What makes an SUV? Ask 10 people and you’ll get 11 answers, as no doubt some will change their minds midway through the explanation. There are of course hardcore purists/Luddites who scoff at anything without solid axles, a transfer case, manual locking hubs, leaf springs, and a windshield that folds flat. On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got the people who view the Mini Paceman as the ultimate expression of vehicular sport and utility. (You’ll have to keep reading to find out what we think of it.) The takeaway should be that today, the SUV marketplace is larger and more diverse than ever. With that in mind, nine judges headed up to the peaceful wilds of Central California’s Santa Ynez wine country to select Motor Trend‘s 2014 SUV of the Year. Our testing involved two stages. The first was a combination of back-road and freeway driving to cull the large herd — we started with 22 vehicles representing 13 nameplates. During this portion, we focused on big-picture stuff such as ride and handling, seating, noise/vibration/harshness, visibility, powertrain, and overall vehicle quality. After just a few miles, it became obvious which SUVs had a shot at the gold and… Read full this story
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