OFF-ROADERS—Everybody’s Got One!

Kia Telluride, Ram 1500 Rebel 4×4 Take Top Awards at Texas Motor Press Association’s Texas Off-Road Invitational

beverly and steve smirnis

We recently joined Texas Motor Press Association and attended its first Texas Off-Road Invitational event at General Sam’s Offroad Park, located near Huntsville, Texas.  It’s a spectacular place with 706 acres of beautiful piney woods forests, six flowing spring fed creeks along with a deep water pond and over 60+ miles of offroad riding trails for A.T.V’s, trucks, and other offroad vehicles.

Rightfully so, the Ram Rebel was named Texas Offroad Truck of the Year.  It competed with Nissan Titan Pro4X, GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison, Toyota Tacoma and Tundra TRD Pro editions.   All were capable offroad, but the Ram 1500 Rebel 4×4 four-wheel drive and 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 equipped with 33-inch all-terrain tires, Bilstein monotube dampers and air springs good for 10.8 inches of ground clearance, skid plates, etc. was in a class all its own when it came to capability.

Judging was a little more subjective for Texas Offroad SUV of the Year.  We found it interesting to compare the Range Rover (Evoque and Discovery) and the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon against the other contenders.  Range Rover and Jeep are brands that started with off-roading in mind; the other contenders are all vehicles built for the street, later adding these off-road-capable models.  Yes, the winning Kia Telluride as well as the Toyota Rav4 Adventure and the Honda Passport were rather amazing in their off-road capabilities and delivered a lot of surprising capabilities at a decent price point.

kia telluride suv review

We’d seen the offroad capabilities of the Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek edition, Lexus GX 460, Lexus LX 570 and Infiniti QX80 Limited before, and continue to be impressed.  But to climb the big hills, the true offroad brands did not require acceleration.  In fact, the opposite was encouraged:  “Just let the vehicle do the work it’s made to do.”  We’re anxious and happy to see the newcomers, but are they really a direct substitute for the true off-road enthusiast—no.  That said, Range Rover and Jeep will tell you that many of their buyers like the concept, but never actually take their vehicles off-road (except for the occasional illegal maneuver to cross a median to get out of a city traffic jam).

The “star” of the event was the $325,000 Rolls Royce Cullinan, named after the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found.  A true diamond, it performed in the rough alright, though most of us handled it rather gingerly given the liability of our reputation if something were to happen to it under our hands. It was super cool to experience it and have it there, but we breathed a sigh of relief that it didn’t take Texas Offroad SUV of the Year because we don’t actually expect to see a lot of these in the Lone Star State.  This is a vehicle more likely to be seen on the deserts of Saudi Arabia or somewhere on the Asian continent.  But the ultra-lux SUV class must have enough of a market to justify the extreme.  The Cullinan joins the Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus, and Mercedes Maybach SUV is also due out soon.

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We hold the belief that all of these vehicle types and places like General Sam’s hold a bright future.  The day when our vehicles drive themselves autonomously promises that the “sport” of driving will be huge in the future.  Weekend warrior driving enthusiasts will come out of the woodwork, heading off to cross-road driving parks and race tracks.

The Texas Off-Road Invitational was sponsored by:

  • Prestige Auto– the concierge auto service working some of the best auto industry events nationwide.
  • NuVinAir– a Plano-based company, offering a line of products that “quickly and safely eliminate stubborn odors at the source.”
  • Shell Rotella– offering a line of diesel oil, coolant, and antifreeze products throughout the world.
  • Xpel products designed to protect a vehicle’s paint job, windows, and headlights.
Texas Offroad Invitational sponsors