2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4x4

Sport utility vehicles, and increasingly car-based crossover versions, are the vehicle of choice for many families today, replacing minivans and traditional station wagons. While the first SUVs were truck-based utility vehicles that drove like trucks and could essentially go anywhere, today this class has evolved to include a wide variety of vehicles.

The popular SUV category continues to grow each year, primarily with new car-based crossovers, but also with modern updates of the models that started the segment. Along with new entries comes a wide range of capability, and each year the Northwest Automotive Press Association gathers to evaluate the newest models in the segment with two full days of testing, known as Mudfest. This year unseasonably warm temperatures resulted in more dust than mud, but a water truck was available to create the slop needed for proper testing.

View Pictures:  2014 SUV of the Year

As SUVs have evolved, they've become better everyday vehicles, with many examples offering a smooth ride, good fuel economy and the latest technology. But simply because they are more refined does not mean that many of them are not as equally adept off road as their older, more rugged predecessors.

SUV testing was conducted at the DirtFish Rally School in Snoqualmie, Washington. Twenty-three vehicles from 19 manufacturers were tested on a paved handling course, on public roads and on a trail that included ruts, gravel, water and mud designed to evaluate off-road capabilities. Vehicles from five categories were tested, including a category for extreme capability vehicles, which were run through a more difficult off-road course that featured steep approach and departure angles, deep water and varied terrain to test ground clearance, locking differentials and off-road technology.

This year, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk was the overall winner, named by NWAPA as the 2014 Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year. The Jeep Cherokee is a new model for 2014 and offers the latest advances in on-road handling and improved fuel economy while retaining legendary Jeep off-road capability.

Here is the complete list of all vehicles that were tested. Click to page two for the list of class winners.


Compact

Click to enlarge pictureMazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD (© NWAPA/Josh Mackey)

2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD


Ford Escape Titanium
Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD
Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4x4
Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD
Nissan Rogue SV AWD
Subaru XV Crosstrek

Premium compact

Click to enlarge pictureVolvo XC60 T6 AWD (© NWAPA/Josh Mackey)

2014 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD


Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTec 4Matic
Volvo XC60 T6 AWD

Family

Click to enlarge pictureKia Sorento SX AWD (© NWAPA/Josh Mackey)

2014 Kia Sorento SX AWD


Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ 4WD
Dodge Durango Limited AWD
Dodge Journey Crossroad
Honda Pilot
Kia Sorento SX AWD
Mitsubishi Outlander SE S-AWC
Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4x4

Premium

Click to enlarge pictureLexus GX460 (© NWAPA/Josh Mackey)

2014 Lexus GX 460


Acura MDX AWD
BMW X5 sDrive35d
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Lexus GX 460
VW Touareg TDI Sport

Extreme capability

Click to enlarge pictureLand Rover Range Rover HSE (© NWAPA/Josh Mackey)

2014 Land Rover Range Rover HSE


Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport
Land Rover Range Rover HSE
Toyota 4Runner Trail Premium