So I’m not one typically for hard and fast rules for vehicle classifications. I, for example, don’t subscribe to the notion that a truck needs to have a ladder frame and a solid axle and low range to be a “truck” or any of that nonsense. That being said I think there are distinctions that exists and are worth differentiating if not by a technical means at least by use and intent.

This is why the use of “SUV” bothers me a little. Without going deep into the history of the SUV lets just say that what the Sports Utility Vehicle was during its hay day is not the same animals that are so popular now and often miscategorized under the same banner.

Technology marches on and as cars advanced people grew weary of the tradeoffs of this hybrid marriage between wagon and truck and car makers adapted to demands of comfort, efficiency, step in, handling and other demands that would have not be feasible at the dawn of the SUV.


Consumers and manufactures figured out around the same rate that the traits that made SUV’s appealing weren’t its ruggedness, its off road ability, its capacity for hard work and payloads. They wanted the surefootness of all wheel traction, the higher driving position, the greater cargo flexibility of a wagon without the unfortunate stigma of a wagon and they could leave rest on the table...and the market responded. The end result is a hybrid again of the SUV and a passenger vehicle. It would be fair to say that the SUV is the progenitor of the crossover and even fair to call it a replacement, only the SUV didn’t die completely. The market for SUV’s never really went away and they are still being made today, either as capability focused like a suburban or Sportsman focused like a wrangler or 4runner they still exist. Which brings me back to the top - SUV’s and Crossovers have diverged and are no longer the same thing. Yes the distinction includes some gray area but thats why I avoid hard and fast rules in the first place, there are always blends.

Lets use an example to illustrate.


SUV, obviously right? Even Mercedes says so on their website. Even though its smaller in every dimension than this non-SUV wagon (yes, including height)


Both are unibody, transverse engine and AWD. Granted thats the lowered speed version versus the everyday version but at 60 inches high in standard form the GLA is never far from car territory, for example a Ford Taurus is 60.7 inches tall.

This rant is getting longer than I wanted to I’ll cut to the chase.


These are the top 20 best selling “SUV’s” according to

Lets see how many of those are just cars masquerading as SUV’s by excluding anything resembling what was considered an SUV in the height of their popularity.


Jeep Wrangler

Toyota 4Runner

I would also accept the Grand and regular Cherokee on account of their mission still catering to a more sportsman bent.


The truth is, these “SUV’s” have far more in common with passenger cars than they do with their SUV forebears. Even the flimsy pretense that allows them to be classified as “Light trucks” by the EPA is hard to defend for most of these

“Federal regulations define a light-duty truck to be any motor vehicle having a gross vehicle weight rating (curb weight plus payload) of no more than 8,500 pounds (3,855.5 kg) which is “(1) Designed primarily for purposes of transportation of property or is a derivation of such a vehicle, or (2) Designed primarily for transportation of persons and has a capacity of more than 12 persons, or (3) Available with special features enabling off-street or off-highway operation and use.”[1]


1. This says “is this thing made first for utility purposes or based on something that was?” Hard to claim that for a crosstrek

2. No vehicle here holds more than 12 people...this is for vans

3. This is where they all sneak in, but this is hilariously vague and grossly misrepresentative of the types of AWD system available in the market.


Just a couple of “SUV’s”, hanging out. Both vehicles are classified as light trucks, somehow.

Is a Nissan Rouge REALLY enabled for off-street or off-highway use? Anymore so than a Subaru Legacy? What about a CHR?


Again, I should point out that Im not the type thats all “real suv’s have this and this and this” but I think we all know what we mean when someone says crossover and SUV and they aren’t, or shouldn’t, be interchangeable.