Some exciting new SUVs and crossovers arrived this year, and it's our job to evaluate all of them and name one our SUV of the Year. Competition this year is stiff, with many new and refreshed models gunning for the golden calipers. Here's a rundown of the contenders.
Acura MDX - Acura's seven-passenger crossover is redesigned this year, shedding weight while also growing in size. A direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 makes less than the previous 3.7-liter at 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, but mpgs are up significantly thanks in part to the weight loss program. The restyled exterior brings the model up to date with the rest of the lineup, and borrows the Jewel Eye LED headlights from the RLX.
Audi Q5 - Audi's small crossover range was refreshed for 2013, gaining an exterior face-lift and a new diesel engine and hybrid powertrain. A 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 making 245 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque powers the Q5 TDI, while Audi's ubiquitous turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 pairs with an electric motor for the hybrid model. A new version of the supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 powers the sporty 354-hp, 347-lb-ft SQ5.
BMW X1 - Though it took a couple years to make it to our shores, the BMW X1 was worth the wait. With its last-gen 3 Series underpinnings, the X1 is arguably more wagon than crossover. Two engines are offered, including BMW's turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 and a U.S.-exclusive turbocharged 3.0-liter I-6 with 300 hp.
Buick Encore - The Encore stretches the definition of crossover with its diminutive size, but with plenty of tech, an attractive base price, and a characteristically Buick interior, the tri-shield brand just might be onto something. All Encore subcompact crossovers are powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter I-4 making 138 hp and 148 lb-ft, and route power to the front or all four wheels through a six-speed automatic.
Dodge Durango - The Grand Cherokee-based Durango gets a refresh for 2014, bringing updated styling and Chrysler Group's eight-speed automatic transmission to the three-row SUV. The 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 return, but with higher EPA ratings thanks to the eight-speed and its new Eco mode.
Hyundai Santa Fe - The Santa Fe Sport was featured in last year's competition, and now it's the long-wheelbase, three-row standard Santa Fe's turn. The car sports the same "Storm Edge" design language as the Santa Fe Sport, but gets a 290-hp direct-injected 3.3-liter V-6 in place of the smaller variant's four-cylinder offerings. Can it succeed where the Santa Fe Sport couldn't?
Jeep Grand Cherokee - Like its Dodge Durango platform-mate, the Grand Cherokee receives a refresh for 2014. Along with the eight-speed transmission and revised styling, the Grand Cherokee also gets a new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 option producing 240 hp and 420 lb-ft. The Jeep is available in four drivetrain choices, including a 3.6-liter Pentastar, 5.7-liter Hemi, 6.4-liter Hemi for the SRT8, and the aforementioned diesel.
Kia Sorento - During its tenure in the Motor Trend test fleet, our long-term 2011 Kia Sorento wasn't a staff favorite. For 2014, Kia gave the Sorento a new chassis, replaced the old 3.5-liter V-6 with a more powerful 3.3-liter unit, and refreshed the crossover's styling inside and out. A direct-injected base 2.4-liter I-4 is also new, as is standard electric power steering and UVO infotainment system.
Range Rover Sport - The Range Rover Sport is redesigned for 2014, with a longer wheelbase and mostly aluminum sheetmetal to match the styling of the big-daddy Range Rover and smaller Range Rover Evoque. Two supercharged engines are offered, including a 510-hp 5.0-liter V-8 and 340-hp 3.0-liter V-6. All models come standard with a torque-splitting four-wheel-drive system and a posh driver-centric interior.
Mini Paceman - We don't know how many Mini fans clamored for a two-door version of the Countryman, but whatever the number Mini thought it was enough to build one. The Paceman is offered with the same drivetrain options as its four-door Countryman sibling, including naturally aspirated and turbocharged 1.6-liter I-4 engines and six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes. Mini offers the Paceman for would-be Cooper buyers who want something bigger.
Mitsubishi Outlander - Mitsubishi redesigned the Outlander for 2014, ditching the previous model's Evo-like front end for a more conservative look. Though the crossover receives carryover 3.0-liter V-6 and 2.4-liter I-4 engines, a body that's around 200 pounds lighter and more aerodynamic helps the Outlander achieve better fuel economy. Combined with a redesigned interior and available all-wheel drive, that fact may spell a comeback for the troubled brand.
Subaru Forester - The previous-generation Subaru Forester took home SUV of the Year in 2009, and with a new Forester out for 2014 the crossover is up for the award again this year. The 2014 Subaru Forester grows slightly, and gains new bodywork and more interior space. The old four-speed automatic has been replaced by a CVT, and a six-speed manual transmission is new.
Toyota RAV4 - The originator of the "cute 'ute" segment, the Toyota RAV4, gets back to its small crossover roots by shrinking in size slightly. The RAV4 also gets new interior and exterior styling, a carryover 2.5-liter I-4 as the only engine choice, and a new six-speed gearbox.
Find out which contender will become the 2014 SUV of the Year on Thursday, October 10 at 3:30 a.m. PDT.