Every fall, dozens of journalists from all over Texas and around the country gather to compare, test, and crown the winner of the “Truck of Texas” competition. It’s a coveted award from the Texas Auto Writers Association that signifies Texas’ collective approval of a truck. And not only are trucks involved, awards go out for the SUV and CUV of Texas.

I already touched on the topic in the preview piece, but awards are also given to the winner in each vehicle category and for various things like “best connectivity” and “best powertrain.”

This year’s competition was fierce. There were 84 vehicles present from 21 automakers entered into 17 different categories. Evaluating the field were 69 TAWA members comprised of journalists and social media influencers.

So let’s get down to the results. Keep reading for the full breakdown.

Continue reading for the results of the 2015 TAWA Truck Rodeo

The 2015 Truck Of Texas Winner

2016 Nissan Titan XD

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It doesn’t come as a big surprise that Nissan’s all-new 2016 Titan XD took home the coveted top award. Arriving more than a decade after its predecessor’s launch, the second-generation Titan offers more room, better refinement, and a wildly improved towing capacity. Nissan will offer the Titan in two configurations: the standard-duty Titan and the Titan XD. The standard Titan is expected for the 2017 model year.

The Titan XD falls somewhere between a half-ton and three-quarter ton truck.

Falling somewhere between a half-ton and three-quarter ton truck, Nissan says the Titan XD offers consumers better towing than a half-ton but without all the compromises associated with a three-quarter ton, heavy-duty truck.

Making headlines and turning heads is the Nissan’s powerplant – a 5.0-liter turbodiesel V-8 built by the legendary diesel builder Cummins. The engine makes its debut with the Titan XD and offers 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque. Though the official numbers haven’t been released, the Nissan says the Titan XD will be able to tow more than 12,000 pounds thanks to its built-in, bed-mounted fifth-wheel hitch.

When traveling empty, the turbodiesel is expected to produce impressive fuel economy numbers. It might not best the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel’s 29 mpg highway, but expect impressive numbers once the EPA releases its official findings.

First Impressions

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Though this was the first time anyone outside Nissan and Cummins has driven the Titan XD, my driving impressions are embargoed until mid-November. (Stay tuned for that review) However, I am free to tell you the Titan XD is lightyears ahead of the outgoing model.

The Titan XD is lightyears ahead of the outgoing model.

The exterior is much larger and has a far more premium look. Chrome accents and two-tone paint schemes give the truck a more upscale appearance. Despite the beauty, the Titan XD is a rugged truck. Thick tow hooks protrude from under the front bumper. PRO-4X models get thick skid plates and a front bumper guard. Large wheels that range from 17 through 20 inches make brighten up the truck’s bottom half.

Inside, things are just a premium. The examples on hand were all equipped with plush leather seats and power everything. The dashboard has a simple yet all-inclusive with all the right buttons and controls. An electronic transfer case on 4WD models, trailer brake controls, push-button start, automatic headlights, an electronically adjustable steering column, navigation, Nissan’s 360-degree Around-View camera system, and an ingenious system for testing trailer lights make the cabin a welcoming and useful place.

What’s more, every Titan XD and its Cummins powerplant are built in the U.S.

A TFT display in the gauge cluster gives important vehicle information like tire pressure, torque splits, and vehicle angle in off-road mode. A column-mounted shifter frees up tons of real estate in the center console. This allows for adjustable cup holders, USB and 12-volt power ports, and a hanging file folder under the center armrest.

Legroom in the rear seats is tremendous and a clever underseat storage system keeps odds and ends organized. A folding load surface similar to the Ram’s allows for easy hauling of more precious cargo.

The Titan XD is expected to be on dealer lots by the end of 2015 carrying a price tag that makes the XD proposition that much more tantalizing. So for those truck guys and gals who regularly tow but also need the everyday drivability of a half-ton pickup, the 2016 Titan XD is a fantastic choice. What’s more, every Titan XD and its Cummins powerplant are built in the U.S.

It’s for these reasons and more that the 2016 Nissan Titan XD is TAWA’s 2015 Truck of Texas.

2015 SUV of Texas

2016 Ford Explorer

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The Ford Explorer has received a slew of updates for the 2016 model year. Its new exterior styling goes along with its refreshed interior. A new trim level, the Platinum, brings added luxury to nameplate. Ford’s new SYNC 3 infotainment software is now included, making the in-dash touch screen much easier to operate. Despite its plush interior, the Platinum was tearing up the off-road course with the best of them. The Terrain Management system offers different modes for varying surfaces, controlling the 4WD system on a tire-by-tire basis.

Of course, the Explorer comes with Ford’s latest EcoBoost technology. In this case, it’s the 3.5-liter V-6. The twin-turbo engine makes an impressive 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Behind the wheel, the Explorer felt well-composed and solid. The cabin is church mouse quiet and offers plenty of comfort. A decent feel in the steering and a responsive throttle make the three-row SUV feel far sportier than it should. Much of that can be contributed to its uni-body design, but regardless, the Explorer is a far superior driver than it used to be.

2015 Crossover of Texas

2016 Volvo XC90

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Wow… just wow. The 2016 Volvo XC90 is a stunning vehicle. My jaw dropped when I opened the door and was met with the peanut butter interior. Real wood and aluminum accents line the cabin in a manner than puts Maybach to shame. Every surface is soft touch. The few buttons that are present are well placed and overly engineered. The iPad-like center touchscreen is simply beautiful and operates an absolutely astonishing bit of software. (Hints its ranking in the Connectivity category below.)

Volvo was quick to point out the design layout of the cabin. Everything the driver could need while underway is located in and around the steering wheel. The lesser used functions and those shared with the front passenger are located in the center stack. This is said to help eliminate distracted driving.

The Volvo’s new 2.0-liter turbo four sends 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque to the intelligent AWD system, helping give this luxury crossover outstanding all-weather grip.

Categories, Competitors, & Winners

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Besides the major awards listed above, each vehicle was ranked within its category. Myself and the 68 other TAWA members voted for our pick of each category and the descending order behind that. Votes were then averaged and the contenders placed in order corresponding to the number of votes they each received. Here are the results. The winner of each category is listed in bold in the top spot. Vehicles are then listed in descending order. My thoughts on each winner are in italics at the end of each list.

Compact Crossover Utility Vehicle

2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk
2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited FWD
2016 Fiat 500X Trekking AWD & Lounge FWD
2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD
2015 Nissan JUKE NISMO
2016 Honda HR-V EXL AWD Navi
The Jeep Renegade is a funky new entry into the small crossover segment. Add to that the Trail Rated version Jeep calls the Trailhawk, and the Renegade lives up to the Jeep heritage. A smart AWD system, raised ground clearance, and meaty tires make all the difference.

Mid-Size Crossover Utility Vehicles

2015 Nissan Murano Platinum
2016 Kia Sorento SX V6 AWD
2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T
2016 Dodge Journey Crossroad Plus AWD
2016 Volvo XC90 T6
The Nissan Murano is the practical family’s choice. Comfortable seating, tons of storage, and a fuel efficient engine tops the list of features. Driver types will fuss about the CVT, however.

Full-Size Crossover Utility Vehicles

2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD
2015 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum
2016 Honda Pilot Elite
The Hyundai Santa Fe is about as honest as a crossover can get. Its three-row seating is comfortable for all seven, its GDI powertrain is peppy while sipping fuel, and its traditional six-speed automatic transmission makes the most of the power. Add to that a 10-year, 100k-mile warranty, and Hyundai is hard to argue against.

Luxury Crossover Utility Vehicles

2016 Volvo XC90 T6
2016 Lexus RX 450h & RX 350
2016 Lincoln MKX Reserve & Black Label
2016 Infiniti QX50
The Volvo won the CUV of Texas for a reason. The beautiful new design inside and out, along with the stout new 2.0-liter four and AWD makes the XC90 a smart choice for those looking for luxury and utility. Look out everybody!

Compact Sport Utility Vehicles

2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk & Limited
2015 Nissan Rogue SV FWD
2016 Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line with 4Motion
The Jeep Cherokee has made quite a splash in the compact SUV segment thanks to its unorthodox design and rugged demeanor. And like its little brother, the Renegade, the available Trailhawk version offers a surprising amount of off-road capability.

Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicles

2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4x4 & High Altitude
2016 Ford Explorer Platinum
The Grand Cherokee is last year’s SUV of Texas and continues to offer a hot combination of utility, luxury, and Jeep brand heritage that includes a class-leading 4WD system. Want a diesel? The Grand Cherokee has that – along with a 30-mpg highway rating. The new High Altitude trim offers a new choice for those into the murdered-out trend.

Full-Size Sport Utility Vehicles

2015 Dodge Durango R/T AWD & Citadel AWD
Toyota Land Cruiser
2016 GM Chevrolet Tahoe 2WD LTZ
If you’re trading your Challenger on a more family-friendly vehicle but don’t want to give up the muscle car feel, look no further than the Durango R/T. The 360-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi and ZF eight-speed automatic offer outstanding performance with more attitude than any other SUV on the market.

Compact Luxury Sport Utility Vehicles

2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE LUX
2016 GM GMC Terrain AWD Denali
Land Rover’s newest offering and replacement for the aging LR2, the Discovery Sport is the brand’s entry level offering. Don’t mistake that for low quality or quantity – the Discovery Sport is more like the Range Rover Evoque than many give it credit for. A comfortable ride, good off-road characteristics, and an efficient four-cylinder engine are all present.

Mid-Size Luxury Sport Utility Vehicles

2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4x4
2016 Land Rover Range Rover HSE
For buyers wanting a high-end American SUV that can handle rugged terrain, the Grand Cherokee Summit offers all that and a bag of chips. Smart packaging, unique color combinations, and your pick of powertrains put the Summit at the top of the Jeep lineup.

Full-Size Luxury Sport Utility Vehicles

2016 Lexus LX 570
2016 GM GMC Yukon XL Denali
2016 Lincoln Navigator Reserve
The new Lexus is basically a rebadged version of the new Toyota Land Cruiser. That’s not a bad thing, however, as the pair offer outstanding interior room, off-road prowess, and unequaled class. The Lexus Spindle Grille design is in full force here and the interior carries a similar theme to the rest of the Lexus lineup.

Off-Road Utility Vehicles

2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock & Sahara
2016 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
No explanation is needed here. The Jeep Wrangler is right up there with baseball and apple pie in terms of its iconic status. Opt for the Rubicon version and you’ll get locking front and rear differentials, a disconnecting front sway bar, BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires, and 4:10 gears in the two-speed transfer case. The Wrangler is best enjoyed with the doors and roof left at home.

Mid-Size Pickup Trucks

2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road & TRD Sport & Limited
2016 GM Chevrolet Colorado Diesel AWD Crew Cab Short Bed
2015 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X
Toyota’s newest offering couldn’t have come soon enough. The last generation Tacoma was very long in the tooth. Still, the new Taco doesn’t depart too far from the original recipe. Its small size, peppy new V-6 engine, and honest 4WD system makes this mid-size pickup a very strong competitor in the truck world. The Chevy Colorado has its work cut.

Full-Size Pickup Trucks

2016 Ram Truck 1500 Rebel
2016 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Reserve
2016 Ford F-150 SuperCrew 4x4 Lariat & Lariat Spec...
2016 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro
2016 GM Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew-cab LTZ
Ram’s newest offering combines a unique design with off-road-tuned Bilstein shocks and a four-corner air suspension. The Rebel is all about attitude. Ram says it gives truck customers the opportunity to buy a one-off style vehicle with a factory warranty and without the hassle of buying aftermarket parts.

Luxury Pickup Trucks

2016 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Reserve
2016 Ram Truck 1500 Limited EcoDiesel
2016 Ford F-150 SuperCrew 4x4 Limited
2016 GM GMC Sierra 2500 HD Denali
The Titan XD’s Platinum Reserve trim offers outstanding luxury that rivals (and in TAWA’s opinion, surpasses) the best from Ram, Ford, and GM. Quilted leather seats are designed to mimic the lining of a quality hunting jacket while giving plenty of support for long trips. Tons of electronic gadgets make everyday living easier and Nissan’s 360-degree camera system is easy to get spoiled to.

Heavy Duty Pickup Trucks

2016 Ram Truck 2500 Laramie Longhorn
2016 F-250 Super Duty Crew Cab 4x4 FX4
2016 GM Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Diesel
The Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn is what you’d want to drive if hauling a trailer full of thoroughbred horses across the country. Outstanding interior quality with supple leather seats are what make the rough and tumble Ram HD as soft as a your favorite recliner.

Off-Road Pickup Trucks

2016 Nissan Titan XD PRO-4X
2016 Ram Truck Power Wagon SLT
2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road
2016 Ford Ford F-150 SuperCrew 4x4 XLT Special Edition
2016 GM Chevrolet Colorado Diesel Long Crew Cab 4WD
Equipped with an electronically controlled, part-time, two-speed transfer case, a locking rear differential, knobby tires, and a full skid plate package, the PRO-4X package makes the Titan XD a competent off-roader on top of and outstanding tow rig.

Commercial Vehicles

2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo & Passenger
2015 Ford Transit 150 Medium Roof XLT & Transit 250 Medium Roof XLT
2015 Ram Truck ProMaster City Wagon SLT & Tradesman
2015 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500 4x4 Cargo
2015 Nissan NV3500 SL HR
With interior bits from the C-Class sedan and premium exterior looks, the Mercedes Metric van offers a “right-sized” package between the compact ProMaster City and full-size ProMaster – along with their Ford and Nissan equivalents.

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Best Powertrain Award

Nissan Cummins 5.0-liter V-8 Turbo Diesel & Aisin
Volvo T6 Drive-E
General Motors All-New 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel
Ford 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6
Ram Truck 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6

Best Technology Award

Ford Pro Trailer Backup Assist
Toyota Crawl Control (CRAWL)
Nissan Trailer Light Check
General Motors Digital Steering Assist and Smart Exhaust Brake
Jeep Active Drive 4x4 System
Ram Truck Air Suspension
Ram ProMaster City bi-link rear suspension system

Best Connectivity Award

Volvo Sensus
FCA Uconnect
Ford SYNC 3
General Motors Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
GMC IntelliLink featuring OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity and built-in Wi-Fi
VW Car-Net App-Connect technology
OnStar 4G LTE Wifi – Connectivity

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