In Historic Rain, Texas Auto Writers Association Votes for CUV, SUV, and Truck of Texas at the Truck Rodeo

by Kristin Shaw

Photo: Kevin McCauley for Texas Auto Writers Association

Photo: Kevin McCauley for Texas Auto Writers Association

On Oct. 16 at the Texas Truck Rodeo, presented by the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), 69 journalists voted on winners across several categories. Over the course of two days, the journalists drove 57 vehicles in the rain, mud, and surface streets in Dripping Springs and Bee Caves, Texas, just west of Austin.

As soon as we pulled into the parking area at the ranch, the rain turned from light to torrential; as we dashed to the tent, we saw water starting to pool. It was cold and damp, and not everyone wanted to stick around, but we took the opportunity to jump into a few vehicles and take them muddin’, as one might say. Try it - it’s kind of fun to say, “Hey, we went muddin’ today!”

Not mud, nor rain, nor chilly temperatures could stop some of the trucks from scaling the routes up hills and into deep ruts in the dirt that were becoming deeper by the minute as the water poured from the sky. The bright side is that we got to see a few of these machines really perform in terrain and conditions where it can excel.

I was surprised that the unassuming Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit traversed the more difficult route, tackling the rocky hills like a large mountain goat. Trevor, the Jeep specialist riding with me, explained that every Jeep vehicle is designed for toughness… even if it looks like a carpool SUV.

Having driven the Nissan Titan PRO 4X and the Ram 1500 in recent months, I knew the ride was going to be great in both trucks, even slip-sliding in sucking wet grass and mud. The Toyota Tacoma and the new 4Runner TRD did not disappoint, either; each had its features that I liked, and both were comfortable and capable. The new Voodoo Blue color on the 2019 Toyota TRD line is eye-catching and vibrant, and I prefer it to last year’s Cavalry Blue hue.

Once the rain made it impossible for us to continue at the ranch, the Texas Auto Writers Association board, along with the manufacturers, ESI, and DriveShop, moved the whole party to the Sonesta hotel, where the vehicles were staged in the garage for 15- to 20-minute loops around the area.

Photo: Kevin McCauley for Texas Auto Writers Association

Photo: Kevin McCauley for Texas Auto Writers Association

Was I disappointed that I didn’t get to drive the new Maserati Levante in the mud? Nope. That gave us a chance to ride with Maserati expert Matt McAlear to learn more about all the bells and whistles. Same for the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio: being on the road gave us more opportunities to talk to each other without having to focus on the rocky course.

Overall, an unusual Texas Truck Rodeo but a great one. When you get to drive trucks all day as part of your job, what could there ever be to complain about?

***

RESULTS

At the end of the rodeo, all of the journalists had a chance to judge each of the vehicles in five categories: Interior, Exterior, Performance, Value and Personal Appeal.

OVERALL AWARDS
TRUCK OF TEXAS

Winner: 2019 Ram 1500
Runner Up: 2018 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

SUV OF TEXAS
Winner: 2019 Maserati Levante GTS
Runner Up: 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

CUV OF TEXAS
Winner: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
Runner Up: 2019 Mazda CX-9

CATEGORY AWARDS
COMPACT CUV

Winner: 2019 Nissan Kicks SR
Runner Up: 2019 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

MID-SIZE CUV
Winner: 2018 Nissan Murano Midnight Edition AWD
Runner Up: 2019 Honda Pilot Elite

FULL-SIZE CUV
Winner: 2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD
Runner Up: 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL

LUXURY CUV
Winner: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
Runner Up: 2019 Lexus UX 250h F Sport

SUB-COMPACT SUV
Winner: 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD
Runner Up: 2018 Fiat 500X Trekking AWD

COMPACT SUV
Winner: 2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure
Runner Up: 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

MID-SIZE SUV
Winner: 2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara
Runner Up: 2019 Toyota 4Runner Nightshade Limited

FULL-SIZE SUV
Winner: 2019 Dodge Durango SRT
Runner Up: 2019 Nissan Armada Platinum 4x4

COMPACT LUXURY SUV
Winner: 2019 Volvo XC40 R-Design
Runner Up: 2019 Acura RDX Advance

MID-SIZE LUXURY SUV
Winner: 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit
Runner Up: 2019 Lexus RX 350L

FULL-SIZE LUXURY SUV
Winner: 2019 Maserati Levante GTS
Runner Up: 2019 Infiniti QX80 Limited

OFF-ROAD UTILITY VEHICLE
Winner: 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Runner Up: 2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

MID-SIZE PICKUP TRUCK
Winner: 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

FULL-SIZE PICKUP TRUCK
Winner: 2019 Ram 1500 Limited
Runner Up: 2019 Nissan Titan Crew Cab SL

The winning Compact CUV: 2019 Nissan Kicks SR

The winning Compact CUV: 2019 Nissan Kicks SR

HEAVY DUTY PICKUP TRUCK
Winner: 2018 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

LUXURY PICKUP TRUCK
Winner: 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn
Runner Up: 2019 Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve

OFF-ROAD PICKUP TRUCK
Winner: 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel
Runner Up: 2019 Nissan Titan PRO-4X

COMMERCIAL VEHICLE
Winner: 2019 Nissan Titan XD Single Cab

FEATURE AWARDS
BEST TECHNOLOGY

Winner: UConnect 4C With 12-inch Screen
Runner Up: Infiniti Smart Rearview Mirror

BEST POWERTRAIN
Winner: Ram eTorque Mild Hybrid
Runner Up: Infiniti VC-Turbo

BEST CONNECTIVITY
Winner: Volvo Sensus

Other sponsors of the 2019 Texas Truck Rodeo included (we’ll tell you more about them later!) LINE-X Protective Coatings, Saddleback Leather Company, Katzkin Automotive Leather, the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show, DFW Auto Show, Houston Auto Show, AutomotiveTouchup and Wieck.

Kristin Shaw