The nitty-gritty on the 70-plus vehicles at TAWA’s Truck Rodeo

By now you’ve probably read how the 2017 Ford Super Duty was crowned the Truck of Texas and that the 2017 Nissan Armada won the SUV of Texas. But the Super Duty and Armada were far from the only winners at this year’s Truck Rodeo put on by the Texas Auto Writers Association.

More than 70 journalists and social media influencers descended upon the 1,623-acre Longhorn River Ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas to test approximately 71 pickup trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and commercial vehicles in TAWA’s annual event.

A total of 17 categories grouped the vehicles with their competition, ranging from compact crossovers and full-size SUVs to Off-Road pickups. Other categories included best connectivity, best technology, and best powertrain.

Keep reading for the full results.

Continue reading for more information.

Crossover Of Texas

2017 Volvo XC90

The 2015 Truck of Texas: Crowing the Winners
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For the second consecutive year, the Volvo XC90 has taken the top honors in the crossover segment. Just like last year, My TAWA colleagues and I came away impressed with the Volvo’s beauty, power, and functionality. Finished in the new range-topping Excellence trim, the XC90 boasts real wood and aluminum trim, the massive iPad-like infotainment system, full-length center console with cooler box and HVAC touch screens, and just about every conceivable luxury item imaginable.

Power comes from Volvo’s T8 Twin Engine powertrain that combines a plug-in hybrid system with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder making use of both turbocharging and supercharging to make a combined output of 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque when matched with its electric drivetrain. Despite the power, the drivetrain delivers 59 MPGe and up to 25 miles on electric-only driving.

All this luxury does come at a price, however. The Excellence trim pushes the XC90 to a starting price of $104,900.

Categories, Competitors, & Winners

Besides the major awards of Truck, SUV, and Crossover of Texas, each vehicle was ranked in its category. Myself and the other TAWA members ranked each vehicle by its exterior, interior, performance, value, and personal appeal relative to a class average. The rankings includes below class, class average, above class, and class leading.

The results are shown below, with the winner of each category listed first and highlighted in bold.

Compact Crossover Utility Vehicle

2016 Jeep Renegade Review High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4x4
2016 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD
2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD
2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack SEL
The Jeep Renegade made its debut at last year’s Truck Rodeo, winning the compact crossover category. Even with newcomers to the segment, the Jeep held its own, showing it could hang with more traditional off-roaders on the most difficult trail. The Renegade’s Trailhawk package brings a smart 4WD system, improved underbody skid planting, and better tires for tacking the tough stuff.

Mid-Size Crossover Utility Vehicle

2016 Nissan Murano – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0-T Ultimate FWD
The Murano defended its title as the mid-size crossover winner, taking home the award for a second year. The Nissan proved to be a practical choice for families thanks to its comfortable seating, tons of storage space, and a peppy yet efficient powertrain.

Full-Size Crossover Utility Vehicle

2017 Mazda CX-9 High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring FWD
2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD*
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate FWD
2017 Toyota Highlander SE AWD
Mazda came out swinging with the new CX-9. Both the Grand Touring and Signature trims were on hand. Regardless of trim, the CX-9 proved itself a great three-row crossover with its high-class design, nicely appointed interior, and room for seven. Its 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder with Skyactive technology makes 227 horsepower but feels more peppy than it sounds. It can also get 28 mpg on the highway.

Luxury Crossover utility Vehicle

2017 Volvo XC90 Excellence
2017 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance & Entertainment
2017 GMC Acadia Denali AWD
2017 Infiniti QX60 AWD
The XC90 is an amazing crossover with luxury and stylings far exceeding what most think Volvo capable of. The XC90’s interior would seem at home in a modern art museum. Its massive infotainment system feels like a cross between Apple and Tesla and is extremely intuitive to use. It’s plug-in hybrid powertrain gives all the benefits of a plug-in combined with the power of a V-8, mixed with the freedom from hybrid stigmas.

Compact Sport Utility Vehicle

The 2016 Truck Rodeo: The Full Results High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Active Drive Lock
2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4x4 Active Drive II*
2017 Ford Escape SE FWD
2017 Ford Escape Titanium FWD
2017 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
2017 Toyota RAV4 Platinum AWD
The Jeep Cherokee continues to impress with its unique looks, thoughtful cabin, Uconnect infotainment system, and available 4WD. Opting for the Trailhawk trim brings even more off-road capability, while the Overland is geared toward luxury. Regardless of trim, it’s the Cherokee that takes the compact SUV segment. This makes the Cherokee’s second year for winning this category.

Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicle

The 2016 Truck Rodeo: The Full Results High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4x4
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been a big winner at the Truck rodeo over the years. In 2014, it took home the top honors of SUV of Texas. This year, it beat out the Pathfinder for the mid-size SUV category. It’s combination of off-road capability, utility, luxury, and efficiency gives it a huge leg up on Nissan’s unibody crossover.)

Full-Size Sport Utility Vehicle

2017 Nissan Armada Unveiled High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Nissan Armada Platinum 4x4
2017 Dodge Durango Citadel Anodized Platinum AWD
2017 Dodge Durango GT Brass Monkey AWD
2017 Toyota Land Cruiser
The Nissan Armada is all new for 2017 and borrows the majority of its parts form the global Nissan Patrol and U.S.-spec Infiniti QX80. Because of this, the Armada has a great combination of luxury and utility that is priced well within the full-size SUV segment. Its 5.6-liter V-8 and available safety technologies are highlights of this traditional, body-on-frame SUV.

Mid-Size Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle

2017 Jaguar F-Pace – Driven High Resolution Exterior Test drive Exclusive Photos
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2017 Jaguar F-Pace 35t R-Sport
2017 Jaguar F-Pace S*
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit
2016 Lexus RX 350 F Sport AWD
The Jaguar F-Pace proves JLR can build other SUVs besides Land Rovers. This SUV puts more emphasis on sport than utility, giving its driver a great experience behind the wheel. Both trim levels come with a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, though the F-Pace S gets 40 more horsepower. An intelligent AWD system gives this cat a sure footing.

Full-Size Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS 550 4MATIC
2016 Land Rover Range Rover HSE Td6
2016 Lexus LX 570
The Mercedes GL-Class is refreshed for 2017, bringing the new GLS name. The GLS retains the three-row, seven-passenger configuration, but now has a refreshed exterior and updated interior. The GLS 550 comes powered by a stout 449-horsepower, 4.7-liter twin-turbo V-8.

Off-Road Utility Vehicle

The 2016 Truck Rodeo: The Full Results High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock
2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara*
Technically the Wrangler Rubicon didn’t have any competition in this segment, so it automatically took the win. Nevertheless, the Wrangler continues to prove its outstanding capabilities on the trail while being a fun vehicle to daily drive. We are looking forward to what Jeep has in store for the Wrangler’s next generation in 2018.

Mid-Size Pickup Truck

The 2016 Truck Rodeo: The Full Results High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
2017 GMC Canyon 2.8L Diesel Denali 4WD
2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD TRL-E
2017 Honda Ridgeline RTL-E
2016 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X Crew Cab
This was a hotly contested segment, with both the Tacoma TRD Pro and all-new Honda Ridgeline battling it out. In the end, the Tacoma and its new TRD Pro trim won out thanks to its off-road prowess and on-road manners. Its rugged good looks didn’t hurt either.

Full-Size Pickup Truck

The 2016 Truck Rodeo: The Full Results High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Nissan Titan Texas Edition SL Crew Cab
2017 Ford F-150 4x4 Supercrew King Ranch
2017 Ford F-150 4x4 Supercrew Lariat
2017 Ram 1500 Lone Star Silver
2016 Ram 1500 Rebel
2017 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro
The half-ton Titan made its Rodeo debut this year and brought its handsome design, roomy and functional interior, and powerful 5.6-liter V-8. It has many of the same features that helped the 2016 Titan XD win last year’s Truck of Texas award. Nissan also taps into Texas pride with its Texas-only Texas Edition. The competition was strong, especially with the equally-Texas Ram 1500 Lone Star Silver edition present and Ford’s well-received F-150.

Heavy Duty Pickup Truck

The 2016 Truck Rodeo: The Full Results High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Ford Super Duty F-250 4x4 Crew Cab Lariat
2017 Ram 2500 Limited
2017 Ram 2500 Longhorn
It’s no surprise that the overall winning truck would also win its category. The all-new 2017 Super Duty shows a huge advancement in design, power, connectivity, entertainment, safety, and capability. It’s new aluminum body sheds discernable weight, while the revised 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 turbodiesel now has class-leading torque. Its F-150-like interior and handsome exterior were big hits with judges.

Luxury Pickup Truck

2017 Ram 1500 Longhorn
2017 Ford Super Duty F-250 4x4 Crew Cab Platinum
2017 Ford Super Duty F-350 4x4 Crew Cab Platinum
2017 GMC Sierra 4WD Denali
2017 Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve
Ram can sure build a well-appointed truck interior. Real wood and metal trim matched with contrast-stitched leather gives the Longhorn trim a high-end feel while not decreasing the truck’s capacities for work. It might be the “boss’ truck,” but its available 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 and 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 can do plenty of pulling. Combine that with the Ram 1500’s multi-link rear coil suspension and available air ride, and the Ram gives a first-class experience.

Off-Road Pickup truck

The 2016 Truck Rodeo: The Full Results High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon
2017 Ford Super Duty F-2t0 Crew Cab King Ranch
2016 GMC Sierra 1500 4WD All Terrain X
2017 Nissan Titan PRO-4X Crew Cab
FCA knows how to make an off-road vehicle. Along with the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk and Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, the Ram 2500 Power Wagon is a purpose-built rig that can take just about anything. Like in years past, it features solid axles with true locking differentials, a manual-shifting transfer case, a front sway bar disconnect, and a Warn winch hidden behind the front bumper rated for 12,000 pound. It’s the perfect zombie apocalypse truck.

Commercial Vehicle

The 2016 Truck Rodeo: The Full Results High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Nissan Titan XD Single Cab Diesel
2016 Ford Transit 250 SRW C/C
2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 Passenger 170”
2016 Ram ProMaster Tradesman
This was technically the first event where media members have driven the single cab Titan XD. Fitted with the optional 5.0-liter Cummins V-8 turbodiesel, the lightweight truck offers a surprisingly fun driving experience. Its steering feels lighter than the crew cab Titan XD and visibility is improved, both helping single cab truck drive more spryly. Aftermarket diesel tuners will surely have fun with this truck.

Other Awards

The 2016 Truck Rodeo: The Full Results High Resolution Exterior
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Truck Line of Texas

Ford Motor Company
From the F-150 up through the F-450 Super Duty, Ford offers a huge range of choices in the pickup segment. Regardless of budget or task, Ford caters to customers with a huge number of trim lines, cab configurations, and available options.

Best Technology

Honda’s In-Bed Audio System
The Honda Ridgeline always kept the party going thanks to its innovative in-bed audio system. Engineers use “exciters” to move the plastic bed walls, essentially making them giant speakers. The system is fully weather proof and actually sounds pretty good. Tailgaters everywhere should check out this technology.

Best Connectivity

FCA Uconnect Access
The Uconnect system has long been heralded as the best infotainment system in the business. Its seamless integration of menus and simplistic graphic interface makes for easy use. The navigation system works well, as does the radio and system preference pages.

Best Powertrain

Ford’s 2017 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6
Ford engineers clearly did their homework with the new, second-generation 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. Impressive power gains push the engine to 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque while still getting an EPA-estimated 22 mpg highway on a crew cab truck with 4WD.

Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read full bio
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