it turns out, out of our 10 judges, 7 of them believed that the Range Rover Sport would come out on top thanks to its 500-plus horsepower. Two of the other remaining judges felt the Grand Cherokee with its EcoDiesel V6 would take the top honors while a lone judge believed that the all new Jeep Cherokee would be the overall winner. Oddly enough, 70 percent of our judging crew also thought the Durango would fare the worst among this year’s pack. Even Mel Wade, owner of Off Road Evolution made some expert predictions on how the trucks and SUV’s would stack up. As far as the SUV’s go, Mel favored the 2014 Jeep Cherokee to win. We won’t know for sure until all the testing has been finalized.

After lots of speculation and observation, we headed north on I-5 for our test track out in the sticks to get some acceleration and braking tests in. Don’t worry; we didn’t just stick to the roads, we found this awesome twisty section of mountain highway with tons of good tight hairpin turns and long sweeping corners that made for the perfect spot to get some real feedback as to how handling and suspension performance would be on the test vehicles.

Once our on road performance joy ride was over, we managed to find absolutely awesome high speed trail that lead us across the last leg of the High Desert before calling it a night.