Each year, the Motor Trend editors gather every all-new and significantly updated vehicle to determine which standouts as the most significant in their category: sport/utility, car, and truck. This respected triumvirate begins each year with the sport/utility award. Always an interesting competition, this category requires considerable on-road and off-road evaluation, balanced by performance tests, cargo assessment, and livability ratings.

The 2003 field ranged from sport cutes to luxury, and pickup-bed fitted wagons to extreme off-roaders. From 14 models, the staff had to select a single machine that stood out in its respective segment, establishing a new benchmark, representing Motor Trend values, and standing as a vehicle we could whole-heartedly recommend to our readers. By now you know the story ends with the 2003 Volvo XC90 being honored with the Golden Caliper trophy. This photo essay offers a candid look behind the scenes, showing the editors in action as they reach the final, unanimous decision. Click on images to enlarge.