There are two kinds of people in this world: those who speak in sweeping generalizations, and those who don’t. Unfortunately, I seem to have just doomed myself to the former category, but I’m going to try to make up for that right now. There are a few choice industry terms thrown around these days that are sure to make the average enthusiast cringe and possibly gag. ‘Crossover’ sits comfortably on this list, somewhere between ‘CVT’ and ‘simulated engine noise’ — and there are many fair reasons for this to be the case.
Experiment time! Head on down to your local Cars and Coffee with a notepad and a can-do attitude and start asking random patrons what they think of CUVs. Actually, on second thought, just stay sitting there and keep pretend you’re working on something (and keep up that Alt+Tab technique! It’s getting better!). I can even simulate the experience for you; just pretend I’ve got on a slightly faded Snap-On T-shirt and work the phrase “wheel horsepower” into every 5th sentence. Go ahead, ask me...
Did you ask? No? OK fine. I’ll do all the heavy lifting here. Just keep pretending you’re still um... spread sheeting? Do you even know what you’re supposed to be doing right now? I’m getting way off track here...
What they would say is basically something along the lines that crossovers like, totally suck. Depending on the kind of guy (read: brosef) you ask, you’ll hear something like:
A. “They’re not real SUVs, they’re all front wheel drive crap! Just get a wagon!”
B. “They’re just jacked up cars, but worse! Just get a truck!”
C. “Real SUVs are body on frame! Get a uh... umm... wait what still has a frame these days?”
D. “You should come check out my stage 3 G35, it’s dope! Mines the one with three ‘Illest’ stickers... no the other one.”
None of them are really wrong to think that way, and to be fair that dude’s G35 actually is pretty dope. As I was writing this post I actually had to stop and think about how few body on frame small to midsize SUVs we still have, at least here in America. I had to actually do some research and put effort into this, so here’s a quick list:
Small/midsize SUVs that are still body on frame:
- Toyota 4Runner
- Jeep Wrangler
- Nissan Xterra (discontinued for 2015)
- Lexus GX
Large and/or truck based SUVs that are still body on frame:
- Chevy Tahoe/Suburban/GMC Yukon/Cadillac Escalade
- Nissan Armada
- Infiniti QX
- Ford Expedition/Lincoln Navigator (they still make these, guys!)
- Mercedes G-Wagen
- Toyota Sequoia
- Toyota Land Cruiser/Lexus LX
Image courtesy of Lexus
Man. Can you believe that? Lexus has more body on frame vehicles than bald eagle riding, red, white and blue bleeding, bloody Jeep! What is this world coming to? A world of debatable hoverboards and car-based platforms, apparently. So that’s it then. Our SUVs are based off of Tauruses and Passats, the average car costs upwards of $30,000, and no one knows how the hell magnets work (here’s a GIF for you to post in the comments to save you some time. You’re welcome). The market has spoken, and the people clearly want CUVs to thrive, so maybe... just maybe... there is something to them after all.
OK. Let’s break down what it is everyone hates about these things. Yes, they are typically developed on car-based platforms, so they often share drivetrains and a vaguely similar floorpan with their low riding compatriots. Yes, they have FWD layouts, usually with some sort of (often inadequate) AWD option. And yes, they are pretty much just cars with lift kits, “rugged” plastic body cladding, just minus the bro-swag and dirt of a “real” SUV.
Image courtesy of Gearheads.org
Wait, I was supposed to defend these, wasn’t I? Uhhhh... Oh yeah, I remember now.
People like them, so shut up and deal with it.
I’m sorry. That was rude of me. Is this our first fight? I didn’t want things to happen this way. Maybe we can get some froyo later and watch a movie. No, not Pinkberry again. Damn it, I’m getting really off track this morning...
Here’s the deal; I’m one of you! Go ahead and look at my resume, it all checks out! My first five cars in order were: A 1994 Ranger, a ‘97 Wrangler, a ‘99 Wrangler, a ‘91 Cherokee, and a ‘90 Toyota 4Runner. All of which were 4WD, spent plenty of time off road, and except for the Cherokee, all were body of frame. Hell, I once spent a night stuck in the forest with a buddy of mine trying to dig our Jeeps out of a rising creek bed as it poured rain and our Jeeps flooded. Trust me, I hated all this sissified crap just as much as you until my girlfriend got a 2008 CR-V. And then I just sort of got it.
Like many of you, I am a huge proponent of wagons and hatchbacks. I am a firm believer that a sedan is just plain inferior to its hatch equipped counterpart. The problem is that wagons kind of still hold a negative stigma from the days of the family station wagon. Even recently when trying to convince a buddy of mine to start looking at wagons and he kind of scoffed until I showed him what a modern wagon actually is. He is now the proud owner of a Subaru Outback. Do you see I’m going with this? I’ll give you a slight, subtle nudge in the right direction:
Crossovers are the new station wagon.
Think about it. Back in the day, your average car guy despised station wagons. It represented everything that was suburban functionality and function over form. These were the soccer mom cars before they were called soccer mom cars. They were the horribly un-glamorous transportation tools that made kids ask their parents to drop them off around the corner from the movie theater. They were the hand-me-downs that are now rotting away in junk yards all over the country.
You know what’s funny now, though? We look back at them with a weird fondness. Now when we drive down the street, a funky old Mercedes or Volvo wagon turns our heads more easily than your average dime a dozen Mustang or even Corvette. Maybe it’s because we’re inherently contrarians — the automotive equivalent of hipsters — or we’re just getting too used to these rose tinted glasses we’ve got on and don’t realize it. My theory though, is that it’s what our parents liked and bought. Nothing ruins something faster when you’re young than your parents liking the same thing.
(You knew this image was coming)
OK, I can already hear you screaming in your head. I hear those keys pounding away already and I know what they’re going to type out:
“But G-Rad! Crossovers are worse than wagons because they sit up high for no reason and stuff! They get worse mileage than the car equivalent and have no added space or functionality to make up for it!”
I hear you, and I agree with you. Mostly because I just spoke for you and it helps that you used my second favorite nickname, but let’s not get bogged with that. Yes, modern CUVs carry pretty much the same interior dimensions (or less) as a wagon on the same platform would. The people have spoken, though. They like the feeling of sitting up high and the perceived safety benefits of this. This is the same reason why anyone drove “true” SUVs back when things like the Explorer had more street cred. This leads me to my next point:
No one really cares about what makes an SUV a “true” SUV.
People just like the aesthetic and notion of ruggedness that comes along with them, but without the drawbacks of a bouncy, clunky ride that comes along with actual off-road capability. So now we have these glorified wagons and hatchbacks that sit up a few inches higher and have that requisite “rugged” plastic body cladding. This paved the way for these “sport crossovers” where pretty much any rugged pretenses have been dropped, and now everyone’s happy. Well, mostly everyone — which brings me to my grand finale and finally a conclusion to this questionably coherent rant....
Please, no drum roll, guys. Stop. It’s obnoxious.
Alright fine, drum roll!
People whine and complain that these things don’t exist anymore, but they aren’t laying down their hard earned dollars and buying them.
These companies don’t make these things just so you can enjoy that they exist, they make their products so that people buy them and they actually make money. The people voted with their dollars, and those votes elected unibodies and independent suspension as head honcho.
The crossover is kind of like Donald Trump. Everyone claims to hate them, but yet are somehow weirdly popular. Wait a second, guys. Have you ever seen Donald Trump in the same room as a Nissan Rogue? A CR-V? Ford Escape? Never? Something fishy is going on here... Or should I say... Reptilian?
Nah, I definitely shouldn’t say that.
Go buy a Jeep or something and stop complaining.
Garrett Davis is a delusional and silly man who works in IT and sometimes likes to write about cars in his spare time. Unfortunately he went missing shortly after writing this piece and no one will ever hear from him again. Stay tuned for more features written from beyond the conspiratorial grave! -Not Trump Industries
Lead image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz