In its tenth year, the Active Lifestyle Vehicle Of The Year Awards event brings together a rich variety of SUV’s, crossovers, and other vehicles which cater to drivers needing space, utility and the ability to provide the platform for fun.

The event was founded by automotive writer and distance runner Nina Russin, Ironman Hall of Fame member Bob Babbitt, and Jim Woodman, a journalist, triathlete and founder of

Over two dozen vehicles were on hand this year from a wide swath of manufacturers that ranged from entry level models from Kia and Buick all the way up through high-end luxury makes like Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

The vehicles are divided up into various classes including Urban, Best Value On Road,
Best Value Off Road, Best Value Family, Green, Luxury On Road, Luxury Off Road and Luxury Family.

Judging this year’s collection are over 100 bikers, runners, and those who play hard both professionally and for fun. The jury came armed with their vehicle needs and a desire to drive them all, judging them on all aspects from appeal, performance, and style.

More importantly, they judge them on how well they are able to provide for their active lifestyles in the way of cargo space, utility and ease of use. Families even brought their gear in tow to test vehicles in real life situations like loading up the kids with their safety seats.

The event had both an off-road test section as well as a 15 minute on-road driving course which had in-town, freeway and country by-way driving to allow the judges a well rounded driving impression.

The venue was Local Motors, a company who builds a variety of off-road and custom vehicles that embrace the Active Lifestyle in more ways than one. Their facility had several off-road test sections as well as some fun eye-candy like their signature Rally Fighter vehicle.

Manufacturer participants in this years competition included brands Acura, Audi, Buick, Dodge, Fiat, GMC, Kia, Hyundai, Jeep, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Mitsubishi, RAM, Subaru, and Volkswagen.

After a day of driving and testing, the ballots were tallied for this year’s awards. Winners in each of the eight classes surprised some while reinforcing the consensus of many.

The 2014 Kia Soul won the Urban class which also included the Fiat 500L and Nissan Versa Note. In Best Value On Road, the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee took honors against competitors Mazda CX-5 and Buick Encore.

The 2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5 won in its class of Best Value Off-Road, and in the hotly contested Best Value Family category, the Mazda CX9 took top honors for its blend of room, style, and fun to drive character.

The Green category this year included a group of clean diesels, the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI, the Audi Q5 TDI and the new for 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel which won top honors.

Up the scale, the Luxury On Road winner was the new and sporting 2014 Audi SQ5 which competed against the Volkswagen Touareg and Mercedes-Benz E350 Wagon.

The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee took another honor in the Luxury Off-Road category with the new 2014 Acura MDX taking a win in the Luxury Family class.

The event in Phoenix, AZ is growing into a larger and more important honor for automakers each year. The awards given coming from real people who are iconic to the very buyers the vehicles are designed and marketed to adds gravitas that no expert talking heads can.