Look around the parking lot of any preschool, grocery store or shopping mall. Typically you'll see rows and rows of what some call the "new family car"—the sport-utility vehicle (SUV). This is certainly true here in the Great Northwest, where a rugged, outdoorsy image is de rigeur even if your tires never leave the tarmac. Where better than the land of flannel to put the newest SUVs through their paces and determine which ones are best?
Every fall, the members of the Northwest Auto Press Association (NWAPA) get together with a couple dozen of the latest SUVs for two days of testing. Northwest journalists dubbed this event "Mudfest," a moniker that now seems a bit off the mark since most SUVs never actually get muddy; therefore, the evaluation wisely takes place both off-road and on.