The automotive winners of the 10th annual Carspondent.com Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards were announced Saturday after being evaluated and chosen by more than 100 athletes and outdoors enthusiasts in this unique competition. Athletes from around the country, who participate in such sports as marathon running, bicycling, soccer and kayaking, gathered at the Local Motors microfactory in Chandler for the 2013 ALV competition of new vehicles provided by the manufacturers.
The winners in the eight categories for the Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards are:
Luxury Family (three rows of seating, over $40,000) – 2014 Acura MDX
Best Value Family (three rows of seating, MSRP at or below $40,000) – 2013 Mazda CX-9
Luxury Off-Road (MSRP over $35,000 with true off-road capability) – 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Luxury On-Road (MSRP over $35,000) – 2014 Audi SQ5
Green (Alternative fuel and hybrid powertrains) – Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel
Best Value Off-Road (MSRP at or below $35,000 with true off-road capability) – 2014 Toyota 4Runner
Best Value On-Road (MSRP at or below $35,000) – 2014 Jeep Cherokee
Urban (MSRP at or below $20,000) – 2014 Kia Soul
The Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year is the only annual vehicle awards in which active, outdoors people pick the winners, along with a small contingent of automotive journalists who accompany them in the ride-and-drive tests. The off-road vehicles are also tested on Local Motor’s challenging off-road course adjacent to its manufacturing facility. “This is really, really cool,” said ultra-marathon runner Jenn Shelton as she perused the gathering of off-road vehicles that her team was testing out. “It gets your average consumers’ opinion about things that are really important to them that for car people are maybe not that important.” Shelton, who competes in running events that go as long as 100 miles, says she needs a rugged vehicle that can travel to out-of-the-way places. Plus, one other thing. “It’s important for me to be able to sleep in my car. Very important,” she said.
Local Motors also hosted a complementary Active Lifestyle Vehicle competition, a Design Challenge for its global community of designers and engineers to create the ultimate Active Lifestyle Vehicle. Designers from around the world submitted their radical ideas for outdoors, off-road and adventure vehicles, and the ALV athletes helped pick the winner. The first-place prize in the Design Challenge went to John Bukasa for CLIMAX, an imaginative go-anywhere sports vehicle with a roof system designed for toting such things as kayaks.
Jeep vehicles were the biggest winners in the main ALV event, taking three of the 10 categories. “We’re thrilled to have won these important Active Lifestyle Vehicle awards for the Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee,” said Scott Brown, West Region PR Manager, Chrysler Group LLC. “They are especially rewarding as Jeep vehicles more than any others represent a true active lifestyle.”
A special highlight of this year’s ALV event was the participation of retired professional football players from the Arizona Legends of the National Football League, which promotes youth access to football programs. Among the NFL stars was Tony Bouie, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who said he was actively shopping for a new vehicle for his own family, and the ALV event was helping him decide for himself as well as providing feedback to the manufacturers. “This is a great way to try out what’s out there and let them know what we think,” Bouie said. Bouie was not the only one using ALV as a car-shopping expedition. Joel Reynolds and Faye Farmer brought along their three little boys, ages 5, 3 and 16 months, and their respective car seats, to see how well they fit in each vehicle in the family categories. “It has to be right because we have three tornados,” Reynolds said.
A new product for bicyclists was introduced during the ALV competition: XPEL paint-protection film that shields vulnerable parts of bike frames from rocks and trail debris, as well as chips and scratches from pedals and chains. XPEL is an automotive product that has been adapted for mountain and road bikes after input from ALV participants. Longtime distance runner and auto journalist Nina Russin, a co-founder of the Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards, said the event is designed to educate the automakers about what active people want in their vehicles. Manufacturers whose vehicles win prizes in the competition can use the Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year brand in their marketing and advertising. “Every year, ALV grows not only in size but dimension,” Russin said. “This year, we introduced our first ALV-inspired accessory, and added to our athlete community via the participation of Arizona Legends, retired NFL players of Arizona. In addition, Local Motors hosted its own design competition, which gave our concept global reach. “We had more participants on-hand than ever before, and I see a deepening relationship between our audience and the OEMs as this program continues to grow.”
The other co-founders of the ALV awards are Bob Babbitt, a member of the Ironman Hall of Fame, and Jim Woodman, longtime journalist, triathlete and founder of Active.com.
The awards were handed out to the winning manufacturers as soon as the votes were tabulated, with representatives from the automakers on hand to receive the trophies. During the competition, they rode along with the athlete judges to hear their opinions about the new vehicles. Jol Dantzig, a runner, auto writer and guitar maker from Connecticut, pointed out that ALV is an invaluable tool for the automakers in updating and refining their vehicles for the end users. “I think this is a great opportunity for the manufacturers to get real-world feedback from a growing segment of consumers,” Dantzig said.