2018 Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year
By Phil Shuyler
It’s not an easy task picking a “vehicle of the year,” let alone an outdoor activity vehicle of the year in the Northwest. This year there were many deserving candidates, and a total of 7 winners, including the pinnacle award of Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year.
Lets cut to the chase – the overall Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year is the 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. It’s go anywhere attitude and redesigned interior and exterior styling for 2018 helped cement the Wrangler as the leader in achievable off-road performance vehicles.
Personally, I loved the new Hyundai Kona a bit more all-around. The Wrangler blew the competition out of the water off-road, however that capability comes with a price on-road. It’s not uncomfortable to drive, it just feels larger, feels less nimble at speed and has less cargo space than most or all of its competitors. Enter the Kona. It’s in the subcompact SUV segment, so it’s definitely small, however it’s plenty big for the needs of most people. It has adventurous looks and comes in both green and blue colors that are a call to nature just by themselves. The Kona did however win the Subcompact SUV of the Year.
Another vehicle high on our list was the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure. This trim for the RAV4 provides an increased ride height, larger over fender flares, durable rocker panel guards, and more. And like the Kona, the RAV4 Adventure looks like it’s ready to go exploring. You also receive Toyota reliably and dependability as well as appealing stying both inside and out.
Of course one can’t consider an activity vehicle without mentioning pickup trucks. Two standouts in this category were the 2019 Honda Ridgeline and the 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel. The Ridgeline excelled on pavement, but was not as capable off-road as the Rebel. Conversely, the Rebel is much larger, so its behavior on pavement made it feel like the large truck that it is, but once off road, it felt right at home. That’s not to say the Ram 1500 isn’t comfortable in and around town however. Its air ride suspension is silky smooth and gives you height for clearing rocks and logs, and then lowers for increased aerodynamics on the highway.
Rounding out our top picks is the 2019 Jeep Cherokee. This completely redesigned model is more capable than you might think, and the Trailhawk version also looks the part. Aside from the Wrangler, the Cherokee had the least amount of difficulty crawling over the logs and traversing the hills we encountered during our testing.
Here’s the full list for each of the category winners:
Subcompact SUV – 2018 Hyundai Kona
Compact & Midsize SUV – 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Family SUV – 2018 Volkswagen Atlas
Luxury SUV – 2018 BMW X2
Pickup – 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel
Extreme – 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
NW Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year – 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
(All photos courtesy Ryan Douthit/NWAPA)