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5Best Trucks
Our picks for the two-thirds of you who have a combustion-powered beast of burden lurking in your garage.
BY CSABA CSERE, FRANK MARKUS, AND TONY SWAN
JULY 2002

Roll your cursor over the images above to see the categories, then click on the individual tiles to find out more about the winner in a particular category.

When we inaugurated our 5Best Truck awards one year ago, a concern was that we might soon run short of nominees in certain categories. There are fewer distinct truck models on the market than there are cars, and pickups, vans, and most SUVs are face-lifted and redesigned less frequently than most cars are.

Technical Director Frank Markus on the test cours

But we need not have worried. With light trucks having outsold cars for the first time in history last year—if you buy the federal government's fiction that the Chrysler PT Cruiser is a truck—manufacturers around the world have saturated the market with ever more "noncars." Of the 100 different pickups, vans, and SUVs listed in our 2002 Car and Driver New-Car Guide, 16 are all-new and 8 are thoroughly revamped. And a few new trucks have arrived since that volume was published.
With plenty of contenders on hand and no storm of protest over the format we established last year, we've kept our categories largely intact. As you recall, dividing the truck market into clear segments for 5Best is a significant difference from our annual 10Best Cars free-for-all, in which we make no overt attempt to select representatives from different categories.

By subdividing trucks along the following lines—small SUV, large SUV, luxury SUV, pickup, and van—we make sure we don't overlook vans and pickups in favor of the sportier-driving SUVs. However, for 2002, we did make a pair of minor changes to bring our categories into closer adjustment with market realities.
 

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5Best Trucks

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First, in the small-SUV class, we raised the maximum allowable length from 178 to 180 inches. This change kept most of the new crop of ever-larger "small" SUVs in our small category. The one exception was the Saturn Vue, which measures 181.3 inches, making it longer than a Lexus RX300. As a result, this otherwise smallish sport-ute ended up competing with the big boys.

The other change was to raise the minimum price for the luxury-SUV class from $34,000 to $40,000 (coincidentally, the luxury-tax threshold for 2002). This minimum is applied to the base price of a vehicle, including freight, prep, and any applicable luxury taxes. In the case of an entire vehicle line, we use the base price of the least expensive model to determine its class.
This change moves last year's luxury-SUV winner, the Acura MDX, into the large-SUV class, thereby reducing the huge price spread we were seeing in the luxury class with the arrival of ever grander and more expensive off-roaders and soft-roaders. Moreover, with the majority of large SUVs changing hands in the mid-$30K range, upping the luxury-price threshold ensures that the mainstream SUVs are out of the premium class.

Otherwise, our 5Best process continues along the lines established by 20 years of 10Best Cars competition. We start by bringing back the incumbent winners to be challenged by all the new or significantly upgraded competitors. Some worthy vehicles weren't nominated because they had already had a shot last year. Unfortunately for them, there are no second chances.
After sifting through the upgraded SUVs, pickups, and vans introduced since last year's 5Best competition, we identified the nominees and assembled them at our test site west of our Ann Arbor world headquarters. Then we mustered our North American staffers and embarked on three intensive days of evaluation.

We drove, both on- and off-pavement. We tried out the various middle- and third-row seats for size and comfort. We even tried to master their multifarious, and sometimes devilishly complex, folding mechanisms. We checked specifications in the press kits and compared design details. And, of course, we vociferously championed our favorites to the other voters. At the end of the deliberations, we rated every vehicle on a scale of 1 to 100.
Only two of 2001's winners remained on top this year. To find out why, read on.

Small Sport-Utility Vehicle: Honda CR-V
Large Sport-Utility Vehicle: Honda Pilot
Luxury Sport-Utility Vehicle: Land Rover Range Rover
Pickup: Chevrolet Silverado
Van: Honda Odyssey
 
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