Rugged desert trails, steep mountain grades, wide expanses crossed by high-speed highways, the Southwest offers an endless array of driving challenges. For driving enthusiasts, this can be a playground for testing out the mettle of today’s cars and trucks.
Arizona automotive journalists gathered last week for back-to-back test drives of 17 cars, trucks and SUVs to choose the winners of the inaugural Southwest Lifestyle Vehicles of the Year.
Held at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, the event brought together vehicles from Chevrolet, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, GMC, Honda, Jeep, Kia, Infiniti Lexus, Ram, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen to be run through their paces by the 15 professional auto journalists, both on the highway and, for the 4X4 contenders, on a specially designed off-road track.
The journalists drove each of the vehicles and evaluated them on such criteria as performance, ride and cabin comfort, cargo capacity and fuel economy.
“The average length of vehicle ownership is 79.3 months,’ Becky Antioco, event director and founder of Southwest Lifestyle Media, said in a news release. “So, we want to talk about features that will suit drivers’ lifestyles for the longest period of time.”
Winners and runners-up were picked in five categories. They are:
Car of the Year – Best Value: 2019 Kia Forte EX; Runner Up: 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
Car of the Year – Luxury/Performance: 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Redeye; Runner Up: 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt
SUV/Crossover of the Year – Best Value: 2019 Subaru Ascent; Runner Up: 2018 Kia Niro PHEV
SUV/Crossover of the Year – Luxury/Performance: 2018 Lexus LX 570; Runner Up: 2019 Infiniti QX50
Truck of the Year: 2019 Ram 1500 Longhorn; Runner Up: 2018 Ford F150 Platinum Diesel
“With so many excellent entries in each category, it was a difficult task to choose the winners, but each of these is really suited to our lifestyle here in the Southwest,” Antioco said.