By on August 12, 2010

I recently attended a fancy-pants dinner held by Chrysler PR for some Houston-area bloggers. We were wined, dined and introduced to the 2011 Grand Cherokee. While free food and journalistic integrity are a tough combo to swallow, I found something entertaining and inherently blog worthy: the castrated 2011 Ford Explorer is in the new Grand Cherokee’s gunsight. Why? One of the SUV’s most famous nameplates is now a crossover, while another is still an SUV. But neither of them like being called names.

It’s a fair assumption to say that, for the past two years, those buying Explorers are committed to the SUV lifestyle, with loyalty only trumped by fleet buyers of Ford’s Panther chassis. How many of these fans who didn’t jump ship to Ford’s Edge, Flex, Freestyle or Taurus X crossovers are gonna go for their namesake’s new, girly-man reincarnation?

The 2011 Grand Cherokee claims safe haven from the nightmare of crossover ownership. And Chrysler knows it: mentioning the JGC’s off-road friendly removable bumper insert, Cayenne-worthy independent air suspension, Rover-like approach angles, crossover-killing towing prowess and rear wheel drive poise. The original Cherokee proved that body-on-frame isn’t necessary for an SUV, so maybe they are on to something. I might even find out for myself with a PR-sanctioned road test.

Not to mention that this anti-crossover has a HEMI under the hood. Just don’t call it a HEMI, as that goes against Jeep’s (intended) branding orientation. That’s when the conversation went back to the Explorer, and something that journos aren’t supposed to mention: the words “Explorer” and “crossover” in the same sentence. But wait, the Explorer is indeed a crossover. It’s certainly exploring the realm of crossovers. It’s a Ford Five Hundred that explored Dearborn’s parts bin for a crossover-worthy lift kit. Explorer…it’s a crossover.

And the Jeep’s gotta HEMI. Wait, do I hear someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door?

And that’s the question posed to the B&B: is the 2011 Explorer really a crossover, and does that Jeep gotta HEMI?

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106 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Is Crossover A Dirty Word?...”


  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    there is a gry zone between these segments … kinda like when does a large net-book become a small laptop and vice-versa… when inflation drives the cost of gas up, people will go from SUV to CUV again, and the CUV offering good fuel econ and most ability, or image of, will be on top…

  • avatar
    dwford

    If all these utility vehicles are now uni-body, what makes one an SUV and another a crossover? Wasn’t Jeep the first to crack and go uni-body?

    • 0 avatar

      Wasn’t the original Cherokee a unibody? If so, it pretty much proves that SUVs don’t have to be BOF, unless you need to tow a 20+ foot boat or something to that effect.

    • 0 avatar
      stationwagon

      I always thought the difference between a crossover and a SUV, was crossover-transverse engine; SUV-longitudinal engine.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      stationwagon: I always thought the difference between a crossover and a SUV, was crossover-transverse engine; SUV-longitudinal engine.
      What does that make the Pacifica, with its longitudinal engine?
      The difference between an SUV and a CUV is one letter.

    • 0 avatar
      stationwagon

      @ Paul Neidermeyer
      this is a picture of an AWD Chrysler Pacifica Engine bay http://www.trucktrend.com/roadtests/suv/112_0509_2004_chrysler_pacifica_awd/photo_02.html And it seems to be transverse. I would consider it a CUV.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      stationwagon: you’re right. Why did I somehow get it in my head that it had the longitudinal engine/transaxle from the LH cars??? Thanks for the correction.
      But!!! the Audi Q7 and Q5 do have longitudinal engines. Anyway, my point was/is that there is no line in the sand to differentiate SUVs and CUVs in the modern era; they’re crossing over into each others once more clearly defined definitions!

    • 0 avatar
      stationwagon

      @Paul Niedermeyer
      You’re absolutely right, even the name of the segment suggest there is a blurring of lines. In then end it all just comes down to marketing.

    • 0 avatar
      Blunozer

      Towing.

      True SUVs can potentially tow their own weight… Through several inches of mud.

      The new Explorer is only rated to tow 3500lbs, yet weighs more than that(I assume this as I haven’t seen actual specs yet). Therefore: Crossover.

      The new Grand Cherokee can tow up to 7400lbs. SUV.

      Of course the Jeep Wrangler is exempt from this rule, since nobody would ever assume to call it a crossover.

    • 0 avatar
      KitaIkki

      All US market Subarus have longitudinal boxer engines too.

      How about this? A CUV is derived from FWD chassis, while an SUV is derived from RWD? But then what do we make of the Infiniti FX and EX lines?

    • 0 avatar
      gsnfan

      The difference between an SUV and a CUV does not have to do with frame type (Jeep Cherokee is undeniably SUV but is unibody), layout (Infiniti EX is RWD and still a CUV), or anything like that. It has to do with marketing and whether the term CUV existed when it came out.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      Well, I had a ’61 Morris Oxford, and we took that thing into the bush, across fields, down rocky trails, using it’s 4cyl, 4spd RWD set-up – and treated it like a Jeep; would it be judged as a SUV? With features such as BOF, standard tranmission, longitudinal mounted engine with RWD, it could be considered as one.

      I also treated a ’66 Pontiac Strato Chief in much the same way, but it had a 6 cyl 2spd auto set-up, and low ground clearance, so it ended up getting pulled out of a few sticky situations by friends 4WD trucks. It really couldn’t run with the big boys the same way the Oxford could.

      I have to admit, I treated some of my earlier cars quite poorly; of course, I didn’t really care, because I paid the grand sum of $100 for the ’66 Poncho, and traded an ancient Honda 125cc for the Oxford.

      Whatever the marketing team decides to call the vehicle, be it SUV or CUV, is what decides the outcome of the the posed question. It’s a nebulous question at best, because most of the car buying public couldn’t tell you how many cylinders are in the engine of their car, and the marketers know this.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      Paul, I think your Mopar engine orientation confusion might have originated with the Dodge Intrepid. The 3.5L was longitudinal.

    • 0 avatar
      Ronman

      By my understanding, there are 3 categories today for cars on stilts, (5 if you take BMW’s Marketing speak seriously)

      4X4: a car that is primarily an off road oriented vehicle built for off the beaten path enthusiasts that want to spend their weekends in the mud or grassy countryside. more like a Caterham for the off road community, the Wrangler falls squarely into that category, goes well off road, and truck like on the road, compromises to off road performance are minimal.

      SUV: is a 4X4 with a compromise, built to drive well on the tarmac, but can handle its own off of it. most unmodified SUV’s will do up to 80% of what the wrangler can do out of the box. They also come with optional off road oriented suspension and drivetrains. and they can tow a hefty load.

      CUV: the CUV is an SUV with heck of a lot of compromises. essentially it’s more like a station wagon that has been raised to meet an SUV’s driving position halfway. it offers all the practicalities (carrying capacity, space and cargo) of an SUV but none of the off road benefits sometimes with 2wd. Of course its ground clearance would help it on and off a curb, but a Hyundai Atos can do that too (although you’ll warp the chassis).

      and in BMW’s case, there’s the SAV which is an SUV , in BMWMANIC. and SAC, which is a term i still don’t get, i would call the X6 an X5 with hemorrhoids (but it drives well)

  • avatar
    mythicalprogrammer

    “Is the 2011 Explorer really a crossover, and does that Jeep gotta HEMI?”

    I think the Explorer is a crossover since it’s base on a car platform now. Shrug, does the Veyon need W16 engine? Yeah, that second question is kinda naive? Weird? I dunno, it feels like it’s the same question as does a civic need vtec? I guess if the engineers thinks it’ll make the car better and market people thinks it’ll help sell the car then sure.

    “Is crossover a dirty word?”

    I don’t have any feeling toward it other than a small SUV-like looking vehicle base on a car platform. Unless it’s a sexual position that I don’t know about.

    • 0 avatar

      You misread the second: does it “gotta HEMI” like those Dodge ads from a few years ago?

      Not does it have to have a HEMI. Obviously the best motor in Chrysler’s lineup should go into the JGC, and the SRT version would be very, very interesting. Also note that there are no HEMI badges on the JGC, but that’s what its got.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Also note that there are no HEMI badges on the JGC, but that’s what its got.

      What does the engine cover say?

      ChryslerCo is becoming really bizarre when it comes to their labeling of things.

    • 0 avatar

      Will have to get back to you when Chrysler PR gets back to me on that one. Didn’t look at the vehicle very closely because of the dinner.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      @Sajeev:

      Well, according to ebay pictures, the new V8 JGC has “HEMI” on the engine cover. Which makes sense because Jeep doesn’t want to be associated with the HEMI name anymore.

      If you have ChryslerCo PR’s ear, why not ask them how “HEMI” doesn’t jive with the Jeep brand, but the all-but-confirmed Grand Cherokee SRT8 does.

      Hopefully they will at least take all the ram heads off the new 2011 Charger…

    • 0 avatar

      @ajla Wow…just wow. Dinner meetings after work be damned, I need my “A” game at these events. PR made a point to say that HEMI was working for Dodge and Ram, but Jeep is better known for off road prowess. And treading lightly, or at least asking its owners to do just that. And mixing messages isn’t really worth it: I see it working as a Faragoian branding thing.

      Badges aren’t free, anyway.

      Re: SRT-8. That was mentioned, and they seem more interested in pushing the SRT name. Sure its got a HEMI, but the key differentiator is the AWD. I love the SRT-8 for being a reincarnation of the GMC Typhoon, not necessarily because of the motor.

      They might actually get away with it, just because “Jeep” and “SRT” do quite well by themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I’d personally consider it more Docherty-esque than Faraogian.

      But, I’m a big fan of that 5.7L V8. Plus I’m tacky. If I bought a 2011 JGC, it would have to be a V8, and I’d probably want a Charger Daytona style hood decal on it.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, honestly *is* the best policy.

      FWIW, I puke a little every time I see a Cobra decal on a 32v 4.6L Lincoln. Hence my okayness with this scenario.

  • avatar
    Hank

    Even though there are actually several I like (the Jeep & Explorer, the Flex), I think generally “crossover” brings to my mind CRX’s and Equinoxes. Being a Texan, I think in analogies, so in this case, I think of crossovers being to SUVs what denim Dockers are to a pair of Wranglers.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    When AMC jacked up its Hornet wagon and put 4wd under it what did they call it? When Chrysler bought AMC and created the Eagle brand, what did they call it? In both cases, the word they used was “wagon”. That’s what the explorer now is. Like all “CUV”s, it’s a poorly designed wagon for what a wagon is supposed to do, but it’s still a wagon.

    Jeeps were trucks before the unibody, and remained trucks afterward. Durability and utility were chosen over carlike features. The Grand Cherokee is a truck. It’s a gussied-up truck, but it’s still a truck.

    If the engine has hemispherical chambers, even modified hemispherical chambers, it’s got a hemi. If the engine doesn’t have those features, it’s not a hemi.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    They are all marketing labels and like all of those types of things, nobody gives a shit except the marketers.

    The big thing is that Jeep is a Fiatsler and the Explorer is a Ford. Much more important in the marketplace. Will Jeep come close to the Explorer’s sales? Doubtful even if it is a better vehicle. Or, at least, reviews better. Long term? I wouldn’t bet against the Ford.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Crossovers are always gonna be SUVs for people who really wanted a station wagon. So, it’s a compromise that’s always going to be neither/nor. If you need an SUV, buy an SUV. If you need a station wagon, buy a station wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      cole carrera

      if you need a Fucking cool car, buy a cayenne

    • 0 avatar
      Ingvar

      No thanks. I don’t want to be looked at as a douchebag.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      And how many brands offer a wagon these days in the USA? Pretty much required to buy European to get a wagon…

    • 0 avatar
      Ingvar

      Yes, and that’s a problem that stems from the Americans love/hate relationship with the station wagon. If I told you that half of Volvo/Audi/Mercedes sales in Europe constituted of wagons, would you believe me? A Volvo wagon was the most commom vehicle in Sweden for a very long time.

      Which is kind of ironic, considering that the station wagon was sort of invented stateside. And the Americans have built some of the finest wagons ever made. So, why can’t they now?

    • 0 avatar
      thesal

      I blame a mix of slimey marketing and ignorant consumers for our loss of wagons. Every one wants a “commanding” view of the road, because high is safe (nevermind that high really equals heavier, tippier and horrible comparitive handling).

      We had a bit of an arms race for the highest, biggest soccer mom bus. Things went nuts when hummer built the H2, ford the excursion. Now I think they’ve called a truce.

    • 0 avatar
      EChid

      Its not really CUVs that killed the wagon alone, those who want the sedan variants are more to blame. Think about the Mazda 6, or Subaru Legacy wagon. If people had purchased the wagons in droves over the sedans then we would still have both, but they opted for the sedan (6) and cuv/sedan (Outback, Legacy sedan).

      I talk to my uni aged friends about wagons all the time, and again and again its, “wagons are ugly” or “wagons remind me of a soccer mom.” And the sedans always look better to them (they are clearly wrong).

    • 0 avatar
      Robbie

      Station wagons will be back as soon. Just wait for gas prices to rise, which is inevitable.

  • avatar
    cole carrera

    IDGI is the GC BOF, or not?

  • avatar
    340-4

    I’m still confused about how the Flex, Edge, and Explorer are going to coexist.

    ‘Crossover’ to me just means ‘AWD wagon with a lil’ more clearance for parking bumpers’.

    I like to think of a new Flex styled like the new Explorer. Pretty neat. Ah well. A Country Squire for the 21st century.

    Can’t wait for the inevitable off-road comparison between the Explorer and the JGC. My money’s on the Jeep. Which I have driven, and am considering as my next vehicle.

    But I’ll drive the Ford too.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Flex = big square almost wagon-like vehicle, just needs a woody sticker package
      Edge = curvy Asian-like crossover
      Explorer = traditional boxy American SUV looking thing

      In truth all the same but different styles.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      The Flex really is more of a wagon than a crossover. It sits lower than the Edge, and much lower than the upcoming Explorer or the GM Lambdas.

      The Edge is a midsize crossover, and a 5 seater only.

      The Explorer is going to be the large crossover/SUV and be a seven seater.

      Chevy, Toyota, and Honda all do a two tier crossover lineup, the small one, Equinox, Rav-4, and CR-V, and the big one, Traverse, Highlander, and Pilot.

      Ford splits it three ways, the Escape is a little smaller than an Equinox or Rav-4, the Edge is a little bigger, but still smaller than a Traverse or Highlander, and the Explorer will likely be a bit bigger than any of them. Toyota does have the Venza now, which I was originally thinking would be a direct Edge competitor, but after seeing them in person, it sits low like the Flex does, but doesn’t have a traditional wagon styling.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    @Ingvar and Lorenzo, absolutely. CUVs are for people who need station wagons and won’t fess up to it.

    • 0 avatar
      Bancho

      I’d venture to say that CUV’s are as close to standard station wagons as we’re likely to get for the forseeable future. There just aren’t that many available so CUV’s fit the bill.

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      e-dan, agreed. But also, CUVs fill a need for people who want a wagon, but have outgrown it, and do not want a hulking BOF SUV. When our third child arrived, the 9-5 wagon was suddenly way too small to fit 5 people, a dog and the shite that 3 kids require.

      Suburban/Sequoia/Expedition – all too big, too thirsty. The Taurus X we ended up with has more space and seating than any 5 seat wagon, but still gets 24 mpg on the highway.

      In the end, I don’t give a rat’s petard what you call them, but CUVs are an effective compromise for people like me.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Given its rear suspension, isn’t the new Ram a crossover? What does the Panther need to be considered an SUV?

    Let’s face facts. Terms like SUV, crossover, and SportAvantActiveSpacePortal are all marketing jargon. Debating them is meaningless.

    Bottom line: if Ford wants to call the Explorer an SUV, that’s their perogative.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      The rear coil springs? Truck suspensions regularly jump around between leafs, coils, and torsion bars, depending on what the marketers want to emphasize (load capacity, ride comfort, handling) that model cycle.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Well changing the Sorento and Sportage from SUV to crossover has worked out pretty good.

  • avatar
    Syke

    A lot of it has to do with reputation – body on frame or unibody, a SUV has real off-road capabilities. A crossover goes down grandma’s gravel driveway.

    Jeep’s reputation is based on building serious off-road vehicles that are also usable on pavement. This has been true to the point that when the Cherokee came out as unibody, nobody would have considered it anything but serious off-road material. That, and the damned term crossover didn’t yet exist. And when they came out with a Jeep that didn’t do off-road (Compass) they got pilloried for it. Even the Patriot, supposedly the same vehicle, came out with an option setup that allowed real off-road, so nobody bitched . . . . and it outsells the Compass.

    There was no way anyone at Chrysler dared come out with the JGC with anything but full off-road capabilities, preferably 99% of what a Wrangler could do. Doing a JGC crossover would have been suicide.

    The Explorer has never claimed the off-road chops of anything Jeep. I assume the older versions can do reasonably serious off-road straight off the showroom floor, although I’ve never really looked into it. Without this reputation, Ford had the freedom to design it any way they wanted.

    Actually the body-on-frame vs. unibody argument shouldn’t even be coming up. The Cherokee proved that 25 years ago. However, all those soft roaders and cute utes are unibody, so it’s easier to just paint with a broad brush.

    I have a feeling you’re going to see more unibody SUV’s (regarding performance) in the future.

    • 0 avatar
      crc

      Syke – That’s a good post. It’s funny that you mention the term crossover not existing back when the Cherokee came out. Depending on what state you titled your Cherokee in, the body style was sometimes tagged as a station wagon.

  • avatar

    After throwing RAV4 against ridiculous off-road challenges for a few years (failing some of them — by some strage coincidence, every time I failed, a passing Tacoma rescued me), I learned that frame matters not. Even road clearance is not as important as it is thought. The real test is simple: what has the low gear is SUV. Everything else is a crossover.

    This is a key insight, which I guess I’m going to take to my grave now, because people just do not understand until they try.

    On this note, makers of cross-overs would help themselves a lot when I’m on the market if they include a “stump-puller” gear. It’s not like I need a full range of gears in low, I’m not a trucker. I only want to go slow over obstacles. But to the best of my knowledge, the only cross-over on the market with such feature is a trail-rated Patriot. And who would buy a Patriot?

    Of course Jeep GC is a real SUV, and has a transfer case. It needs no “one extra gear”. But it’s an expensive toy, when in decent trim. I dunno guys, I think a cross-over based platform like RAV4 with just one extra gear would be way cheaper.

    • 0 avatar
      stationwagon

      I think the reason for the Rav4′s failure at you challenges, was due to it being FWD-based-AWD platform, rather than a RWD-based-4WD platform. Transverse versus longitudinal engine.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      What about the 2 WD GC; is that an SUV too?

    • 0 avatar
      stationwagon

      yes the 2WD Grand Cherokee is an SUV, But I don’t think it would be able to pass Pete Zaitcev’s test.

      my definition of SUV is longitudinal engine vehicle that looks like a truck with a camper.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      RWD-based may matter for towing, but I’m wondering it it really matters when you’re axle-deep in mud?

      To be sure, nobody has built a truly serious transverse-engined off-roader, but is that because it’s not ideal or simply because everybody has longitudinal-engined trucks available for conversion to serious off-roaders?

      In this case, though… since it’s transverse-engined, the Explorer does fall more properly into the Crossover category than the SUV category… simply because in terms of market placement, yes, engine-layout does count.

    • 0 avatar
      crc

      A 2wd Grand or regular Cherokee with a locking differential and the right driver would easily pass Pete’s test.

  • avatar
    dastanley

    Disclaimer: Generalization alert! Stereotype alert!

    It’s a macho thing. Crossover is feminine. Body on frame is masculine. Jeep is implying that without being un-PC or pissing off their female customers. CUVs are the new “minivans”, the mommy soccer suburban thing where all wheel drive is only needed for the occasional winter storm. CUVs are not macho enough. Real men drive real body on frame trucks/SUVs with Hi/Lo transfer cases, or so Jeep implies. Ok, stereotypes over.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      No, real men drive wagons. Used to be that only moms drove wagons, but look what’s happened to the wagon:

      Wagons begat minivans
      minivans begat SUV’s
      SUV’s begat CUV’s
      CUV’S begat some weird cross mating of C/S/XUV’s which is what we’re getting now.

      When will the soccer mom creature realize that what she really wants is either a Flex, Mazda5, Volvo or Audi wagon and cut the rest of this crap out? Why won’t she listen to her husband, dammit!

    • 0 avatar

      Other than the Wrangler which is body-on-frame, I’m pretty sure that all the current Jeeps are unit body construction. The original XJ Cherokee and all the Grand Cherokees have been unibody. The Patriot and Compass are not BOF and I think they discontinued the Commander, so the Wrangler’s the only BOF Jeep right now.

  • avatar
    sfdennis1

    No, Crossover isn’t a dirty word to the mainstream population who buy them for on-road AWD traction in rain/snow, and for additional ride height and cargo capacity when compared to a conventional sedan.

    I’d say that neither the new Grand Cherokee nor the new Explorer are Crossovers, though…as they both have legitimate off-road capabilities, and can perform moderately heavy towing duties as well. (Crossovers don’t have a 5000lb tow rating like the new Explorer) C’mon, these aren’t cute-utes or Venza/CR-V/Rav-4 tall wagons, and even if they still rarely venture off road, they easily COULD, if needed to.

    These are still ‘real’ SUV’s, regardless of being unibodys…they may be ‘used on a daily basis’ or driven in the same manner as most crossovers, but they are still the real deal, by modern standards at least.

  • avatar
    davey49

    The old BOF Explorer wasn’t great off road, what makes anyone think the new one is going to be better?
    The only true off road capable “wagons” left are the 4Runner, XTerra and GC
    I’m unsure about the Pathfinder, it has the low gear but the rear overhang is long

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Chrysler?

    What is this Chrysler??

    Oh yea, they used to be an independent car maker.

  • avatar
    thesal

    Sad that the explorer pictured doesn’t even look like it could clear the small rock it’s parked next to.

    Go forth and explore that gravel parking lot, brave family man/woman!!!

  • avatar
    BDB

    As a general rule:

    Crossover=FWD-based, unibody, little or no offroad ability, low towing capacity, car-like handling and car-like gas mileage.

    SUV=RWD-based, body-on-frame, good off-road ability, high towing capacity, truck-like handling and truck-like fuel economy.

    Some nameplates bend these rules a bit, when that happens though, they usually only break one rule while keeping all the others of their category.

    • 0 avatar

      +1. Its coming to a point where RWD and FWD architectures are the key difference here.

      Chrysler PR loves the fact that the JGC is RWD based, as a strong selling point over its competitors. And I tend to agree.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      Well yes, FWD vs. RWD is a big part of it, but BMW and Mercedes break that rule with their RWD crossovers. Of course, they’re RWD just because they’re Mercedes and BMWs, and people would scream bloody murder if either brand had a FWD vehicle of any kind, period. But they follow the rest of the rules–little off-roading ability, unibody, car-like handling, and so on.

      I can’t think of any vehicle that breaks more than one rule for either class.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Arguably the VW Touareg is an SUV — it can do serious off-roading, and tow up to 7700 lbs in the TDI version. Yet it has unibody construction and car-like handling (with suspension lowered).

      So there is already one example that breaks at least two rules. It’s also not really either FWD- or RWD-based. (Don’t know whether the fuel economy would qualify as “truck-like” or “car-like”, that’s a rather vague criterion.)

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    The new explorer must have been made with cement and bricks. It weighs 5000 pounds. In my book, it is not an SUV. It is not a CUV. It is a PIG.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Ford should just scrap the Explorer…with the 2011 Grand Cherokee, there won’t be a person buying them.

    Crossover is just a fancy word for SUV. When the Escape came out in 2001, it was a small SUV. Then, having done nothing to it, Ford magically started calling it a crossover.

    It’s just marketing. The Explorer will be a soft-roader…it will handle a gravel road and a couple inches of snow…the 2011 Jeep GC will be able to murder boulders, hills, snow, everything you can throw at it. There isn’t a more capable off roader on the market.

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      Silvy,
      Try to get your facts straight. The Escape is based on the Mazda 626 – it was a crossover from the start.

      BDB,
      I am not buying the definition of an SUV as primarily RWD. That would mean all the BMW X-models were SUV’s right? I haven’t seen too many X6s out rockhopping.

      Maybe the key is to define what capabilities are required to be called an SUV, and then we can assess the contenders against those metrics. Arggh, I sound like a consultant again.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      Sherborn–

      I said some of them break one of the “rules”, but follow all the others. The BMW crossovers are RWD based but drive like cars, handle like cars, get car-like gas mileage, and aren’t serious off-roaders or towers. Yhry’re RWD-based simply because they’re BMWs, and BMWs have to be RWD or the people will scream bloody murder and rant about how BMW sold out.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      BDB,

      Most people buying BMW’s have no idea which wheels are driven. We do, but most don’t know and don’t care to know.

      X5 mileage is pretty bad, as is every 5000 lb SUV.

    • 0 avatar
      davey49

      The Explorer will be the best selling 3 row CUV on the market, much to the chagrin of Chevy dealers.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      I did get my facts straight Sean (as I ALWAYS do)…when the Escape was released in 2001, Ford called it an SUV.

      Look it up…it’s all out there…

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    “CUV” = ‘Jacked-Up-Stationwagon-So-That-I-Can-Drive-One-And-Still-Be-Cool.’

    Nothing says “douchebag/ahole/selfcenterendmommywench’ quite like a YuSuburbaHo, or it’s imported equivalent.

    99.9% of the owners never need anything more than a 4-door whatever.

    ‘Tis just marketing to chumps.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      No one needs anything more than a Yaris, Fit, Versa, or Aveo. All you “need” is something to transport you to and from work. You don’t need that boat, so you don’t need the truck to haul it. You don’t need to take turns at speed or go 0-60 in under 6 seconds, so that Porsche isn’t necessary. I don’t need to spend my weekends in the wilderness of WV, so I don’t need my 4Runner to get me there. In fact, I live 5 miles from work and I’m a healthy, young lad, so I don’t need a car at all. Any one of my 3 bicycles will get me to work in plenty of time. Wait, why would I need a bicycle? I can run 5 miles in around 40 minutes! There are very few things we really “need”.

      My SUV gets driven pretty rarely. When I need it, like last evening when I helped my brother in law move a set of wheels and tires and other things from his house to storage, I’m very, very happy to have it. I spent the weekend camping out of the back and roaming old, unmaintained logging roads in the WV wilderness. My little hatchback simply can’t get to these places or carry as much gear. It does a heck of a job getting me around efficiently, though. The right tool for the right job.

    • 0 avatar

      No one “needs” a Yaris then. All one needs is a train. Of cattle cars. To carry you to Gulag.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Pete – that was my point. Calling out other’s “needs” as “wants” is a slippery slope.

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    Oh yeah its got a Hemi! We all know by now that the modern Hemi has no connection to its iconic namesake. Its not a racing engine, what its is though is mabey the most refined big V8 that America has ever built. The Pentastar looks like a fine engine, but the Hemi has been the only reason to buy any Chrysler product for years. Now it might have its worthiest application. Even if Ford ups the ante with an Ecoboost V6 Explorer, it still won’t have anywhere near the towing capacity of the Cherokee.

    • 0 avatar

      IIRC, the JGC with a HEMI tows 7000-ish pounds and the Ecoboost Crossover Explorer is 5000.

    • 0 avatar
      davey49

      I doubt anyone would want to tow 7000# with a JGC even if it is “capable” of it. Nothing to do with the power, the wheelbase is just too short.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      The towing issue has moved on since the early days of SUV vs. full sized pick up. I’ve down some towing recently with a Taureg (tdi), and I do believe I was north of the 7700 lb limit with the trailer. I could feel trailer’s suspension impacts clear through the chassis and proper weight distribution was obviously a must. On the other hand, ESC, ABS, etc… really change the game as far as safety and stability go, to the point where I no longer consider SUV towing to be suicidal (not optimal…yes).

      My context for this experience was switching between a Bronco and an F-250 on tow duty when I was younger. It was taking my life into my own hands putting weight on that Bronco’s ball hitch, straight up. The full sized truck would still communicate the trailer’s activities, but even without electronic aids had the rigidity, length, power and brakes to cope with lateral movements.

      Nowadays full sized trucks are massively overengineered for tow duty and have awful visibility, so I feel they are best left on the highway with truly heavy loads (or in office parking lots, with cowboy hats). Their predecessors have nothing on them in this venue. On every other road however, an SUV’s better sight-lines (relatively speaking), maneuverability and non towing behavior make them a superior choice for 3-ton(ish) tow duties.

      Regardless of optimistic 7000+ lb tow ratings, I think an owner would be better off switching to a real truck (at least Frontier/Tacoma sized) over the 6000lb mark. It’ll probably be cheaper in the end than replacing the inevitable engine/transmission mounts.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, I think just about every truck/SUV’s tow rating has been overinflated to the point of lunacy. Look at Detroit full size truck’s tow rating from the 80s and 90s…even with today’s better brakes and stiffer frames, I have my doubts.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      psar –

      On the contrary, today’s trucks are fairly underrated for towing capacity. From what I have heard from talking with Ford engineers, the tow ratings on most Ford vehicles are actually rated about 20% below what the vehicle can really safely handle, and the biggest reason is liability. No manufacturer wants to put out supposedly safe numbers and then get sued because someone tried to push the limits a bit and ended up losing control and taking out a schoolbus full of nuns.

      The caveat of course is having the vehicle properly equipped. Just because you can get an F-150 rated to tow over 11,000 lbs doesn’t mean that every one will, you need the right engine, axle ratio, and tow package complete with uprated transmission cooler, radiator, brakes, etc, to handle it.

      As far as visibility goes though, the big telescoping trailer tow mirrors that you can get with most full size pickups these days make visibility great, especially combined with backup cameras to easily line up the hitch to your load. I’m more comfortable parking a F-150 with the big dual-reflector trailer tow mirrors in tight quarters on the lot than I am a Focus.

  • avatar
    Episode26

    All of this and still no consensus. Maybe it is just better to define it based on abilities as opposed to the hardware underneath. We can just agree that it is impossible to define something that was intentionaly meant to be ambigous.

    Or we could just call them all suvs be done withit.

    And no crossover is not a dirty word. It wasn’t in Carlin’s seven so no.

  • avatar
    kadett72

    I don’t mind the word itself, but the results are hideous. Both the BMW GT and X6 make me sick. And I almost spewed on the inside of my windscreen when I accidentally laid my eyes on a brand new turd-brown X1.
    But doesn’t ‘SUV’ actually mean crossover? When was the last time you saw a sporty utility vehicle?
    Living in Europe, I seldom drive anything American, but I rented an Explorer in Florida in 2001. The word ‘sport’ didn’t spring to mind, and neither did ‘utility’.

  • avatar
    allythom

    It’s almost completely marketing, combating prejudices and who the target buyer is.

    “Truck”/”SUV” tend to appeal to alpha personalities who value ruggedness, or the appearance of toughness and the set of people who believe (rightly or wrongly) that they actually need big towing capacity and/or real off road capability. But is eschewed by folks who have some environmental hangup (or who have peers with said feelings), which is a growing group. “SUV” is a dirty word, “Truck” too, but less so

    “Minivan” appeals to almost nobody anymore. The word has deeply uncool connotations. And can be thought of in the same terms as “Station Wagon”, unfortunately. Buyers are those who allow their heads to overrule their desire to follow fashion, practical people who value space efficiency or have a genuine need to carry lots of people and/or stuff regularly. Undoubtedly, in marketing terms, “Minivan” is a tough sell.

    “Station Wagon” has almost zero marketing pull either. The majority of people who lament the demise of the station wagon are a subset of hard-core car people, like the ones on this site. To much of the US car buying public, “Wagon” is still a dirty word too.

    “Crossover” doesn’t appeal directly to anyone, it’s used by default because it isn’t “SUV”, “Truck”, “Minivan” or “Station Wagon”, as such, it is a broad category, spanning the “Truck” like (Explorer) to more “Wagon” like (Flex & CX9), with a lot in the middle (Pilot, Highlander, RAV, CRV etc). Most people recognize that “Crossover” is a contrivance, note that when referring to their own crossover they revert to “Car” or, often amusingly, “Truck” (I am guilty of the latter). Quite probably, a large portion of buyers would be as well, or better served by a Minivan, but have ended up with a crossover for one of a couple of reasons:
    1. Their own hangups, as alluded to above – “I wouldn’t be seen dead in one” effect.
    2. The lack of AWD minivans (regardless of whether they ‘need’ AWD, it is a desired feature)
    As such, “Crossover” isn’t so much of a dirty word, except perhaps in the circles of car nuts who spend waaaaay too much time dissecting such things online…

  • avatar
    grzydj

    None of the off-road capability of an SUV and none of the convenience and storage capacity of a minivan? It’s not really dirty, it’s just plain stupid. I’m sure the margins on these are pretty good, so you won’t hear Ford or anybody else bitching about how they’re marketed.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I’ve never called my XC90 a crossover; I never called it a truck either. I used SUV just yesterday.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Crossover isn’t a dirty word. It is just a new segment for a broad utility segment. It gives 80% of van capability with only 20% of the mommy mobile stigma.* Looking at the laughable amount of ground clearance on the Lamdas, it is clear that it is essentially a minivan with an inch more ground clearance and no sliding doors. But, that is probably why it is successful. It looks like an SUV but is more like a van inside.

    * If I had the needs for a van (i.e. 3+ kids), I’d get a van instead of one of these silly CUVs. Utility and capability > stigma.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Well, this is a fun thread. Let’s remember that the root of this entire foolishness is the US government’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations, which classifies “cars” as different from “light trucks” and requires higher fuel economy from “cars” than from “light trucks.” The problem, of course, was that post WW2 American families were quite fond of cars that were “station wagons,” which, with two-rows of bench seats, were 6-passenger vehicles and, with a fold up rear-facing bench, were 8-passenger vehicles. With the requirements of seat belt/shoulder harness and front air bags, there’s no way to build a modern station wagon with that kind of capacity that achieves the required fuel economy. So, we take a “light truck” to do the job and get some relief from the government’s fuel economy requirements. Then, as a marketing device and to achieve product differentiation from small station wagons still being made (mostly by overseas manufacturers, including, at one time, Honda and Toyota), we sell people on the benefits of 4-wheel drive and the rugged, “outdoorsy” image of off roading. It helps that most of the original platforms for SUVs were, in fact, truck platforms that already had 4-wheel drive variants.

    Now, with fuel economy being a sales concern (and, even for light trucks, a regulatory concern), the “cross-over” re-packages the SUV in a unibody platform, often developed from a car platform. For the same interior volume and seating capacity, the cross-over weighs less and, as a result has somewhat better fuel economy. The complicated, original 4-wheel drive setup (remember front locking hubs and the array of levers required to operate a classic 4-wheel drive transfer case? > one lever to shift gears, a second lever to engage 4-wheel drive and a third lever to shift between high and low range) is replaced by a much simpler to operate “AWD” setup that dispenses with low range and uses some sort of viscous coupling to split torque between front and rear wheels, eliminating the need to “engage” 4-wheel drive, because it’s always engaged.

    And you have the “crossover” which looks like the old truck-based SUVs, has the same people and cargo volume capacity (or more), and has the kind of 4-wheel drive that most need (not off-road, rock climbing capable) — if they need 4-wheel drive at all — and uses less gas. Just compare, for example, the Chevy Trailblazer (truck-based) with the Chevy Traverse (CUV).

    The division between SUVs and CUVs ought to be based purely on functionality, not engine alignment (transverse or longitudinal) or even which axle is the primary driven axle. If the vehicle has the features that make it truly capable of going off-road (4-wheel drive, low range gearing, ground clearance and underbody protection for vulnerable parts, like oil pans, etc. and high departure and approach angles)then it’s an SUV. If it lacks even one of those features, then it’s not an SUV.

    As the owner of a crossover (Honda Pilot), I appreciate some of its truck-like features: higher ground clearance, all-wheel drive, cargo/passenger capacity. But I would never call it an SUV. The most I would take it “off-road” is on some fire roads in West Virginia and, even then on ones that I know are not too steep or too rutted.

  • avatar
    jamie1 (of Ford)

    Morning all. Jay Ward from Ford Communications here to clarify a few things.

    Firstly and most importantly, how we as industry followers define a vehicle and how others define it are two separate things. When we took Explorer, Flex and Edge to research (along with Pilot and others) the customers we spoke to were very clear. The Edge is a Crossover, the Flex is a modern station wagon or crossover, the Explorer is an SUV as was the Pilot.
    Now, we know that the Pilot is no more an SUV than anything else, but that does not matter – that is how customers define it.
    Secondly, the regulators also help define a vehicle. In the case of Explorer, the CAFE regulators clearly define it as an SUV due to its passenger capabilities (7 people as standard), its off-road capabilities (defined by the terrain management system) and its ground clearance.
    Just to clarify on the towing by the way, the 3.5 TiVCT V-6 tows 5,000lbs. On the weight, the new Explorer actually weighs less than the current Explorer and will be less than 5,000lbs for sure.
    Kind regards,

    Jay Ward
    Ford Communications

  • avatar
    jj99

    The SUV with a car like structure came from Japan because they did not have the typical body on frame technology. Little did they know that effort would change everything.

    Myself, I prefer the station wagon, but other than expensive Euro stuff, nothing is available.

    So, I now have a Highlander, and I purchased it after renting the Edge, the Traverse, and the Pilot. It drove more like a car than any of the others. Perfect for the freeway.

    FYI, I also vetoed the V70. It looked great. A beautiful car. But, the dealers wanted just under 40K, and I saw a few newer Volvos stranded on the side of the Mass Pike over the last few years.

    But, I still want a station wagon, and when a real one shows up at a reasonable price, I will be trading the Highlander in. I checked out the Flex and the Venza, but did not like either. However, the Accura TSX wagon is interesting. While they are showing up on dealer lots, it will likely be a year before the prices are discounted and the initial bugs are worked out.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      There are very very few wagons for sale at all anymore. The TSX wagon should be great, but I’m worried they’ll continue their delusions of grandeur and price it against Audi instead of VW. The Jetta wagon is really nice (and the only one with a manual), but is FWD only, and is Euro enough that Asian car fans will be left cold. The rest belong to luxury brands, and are all large, overpriced and automatic only (A3 in Jetta/FWD trim aside).

      The Flex is, I think, a truly awesome wagon. I think it’s somehow more true to the ideal of the “american wagon” than the Dodge Magnum ever was, RWD V-8 aside. Everything else with a long roof I can think of is really a hatchback, CUV or minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      The 4Runner, Pathfinder, Rodeo, etc. would disagree with the intial premise up there.

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      tedward, I agree on the VW wagons. Really really nice. But, my next door neighbor just traded in a 2006 Passat on a new Outlook. A beautiful car. Interior. Looks. However, he could not take the repairs anymore. I am talking tow trucks. Consumer Reports validated his complaints.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      jj99

      that’s my point, “Euro enough that Asian car fans will be left cold.” The Subarus have always been an alternate choice, but they’ve made a sudden jump from awesome to big and boring and are ditching the manual wagon entirely (base Forrester no longer counts as a wagon).

      The Civic, Corrola, Cruz, etc… crowd is now big enough to bring us wagon, not just hatch, variants, just like VW does with the Jetta. I would love to see more of it.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      bumpy – Not to mention the Land Cruiser, Trooper, and Montero.

      tedward –

      Ford showed off a wagon variant of the upcoming Focus at the auto shows, and hinted that it might come to the US market. I’d love to see it happen, as while hatchbacks are nice, wagons are even nicer, and a new Focus wagon (maybe with the 2.0 EcoBoost?) would be something I’d be very interested in for my next car.

  • avatar
    portico

    As far as wagons are concerned I highly recommend the Ford Freestyle. You can pick a used one for a good price. We have one and it is very good.
    As far as the Consumer Reports argument goes I have to side with those who question the magazines abilty to accuratley portray wheter a car is going to be worth its salt a few years out. I have purchased and driven three cars built in Japan, I now drive two FOrd products, the Escape(2009) and the Freestyle (2007) both vehicles are as good as or better as the ones I owned before. I gave Ford a chance becasue I happended to be in Detroit a few years ago with my hotel being directly in front of the F-150 plant. I had free time to kill so I took a tour. I came away impressed and decided to give them a try. One of the things that impressed me about the new plant were the efforts Ford had made to make the plant and the company more green. Honestly , had I not taken the tour I do not think I would have purchased Ford. The tour and the employees that I met changed my mind. I am glad they did.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      The Freestyle is nice, the Taurus X, with the smoother and more powerful Duratec 35 and more traditional 6 speed automatic, is even nicer, and the Flex, with ridiculous amounts of interior passenger space and a Town Car rivaling smooth and quiet ride is the best yet.

      Ford can build an awesome big wagon, I only wish more American buyers appreciated the fact and would buy them.

  • avatar
    colin42

    @EChid

    Interesting – I’ve often thought that a stylised Station wagon look so much better than clunky sedans but then again I beleive in most cases

    google the Alfa 157 sportswagon or 159 sportswagon or the CTS wagon to get what i mean. Even the BMW 3 series is a nice balance between style and practical boot space.

  • avatar
    colin42

    @EChid

    Interesting – I’ve often thought that a stylised Station wagon look so much better than clunky sedans but then again I believe in most cases simple functions aids beauty

    google the Alfa 157 sportswagon or 159 sportswagon or the CTS wagon to get what i mean. Even the BMW 3 series is a nice balance between style and practical boot space.

  • avatar
    DangerousDave

    I think the non-motorhead consumer doesn’t know the differance, or for that matter cares. To the male buyer SUVs & crossovers are an acceptable macho stationwagon. For female buyers, the look of these vehicles is “strong & safe”, even if they aren’t. I would venture to say most are purchased based on styling and/or passanger and storage capacity. Wasn’t the crossover gimmick the automakers way of still selling overpriced macho wagons when SUVs were becoming politically incorrect during the high gas price era?

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    Wait a minute- the Acadia isn’t an SUV? Someone should tell that to the soccer mom I saw driving an Acadia with a bumper sticker that read “My SUV ate Al Gore” (I guess they don’t have a bumper stricker that reads “My CUV ate Al Gore”)

    SUV’s IMO are: current Explorer, Expedition, navigator, XTerra, Pathfinder, Armada, Escalade, Tahoe, Suburban, Yukon, Trailblazer (now gone), 4Runner, Sequioa, Land Rover, Jeeps except Compass, Durango/Aspen (still around?)

    The obvious CUV’s are things like the Rogue, maurano, Edge, CR-V, Rav-4, and the bigger ones like the HIghlander, Pilot, Lambdas etc.– and i would consider most luxury “SUV’s” to be more like CUV’s because driving dynamics are often emphasized and generally ahve the more swoopy styling– the classic example being the RX.


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