Strictly speaking, Sport Utility Vehicles are similar to station wagons or pick-up trucks but built on a light-truck chassis. Since the American auto industry has not agreed upon one specific definition, they are largely referred to as “light trucks” with such features as off-road capabilities – due to their raised ground clearance – and the ability to carry more passengers and added cargo capacity. Certain types may be equipped with four-wheel drive and towing capabilities.
Reasons People buy SUVs
Given the diverse SUV choices available to consumers today, it comes as no surprise that this vehicle appeals to many segments of the market.
People living and working on farms buy them for their towing capacity and off road abilities. The 4X4 handling available in many SUVs is very well suited to areas that have harsh climatic conditions.
The same towing and handling capabilities appeal to families or individuals that have a highly active outdoor life. This may include loading up the vehicle and taking long road trips across the country or towing their boat to a mountain lake. As such the additional cargo capacity is also well utilized.
Besides being perceived as safer because of its size and build, modern SUVs are built with a host of safety features like dual-stage front air bags, side air bags and inflatable curtains to protect passengers. Anti-lock brakes and stability control are a standard feature on most SUVs. Many car makers have been focusing on improving safety standards on their SUVs. One example is The Ford Explorer (2014) which has enhanced technology to deal with adverse road conditions, including rain, gravel and ice. It uses sensors to monitor the vehicle’s roll rate and helps the driver maintain control in the event of a wheel slip. This technology also includes a curve control feature that slows down the vehicle if it senses that its taking the curve too fast.
Since these vehicles are higher off the ground, it makes it easier for people (especially those advanced in age) to get in and out of the vehicle. The height also makes it easier to strap children into their car seats. Consequently, they are being used by young families living in urban and suburban areas, particularly those with younger children.
While the SUV may have started out as a utilitarian, all-purpose vehicle it has been constantly changing based on consumer demand and has reached a point where there is wide variety to choose from; not just in terms of sizes or brands
As the name suggests it combines some of the features of a SUV such as tall interiors with some of the features of a hatchback or sedan such as greater fuel economy. They usually have less cargo and passenger space and smaller engine, hence they are often referred to as compact SUV’s. Most compact SUV’s since the mid-2000s are crossover SUV’s and have restricted off-road abilities. Examples are Toyota RAV4 or Mitsubishi Outlander.
There are also vehicles like the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson among others that offer some of the advantages of SUV’s like increased towing capacity and greater cargo space while also having features of regular hatchbacks.
The Hybrid SUV runs on two power sources, one being the regular gasoline based engine with the other being an electric motor, that needs to be charged. It has been designed with the intent to reduce the environmental impact of vehicular emissions and is a more fuel efficient option.
Most hybrid engines use other advanced technologies that allow the electric motor to aid the engine in accelerating or hill climbing. In some hybrids, when the vehicle is at lower speeds, the engine automatically switches to the electric motor because gasoline engines are less efficient.
The Porsche, Cayenne Hybrid is an example of a luxury hybrid SUV, which, has a combination of a V-6 gasoline engine and an electrical engine component. On a full charge has the electric driving range of about 14 miles.
The SUV has come a long way from its rudimentary, truck-based model that was primarily used as a commercial and utilitarian vehicle to almost becoming a status symbol. Essentially luxury SUV’s are designed for those who prefer an SUV with enhanced performance, comfort, and safety.
One of the earliest examples of a luxury SUV is Kaiser Jeep’s Super Wagoneer which was fitted with a V8 engine and automatic transmission for superior performance and comfort features like bucket seating, air-conditioning and a sun roof.
While modern luxury SUV’s may or may not be fitted with a V8 engine, they include a host of safety features like airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), traction control and sensor systems.
One of the most obvious and practical benefits of the SUV is its all-terrain handling, which is highly helpful and in fact needed in places with inclement weather conditions. These larger vehicles, with their 4×4 power and higher suspension also fare better in mountainous, wooded, or rough terrain areas.
The added seating capacity makes it ideal for larger families that do a lot of carpooling. Like minivans, SUVs can seat up to nine passengers but they offer better handling (especially in challenging weather) and aesthetics.
The SUV’s height makes it easier for passengers to enter and exit. Most people have reported that they enjoy the higher seating and better visibility. More cabin space (legroom, headroom) means that passengers feel more comfortable on longer journeys.
One of the complaints about SUVs is their rugged suspension. However, many crossover SUVs of today (built on car platforms), are designed to deliver a smooth ride with suspensions that soak up road imperfections, and allow for smooth handling.