Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk named best for outdoor activity

The reason so many Northwesterners pursue outdoor activities is obvious: We have a spectacular slice of the outdoors.

Recognizing the important role personal vehicles play in outdoor activities, every year the Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA), of which I am a member, holds a competition to evaluate the current crop of cars designed for those activities. In earlier years the event was called NWAPA’s SUV of the Year competition, but with the auto industry’s shift away from truck-based SUVs to car-based crossovers with all-wheel drive, we changed the name to Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year.

The two-day event took place this year at DirtFish Rally School, a 315-acre site in the Cascade foothills near Snoqualmie. A former mill site, DirtFish has gravel, mud and tarmac areas — perfect for rally driving as well as activity vehicle testing.

Not all vehicles in the event are crossovers. Traditional SUVs still enter the competition, and there’s an Extreme Capability Vehicle class whose entrants are tested on a challenging off-road course the others aren’t allowed to try. However, if the manufacturer representatives at the event give the OK, their vehicles can be taken on the tough course. This year two vehicles not in the Extreme class got the OK, then had to limp off the course early and embarrassed.

Vehicles were grouped into five categories for the competition: Compact Utility Vehicle, Family Utility Vehicle, Premium Compact Utility Vehicle, Premium Standard-size Utility Vehicle, and Extreme Capability Vehicle. We tested all of them on an autocross course, paved roads, and an off-road course. We considered each vehicle’s handling and performance, interior and exterior design, comfort and convenience features, telematics, fuel economy, pricing, and overall personal appeal.

Competition was fierce, but the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk emerged as best overall and was declared NWAPA’s 2014 Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year.

Kia Sorento SX rose to the top of the Family Vehicle class, Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4×4 won in the Premium Standard-size division, and Land Rover’s Range Rover HSE took honors for Extreme Capability. The Premium Compact result was a tie between the Volvo XC60 T6 AWD and the Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTec 4MATIC. The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk also won in its Compact class, of course.

All major manufacturers are invited by NWAPA to participate in this annual competition, but due to time constraints and logistics, space is limited and vehicles are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

More in Herald Business Journal

Snohomish County’s campaign to land the 797 takes off

Executive Dave Somers announced the formation of a task force to urge Boeing to build the plane here.

Costco rises as results display big-box retailer’s resiliency

Their model has worked in the face of heightened competition from online, brick-and-mortar peers.

A decade after the recession, pain and fear linger

No matter how good things are now, it’s impossible to forget how the collapse affected people.

Under cloud of ethics probes, Airbus CEO Enders to step down

He leaves in 2019 after 14 years. Meanwhile, aircraft division CEO Fabrice Bregier leaves in February.

Tax reform needs the public’s input on spending priorities

The GOP tax plan is a good idea, but the next step should give us a voice on how taxes are spent.

For modern women, 98-year-old rejection letters still sting

In a stark new video, female Boeing engineers break the silence about past inopportunity.

Commentary: GM, Boeing fight a war of words over Mars

Boeing is strongly signaling how crucial deep-space exploration is to its future.

$4.99 sandwich promotion irks some Subway business owners

Management insists that “most franchisees support the promotion.”

Drone’s ease piercing of NY ‘no-fly’ zone underscores risks

An Army Black Hawk helicopter suffered damage to one of its rotor blades, but was able to land safely.

Most Read