The prestigious North American Truck/Utility of the Year award will be awarded next week to the Ford C-Max, Mazda CX-5 or Ram 1500. The two utility vehicles and one pickup are the finalists narrowed from a field of 10 candidates previously selected by a group of 49 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada.
The all-new Ford C-Max is a small crossover utility vehicle that is offered either as a conventional hybrid -- the C-MAX Hybrid -- or a plug-in hybrid -- C-MAX Energi. The five-seat vehicle is a blend of minivan and crossover. Features include seven air bags, a rear liftgate that can be opened hands-free with a gentle kicking motion, and the latest version of SYNC with MyFordTouch that manages phone, entertainment and climate functions.
As a replacement for the Mazda Tribute, the Mazda CX-5 is the first Mazda to incorporate its new SkyActiv Technology, which focuses on improving both performance and fuel economy. The single, 155 horsepower, 2-liter gasoline engine boasts the best highway fuel economy (35 mpg) of any SUV sold in the U.S. The compact crossover seats five and features a 40/20/40 split rear seat with three pieces that fold flat independently for maximum flexibility.
Fully redesigned, the 2013 Ram 1500 features a new exterior design and a new engine, giving it best-in-class fuel economy. The new 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine has more horsepower and torque than the V-6 it replaces, all while getting 25 highway mpg. For more power, a V-8 Hemi is available. Other new features include air suspension to improve ride control and loading as well as an upgraded interior with premium materials and wood accents.
The North American Truck/Utility of the Year jurors initially considered all the trucks and SUVs that were new or substantially redesigned for 2013, and the jurors voted by ballot on the finalists. The winner will be announced at a press conference on Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.