Nothing is evolving faster than the sport/utility vehicle segment. A decade ago, 10 percent of new-car and truck buyers chose SUVs; by mid-2003, that market share was 24.5 percent. Credit all the new models cast as sport/utilities because nobody knows what else to call them. Defining "sport/utility" is like trying to hit several fast-moving targets. A sport/utility used to be a shortened pickup truck with a wagon body built over the bed. Trucky engines roared, transfer-case gears whined, willowy frames shuddered, and knobby treads howled all the way to distant fishing spots.
No internal organ was safe from a road's unfiltered rudeness. Things have changed.
Only four of these 13 competitors for 2004 Sport/Utility of the Year are truck-based. Two, the Buick Rainier and the GMC Envoy XUV, share a platform with previous players, including our 2002 Sport/Utility of the Year, the GMC Envoy. And this year marks a first: a returning champ, the Lexus RX 330. We launched Sport/Utility of the Year in 1999, when the winning RX 300 defied categorization in car or truck contests.
Most of the nine unibody "crossover" SUVs playing this year are wagonlike in their layouts and cargo capacities, but at least two look and drive like tallish sport wagons.
Here's this year's lineup:
·GMC Envoy XUV
·Lexus RX 330
·Nissan Pathfinder Armada