Every October, members of the Texas Auto Writers Association converge at Knibbe Ranch, near San Antonio, to evaluate the latest trucks and SUVs from leading manufacturers. The testing pits machine against Texas Hill Country nature and automaker against automaker. Who came out on top?
2013 Texas Truck Rodeo results
The 23rd annual TAWA Truck Rodeo was held October 11-12 at Knibbe Ranch in Spring Branch. The location provided a perfect mix of roads, trails, rocks, creeks and local flavor.
New to the 2013 event was a towing challenge, which allowed evaluators the chance to drive each half-ton pickup entrant with a tow load of more than 5,000 pounds. The towing test really lets you see some of the differences between the vehicles and appreciate the capability of a modern pickup.
Knibbe Ranch is a 1,000-acre ranch that dates to 1852. It's an active cattle ranch and historically home to some of the world's most distinguished longhorns.
2014 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn
Ram officials say their customers wanted added storage, and they've delivered. Compartments abound — some hidden and some right in front of you. This surprisingly spacious nook is under a rear floor mat.
2014 Toyota Tundra
While not exactly a "hidden" feature, the brakes on the Tundra are world-class: 13.9-inch front rotors with monobloc, four-piston calipers. It makes a difference.
2014 Ford F-150 Limited
The electronic side-step that retracts when you open the door is a touch of luxury but offers the best of both worlds — ease of access, without sacrificing ground clearance.
2014 Cheverolet Silverado 1500
Not all innovations are filled with electronic wizardry. The CornerStep on the bumper of the new Silverado is a smartly integrated feature that we didn't even know we needed until we saw it.
2014 Acura MDX Advance
Clever LED headlights similar to the ones on the Acura RLX sedan have made their way to Acura's popular crossover. The offer brighter, cleaner light and use less energy than HID.
2014 Subaru Forester 2.0XT
It was a fantastic year for engine innovation, with more efficiency throughout the field. Clean diesels from Volkswagen, Jeep, Ram and Mercedes-Benz showcased. But an unexpected surprise was the 250-horsepower 2.0L boxer engine in the new Forester. It offers value, usability and punches above its weight in performance. This is one we'll be recommending.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has many things going for it, but two of them are the brilliant 8-speed transmission and open-pore wood interior trim.
2014 Nissan NV200
The rear doors on the Nissan NV200 commercial van open with a 40/60 split, so that the left rear door can be open at 180 degrees while parked on a street and still not be sticking out into oncoming traffic. Smart.
2014 Toyota Rav4
Toyota redid everything on the Rav4, and it was overdue for it. But they didn't simply update the interior; they created something interesting. They took the common materials that everyone uses for interiors and arranged them in a refreshing way and made it a better place to be.
2014 Jeep Wrangler
The Wrangler features little "Easter eggs" of Jeep history and iconography hidden throughout the exterior. It's a nice little nod to its enthusiast fan base.
2014 Range Rover Sport
The interior of the Range Rover Sport is perfect. No other superlative will do. Anything that looks like metal? It's actually metal. Soft-touch? It's probably leather. This is among the finest interiors you can buy, in any segment, at any cost. And this is just one of the tricks up the Rover's sleeve.
2013 Toyota Tacoma
When asked about the most compelling features on the Tacoma, a Toyota representative said earnestly, and without hesitation, "I'm not sure how you can take a picture of residual values." So there you have it.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe
We drove the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport earlier this year and really warmed up to this striking crossover. The rear captain's chairs, especially in leather, offer exceptional comfort.
2013 Nissan Juke
The most unusual feature on the Nissan Juke? The manual transmission, of course.