The Texas Off-Road Invitational
GOD BLESS TEXAS
During the final days of May, just before the sun stopped being kind and unleashed its full fury on Texas, I attended the Texas Off-Road Invitational. This truck and SUV off-road-focused event is hosted annually by the Texas Motor Press Association (TXMPA). I spent two days on a 300-acre property littered with water crossings, open fields, and dusty trails to drive, crawl, and traverse in the latest 4×4 and AWD vehicles.
However, the real work began after the fun – I mean professional road tests – were completed, requiring me to sit down and look through my bug spray-stained notes to vote on which vehicles had the style, performance, and interior tech to earn the title of Texas Vehicle of the Year for 2023, in their respective categories.
Winners of the Texas Off-Road Invitational
This year, a symbolically appropriate pickup took home the prize title of Texas Off-Road Truck of 2023 – the Hennessey Ram TRX Mammoth 1000. A vehicle that perfectly captures the ego that comes with living in the Lone Star state. It may be a super truck with a supercar price tag, but beyond that, the Mammoth 1000 reminds us: Everything is bigger in Texas.
Driving the Hennessey Mammoth 1000 is a surreal experience. Starting with the fact that you’re piloting a street-legal 1,000 horsepower pickup truck with a suede headliner, leather seats, and satellite radio, all backed by a three-year warranty. The big truck is as docile as a dairy cow on the road. When you kick it in the throttle and raise the RPM past 2,500, the red mist descends, and the Mammoth stampedes.
The sensation is on par with being on a speeding freight train. Starting down the road, you hear the supercharger whine, but the truck’s size dulls the feeling of rapid travel until you look to your side and see the world pass by in a blur as you accelerate from zero to 60 in 3.3 seconds. Off-road, you feel like Paul Bunyan towering over nature with the peace of mind that only 969 lb.-ft of torque can provide with four-wheel drive. The Mammoth 1000’s factory sibling, the RAM 1500 TRX, earned the title of Texas Full Size Truck of 2023, followed by the Texas Mid-Size Truck of 2023, won by Jeep’s Gladiator Mojave.
The herd of SUVs at the event competed in five categories: Luxury, Off-Road, Mid-Size, Compact and Full-Size. The ever-expanding SUV market made voting on the best ones a challenge, but once the dust settled, the Toyota Sequoia won Texas Off-Road SUV of the Year, followed by the Jeep Wrangler as the Texas Mid-Size SUV of the Year. The Nissan Armada took home the title of Luxury SUV of the Year. Meanwhile, the Texas Full-Size and Compact SUV of the Year went to the Hyundai Palisade and Mazda CX-50, respectively.
Each vehicle earned its title through unique features or by setting the standard in its class. The Toyota Sequoia’s interior design aesthetic and ultra-wide infotainment screen shows every corner of the SUV, making driving over steep inclines and water crossings as easy as reversing into a parking space. The Nissan Armada’s plush leather interior, elevated ride height, and auto-leveling rear suspension made navigating uneven terrain a pleasure cruise.
Not surprisingly, the Jeep Wrangler was in a league of its own among the mid-size off-road SUVs. Hyundai’s mid-cycle refresh on the Palisade brought tech updates to its three-row interior that looks and feels more upscale than its MSRP. The Mazda CX-50 crossover continues the brand’s signature of dynamic handling characteristics, benefiting from wagon-like rear cargo space in a stylishly compact wheelbase.
What Does it Mean to Win the TXMPA Texas Vehicle of the Year?
What does it mean to have an Oprah’s Book Club decal on the cover of a book? Why does a Michelin Star jack up the price of breadsticks? Who the heck is J.D. Power? The answer to all three is consumer confidence, knowing you are buying something that’s been surveyed by a group of experts. The TXMPA Texas Vehicle of the Year award is more than just a pat on the back; it’s a stamp of approval. These awards help manufacturers promote their product’s value while helping instill confidence in said product for the consumer.