As a Native Texan, I can verify that the words “truck” and “rodeo” are both synonymous with the word Texas. Truly, they all go hand-in-hand down here in The Lone Star State. Therefore, being asked to join The Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) at this year’s Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) Texas Truck Rodeo was truly an honor in itself.
Texas Truck Rodeo
The Texas Truck Rodeo brings together more than 50 TAWA automotive journalists and 100-plus manufacturer representatives from throughout the nation meet for a two-day evaluation of the industry’s best trucks, SUVs and CUVs each fall. The auto writers recognize excellence in several categories, including selecting the year’s most coveted “Truck of Texas” award. Manufacturers covet the prestigious awards they earn at the Texas Truck Rodeo and often mention the honors in their promotional material. In fact, results from the Texas Truck Rodeo are widely covered in national publications such as Motor Trend, Consumer Reports and USA Today. SMDI is a title sponsor for the event and invited me to come along as the woman-on-the-street informant.
Having attended many events with the TAWA members, I felt completely welcome and at home at the event. This allowed me to easily mingle with both the writers and manufacturers. Riding along with some of my favorite drivers through each of the 3 off-road courses and the on-road drive, I learned an incredible amount of information and driving tips. For example, the Range Rover representative taught us to be “mechanically sympathetic” to our vehicles, even when parking it. Therefore, the proper way to park and subsequently turn off your vehicle is done in this sequence:
- Apply the brake and shift your vehicle into Neutral
- Set the parking brake and shift into Park
- Once the car has adjusted into position and disengaged the gears, turn off the ignition
He really wanted us to be nice to the vehicles and, therefore, extend the life of them and their components. Additionally, we became familiar with not only each truck, SUV and CUV we drove, but their best markets and target consumers as well. This is all excellent information when planning how to reach our readers as well as what may be the best way to share with them.
Back at the ranch though, it was 2 long, dust-field days off-roading in as many of the 71 vehicles represented as we could get behind the wheel of. Each of the courses challenged the off-road vehicles in various ways from climbing rocks, crossing creeks and even dodging exotic wildlife. The most rigorous of the scenic Texas Hill Country off-road courses took us on a 15-minute drive curving through various terrains and mud-filled ruts as we tested the hill descent, 4-wheel drive, and other off-road capabilities of the vehicles valued at nearly $4 million.
The Longhorn River Ranch was definitely an excellent location to put these vehicles to the test! We tried to drive as many vehicles in one class back-to-back as we could. We found that being able to drive one after another gave us a better feel of how each one handled the course. After looking at some of the voting criteria, I think it would be a much better way to really think through the voting process (had I actually been voting). SMDI knows how important these vehicles are to Texans — Texans buy more trucks than residents of any other state in the U.S. — which is why they are the title sponsor of the Rodeo for the second year in a row.
The use of advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) in these vehicles provides the edge drivers need. AHSS is strong, lightweight and provides the highest value, making it a top choice for consumers, designers and engineers alike. Texans also care a lot about the environment, and steel is a very sustainable material option for trucks since it emits the fewest greenhouse gas emissions compared to other materials, offers great lightweighting which increases fuel economy and is the most recyclable material overall.
When it as all said and done, the vehicles had been tested and the auto writers voted for their favorites in each category. The presentation was tense as the journalists and OEMs waited for the most coveted award to be announced. Each of the trucks in the running were started and began revving up as TAWA President Nic Phillips began, “And the winner is…” After a second or two pause, the 2017 Ford Super Duty moved forward and into the winner’s circle for the 13th year. The backbone of the truck is an all-new fully boxed frame comprising more than 95% high-strength steel that is up to 24 times stiffer than the previous frame – enabling best-in-class towing and hauling capability. Together, high-strength steel and high-strength aluminum alloy help reduce weight by up to 350 pounds.
Below is the full list of the 2016 TAWA Truck Rodeo Winners:
Truck of Texas: 2017 Ford Super Duty
SUV of Texas: 2017 Nissan Armada
CUV of Texas: 2017 Volvo XC90
Truck line of Texas: Ford Motor Co.
Heavy duty pickup truck: 2017 Ford Super Duty
Best commercial vehicle: 2017 Nissan Titan XD Single Cab
Luxury pickup truck: 2017 RAM 1500
Off-road pickup: 2017 RAM 2500 Power Wagon
Full-size pickup: 2017 Nissan Titan
Midsize pickup: 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
Best technology: Honda In-bed audio system
Best connectivity: FCA Uconnect Access
Best powertrain: 2017 Ford F-150 with 3.5 EcoBoost V-6 engine
Off-road utility vehicle: 2017 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Full-size luxury SUV: 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS
Mid-size luxury SUV: 2017 Jaguar F-Pace
Full-size SUV: 2017 Nissan Armada
Mid-size SUV: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Compact SUV: 2017 Jeep Cherokee
Full-size CUV: 2016 Mazda CX-9
Mid-size CUV: 2016 Nissan Murano
Compact CUV: 2016 Jeep Renegade
Luxury CUV: 2017 Volvo XC90
To learn more about why #SteelMatters, visit The Steel Markey Development Institute.
Disclosure: The Steel Market Development Institute provided my lodging and travel expenses for this trip. All opinions expressed in this piece are my own.
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