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2018 Motor Trend SUV of the Year Introduction

Motor Trend Logo By Motor Trend Staff of Motor Trend | Slide 1 of 28: 2018 Motor Trend SUV of the Year 01

2018 Motor Trend SUV of the Year Introduction

This is the 20th time we've awarded the Golden Calipers to a Sport Utility Vehicle. And perhaps no vehicle type has changed more radically in this period than SUVs.

The shift from trucklike body-on-frame to car-based unibody architecture was the revolution that in 1999 broke SUVs out from Truck of the Year, where they originally competed. Since then, we've seen locking differentials evolve into multimode selectable terrain-response systems and shapes transform from two-box silhouettes to "coupes" and high-riding wagons. The revolution has been so complete that there isn't a single ladder frame underpinning any of this year's contestants.

This year also marks the second occasion without a V-8-powered vehicle (the other being 2010). Of the 24 contestants (represented by 37 model variants—our largest field ever) vying for the 2018 award, two-thirds are powered by four-cylinder engines. Then there are 10 six-cylinder- and two three-cylinder-powered sport utilities.

Don't miss all the latest Car, Truck and SUV of the Year content at!

This doesn't mean they are underpowered—there are also 30 turbochargers (including three engines with twin turbos and three with both a turbo and a supercharger).

There is one solely supercharged entry and two plug-in hybrids, and one of those turbos assists a diesel engine. The average engine displaces 2.3 liters and makes 248 hp. Meanwhile, the average highway fuel economy jumped from 25 mpg in 2017 to 27 this year. The average weight of this year's field is down 403 pounds. There is only one traditional four-wheel-drive system with a separate low-range transfer case. The rest offer some manner of electronically controlled AWD, but two compete with just front-wheel drive. There are six-, eight-, and nine-speed automatics, a handful of CVTs, one twin-clutch auto, and one manual transmission. It's also a truly international group, with entries from Germany, Japan, England, Italy, Sweden, Korea, and the U.S.

Besides powertrains growing smaller, smarter, more efficient, and more complex, this means our two-week job of sifting through the field got exponentially more challenging. Luckily, our core testing regimen and sixfold judging criteria take into account the change inherent to the sport utility vehicle, which is now asked to do it all.

Click through to read about 2018 SUV of the Year contenders and finalists.

© Motor Trend Staff

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