A sport utility vehicle, or SUV is a Passenger vehicle which combines the Towing capacity of a Pickup truck with the passenger-carrying space of a Minivan or Station wagon together with on or off road ability. Most SUVs are designed with a roughly square Cross section (geometry), an engine compartment, a combined passenger and cargo compartment, and no dedicated trunk. Most mid-size and full-size SUVs have three rows of seats with a cargo area directly behind the last row of seats. Compact SUVs and Mini SUVs may have five or fewer seats.

It is known in some countries as an "Off-road" or "Four-wheel drive", often abbreviated to "4WD" or "4x4", pronounced "four-by-four". However, not all SUVs have four-wheel drive capabilities. Conversely, not all 4WD passenger vehicles are SUVs. Off-road are a very different class of vehicles, being vehicles primarily built for off-road use. Although some SUVs have off-road capabilities, this is often a secondary role and they often do not have the ability to switch between 2WD, 4WD high gearing and 4WD low gearing.

More recently, manufacturers have responded to buyers' complaints that SUVs "drive like trucks" and demands for "carlike ride" with a new type of SUV. A new category, the Crossover SUV uses car design and components for lighter weight and better Fuel efficiency, but is no longer designed or recommended by the manufacturer for off-road usage or towing.

Design characteristicsEdit

Although designs vary, the SUVs have historically been mid-sized passenger vehicles constructed using a Body-on-frame chassis similar to that found on light truck. They can be either gasoline or diesel, and often employ similar engines as pickup trucks.

A few of the most known design characteristics of SUVs are their high ground clearance, upright, boxy body, and high H-point. As awareness of Fuel economy has been increased, their bodies have become more aerodynamic to improve overall fuel economy.



The first Sport utility vehicles were descendants from commercial and Military vehicles such as the Jeep and Land Rover. SUVs have been popular for many years with rural buyers due to their off-road capabilities.

The earliest examples of longer-wheelbase wagon-type SUVs were the Willys Jeep Wagon (1948), Land Rover II 109 (1958), and the International Harvester Scout 80 (1961). These were followed by the more 'modern' Jeep (1963), Ford Bronco (1966), Toyota Land Cruiser FJ-55 (1968), the Chevrolet Blazer / GMC Jimmy (1969), and the Land Rover Range Rover (1970).

GMC used the sport utility vehicle reference in sales literature for its car-based GMC Sprint pickup truck; it was the only time a car/truck hybrid was referred as a sport utility vehicle (from Team Chevelle).

In the last 25 years, and even more in the last decade, the popularity of SUVs has increased among urban drivers. Consequently, more modern SUVs often come with luxury features and some Crossover SUVs have adopted lower ride heights and utilize unibody construction to better accommodate on-road driving.


File:97-01 Jeep Cherokee.jpg

It was the 1984 Jeep with its innovative appearance and sales popularity that really started the SUV boom because it spawned important imitators as the other automakers began to notice that the Jeeps were replacing regular cars.

SUVs became popular in the United States, Canada, and Australia in the 1990s and early 2000s for a variety of reasons. Vehicle buyers were drawn to their large cabins, higher Ride height, and perceived safety. Additionally, some full-size SUVs have far greater towing capacities than conventional cars, allowing owners to tow travel trailers (caravans), Trailer (vehicle), and Boats. This coincided with very low oil prices of the 1990s which made the running costs of SUVs affordable to the masses.

Some of the SUV's popularity can be attributed to its "utilitarian" image, which could explain the large growth in SUV popularity and among some women. Women constitute more than half of SUV drivers, and SUVs are one of the most popular vehicle choice of women in the United States.

In Australia, a unique situation resulted in the growth in popularity of SUVs. There, SUVs have a much lower Import duty than cars. This means a typical SUV has a price advantage over a similarly-equipped, imported sedan. However, in recent years, the import duty has been lowered for cars as well, and is currently at 10% (compared with 5% for SUVs).

Current model SUVs (crossovers) take into account that most SUV owners never go Off-road. As such, some SUVs now have Ride height and suspension designed primarily for paved road usage. Increased ground clearance is useful in climates with heavy snow.

In addition, full-sized SUVs have replaced the full-size Station wagons and bear similar features such as 3-row seating.

Use in remote areasEdit

SUVs are often used in places such as the Australian Outback, Africa, the Middle East, Alaska, Northern Canada, the Western United States, Iceland, South America and most of Asia, which have limited paved roads and require the vehicle to have all-terrain handling, increased range, and storage capacity. The low availability of spare parts and the need to carry out repairs quickly allow model vehicles with the bare minimum of electric and hydraulic systems to predominate. Typical examples are the Land Rover and the Toyota Land Cruiser. SUVs intended for use in urbanised areas have traditionally been developed from their more rugged all-terrain counterparts. For example the Hummer H2 is derived from the HMMWV, originally developed for the US Armed Forces.

Use in recreation and motorsportEdit

SUVs are also used to explore places otherwise unreachable by other vehicles. In Australia, China, Europe, South Africa, South America and the United States at least, many 4WD clubs have been formed for this purpose. Modified SUVs also take part in races, most famously in the Paris-Dakar Rally, and the Australia.

Luxury SUVEdit

Numerous Luxury vehicles in the form of SUVs and pickup trucks are being produced. This is principally a marketing term to sell vehicles that may have higher performance, comfort, technology, or brand image. The category was created in 1966 with Kaiser Jeep's luxurious Jeep. It was the first to offer a V8 engine, automatic transmission, and luxury car trim and equipment in a serious off-road model. It came with Bucket seating, Air conditioning, Sun roof, and even a Vinyl roof. Land Rover followed suit in 1970 by releasing the Range Rover in Britain. The trend continued with other competitors adding comfort appointments to their mostly rudimentary and truck-based models until this market segment rapidly expanded in the 1990s.


Other namesEdit

Outside of North America and India, these vehicles are known simply as "Four-wheel drives", often abbreviated to "4WD" or "4x4".

In countries such as the UK, where the U.S. distinction between cars and "light trucks" is not used, they are classified as cars. The term SUV is becoming increasingly widespread. Popular names in general use are "Land Rover" or "Jeep", used to describe the vehicle class and not just a single manufacturer's product. This practice was actively discouraged by every owner of the Jeep trademark, but this terminology is still in widespread use - even in Germany for example - due to the pioneering and defining influence of these first products.

In Australia and New Zealand, parts of the automotive industry and press are promoting the term "SUV" in place of "Four-wheel drive" in an attempt to disassociate this type of vehicle from its increasingly negative public image; despite this, the term "four wheel drive" is still widely used. The motor industry in that country uses the term "AWD" for vehicles that are driven by all four wheels, but not designed for harsh off-road conditions, while the motoring press prefers the term "soft roader" for this type of vehicle.

The Australian "utility" or "ute" (an abbreviation of "coupe utility", a body style created in Australia in 1934) traditionally refers to a car-based commercial vehicle with an integral, "styled", open load area at the rear. However, it now also applies to dedicated commercial vehicles with separate tray type ("table top") load areas, such as the Toyota Hilux, including 4wd versions.

See alsoEdit

  • Car classification
  • Compact SUV
  • Criticism of sport utility vehicles
  • Crossover SUV
  • Esuvee
  • Four-wheel drive
  • List of sport utility vehicles
  • Mini SUV
  • Off-road
  • RV
  • Station wagon

References Edit


Additional readingEdit

  • Keith Bradsher. High and Mighty: SUVs--The World's Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way. Published by PublicAffairs. ISBN 1-58648-203-3
  • Josh Lauer. "Driven to Extremes: Fear of Crime and the Rise of the Sport Utility Vehicle in the United States," Crime, Media, Culture, vol. 1, no. 2 (2005), pp. 149-168.
  • Adam Penenberg. Tragic Indifference: One Man's Battle with the Auto Industry over the Dangers of SUVs. Published by HarperBusiness. ISBN 0-06-009058-8

External linksEdit

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