It's that time of year again when we put the newest batch of crossovers and SUVs through their paces at the Tres Hermanas Winery in the Santa Ynez valley. Now that you're familiar with the 13 2014 Motor Trend SUV of the Year contenders, which do you think will be crowned the winner in 2014? It'll be tough act to follow considering last year's winner was the Mercedes-Benz GL, but one of the new or significantly refreshed SUVs listed below has what it takes to take home the golden calipers in 2014. Tell us which SUV you think will win in the poll below and don't miss the official announcement on Thursday October 10.
Some of the smaller contenders this year include the BMW X1, Buick Encore, and Mini Paceman, but just because they're small doesn't mean they shouldn't be taken seriously. Since the BMW X1 is based on the last-generation 3 Series, it has good bones, and with two turbocharged engines on tap, it's a scrappy little fighter. As for the Encore, the Buick enters a new segment with some entry-level luxuries and an attractive base price. But it's the Mini Paceman that brings the most style to the table among these three with its coupe-like appearance. This two-door version of the Countryman also has go-kart-like handling.
Though not as small as the three mentioned above, the Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, and Audi Q5 sell in higher-volume segments. The Mitsubishi Outlander's new look could catch the attention of our judges, while its new all-wheel-drive system could prove fun in the dirt. The Subaru Forester already took home the golden calipers in 2009, and we wonder if it can pull off a repeat performance. The Toyota RAV4 also gets a new six-speed gearbox, but will it prove to be Toyota tough during the SUV of the Year battery of tests? The most luxurious of the group is the Audi Q5, and there's one for every type of buyer, ranging from the fuel-efficient hybrid and TDI, to the racy and new SQ5.
Although the Jeep Grand Cherokee is a midsize SUV, it still doesn't squeeze in an available third row. Despite that disadvantage, the Grand Cherokee, like the Q5, has a different flavor for everyone, with four drivetrain choices. The Acura MDX, Dodge Durango, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, and Land Rover Range Rover Sport are all available with a third-row, and round out the last of the contenders. The Acura MDX is all-new and looks much more appealing now with a less polarizing front grille, and it also helps it can be equipped with the automaker's SH-AWD system. As for the Dodge Durango, there's only one thing to say: R/T. Although the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento are mechanically related, they are two very different animals. The Santa Fe is the long-wheelbase version of the crossover that competed last year, while the Sorento boasts a new chassis and two new engines. The Land Rover Range Rover Evoque won our 2012 Motor Trend SUV of the Year award, so it'll be interesting to see if its larger sibling can follow in its footsteps.
Which 2014 Motor Trend SUV of the Year contender do you think will win? Tell us in the comments and head to MotorTrend.com on Thursday, October 10 to find out the winner!
Hyundai Santa Fe
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Land Rover Range Rover Sport
Mini Cooper Paceman