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2016 Motor Trend SUV of the Year Contenders

Motor Trend Logo Motor Trend | Slide 1 of 37: 2016 Motor Trend SUV of the Year aerial view

2016 Motor Trend SUV of the Year Contenders

It's a changing world, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the rapidly evolving field of sport/utility vehicles. While SUVs have typically been rugged, truck-based vehicles, this is no longer a prerequisite. SUVs that are more car than truck are proving immensely popular, and their buyers want to hear more about such things as safety, foul weather performance, ride quality, and ease of entry than about boulder-crawling capability, tall ground clearance, or mounds of pulling power. More than ever, the SUV market is expected to be all things to all people—except perhaps a truck. And the current trends in engineering and marketing in the segment reinforce that."

Our new proving ground allowed us to divine a true standout, our winner.

Seventeen years ago, these words opened our first-ever Sport/Utility of the Year award. In this year's field, there isn't a single new truck-based SUV in the group. Two attempt to redefine what qualifies as an SUV with sedanlike bodywork (which their makers insist on calling "coupes"). All but two are front-wheel drive or FWD-derived all-wheel drive. More than one has the same ground clearance as your typical sedan. Two offer plug-in hybrid drivetrains, and one of those features an engine both turbocharged and supercharged. We've even rebranded our award SUV of the Year, rather than Sport/Utility of the Year. What's more, for the first time we can remember, we have more vehicles contending for SUV of the Year than Car of the Year. It's a brave new world.

We've also introduced a new proving ground to our test regimen. A ranch northwest of Tehachapi, California, offered a more challenging off-road evaluation loop and direct access to an excellent handling evaluation road and the freeway. Two loops, one long and one short, were designed with off-road, on-road, and freeway segments. The short loop allowed us to separate the contenders from the finalists, which would be subject to additional testing on the long loop to divine a true standout, our winner.

Informing our decision was, of course, our standard battery of objective, instrumented testing and careful consideration of consumer expectations and demands. After intense scrutiny and judging, one SUV stood above all the others.

Click through the gallery to review the contenders and stay tuned as the 2016 Motor Trend SUV of the Year finalists are revealed in advance of the official winner announcement on the evening of November 16.

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