Leftlane joined the Texas Auto Writers Association at its annual Texas Truck Rodeo held last weekend at the Oak Ridge Motocross course in Alvord, Texas, where the redesigned Ford F-150 pickup was honored as the "Truck of Texas," the Ford Flex was granted "Crossover of Texas" and the Ford Expedition King Ranch was bestowed as the "SUV of Texas" after two days of tough on- and off-road competition. After sweeping the overall vehicle awards, Ford also took home the coveted "Truck Line of Texas."
More than 40 members of the Texas Auto Writers Association and almost 80 automakers' public relations representatives gathered in Grapevine, Texas, at the Gaylord Texan resort prior to the event before embarking on two days of rigorous testing on a special-made course in rural Alvord. The Truck Rodeo is considered by manufacturers and journalists to be the most challenging and comprehensive evaluation of new trucks and SUVs.
Winners of the competition are heavily marketed as such by automakers throughout the country and especially in Texas, the largest truck market and second largest auto market in the United States.
Any and all automakers producing trucks, crossovers and SUVs were invited to enter their vehicles. With such open rules, those gathered ranged from the diminutive Jeep Patriot to the six-figure Range Rover Autobiography and everything in between. Each vehicle is evaluated in a variety of tasks and compared directly to its peers.
The most hotly contested class was the full-sized pickup award, which was especially competitive this year in light of two redesigned for 2009 entries, the Dodge Ram and Ford F-150.
The F-150 won over judges and TAWA members just as it won over our own Mark Elias just a few days before, though the redesigned Ram actually took class honors. Yet it was the F-150 that came out victorious overall by winning the prestigious top award: Truck of Texas.
Ford's president of the Americas, Mark Fields, was in attendance and he said of the F-150's overall victory, "This is high praise. Texas auto writers are the toughest truck critics because they know [trucks] first-hand and truly appreciate how core truck customers really use their pickups."
Ford offered two F-150s for evaluation, an off-road package FX4 and a luxurious King Ranch edition. It's possible that the King Ranch edition swayed the Texans in attendance with its interior covered in hides from the famed South Texas ranch.
The Dodge folks didn't go home empty-handed, however. In an unexpected twist, the Ram took home the Full-Size Pickup class award - a separate prize from the overall Truck of Texas award.
"This is quite an honor," said Mike Accavitti, director of marketing for Dodge. The automaker presented two Hemi-powered Rams for consideration: A value-packed crew-cab Lone Star Edition and an upmarket crew-cab Laramie.
The F-150 and Ram took honors over the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, as well as the San Antonio-built Toyota Tundra.
But the voting wasn't just about utilitarian pickups. Ford nearly swept the additional classes, including Luxury Pickup (F-150 King Ranch), Full-Size Crossover (Ford Flex), Mid-Size Crossover ( Mazda CX-9), Luxury SUV ( Lincoln MKX), Mid-Size SUV ( Ford Explorer) and Heavy Duty Pickup (Ford F-350 Super Duty Cabela's Edition).
Ford also won the overall SUV of Texas with the Expedition King Ranch. The Ram won the Outstanding Feature award thanks to its innovative Ram Box storage system.
Preventing a sweep were the individual class winners, which included the Mercedes-Benz ML320 BlueTEC, Subaru Forester 2.5X, Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, GMC Yukon Hybrid, Toyota Tacoma DoubleCab 4x4 and Suzuki Grand Vitara XSport 4x4.
We're sworn to secrecy on our votes, but needless to say the field was ultra-competitive this year.
Though trucks are important to the Texas Auto Writers Association - about 15 percent of all pickups are sold within the state thanks to wide open prairies and ranches - the group also holds a similar event for cars and minivans at the beginning of the year, the Spring Challenge. We'll bring you live coverage from that event as the rest of the United States thaws out from winter. Until then, enjoy our photo gallery.
And the winners were....
Truck of Texas: 2009 Ford F-150
SUV of Texas: 2009 Ford Expedition King Ranch
Crossover of Texas: 2009 Ford Flex
Truck Line of Texas: Ford Motor Company
Individual Award Winners:
Outstanding Feature: Dodge Ram Box
Full-Size Pickup Truck: 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Laramie 4x4
Mid-Size Pickup Truck: 2009 Toyota Tacoma DoubleCab 4x4
Luxury Pickup Truck: 2009 Ford F-150 King Ranch
Heavy Duty Pickup Truck: 2009 Ford F-350 Cabela's Edition
Full-Size SUV: 2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid
Mid-Size SUV: 2009 Ford Explorer
Compact SUV: 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara XSport
Full-Size Luxury SUV: 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
Mid-Size Luxury SUV: 2009 Mercedes-Benz ML320 BlueTEC
Luxury Crossover: 2009 Lincoln MKX
Compact Crossover: 2009 Subaru Forester 2.5X
Mid-Size Crossover: 2009 Mazda CX-9
Full-Size Crossover: 2009 Ford Flex
Words and photos by Andrew Ganz.