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2005 9th Annual International Car of the Year Awards
by Martha Hindes

SUV of the Year - 2005 Land Rover LR3
Moving in any direction is pretty much what a rock solid sport utility vehicle is all about. Uphill, downhill, through muddy parking lot trenches, or across icy tundras that would challenge even the reputation of the U.S. Postal service. The things that could bog down most vehicles are simply so many exercises in stamina for this most resourceful one. (A stubborn water buffalo or shopping mall cart blocking your path would count as two.)

In our search for resourcefulness behind the wheel, we gave top marks to Land Rover's new, refined, yet tough as nails LR3. This sport utility vehicle fulfilled the wish list and fixed shortcomings that kept the previous generation model it replaced from making the grade. Through all the changes, the LR3 manages to remain distinctively Land Rover. Underpinning the new LR3 is a frame technology that addresses the demands of many driving conditions with an amenity-laden interior geared for solid comfort and nimble performance. More power, better road manners and a deference for a quiet, comfortable ride vie for attention with five different terrain settings, three meant for going off-road. Two systems enhance braking on rugged landscape. Elevated ride and ample headroom, give LR3 a height advantage on roads. Good ground clearance and adjustable air suspension augment its ability to forage through almost any terrain. We find it merges the best of both worlds.

Honorable Mentions:

Ford Escape Hybrid
At a glance one couldn't guess Ford's hybrid Escape small sport utility was any different than its thousands of brothers already on American roads. Close up, or behind the wheel it's still hard to tell. Check below deck for the unfamiliar battery and conversion hardware, or gauge fuel consumption and sparse emissions to know this is Ford's first venture into high volume gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles. As the world's first "full" hybrid SUV, it runs on electricity or gas alone, or a combo of both. We salute Ford for choosing one of its best sellers as a launch pad, where "green" gains can have the broadest impact.

Nissan Pathfinder
Put an advanced and functional interior in a newly developed body on frame with handsome styling and authoritative guts and you have the redesigned Nissan Pathfinder. This seven seater goes off-road with abandon or on-road in comfort and style, surrounded in Bose premium sound or the flicker of wireless, headphone-muted DVD. Crickets in the farthest reaches of woodlands can provide a nocturnal symphony when its far from city lights or anything resembling a road. We think Nissan's staple mid-size sport utility is so improved; we honor it among our best.

Car of the Year
Chrysler 300C

Truck of the Year
Hummer H2 SUT

Most Sex Appeal/Sports Car
Chevy Corvette

Most Spirited/Entry-Level
MINI Cooper Convertible

Most Compatible/Minivan
Chrysler Town & Country

Most Versatile/Crossover
Dodge Magnum
Most Respected/Luxury Car
Jaguar XJ LWB
Most Athletic/Pickup Truck
Ford F-250 Superduty

Most Resourceful/SUV
Land Rover LR3

2005 ICOTY Awards Links