If you have resisted the urge to buy an SUV or a crossover vehicle for the last decade or more but are now thinking that the time may be right to do so, there are some important facts you should consider before you sign on the dotted line. The larger interior of these vehicles, seating options and additional cargo space has made the SUV/crossover segment one of the most popular in today’s market. Here are some essentials that you should be aware of before buying.
SUV vs. Crossover Features: What’s the Difference?
The similarities between SUVs and crossovers are visible. Typically, both types of vehicles will have a roomy interior, high center of gravity and high ground clearance. Both also have rear access and a liftgate.
Both types of vehicles vary in size, price and performance. Crossovers come in compact, midsize and full-size models, with the latter having three rows of seat and seating for seven or eight people. Midsize models accommodate between five and seven people, while most compacts have room for five. Crossovers handle more like cars, have independent rear suspension and better fuel economy.
SUVs have several advantages over crossovers. They have the towing capacity of a pickup truck while providing as much seating as a minivan. Some also have four-wheel drive capability. Traditional SUVs are built on a rugged frame, giving them off-road capabilities that most crossovers don’t possess.
Consider Your Size Requirements
Know your needs before you head to the dealer. If you have a large family or take frequent road trips with a lot of luggage a smaller crossover may not be sufficient. However, if you are looking for a roomier interior and more cargo space, a smaller five-person crossover may work just fine.
As most crossovers are built on car-based platforms, they generally carry four- or six-cylinder engines. Turbo-charged, four-cylinder engines are also popular because of their fuel-saving capabilities. These smaller powertrains are what limits the towing capacity of most crossovers. Compact crossovers, such as the GMC Terrain or Dodge Journey, have towing capacities of 2,000 pounds. Midsize vehicles, like the Nissan Pathfinder or Hyundai Santa Fe, have towing capacities of up to 5,000 pounds. Most SUVs are equipped with V-6 engines, while some, including the GMC Yukon Denali, Toyota Land Cruiser, Cadillac Escalade and Dodge Durango, can be equipped with V8 engines that considerably increase their towing capacity.
If you’re seeking off-road capabilities, a traditional SUV is what you want. Few crossovers can withstand the rigors of off-road driving, with the notable exception of the Jeep Wrangler, Cherokee and Patriot and Toyota’s 4Runner and RAV4.
Overall safety is an important consideration A higher center of gravity makes SUVs and crossovers more prone to rolling over in accidents. Larger vehicles come with greater stopping distances. Manufacturers have increased safety with enhanced handling and anti-lock braking systems (ABS). Optional safety packages are often available to supplement ABS, including forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance. Check safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well the rigorous and variety of testing performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Another important consideration to check is the IIHS ratings on headlight performance. IIHs recently reported that only two mid-size models from American manufacturers had “good” ratings, 12 were rated “acceptable. Another 12 models had headlights that rated “acceptable” and 11 models offered “poor” headlights. Smaller models fared even worse with 12 of 21 delivering “poor” performance and only four rated as “acceptable.”
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has advocated changing outdated American regulations to allow the adoption of better technology used by manufacturers in Europe and Japan that could vastly improve headlight performance and nighttime visibility.
Just like other segments of the market, SUVs and crossovers have greater integration of Wi-Fi, making your vehicle a media hub. Depending on the model you choose, you’ll either get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to coordinate entertainment in newer SUVs and crossovers. While entertainment options are a prime consideration for families, innovations don’t stop there. Rearview cameras are included in almost all newer models, while 360-degree cameras are increasingly common on luxury models. Expect the tech revolution to continue.