If there’s one place they know trucks, it’s Texas.
Every fall, the Texas Auto Writers Association gets its members together for two days of driving, off roading and testing trucks, as well as SUVs and crossovers, to pick the top truck of the year.
Trucks are at home in Texas, of course. But SUVs and crossovers were born from trucks. Taking the idea of higher ground clearance, better visibility, a larger engine able to tow a boat or haul a haggle of kids, SUVs are basically trucks with passenger and cargo space rather than a bed. Crossovers also share some DNA with trucks; they typically are all wheel drive, are built higher off the ground and have flexible cargo and passenger space.
Like trucks, SUVs and crossovers have taken a primary place in the automotive market: SUVs and crossovers are the top selling personal vehicle, making up about 39% of all sales; trucks are the second largest seller, responsible for about 17% of all sales, according to Cox Automotive.
Hello RAM 1500, Crowned the Best Truck in Texas
After driving 55 trucks, SUVs and crossovers over two rainy, swampy days in Dripping Springs, Texas, the winners were crowned. Members of TAWA voted by electronic ballot on overall performance, interior, exterior, value and personal opinion of each entry.
The Ram 1500 pick up truck, which boasts a luxurious interior, a capable all wheel drive system that can climb mountains but still deliver a smooth and comfortable ride, and a mild hybrid engine (called E Torque) designed for improved fuel economy, took the top prize.
Runner up for overall best truck was the Ram Power Wagon, an oversized, overly capable completely badass heavy duty truck. If you’re wondering, like I did, why this is called a Power Wagon, it harkens back to the truck’s roots in World War II: As the Jeep was the workhorse shuttling military leaders to basecamps and across rugged terrain, the Power Wagon was the transport truck that delivered supplies to our troops. It’s wagon-like slatted sides held cargo while its all wheel drive capability let if follow the Jeeps across creeks and over hills.
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What was the Maserati Levante GTS doing at the Texas Auto Writers Association’s 2018 Texas Truck Rodeo? Making people smile, including yours truly. Its 550 horsepower twin-turbo V8 provided forward thrust effortlessly and sounded subtly sinister doing it. The exposed carbon fiber interior trim looked appropriately racy and exotic – perfect for a $136K Italian performance SUV. In fact, the Levante GTS is officially the 2018 Full-Size Luxury SUV of Texas AND the 2018 SUV of Texas. Congratulations, Maserati! ….. @maseratiusa @maserati @txautowriters #txautowriters #txtruckrodeo #italian #maserati #twinturbo #levante #gts #maseratilevante #tx #texas #autos #igdaily #instagood #instadaily
The Italians Sweep the Awards. In Spirit, Anyway
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, or FCA, is a Detroit-based global automaker with many brands under its umbrella. In addition to Ram, Dodge, Chrysler, Fiat and Jeep are Maserati and Alfa Romeo. These last two are newish entrants to competitions such as the Truck Rodeo, but they showed quite well. The Maserati Levante, with its V8 twin turbo engine built by Ferrari, took home the SUV Of Texas award, and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, with a V6 505 horsepower engine, took home the CUV (crossover) of Texas award.
Best In-Car Technology Winners
The Truck Rodeo recognizes that capability on the road is only half the story. Also on the ballot was best in-car technology. FCA’s newly redesigned U-Connect system won for its 12-inch screen, which is seen in the Ram 1500, but the system is also found in the company’s full lineup. And Volvo’s Sensus system won for Best Connectivity.
What A Girls Guide to Cars Loved
Yes, the writers in this group voted and below are the full results. But they value things differently from us! After driving almost all of the entrants, either during the event or over the past year, here are some of my favorites:
- Lexus RX 350L: This was the original crossover, taking a cue from the larger SUVs and boiling it down to a more manageable size. The L in the name signifies “Long,” because it now has a third row. Still, it drives like the RX 350 we have all loved so much.
- Toyota RAV4 hybrid: This is newly redesigned for 2019, and we’ll have more on this later, but let me just say this: the most popular crossover in the US is getting better with age.
- Acura RDX: Completely redesigned for 2019, this innovative and luxurious SUV pampers you with fine details and great performance. And, it has a healthy appreciation for cranking up the music.
- Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: This is probably the most sublime entry in the event, a plug in SUV that runs 22 miles on pure battery power, boasts 78+ MPGe (average of gas + battery), 4 wheel drive, seating for 5 and plenty of cargo space. I love what Mitsubishi is doing here.
- Honda Pilot: This popular SUV was redesigned a few years ago and while there’s not a lot that is different from the last couple of model years, it’s still a solid and capable SUV.
- Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit: This is THE car for style aficionados who need off road capability. There is no detail overlooked and nothing this Jeep can’t do.
- Fiat 500X Trekking: This little cutie is ideal for in town or climbing mountains, and inside its roomier than you’d ever imagine.
Breaking it Down: Other Category Winners at the Truck Rodeo
The 55 trucks, SUVs and crossovers competed in 18 categories. Here are the winners:
- Compact crossover: Nissan Kicks
- Midsize crossover: Nissan Murano
- Full size crossover: Mazda CX-9
- Luxury Crossover Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
- Sub-compact crossover: Hyundai Kona
- Compact SUV: Toyota AV4 Adventure
- Midsize SUV: Jeep Wrangler Sahara
- Full Size SUV: Dodge Durango SRT
- Compact luxury SUV: Volvo XC40 R-Design
- Mid size luxury SUV: Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit
- Full size luxury SUV: Maserati Levante GTS
- Off Road utility vehicle: Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
- Mid size pickup truck: Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
- Full-size pickup truck: Ram 1500 Limited
- Heavy duty pickup truck: Ram Power Wagon
- Luxury pickup truck: Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn edition
- Off-Road pickup truck: Ram 1500 Rebel
- Commercial vehicle: Nissan Titan XD Single Cab pickup
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Check out this full lineup of #TRDPro vehicles @toyotausa brought to the rodeo. That #voodooblue color is new for the 2019 TRD Pro line and looks sharp on a dreary day. ???? by @tfltruck #txtruckrodeo #txautowriters #steelmatters #katzkincowTAWA2018 #offroad #offroadlife #offroading #4x4offroad #4×4 #4x4life #4x4nation #adventure #outdoors #toyotatacoma #toyotatundra #toyota4runner