By on February 17, 2016

2015 Honda CR-V

(Welcome Daniel Ho — a.k.a. “Waftable Torque” — who’s here to school you proles on the true appeal of the crossover/cute-ute/abominable mom-van. — JB)

There has seldom been a topic that riles automotive journalists and commentators up as much as crossovers. They inhabit categories that are successfully profitable and growing. Non-existent 20 years ago, they have become increasingly aspirational to a large segment of today’s drivers. There have been many theories as to why they’re successful. Some blame CAFE, others the baby boomers, and others still blame American exceptionalism. They may all be right.

The Truth About Cars has always pointed out things others don’t see. Sometimes it’s the authors who provide the evidence, but sometimes it’s the commentators who supply the observation. I’d like to show you something that, once you see it, you can never un-see.

The crossover is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Merging design with functionality usually results in a product form factor that persists for long periods of time and eventually becomes “how things are supposed to be.” Consumers want their fast cars to look fast, their rugged adventure cars to look rugged, and their status cars to look substantial and powerful. Crossover vehicles can be made very fast, roomy, or comfortable, but they usually have to compromise on curb weight, center of gravity, footprint size, or SUV off-road prowess to do so. So the crossover provides fodder for the “jack of all trades, master of none” disparagement often seen on automotive enthusiast websites.

Equally absurd is the tendency to buy expensive things that are objectively worse than their more common mass produced siblings. That’s the carbon fiber, one-speed track bike that abhors a hill; the full grain leather suitcase that would be scuffed and disposed of long before it’s ballistic nylon equivalent; the head-tossing luxury SUV that never leaves pavement; the Burberry trench coat that couldn’t survive a Gore-Tex-worthy drenching; and the mechanical wristwatch that keeps worse time than the cereal box quartz watch.

Incongruity by itself will earn scorn. Want to be hated? Try asking for government bailout money after you’ve gotten off your private jet. Alternately, try wearing that immature Ed Hardy shirt and Versace hoodie as you step out of your mature Bentley Continental GT. Go drive that BMW X5M to the shopping mall to pick up some organic milk and fair-trade coffee beans. Or bring your street-tire-clad Land Rover Evoque to cross the mountainous Continental Divide. Consistency is a social expectation, and it ought to be good for business to cater to those who stay within the archetypes.

So now we have a vehicle category that is compromised, pricier and incongruent at the same time. It should have been a sales disaster. The fact that the crossover category continues in its unabated growth ought to tell us something about the consumer psyche in today’s zeitgeist.

As it turns out, the discussion of the rise of the crossover is actually a smaller trend in the big picture of aesthetics and design. It’s so embedded in our subconscious that there isn’t even a common vocabulary for it yet. So let’s use one bandied about occasionally by fashion editors: High-Low.

High-Low is the synergy of intentionally coupling two or more non-complementary characteristics to form a third that is more desirable than the originals. Go high and go low at the same time. It’s congruent because it’s something that’s intentional and flaunted, instead of an oversight or concession. The polarity can come in many forms: price, quality, pedigree, formality, coloration, design, efficiency, or date of manufacture. High-Low exists because it solves the cognitive dissonance of those unable to find satisfaction from existing rigid choices. They want to have their cake and eat it too.

High-Low is the blazer and jeans look (dressy + casual). The Hermés handbag paired with your Uniqlo and H&M outfit (expensive + cheap). The business suit without a tie (semi-formal + informal). The Apple iPhone 6S Plus tucked inside your oilskin field coat (high tech + low tech). The multimillionaire movie star driving a Toyota Prius (“so rich I shouldn’t care” + “I care anyway”). The Tesla Model S (fast + efficient). A 1967 Buick Riviera with polished 20-inch rims (old + new). The Toyota RAV4 (kids + “I didn’t give up”). The Porsche Cayenne Turbo S (sports car performance + off-roading chops). And the Cadillac Escalade (work truck + prestige). I’m part of it; my own English Tudor Revival home has a streamlined Scandinavian Modern interior.

The crossover is, by intent and design, a chimera. In fact, there was once a time when the category was so new that automotive journalists were labeling them “hybrids.” Its impurity sends mixed messages, and throws traditional categorization by the wayside. Yet it sells, solving a problem that wagons never considered.

Chimerism is nothing new. Few of us are totally liberal or completely conservative, wholly good or thoroughly evil, a “Mac” or a “PC.” What is new is that it’s no longer a stigma to say that you pick and choose your position depending on the issue, regardless of what the opinion leaders say you should believe.

The rise of High-Low has been subtle, spending the last 20 years stealthily weaving itself into our clothing, consumer electronics, transportation, and housing choices. If I could hazard a guess, the High-Low phenomenon didn’t take off until 1989 with I.M. Pei’s Louvre Pyramid as the proof of concept. We now take for granted High-Low’s cultural ubiquity, not realizing it lacked critical mass before the turn of the millennium.

High-Low knocks down barriers, flouts the rigidity of tradition and resists being pigeonholed. It respects tradition while seeking innovation. It goes beyond being ironic and in-on-the-joke. High-Low is, at it’s heart, an embodiment of both arrogance and humility. Wouldn’t that be the perfect expression for the modern day narcissist?

So why does High-Low flourish? At least three major reasons, none of which are mutually exclusive.

One, it gets you out of the worst spot possible: being caught in the middle. The middle is profitable today but probably not tomorrow. Minivans and family passenger sedans represent that uncomfortable middle ground between economy and luxury, as do car manufacturers with more than two brands (everything between their premium and value labels). Good luck to retailers like Sears or JC Penney on surviving the attacks from below by discount stores and from above by luxury merchants. High-Low allows you to save on the basics and splurge where it counts.

Second, it has a strong signalling component and costly barriers to entry, making it a good status marker. High-Low is a simple concept in theory but notoriously difficult to execute well in practice. The rank amateur would not know that the blazer-and-jeans-look only works if 1) you’re thin or in shape; 2) the jeans are straight fit (boot cut for women), dark, and without tears and holes; 3) sleeves and pants are perfectly hemmed; and 4) you wear long and narrow dress shoes (pointed toe heels for women). Miss any of the four and your tell outs you as a poseur and outsider. But when it works, it really works, and you stand out as sharply dressed in a sea of slobs.

And third, High-Low has been helped along by technological and digital convergence. We really don’t want: feature phones, music-only players, home hi-fi, desktop-replacement laptops. We really want: iPhones, automotive hi-fi, iPads. Convenience is slowly triumphing over performance, and the generalists have become more aspirational than the specialists.

In fact, it is virtually certain that there will come a time when the specialists will be lampooned as the spiritual descendants of the Luddites. Choosing specialized excellence rather than High-Low universal compatibility will be outre, regrettable, a sign of insufficient taste. In the end, the line may be draw neatly between High-Low and what the kids now call “try-hard.” It’s something to mull over, at least, while you’re in your sports car, hot lapping alongside an X6M and a Model X P90D.

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266 Comments on “Ur-Turn: High-Low and Crossovers to Go...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Makes good sense. This article is going to be beyond many readers here. They get antsy when you talk about style or fashion or trends.

    Here are some I hate:
    Jeans + jacket + hoodie.
    Sweatpants + designer + public wear.
    Suit + sneakers.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I think I have to go back and take a class to be worthy of reading it.

      MARGE: Homer, are you wearing a tie to impress Laddie?
      HOMER: Do you think he noticed?

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Just read slower! :P It’s a very American aesthetic, mixing high and low. I can’t determine if I’m displaying this polarized behavior when driving about in my very old man car as a young person.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          “Old man” is a label someone else invented and you accepted, and it is incorrect. The C/K body 4.5/4.9 Deville represent the last dying breath of Cadillac, they are the last link to the great Cadillacs of the past. If people wanna hate, let them hate, evidently these people think jeans, a suit jacket, and a hoodie are a “thing”; what does that say about them?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I have accepted no label! I deny the incongruence!

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The people that wear a hoodie with jeans and a suit jacket car also buy prepaid, twelve weeks in advance, tickets for dinner at gastro-pubs.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I hate that term. It’s too trendy. Call it a bar, or a pub, or a bar & grille.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Not only trendy but unappetizing. Gastro-anything just sounds like intestinal distress.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I went to a trendy new “gastropub” for my wife’s friend’s birthday get together. It had an open ceiling, plywood clad walls, unfinished flooring, a single bathroom that I don’t think was up to 1950s codes, and mismatched chairs that I’m guessing they stole from abandoned buildings. It was also in a “not quite there yet neighborhood”, with a ten entrée menu, $12 drinks ($5! PBR), and the waiter had to manually add up all the food/drinks on a tiny piece of paper, but I signed for my bill on a smartphone. I don’t want to talk about how much my bill was because I”ll get angry. At least the bartender made a good Manhattan.

            We live in strange times.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Friends Don’t Let Friends Gastropub.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “Gastropub” damn I’m out of touch….. that sounds like medical slang for a procedure done under sedation.

            “Nurse, I need more lube for the gastroscope!”

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Lou-

            Think “Hipster bar that serves food that is a few cuts above fast casual”.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            If this were 1998, you’d have called the place “bar and grille.”

            Alternate title, “an independent Chili’s.”

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            If it were a Chili’s I’d call corporate to report the state of disrepair the bathroom was in, the unfinished construction, and slow service.

            However, since it is a trendy local restaurant/bar, the place is busy every night and it gets good Yelp reviews.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Hipsters: Causing people to pay more for less since 2005.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            BURNS: Smithers, what’s the name of this gastropod?
            SMITHERS: Homer Simpson, sir. One of your chair moisteners from Sector 7-G.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Wait, hipster doofuses did this to us?

            BART: Start digging some nerd holes!

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            $5 PBR would be a bargain in DC. Seattle used to have cheap drinks but they are increasingly disappearing there too.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I went to a hipster arcade bar in LA, and they wanted $6 for a bottle of High Life, and that was the cheapest thing on offer.

            So I didn’t drink anything.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            PBR is a bargain nowhere in my estimation.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            There’s a cook-your-own-steak place in Champaign, IL that sells “old man beer” (Schlitz, Hamm’s, Grain Belt, etc.) for $2 a can.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          ” I can’t determine if I’m displaying this polarized behavior when driving about in my very old man car as a young person.”

          Tell me about it!
          Im a guy who spent his late teens-until-now in Tempo, Aerostar, Zephyr (although one was a Z-7 sports coupe, both were I-6/auto), Taurus (but never an SHO), Camry, Accord sedan, etc. I tend to lust after “old man” cars like the late 70s-1985 Olds Delta 88, 2004 Infiniti M45, Infinti J30 and M30.

          I owned a few young(er) person-type cars like CRXs Escort GT, Tempo GLS and an Acura Integra GS-R (it was a rebuilt total, lol not rich then or now). I would love a new Accord coupe 6MT, a Civic Si, something like that. But, my prefrences tend to be for older (as in actual age and typical ownership demographics) vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            dolorean

            All over the HiLo blazer-jeans-good shoes look. It’s not a well kept secret that women can forgive jeans, but not your gym shoes. A nice pair of brown leather shoes that brings out the blue of the well-fitting and hemmed H&M blazer I got for cheap brings out the “maybe he’s got a little money, knows how to spend it” kinda of vibe. I further this theory with my ride, a very well preserved MY00 BMW E46 coupe. I keep her in nice shape, showing I care for my things, but don’t mind if they’re old school and no car payment (this may also state that I have no credit, but a hipster never admits)

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Rocking the Accord, and would want an unmolested/un-donked near-as-mint-as-possible 1987 Olds Cutlass Supreme Brougham Sedan with every option checked, including the 305 V8 and THM-400 AOD transmission for a summer weekend car! I’m gonna be 46 in May, and still have no idea what I’m gonna be when I grow up! (Most folks say that I act and look ten years younger outside of professional situations! 8-D I do think anything with a coller is being dressy; I prefer jeans or shorts/T-shirt with boat shoes or flip-flops whenever weather permits. I don’t mind khakis and a polo shirt, but that hits “business casual” square in the face!)

            Stereotypes, schmeriotypes!

    • 0 avatar

      Here’s one sure to rub some the wrong way…

      ’12 528i* in a subsidized housing block.

      *110k miles.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I can’t imagine the life that Bimmer will live…

        Whachu mean I got “increased battery discharge?!”

      • 0 avatar
        RHD

        We had something similar in my town: a migrant farmworker family, living in a single-wide metal mobile home, who drove a nearly brand new Cadillac Escalade.
        The loan payments probably eclipsed every other monthly expense that they had.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      “Jeans + jacket + hoodie”

      Suit jacket? If so, this is a thing?

      Blazer + Jeans is already bad enough.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        YES.

        bleh!

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        As someone who once wore tweed and dark jeans for a whole week, I don’t care what pants you wear with your jacket, just so long as your button-down shirt is tucked in.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        “Jeans + jacket + hoodie”

        Suit jacket? If so, this is a thing?

        Blazer + Jeans is already bad enough.

        “I’m still struggling to accept handsome young men with ZZ-Top beards and hot chicks with tattoos and a full set of teeth.”

        What is the world coming to?

        Oh and get the fVck of my lawn…..

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I shave every day!

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Since the natural state of a male is to have facial hair, I welcome any type of growth, so long as it’s well-kept. Think any of the facial hair in Tombstone or DDL’s mustache in There Will Be Blood.

            Some of the care that goes into those hipsters’ hair creations, though…that veers too close to vanitas.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Drzhivago138 – agreed. keep it neat. I have seen some incredibly sculpted beards.
            I had a beard for a large part of my life but workplace rules now say I need to fit a N95 mask plus the wife prefers me clean shaven… the latter carries much more weight (literally and figuratively since we got married. LOL)

            I’m so dead if she reads this :)

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            What’s a N95?

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            CoreyDL – It is a fine particulate mask used in health care to keep from contracting infectious organisms.

            “N” means “not resistant to oil” and “95” is filtering efficiency i.e. filters 95% of airborne particles down to 0.1 to 0.3 microns. Most infectious agents are that size or suspended in larger droplets.

            That would protect you from Tuberculosis and other airborne critters.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Ahh, thanks.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Particulate mask. Before we switched to a grain vac to empty out our bins, the augers would kick up so much chaff (those little pink flakes from corn that we call bee’s wings) and dust that you had to wear one if you were in the bin. Yep, if you want to have facial hair, the only kinds that are acceptable under a respirator are a chevron mustache (think British Army in WWI) or a toothbrush (which has been ruined forever).

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          With all the tatts going on nowadays, I should have been a dermatologist! When age hits these hipsters, and things start to sag, those guys’ll make INSANE amounts of moolah!

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Don’t rue your life choices overly much.

            Would you want to spend all day, every day ministering to all those quivering, 400-lb. compost mounds?

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      “This article is going to be beyond many readers here.” Okay, I’ll take the bait: I’m pretty stupid.

      It’s not my desire to turn this thread into “They’re good.” “No, they’re bad.” “No, and up yours.” But it may be my fate.

      Objectively, it’s simple. Good: They’re jacks of all trades. Bad: They’re masters of none. I guess this column is a valid exercise insofar as it’s a cold fact that crossovers are selling well, and therefore it’s worth divining some reason why.

      I’ll make a more prosaic guess: Crossovers combine most of the functionality of a station wagon, hatch or minivan with a style statement that lets you delude yourself that you’re a more adventurous and attractive person than you are. If you don’t believe me, read the automakers’ own confidential SUV consumer research in the book High And Mighty by Keith Bradsher. Sample: She likes her CR-V’s privacy glass because the guy who pulls up next to her might think she doesn’t have kids in the back.

      The dirty secret here is, sometimes the motives of fashion buyers really aren’t a very pretty picture.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m going to offer a different hypothesis. I think a lot of people simply want cars with more window area, and they want to sit higher up.

      I say that partly because many of the vehicles called “crossovers” by marketers are really station wagons. The Subaru Forester (at least the older ones), and The Ford Flex immediately come to mind. The distinction between “crossovers” and station wagons is fairly vague. I see “crossovers” as being uglier than station wagons, and having relatively little way back. The Murano is a good example of something that’s definitely a “crossover”.

      I’m not disputing Mr. Ho’s excellent article. I suspect in a large percentage of cases he may be correct. But I think my hypothesis is correct in a lot of cases as well, and I suspect that if Volvo were still making the boxy 240s and 940s, they’d be selling like hotcakes.

      • 0 avatar
        SIGCDR

        Agree 100%. SUVs are Mom cars for millenials who don’t want to drive the minivan that their mother drove. My 30 something daughter insisted on getting an Explorer with number one grandchild on the way. 11 years later and the next car will be an Expedition EL because it sits higher and has more crush room behind the third row seat. No amount of reason will persuade her that a Toyota or Honda “minivan” would have more usable room, be more comfortable for her 3 preteens and their soccer friends, get better MPG, go just as well in the suburban streets in the snow, be just as safe, and be more reliable. A crew cab F-150 ecoboost makes more sense also when SIL has to take the lawn tractor to the shop than an Expedition EL. But that wouldn’t be cool either. My prediction is that in another 10 years SUV’s won’t be the cool thing either but a Volvo 740/940 will always be a classic.

    • 0 avatar

      This is an interesting hypothesis. I have another hypothesis which I think is equally good, and I suspect that there is some of both going on.

      I think a lot of people simply want more greenhouse and a higher seating position than they get in today’s fortress cars. I also think that a lot of what goes by the artificial marketing moniker, “crossover” are really station wagons, and still more cars are not clearly either. The Forester, and the various slightly raised Subaru wagons, as well as the Ford Flex fall into the former category. I see the “crossovers” as ugly vehicles (hi, MUrano) with truncated way-backs.

      I also suspect that if Volvo were still making the boxy 940 and 240 wagons, they’d be selling like hotcakes.

  • avatar
    Chiburb

    Brilliant!
    Thank you.

  • avatar

    I get the appeal to the unwashed, but I would just never buy into it myself. At this moment in time, I’ve never been happier to own two sedans.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I think an alternate explanation is as follows:

      This is about what people can -afford- to display. In their clothes it’s high-low because they can only afford that Hermes (or lower brand) purse, while the rest of their clothes are average. Can’t wear the same expensive shirt every day, so they choose something expensive as an accessory. Their one expensive item should lend the “wealth halo” to their other items. Of course it doesn’t to anyone with taste – but it works on other people with horrible taste who notice these items.

      It’s a conscious choice because it’s the most practical one for their challenged bank account.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        That could be part of it, but I also think the switch to business casual for many workplaces plays a role. So instead of wearing a suit and tie, you wear slacks and a nice shirt, which transitions to a nice shirt and a nice pair of jeans.

        You wear an article of clothing that “represents” the business part of your attire and the rest is free to go casual. Whatever business garment you can purchase inexpensively you do (it saves you money after all), and that becomes the basis for your outfits.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          We do jeans on Friday (although being an elementary school were someone could smear something on you at any moment we don’t tend to dress to the level of Goldman-Sacs). Last Friday being close to Valentines my “hi-lo” was a very nice pair of jeans, button down shirt, loud Valentine’s tie, and Chuck Taylors.

          I got complimented several times on my attire which does not happen often.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Chuck Taylors can work in almost all situations. Heck, my wife wore them at our wedding.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            I take ZZTop’s “Sharp Dressed Man” to heart so I have a black leather pair and a brown leather pair of Chucks in order to be able to match my belt and my shoes.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            you people amaze me. I basically dress to avoid attention.

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            bball – my brothers (groomsmen) and I wore matching red chucks in my wedding. When we announced our +1 to the family, I wore those same chucks, my wife wore her’s, and we had a baby pair that matched in the picture saying our family was growing by 2 feet.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Fascinating article and very well written. This isn’t a concept I was at all familiar with, and it’s interesting to see it applied to the rise of the crossovers. Hopefully there will continue to be room for both universal compatibility and specialized excellence in the automotive world.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    So? What exactly is the point?

    The crossover vehicle is so popular because you sit higher, easier in and out and very practical.

    The automakers couldn’t care less about what so-called “enthusiasts” want in a vehicle, and build cars that the majority likes AND buys new.

    “Buys new” – for that reason, this article shouldn’t even be on TTAC! ;-}

    • 0 avatar
      DeeDub

      “The crossover vehicle is so popular because you sit higher, easier in and out and very practical.”

      If that’s all there was to it, minivans would be king.

      • 0 avatar
        VW16v

        Minivans are associated with kids and not so attractive woman driving those kids. The suv is associated with the soccer mom that does not want to look like that mom driving a minivan.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Minivans have also become HUGE – an Odyssey is maybe a couple of inches shorter than a sumo-sized SUV, such as a Tahoe.

          Lots of folks don’t want or need something that big but want the cargo capacity of a hatchback and a high seating position.

          • 0 avatar
            VW16v

            Great point. A Honda Odyssey is freaking huge. Crappy gas mileage to boot.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Odyssey gets crappy mileage? Not so fast! I regularly get 20 city / 25 highway and have gotten 28 mpg on some tanks.

            Try that in a Tahoe!

          • 0 avatar
            VW16v

            Vogo, if you tippy toe that mini van. I’m sure you could get 25 hwy. I’ve had a few friends get 23-24 hwy in a Tahoe. Just about everyone I’ve known that owned a Odyssey had engine or transmission issues. And they were 2010 or newer. A little better reliability in a Tahoe. Make sure you keep up the transmission maintenance.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          VW16v – image does play a huge role. The 2 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited that were on my street are owned by young attractive couples. All of my wife’s friends have shifted away from minivans BECAUSE of image as opposed to value and versatility.

          We got the minivan because other than a pickup, there wasn’t anything that made sense for a family of 4 with 2 big dogs. The minivan gets used for the “civilized” vacations and day to day stuff and the truck gets used for the back country camp outs, boat&bikes camping, and poor weather.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Minivans are much larger, longer and heavier vehicles, with lower ground clearance (bad for places that get a lot of snow) and FWD in most cases.

        The first-generation Odyssey (1996-98) was a true crossover, as it was built on an Accord platform. Every Odyssey built since then? Not so much.

        I know several older (60s-70s) couples that have switched from cars to SUVs over the past few years (CR-V is #1 choice).

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Like everyone else said, minivans are very big. Also, they generally don’t have AWD, and they cost a lot more too. 2 row crossovers seem to be the sweet spot… for someone who can live with a CR-V an Odyssey offers no added functionality.

        I’m looking at family rides for the future and another big consideration is garage space. I use my garage a lot but also park my cars in it. I don’t think a behemoth Odyssey would fit.

        • 0 avatar
          hubcap

          “…for someone who can live with a CR-V an Odyssey offers no added functionality.”

          You might want to think that one through again.

        • 0 avatar
          baggins

          Minivans dont cost that much, my 2014 Odyssey EX was 28.8K after negotiation

          Quite a bit more functionality than a CRV, Can carry 6 people in comfort, 7 in a pinch, vs 4 in comfort 5 in a pinch.

          I just completed a 28 MPG tank on a long president’s day road trip. 65 MPH, rain and wind

          It is large tho, 79 inches wide by 202 long.

          My garage is big enough.

        • 0 avatar
          Willyam

          This is too true. We have an Ody, which fits the long side of the garage, and ye Olde CR-V first gen (I felt very un-stylish, but now that it’s steel wheels are shod in Yokohama’s and it has a bike rack and just enough body damage, it’s sort of become stylish in an ironic way…low-low if you will). Also the inherited WJ project, and an ’05 Mustang. We have two garage spaces, and the HOA LOOOOVES me.

          The Ody takes up the entirety of the side it’s on, and it’s slab-sided enough that you can’t really get around it easily. To be fair, it’s even bigger inside than one could imagine. I’ve hauled things inside it that defy physics.

    • 0 avatar

      +1

  • avatar
    VW16v

    Maybe people are just tired of sitting on the ground of a boring sedan. The higher seating position gives a sense of security, or maybe “false sense of security”. Or a sense of power for some looking down on that civic or even luxury sedan. Example: The manager or director usually has his or her seat higher than the people sitting in the chairs across the desk. That theory has just moved to the automotive industry. Not all people think in of fashion in purchasing anything. Some think function.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      16v, I think you’re onto something here. I believe one of the biggest reasons for SUV and crossover buying is this era’s subliminal fear of crime.

      I compare it to the sense of peace we feel when we’re at the water’s edge. I’ve heard it suggested that we feel that peace because it’s biologically programmed into our simian ancestors to relax near the water because there’s only 180 degrees from which we could be attacked by a predator, not 360 as in the woods or tall grass. In fact, the water presents its own set of hazards, from drowning to waves to undersea predators, but we feel safer.

      Similarly, we’ve been bombarded with media telling us we’re under siege. Statistics say there’s actually less violent crime per capita in most parts of American than decades ago, but whether that’s true or not, we FEEL besieged, so we’re reassured by the sensation of a commanding position seated safely above the fray, whether that “fray” is motorists hitting us or pedestrians assaulting us. Like the sea, the tall vehicle in fact brings its own hazard — in this case, greater risk of one-car accidents — but the psyche trumps the rational. And we’re all generally much more irrational buyers than we think.

    • 0 avatar
      GS 455

      I’m a sedan guy but the only reason I’m considering a taller vehicle is this: In traffic you have to protect your “personal driving space” and not leave too large a gap in front of you or else other drivers will be jumping in ahead all day long. So I end up driving closer than I’d like behind the CUV SUV minivan half-ton in front of me. Then, even though they should be able to see traffic slowing up ahead and and adjust accordingly they slam on their brakes because they’re not paying attention. I hate being at the mercy of these idiots so I’ve been looking at CUVs but I just don’t like them in any way.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        +1, GS 455. I know more than one person who’s bought a CUV primarily for this reason. Call it the vehicle height arms race. You now need a CUV to approximate the view you got from a sedan in 1980s traffic (ignoring the somewhat separate issue of today’s vehicles’ crappy sightlines).

        To your theory I’ll add another: rear seat headroom. Manufacturers essentially have said, “F_ck it, rear seat headroom no longer is a criterion in sedan design, even in midsizes and fullsizes.” I’m far more comfortable sitting in the second row of something like a Buick Encore than I am in most sedans. The Encore’s got a small footprint. Rear legroom isn’t outstanding, but it’s adequate for me as a 5’10” adult male. I don’t have to do contortions to sit behind someone my own height. And headroom is fine because of the CUV profile. Contrast that with a Chrysler 200. Rear headroom is so poor that I literally cannot sit up straight in the back seat. The Encore’s no limo, but I’d be fine riding in back for an all-day road trip. Conversely, I wouldn’t want to ride in back of the 200 to get across town. (Side note: Rear seat headroom was fine in the oft-derided previous-gen 200. Progress.)

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Everyone always says this about having to stay right on the @ss of the car in front of you, but in my experience, it simply isn’t so. When I am driving in heavy traffic, I leave enough distance to the next car to ride through the standing waves without having to stop or shift. This is typically on Rt 128 in MA, home of some of the most aggressive drivers in the country. And hardly EVER does anyone actually get in front of me. And if someone does, so what? I slack off a bit to regain my original preferred amount of space, and I get home all of 2 seconds later, if that.

        • 0 avatar
          tankinbeans

          This has been my MO for awhile. My personal best is 26 miles and only needing to tap the breaks 6 times, of which only one was a full stop. I generally pick a gear that is probably slightly too low for my speed if I have a feeling that traffic will be slowing again; engine braking is my friend.

          Watching morse-code breakers makes me laugh. An ounce of forethought and not trying to fill all empty spaces on the freeway is the key to smoother flow, oh and learning to merge.

  • avatar
    ericb91

    I would say this is a spot-on assessment of the current automotive climate. A CR-V says I have to carry kids and cargo, but I don’t want a gas-guzzling midsize/full-size SUV or a “I’ve given up on life” minivan.

    I’ve got two kids and we have a 2010 Honda Odyssey LX. We bought it Certified Pre-Owned in 2014. When that van eventually gets retired, I imagine we could do well with a CUV. There is no denying that CUVs are practical, efficient and easy to drive. Nothing wrong with that.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      That’s interesting. When I see a mini-van, I don’t think the driver has given up or life, rather, I think they have good number of people to haul and are picking the vehicle that they feel will accomplish this the best.

      To me, a tell for someone who had given up on life is how they appear and how they act and even that’s not reliable if you don’t see them enough to be able to form an opinion that’s not based off of a snap judgment.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      If I’ve got to apply the judgment of “given up on life” to a car, little fits better than a 4-cylinder crossover like the CR-V. It’s not sporty, it’s not unique, it’s not butch, it’s not anything. Just an anodyne transport wagon for families and commuters on every street corner.

      Excellent tools, yes, but a glass house from which to be criticizing the stigma of the minivan. The world automotive appearances is a weird one.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        @30-mile-fetch

        I’m curious. Why? What makes a four cylinder cross-over illicit that response but not a four cylinder, anonymous, sedan such as a Camry or Sonata, or Accord?

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Well, sedans aren’t hot or trendy right now, the crossovers seem to be eating into their marketshare. I should be clear; I don’t look at any vehicle segment and think “given up on life”. My larger point is that most vehicles–be they minivans, CUVs, or midsize sedans–are first and foremost transportation tools, and to think that one of those is inherently trendy or cool while the others are defeatist compromises is a bit hypocritical.

          I actually like CR-V et al., but for their utilitarian qualities rather than because I think it avoids some shallow minivan stigma.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            Choosing any car for any image based purpose is shallow. For example I think a Honda Pilot costs the same as an Odyssey. Someone choosing an Odyssey because they don’t like how the Pilot looks is no more or less shallow than someone choosing a Pilot because they like the way it looks. At the end of the day these are all boring, utilitarian, mass production cars that do their jobs well, and judgments of character based on the cars people drive speaks more to the people making the judgments than the owners of the cars. It’s all really silly.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            “Choosing any car for any image based purpose is shallow”

            I agree and this is my general point, but apparently I am not conveying it well.

        • 0 avatar

          Maybe because the CUV has the added annoyance of blocking the sight lines of people in regular cars? It really sucks trying to back out of a spot when you are next to a CUV (or modern truck).

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Suto – ’tis safer to back into a parking stall then to back out……..

            and yes, I bought my truck just to piss off and interfere with the driving pleasure of everyone else on the planet. LOL

            Pro’s and con’s….. every vehicle purchase has them!

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Sedans occasionally at least feint toward enthusiasm. Even mainstreamers like the Accord and Camry have handling-focused trim levels and budget sport sedans were common until recently. Very few mass-market crossovers make even the slightest concession to enthusiasm, and when they do it’s typically in the form of a more powerful engine (Forester XT, Escape 2.0T, Acura RDX vs. CR-V) without any other real changes to back it up.

          Toyota just introduced a RAV4 SE. Maybe others will follow.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Ford seems to like to add Sport models to it’s CUVs. They typically have a stiffened chassis and suspension, larger brakes, and a much more powerful engine. An Escape Sport with the 2.3T would be a good addition.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Forgot about the Edge Sport when I wrote that statement. I usually forget about the “premium 5-seat” segment with just the Edge and Murano (and formerly the Venza) in it.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            And soon the Acadia. GM won’t have an option above the regular 3.6L though. It will also be a little more expensive than the Edge.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Daniel-

    This is a very good article. Thank you for writing it.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    With cars getting more and more expensive, it only makes sense that people would buy ones that are more versatile. CUVs do it all. Plus, Americans buy by the pound. I think that explains the appeal.

    I still wouldn’t buy one, though I have this weird soft spot for the Mazda CX3.

  • avatar
    davewg

    A very well written piece that makes a ton of sense (to me) as to why the market is headed in the current direction.

    It makes me wonder what my choices for an actual car will be in two years…

  • avatar
    ajla

    If cars are going to become niche does that mean we can get back the lower seating position and formal roofline?

  • avatar
    Von

    Mine. Blown.

    Anything not “pure” has to be rethought. And then, what is “pure”? And how far back should we go to determine pureness? What about the 2002? Did people consider that a pure sports car when it firs came out? Or just an abomination that tried to replace the MGA two seaters with something more practical? How about the Jeep? And isn’t a stationwagon just a CUV of its day?

    To take an easier but non-automotive example; the Doberman is a “pure breed”, but itself started as a mutt (carefully chosen, but mutt all the same). So is it a high low or is it a pure breed? And what if this was asked 150 years ago?

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      Style criticism is nothing new. An example is John Ruskin’s The Seven Lamps of Architecture, published 1849, and elucidating principles in architecture. There are surely more in other fields.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Makes sense. Finding the right balance is key and with the cost of new vehicles people do want the most bang for their buck. Being a pickup guy that is a reason why crew cab pickups sell so well. You can get a bourgeoisie interior with proletariat toughness and abilities.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I want one of the Big 3 to change their base and lux trim names to Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. None of this Laramie and King Ranch and Big Horn nonsense. If only the French sold trucks here. The Citroen Bourgeoisie.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        30-mile fetch – Ram would have to go away from the foot tall RAM letters on the tailgate.

        What would be an intermediate trim level?

        “Richesse Moyenne”

        Where is Dead Weight?

        We just came up with names for new Cadillac trim levels!

        I remember seeing a bumper sticker, ” Member of the Proletariat wished to meet member of the Bourgeoisie. Object…. Class Struggle”

        A bit wordy but rather funny.

  • avatar
    319583076

    pro-tip: time spent worrying about how others perceive you is time wasted.

    What’s happening now is that sophistry is popular and “market forces” are driven by rhetoric instead of objective value. With apologies to David Wallace, what’s interesting is that this isn’t new. This is what Socrates and Plato thought was evil. Sophists valued persuading people into thinking about you the way you think about yourself, i.e. – perception is reality. Socrates and Plato, in contrast, believed in objective truth(s) and understood that the flaw inherent to rhetoric is that we lie to ourselves about who we are, thus the power of persuasive speaking is a manifestation of untruth, which serves base interests rather than objective ideals.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    “Convenience is slowly triumphing over performance, and the generalists have become more aspirational than the specialists..”

    I’m not so sure about this, I can boot and punch out 10 e-mails all while watching HD videos on my desktop-replacement laptop while colleagues are fumbling around with keyboards, stands and the 30 other accessories needed to make an iPad somewhat functional.

    Convenience is often an illusion put forth in an attempt to create new markets, and so it is with the crossover. Just like tablets are beginning to fall out of favor as people realize that they really aren’t that practical (or convenient), car buyers will wake up and realize that crossovers really don’t have much more room than a sedan or wagon, are less efficient, and appallingly ugly to boot. In fact this already seems to be taking place as some of the higher end manufacturer’s crossovers have proportions much closer to wagons than the traditional crossover egg shape.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      I think tablets are falling out of favor simply because they’re being replaced one-for-one by ever-larger phones that can also make phone calls, and iPhone/iPad sales statistics back this up. It’s no accident that the operating system, apps and processor of an iPad are essentially identical to an iPhone, except the tablet can’t make phone calls. The tablets are simply falling into functional obsolescence.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I never bought into the tablet thing because they are functionally bullsh!t, and surpassed by other devices easily. “Look how awesome our tablet is, if you attach mouse, keyboard, and stand!” Kinda like “Look how reliable this Range Rover is, if you replace the engine, electrics, and suspension!”

        Tablets have two real purposes I can see:

        1) Entertainment for small children in the car, replacing static DVD screens.
        2) Doctors can use them for their records as they move about the hospital/office. Easier and better than paper or a laptop.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          “I never bought into the tablet because they are functionally bullsh!t”

          Tell that to my wife. I bought her an iPad Air last year and it took over her life. She will now go a month at a time without using her laptop, a perfectly serviceable, SSD-equipped 13″ MacBook Pro. I could probably eBay the MBP without her noticing. She doesn’t do heavy content creation, but does plenty of writing in the context of sending long emails and Facebook messages.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            That has to take ages longer to tap out on that non-ergo screen keyboard than having tactile keys.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            My wife does the same thing. iPhone or iPad. Rarely touches our laptop.

            Kids seem to be on tablets all the time too. It’s some parents’ way of parenting.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I think my wife, no slouch on a conventional keyboard, may be even faster on the iPad’s soft keyboard.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I can’t do it! Such an awkward angle to try and lay it on your lap and type out while looking down and leaning over it. I don’t think a table would help me much.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @dal

            I would take the wife away for a weekend from techno-bullshit toys because I think it is important to realize life exists outside of them. People are developing psychological disorders from these things.

            http://www.ibtimes.com/facebook-may-cause-psychological-disorders-study-says-827739

            @bball

            Simply the new “sit and watch TV” for latch key kids.

            @Corey

            I’m going to go jihad against those taking my buttons away.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I need buttons, and a real keyboard, and a fast computer to run nice games with smoothness. So far me Asus ROG has served me very well. Had its third birthday recently.

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            Hey dal, how much you want for that MBP? :^D

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I get frustrated with the iPad less because of the keyboard and more because manipulating non-touch-friendly website elements on the touch screen gets really goofy. When that happens, for some reason, I usually end up getting up and walking into my study to use my desktop. My own laptop is getting less and less use at home.

            tonycd, doubt you want my MBP… find one from a non-baby household! :)

        • 0 avatar
          Chicago Dude

          I have an iPad 1; we have cookbooks and other books on it. We use it a lot and are happy with it.

          In the minds of many, however, it is a product failure because I didn’t go buy an iPad 2, air, air 2, pro, or whatever the most recent model is. Apparently if I don’t replace a perfectly functional device there must be something wrong with it.

          I also why on earth people thought that a tablet would perform the same variety of functions that a general-purpose computer would. Does that make any sense at all?

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            Chicago, I just sold my iPad 1 even though it was in perfect condition. For one simple reason: Its main use for me was to surf and email on trips, and it could no longer run modern websites without crashing. (And hey, I’m from Chicago too!)

            No doubt tablets have their uses. They’re great for specific business applications. Other than that, they’re generally better for consuming content than for creating it. Good for gaming and surfing, less so for typing and designing. But I will admit, younger people are much better than I at touch-screen typing and two-thumbs texting, which adds to the utility of the touch-screen devices.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “and it could no longer run modern websites without crashing.”

            I’m running into this now, the operating system is also effectively firmware. There seem to be hacks around it but on the face of it this creates a product ecosystem which is designed for disposal in a very short time frame. In my view, it is reason enough to reject or limit such device usage as much as possible.

            Here this is topical:

            http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/269668-trump-slams-apple-for-refusing-to-unlock-san-bernardino-shooters-phone

            No Such Agency can see all, yet Cook pushes back and Trump runs his mouth.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            tonycd, we run a number of Apple, Win8.1 and Android devices including an old iPad mini, iPad Air and iPhone, and we have never had any problems running modern websites while on the road. Or anywhere else for that matter.

            The b1tch with Tablets is the on-screen keyboard so I got a Belkin Qode keyboard/cover for our iPad Air. Pricey, but IMO well worth it.

            The key to any Apple device is to keep the iOS updated. The most current is v9.2.1 (13D15).

            While Apple makes a decent product for the most part, our faves today are the Samsung S5 Galaxy and the Dell 15″ Core i7 Touchscreen Laptop.

            Both are true state-of-the-art cutting-edge tech devices.

            But I’ve been told that Apple’s new iPad Pro Tablet is better yet. IDK. I’ve never fondled one.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The iPad 1 is more problematic than most iOS devices because it combines 1) only 256MB of RAM with 2) a faster processor than the iPhones with only 256MB of RAM, which tricks you into thinking it should be able to keep up.

            Many modern webpages choke on the iPad 1.

            Newer iDevices with 512+MB RAM don’t have that problem. The problem is using the websites when they’re not touch friendly, not loading them without crashing. Buying tickets to anything on an iPad is often an exercise in head banging.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Evidently Apple RAM is soldered on?

            http://forums.macrumors.com/threads/solder-on-your-own-ram.1630889/

            Why do you people buy this junk?

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Ask my wife why she uses the iPad, and she will tell you that it’s because the iPad is small, and, above all, light, at less than 1/3 the weight of her laptop, but with a big and excellent screen. Soldered RAM is one of the compromises that makes that possible. You’d double the thickness of the iPad, and take space currently used for battery, by putting in a RAM slot. And with 1GB soldered, her iPad can cope with lots and lots of open tabs without a problem.

            It’s what you value. If you value upgradability, you won’t like anything Apple makes. If you value thin and light while maintaining usability, their stuff is very good.

            I’m probably going to buy a one-port MacBook next time Apple updates it. I know perfectly well I’m sacrificing both upgradability and performance for the form factor. But the form factor affects me daily, the performance is good enough, and I’m willing to live with the fact that I’ll be replacing it three or four years down the line.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’d have to measure the connectors the RAM sits on the laptops at home but If I had to guess its 3-3.5mm. RAM’s varies but again if I had to guess its 2-2.5mm, soldering it accomplishes two things: 1. saves the thickness difference of using a RAM seat connector and 2. takes away user serviceability of the RAM slot. Another 1-2mm of thickness isn’t going to do much to the overall form factor but its going to throw a barrier in your way as time goes on as websites and browsers require more and more memory to accomplish the same tasks. This will push monied folks to simply consume and buy another one or require them to have it serviced for an upgrade. But again this is also the company who won’t allow you to change your own battery.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I just can’t be bothered to be offended at the current functional lives of equipment in this category. I think the size for upgradability tradeoffs are worth it.

            I’m getting 2 years out of a phone, which I use hours a day… by which time the enclosure of the phone is showing wear, the battery is shot, and the oil-repellent coating has physically worn off much of the screen. Why spend half the price of a new phone replacing those components when I could just get a new phone that is probably a lot faster and has new features?

            I’m getting 4 to 5 years out of laptops. Again that’s enough time for laptops with new features to be desirable enough to be worth the money versus upgrading and replacing worn components on the older equipment. Compared to my 2010 MBP, a new MacBook would give me a much lighter form factor, a “retina” screen, hard-wired storage with about twice the speed of a good SATA3 SSD, a significantly more capable multi-function trackpad, USB3, and 802.11ac wireless. You can’t realistically expect an upgrade path to all of that.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            There certainly are hardware limitations on motherboards which are what they are, but with the right BIOS whitelist and eSATA on the board, I can mitigate the lack of USB3, upgrade the wireless card to AC and physically install a new trackpad. The only thing I couldn’t do easily (or possibly at all) is go from SATA2 to 3.

            Phones are no different with hardware limitations but as you point out they are designed for a 2 year lifespan, which is unacceptable. Good phones cost several hundred dollars a piece, which is the cost of a consumer grade computer and much like PCs they aren’t really improving very much. The trend in chip manufacturing in laptop and mobile has been core expansion, not speed. I think this is for a number of reasons but what we are witnessing today is the peak of the current generation of mobile/laptop chipsets. They will simply stagger the release of hardware and software components in order to keep people lining up every two years but things change very little. I wouldn’t have much of an issue with this if the operating system were not implemented as firmware, but this is another control mechanism to protect the wasteful consumerism which I abhor.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I’m not sure I agree with the thesis that improvement is slow or peaking.

            Work upgraded me a couple of months ago from my battered iPhone 5S to an iPhone 6S Plus. The speed difference is astonishing, and most of that difference came from the 6 -> 6S step, not the 5S -> 6 step. Other chip designers have not quite kept up with Apple for this cycle, but I’m sure they will catch up in another cycle or two. I can also appreciate the pressure-sensitive screen and the far faster fingerprint reader.

            My wife went even further — from 5 to 6S, and she says it feels like the current device just works while the old one was subtly broken.

            The pace of change remains much faster than it is in PCs, and if it continues like it has over the last couple of generations I’ll be wanting another upgrade in 2018. Since the device also physically wears out in that time (and it would be very difficult to change that) I’m not bothered by the 2-year cycle.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Actually both the Iphone6 and 6S use CPUs from the ARMv8-A family, the 6 using the 1.4ghz dual core “Typhoon” and 6S the 1.85ghz “Twister”. Since the processor family was announced in 2011, it is safe to understand both variants were available at the same time and Apple chose to roll out the slower one first.

            The major differences which jump out at me between the two are GPU (graphics processor), memory, and firmware. The 6S GPU went from a quad core to a six core, 6S memory doubled to 2GB and went up in speed slightly (DDR3 to DDR4), and the base iOS version went from 8 to 9. I’m not qualified to tell you the difference between iOS 8 and 9 so we can assume some software improvements, but essentially the difference between them is a 24% processor speed increase, a 33% core increase in GPU, a 100% memory increase, and a software change which we can assume is an improvement over its predecessor.

            All of these hardware changes are incredibly cheap to enact at scale and none is a quantum leap over the previous hardware specification, which is my point on adding cores becoming the norm vs speed. The initial Pentium II clocked in at 233mhz in 1997, the final Pentium II reached a speed of 450mhz in early 1999 while the Pentium III Coppermine core clocked in at 733mhz in March 2000. Apple’s ARM CPU should have doubled in a similar time frame, but it didn’t and it won’t unless there are further advances in microcircuitry.

            If I had the new parts, I could probably solder in the upgrades to an Iphone6 and thus wouldn’t need to spend the difference on a new 6S. I do realize I am an outlier.

            If I ever decided to play this phone game, I will be looking at this:

            http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/01/blackphone-release-data-protection-privacy-surveillance

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhone_6
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhone_6S

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_architecture#64.2F32-bit_architecture

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          I have one Win7 tablet that I bought specifically for ECU logging and troubleshooting in my cars. Laptop’s too clunky for that, and phone screens aren’t large enough.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            That’s a good “business” or specific use reason as well. I had a hard time with my laptop and a VAGCOM cable years ago. But now I don’t Audi anymore.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Thinkpad X300 or X301, which at this point, are cheap and effective for such a purpose.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Laptops are cheap enough, but still too bulky for easy use.

            My tablet is some wacky thing I bought off ebay a few years ago. I’m not sure, but I think it was a preproduction review sample by some obscure Taiwanese company for a US marketing push that never happened.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The series I am referring too is quite thin and was designed to emulate the original Macbook Air minus the stupid.

            http://www.cnet.com/products/lenovo-thinkpad-x301-series/

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Still too big. I was using an old Acer netbook before the tablet, and that was unwieldy at times. Nice thing about the tablet is you can set it wherever you’re working at, and prop it up at weird angles to glance at while you’re fiddling under the dash or hood (I also have some FSMs loaded on it).

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Tablets are great for certain uses, but all the tech writers who crowed that they would take over the world from laptops and desktops were just being stupid. I go everywhere with mine, much more convenient than dragging books around like I used to. I create almost nothing beyond short work e-mails on it. Phone is too small, big phone is too big, one of each is perfect, Nexus 5 phone and Nexus 7 tablet with LTE.

          I think the biggest reason for the slowdown in tablet sales is that everyone who wants one pretty much has one, and there is just no good reason to replace it until you break it – much the same reason for the fall in computer sales in general.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        @tonycd

        “The tablets are simply falling into functional obsolescence.”

        That’s interesting. This is anecdotal but most of the people I know that have tablets love them. They didn’t buy them to replace a laptop but rather to read, surf the web, or watch videos etc.

        For those purposes they’re much more convenient than a laptop and easier to see than a phone.

        If you’re using a tablet as a laptop replacement, then yeah…good luck with that.

        • 0 avatar
          Alfisti

          Tablets are really just for viewing, as soon as you try and work on one it’s a nightmare.

          We never use ours, ever, went back to a proper laptop.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I bought one of these for the lulz. If one must have a tablet, I’d recommend the newer version of it.

            http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/301866994784?ul_noapp=true&chn=ps&lpid=82

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      > car buyers will wake up and realize that crossovers really don’t have much more room than a sedan or wagon

      Tell me, which sedans have more room than comparable CUVs?

      • 0 avatar
        azmtbkr81

        Fusion and Escape. Although the Fusion is technically a size larger it gets better mileage than the Escape and is priced almost identically making it a valid comparison. The Fusion has a much roomier passenger area and the trunk is wider and deeper than the Escape’s cargo area.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          34 cu ft (Escape) > 16 cu ft (Fusion)

          I am aware that the Escape’s cargo area includes more vertical space, but it is more useable than the Fusion’s trunk.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            With today’s fastbacks giving even large trunks a mail slot for an opening, the only advantage I can even think of for having an enclosed trunk instead of a hatch is if you’re carrying something smelly.

          • 0 avatar
            hubcap

            “With today’s fastbacks giving even large trunks a mail slot for an opening…”

            Easy solution. Make it a liftback. It already looks like one. I don’t know what is keeping certain manufacturers form doing it because it wouldn’t certainly increase storage space.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Ford actually sells a Fusion liftback elsewhere. We aren’t allowed to have it though.

            I would prefer this:

            https://www.carkeys.co.uk/Media/Default/Ford/Mondeo/New%20Mondeo/FordMondeoHatchback5.JPG

    • 0 avatar
      Frylock350

      @HighDesertCat,

      A Samsung Galaxy S5 is hardly cutting edge. It STILL doesn’t have Android 6! Samsung TouchWiz skin is a aesthetic mess and the bloatware is staggering. You want cutting edge? Get a Google Nexus 6P. Its better than the S5 (and S6) in every conceivable way.

      @azmtbkr81,
      I disagree completely that crossovers don’t have more room than a sedan or wagon; they clearly do. Comparing our Terrain to a Toyota Camry our Terrain has more legroom, more headroom, a longer wheelbase etc. This is despite being a few inches SHORTER than a Camry. It also has twice the cargo volume. Even this is misleading; the Camry’s rating basically its trunk volume. Crossovers are rated to the seatbacks ignoring all the room above the seat backs you can use. With the seats folded down the cargo room comparison isn’t even close. I’ve hauled a dishwasher in our Terrain. Do that with a sedan. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder. I find out Terrain’s upright boxy styling very attractive and it was a key attribute in our selection process. Wagons balance the equation more, but the low roof height still means the crossover will always win the space war. That’s not even considering the fact that crossovers have airy greenhouses and lower beltlines than sedans/wagons.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Frylock350, agreed! But at the time we got the S5 for the bid’ness it was the best smartphone around. We have not yet progressed beyond that stage but will take your advice when the time comes to evaluate the Nexus 6P..

        • 0 avatar
          Frylock350

          @highdesertcat,

          You’ll be happy when you evaluate it! Google Nexus devices benefit from rapid and frequent updates. Competitors can offer some better hardware in some ways (though the 6p is a monster) but they can’t offer the support and longevity. If you own a 2013 Nexus 5 (2 generations old) you already have Android 6. If you have a 2015 Galaxy S6 (current flagship) you still don’t. This is the reason I recommend Nexus devices.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Frylock350, Thanks. Always receptive to better ideas and improved tech experiences.

            Honestly, I don’t know when we will upgrade.

            We have so many phones currently being paid for by the business, as an expense, and since my wife and I quit working way back on 31 Dec 2014, she and I do fine on just her phone.

            I used an LG TracFone for my personal phone but when I quit working I handed the phone over to Nguyen, who had been my assistant and understudy, when he assumed the responsibility of taking over the housing maintenance and repair business as his own.

            Ditto with my wife’s iPhone that went to our 25-yo grand daughter when she started running the office, and my wife’s earlier generation iPhone that went to our 18-yo grand daughter when she was still in High School.

            So now all we have is my wife’s S5, for when we travel.

            But for serious web surfing, we have a number of non-phone devices to get down and dirty with, like several Laptops (VAIO, HP, Lenovo), a couple of iPads, and one Dell XPS 27″ AIO Desktop PC.

            It’s a full-time job just to keep up with all the New, Improved, Better Than Ever tech devices hitting the market.

  • avatar

    I cannot believe that anyone reads this rubbish and thinks of it as brilliant. This seems like the kind of nonsense a bunch of car guys doing LSD might think up.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      WhiskeyRiver – Why do you think it is nonsense?

      The whole point of a site like this as far as I’m concerned is so a writer can express their views, opinions, assessments. The bloggers then have the opportunity to explain their own ideas/ideals and why they hold them. Paradigms alien to our own are often shocking and the tribal response is to reject the unfamiliar.

      An opinion without the why?. what, when?, where? and how? is just another flee fart in a hurricane.

      We need to understand each other. That is much more important than agreeing with each other.

      Kudos Daniel Ho.

      Well written.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      As much as I dislike Doug-bots writing, at least he can stay on subject half the time. This feels like it was pieced together from various Amazon reviews of different things.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    I hate the look of t-shirts and blazers on middle-aged guys (and I’m a middle-aged guy). To me this example of high-low just comes across as trying too hard (look at me, I’m mature but I’m still a rebel at heart). 20 inch wheels on CUVs are the automotive version of tee and blazer and look equally silly. Speaking of styling, the other night I spotted a CUV that I didn’t immediately recognize out the corner of my eye. My first reaction was that’s a sharp looking car! When I got a closer look I was embarrassed to see that it was a Pontiac Aztek. It shows how bad current CUV styling is when an Aztek starts looking good.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    I’d argue that the most sensible vehicle for the average family today is the raised wagon. not a CUV but an actual raised wagon. So XC70, Outback, A4 Allroad etc etc.

    The solve a lot of problems, ride height is neither too low nor too high, they handle better than CUV, they offer a 5th door that sedans lack and they have a more useful cargo space than short tailed CUV.

    i am surprised the market still prefers the full blown CUV route.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Outback = CUV. It is the same length as a Ford Edge and is 94% as tall.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The problem with the lifted wagon is two-fold.

      1) The options in America are all expensive, with the exception of what Subaru sells. Go ahead and price an XC70 or an A4 Allroad. While the Allroad is more egregiously overpriced, the XC70 ain’t cheap.

      2) “Wagon” applied to anything in North America causes it to tumble in sales. Case in point – Crosstour and the ZDX and the Venza and the Taurus X and the Flex.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The problem with current wagons, raised or not, is that they have very little passenger and cargo volume. They aren’t really longer than CUVs and they have styling-focused rooflines that eat into cargo space. The increased roof height and squarer nature of the CUV largely solves that problem.

      No one cares about handling except a tiny number of enthusiasts, and in any case most current CUVs, while boring, are far more capable handlers than Ye Olde BOF SUVs.

      • 0 avatar
        Alfisti

        Disagree 100%.

        I own a 9-3 wagon, the in laws a Q5. The Q5 has more back seat space and a tiny bit more “height” in the cargo area but the Saab boot (trunk) floor is wider, long and more importantly with the seats down the Saab swallows longer items far better than the Audi.

        I fit 6 small kitchen chairs in the Saab, just not gonna happen in the larger Q5 because they cut the tail off of CUV.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          “I own a 9-3 wagon, the in laws a Q5. The Q5 has more back seat space…I fit 6 small kitchen chairs in the Saab, just not gonna happen in the larger Q5”

          Exactly. And what do you think people care more about carrying, people, or kitchen chairs? CUVs beat wagons 10 times out of 10 because they add PASSENGER volume, and that’s what most people are looking for. Not the ability to haul more cargo, which they do once every 6 months, maybe.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I carry cargo about 500X more often than I carry more than two people. And in the case of my car, the e9x 3-series wagon has both more people and more cargo space than the equivalent generation X3 (or X1). As did the e61 5-series wagon compared to the then current X5. The latest f31 3-series wagon is also bigger inside than a current X3. The X1 is now slightly bigger inside being transverse-engined.

            I would take a CUV over a useless small sedan, but not over a well-done wagon. But unless you are willing to pay a premium, you don’t even get the option to choose anymore.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            BMW is sort of a special case given how terrible the packaging of their CUVs is. The X5 has less space inside than a few of the mass-market compact SUVs, and the X3 and X1 are more like the subcompacts.

          • 0 avatar
            S2k Chris

            Krhodes, believe you’re also single with no kids, which makes you a huge outlier and not indicative of the overall market.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Singles and DINKS (no kid couples and empty nesters) make up a HUGE proportion of the population of this country, probably the majority. You people with kids are not as special as you think you are. It’s just all you ever think about are the rugrats.

            And we singles and DINKS have WAY more disposable income than you parents do.

            Really, I am more 1/2 of a DINK couple than a single. While the roomie and I are not in a relationship, we have lived together for 15 years, and I get the benefit of his income in rent and shared household expenses. So kind of like an old married couple, no?

            I brought three toilets home from HD for a friend of mine tonight – no way they would have fit in his Fusion in the boxes. THAT is exactly why I think sedans are useless. And they should simply die off in sizes smaller than an S-class.

            @Dal20402

            It’s not so much that the packaging is bad, it is simply that the “compact” CUVs right now are HUGE, and the original X3 and X5 are fairly small cars, being a generation before the e91 – based on the e46 and e39 respectively. Of course, the first generation RAV4 and CRV were tiny little things. Cars just keep getting bigger and bigger.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            @krhodes1: You sure about the CR-V getting bigger with each generation?

            1997 CR-V, the “tiny little thing”:
            OAL: 178″
            WB: 103″
            H: 66-70″
            W: 70″

            2016 CR-V (wow, 20 years!):
            OAL: 178.3″
            WB: 103.1″
            H: 65.1″ (shorter)
            W: 71.6″

            Sooo, 1.5″ of width is monstrous growth?

            Now, the RAV4, you are correct. It’s grown significantly. I would actually classify the first and second-gens as subcompacts because their WB was <100". (Yes, I classify cars into segments based on their WB like we're still in the '70s, even though I know the EPA and other organizations do it differently.) Other compact CUVs have also grown, though not as drastically in most cases as the RAV4.

  • avatar
    Chan

    The primary practical appeal of CUVs and tall hatchbacks is ingress and egress of a van/SUV without the large footprint.

    One or two kids? A small 5-seater CUV is all the family car you would practically need. For a big trip just rent a larger car.

    It’s clear that an HR-V or a CR-V is more pleasant to get into and out of than a Civic or Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      As a fairly new dad, I’ll say that our CUV has been a god-send. 99% of the time he’s in the Santa Fe and it’s wonderful. The 1% of time I had to throw him in the back seat of my Mazda 3 and get him strapped in, I have never once been able to do it without someone impacting the doorframe in some way. Likewise, it’s much easier on my back getting him into the CUV.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I witnessed a form of high-low in New Orleans about two years ago. Before leaving on the trip, my wife researched some restaurants in the French quarter. After perusing many reviews, she settled on one on Bourbon Street. I can’t remember the name, but it was one of these expensive iconic places that the locals with money favor.
    Sine they required a coat for men, I packed a grey/black blazer, black dress pants, black belt and dress shoes. When we were seated for our reservation, I looked around and was surprised to see about half of the men sporting blazers, worn looking jeans, docker type shoes and button down sport shirts. That was the low part of the equation. Conversely, the women with them wore formal dresses, jewelry, and expensive purses. They were the high part of the pair. I thought that the locals were having fun with the tourists with this odd pairing.
    I would have loved to see what kind of cars they drove, but the parking was in garages at least two blocks away.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Go to Baltimore on a summertime Friday or Saturday night and you’ll see this phenomenon everywhere. The frat bros, which exist in Baltimore in unlimited supply, are all wearing shorts and polos, often with sandals. The bro-ettes they’re with are all in designer sundresses with $500 purses and $300 sunglasses.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @dal20402
        @Felix Hoenikker
        I noticed that same phenomenon a while back. My family and I were out for dinner and in walked a bunch of dudes with t-shirts, hoodie’s and ball caps and all of the girls with them were dressed to the nines.

        I told my son’s that I’d kick their ass’s all over the place if they ever did that to a girl on a date. They didn’t even take their caps off at the diner table.. goes to show that I’m getting out of touch with the young’uns.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          My brother knows when I scoff at him if we sit down at a restaurant what it means. Hat off, fool!

          • 0 avatar
            sco

            This is everywhere, pretty women out walking with gorillas. The Las Vegas strip is the very best example. I’m not sure the women even mind, I think expectations of boyfriends in the clothing area have dropped considerably.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            There’s a song about that.

            “Is she really goin out with him?!”

        • 0 avatar
          Frylock350

          @Lou_BC,

          You are getting out of touch. What’s socially acceptable and what isn’t changes from generation to generation. Try to remember they’re all simply social constructs that are passed down and many of them are stupid/meaningless. Just because you and people older than you decided hats at the dinner table was a bad thing doesn’t mean it is. I’ll bet you can’t give an objective reason for it :). Its completely innocuous behavior; I don’t find it rude/offensive in the least.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Frylock350 – I’m well aware of what social constructs are.
            What is the point of a ball cap?
            Keep the sun out of your eyes, dust and bugs out of your hair, keep your head warm……

            My dad lived through the great depression and he was raised to believe that a hat at the table was bad manners, I was raised that way and I’m raising my sons the same way.

            If one’s date takes the time to dress up nicely then one needs to show an adequate level of respect by at least dressing up to their level.

            I view it as showing respect.

            Ball caps are for hunting, fishing, ball, and work. If you want to show you love “Cat” or “Ford” or “SeaHawks” then fine but on a date to a nice restaurant with a well dressed lady?
            Not in my books.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            I’m the only farmer I know who doesn’t wear a ball cap, even though there’s times when it would actually be more effective than an outback.

  • avatar
    Dorrin

    Interesting article, but I personally suspect that this is driven more by functional factors: the aging and increasing physical dehabilitation of the car-buying public. CUVs are easier to get in-and-out of than the compact and mid-size sedans they are based on.

    Bluntly, that (and the dubious benefit of higher seating position with regards to visibility) is the only advantage a CUV has over a station wagon/hatchback built on the same platform. But I think for a large and increasing number of buyers, that’s a big deal.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’m someone who has become convinced that the CUV in someway is simply returning the car to some of its roots. Look at the sedans of the 30s and 40s, then look at the Highlander, Pilot, Traverse, Pathfinder, Explorer et. al.

    The shapes are similar, the seating positions are similar, the hip points are not wildly different between a 70 year old sedan design and a modern CUV design.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      There’s a lot of truth to this. Longer-lower-wider styling pressure for several straight decades resulted in functional compromises for many buyers, particularly those who are elderly or overweight. The CUV eliminates those compromises (while introducing others that matter less to most buyers).

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Interesting point, Dan.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I think its just automakers charging extra $$$ for practicality, they could design their cars to have formal roofs, formal ride heights, but then that’d make the CUV redundant.

      Of course we could always buy mini-vans and have modern horse wagons.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Is this the kind of bullsh1t brandista navel-gazing they do all day in SoHo?

    Ironically, if you’ve got a nice tall C/SUV you don’t have to contort for ingress/egress and your navel never comes into view!

  • avatar
    Waftable Torque

    It’s fascinating to see what editorial changes to the original copy were made for the sake of clarity. A punctuation mark here, quotation marks there, a couple of new sentences in that paragraph, etc.

    Now to pull a Motortrend and yank the whole thing! ;)

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I used to think about that when I’d show up in my t-shirt and dirty jeans at the wrecking yard to get parts for one of my old fin cars, driving my 230SL.

  • avatar
    slance66

    This makes sense to me. I’m not as sure about the “hi-lo” aspect, as I am about convenience trumping performance. The iPod started that…and came out just as the industry was arguing over two competing HiDef audio formats. Both failed. Instead a realtively crappy format (MP3 or AAC) won. Streaming isn’t on par with BluRay, but is gradually winning.

    Why? I think the answer is that there is a “good enough” level for most things. For those of use who had cassettes and 8 tracks…MP3 is still better than that. It’s good enough, and infinitely more practical and portable. With cars, the handling and MPG of CUVs is “good enough”. My CX-5 will out handle 75% of the cars from the 90’s. It provides a nice high seating position with easy ingress and egress, and hauls plenty of stuff when needed while getting good MPG. Why on earth does anyone need a modern sports car, when ordinary vehicles are so capable? Jack Baruth, race-car driver, bought an Accord. And guess what, it’s fast enough to have been the Trans Am in Smokey and the Bandit.

    CUVs are winning because all the supposed drawbacks of that high center of gravity don’t actually exist anymore. Not really. When the do-everything Swiss Army knife vehicle nearly equals the prior generation of specialty vehicles, there is no longer a point to those cars. Look at most current sports cars…they are insanely useless on public streets. You can’t actually drive them any faster than a V6 CUV.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      “Both failed. Instead a realtively crappy format (MP3 or AAC) won. Streaming isn’t on par with BluRay, but is gradually winning. Why?”

      Ease of downloading, and file size. I’m not carrying around 40 BluRays to suit my every mood. I can stream 10,000,000+ online, albeit lower quality.

      O wellz im probly gonna txt during it newayz.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “Instead a realtively crappy format (MP3 or AAC) won. ”

      But you still have options if you want higher sound quality.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Neither MP3 nor AAC is inherently crappy. Sound quality at 320kbps with a good encoder is excellent, to the point where complaints about it are pure posturing. The convenience vs. performance tradeoff comes when you want to shrink the files to 192kpbs or less, so you can stream them or store tons of them on a phone. Similarly, the convenience vs. performance tradeoff with CUVs is specifically related to ride height and ground clearance. The Germans make performance CUVs with car-like ride height and little performance compromise. But Americans in general value the ride height more than the performance, just like they value the ability to stream more than sound quality.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “This makes sense to me. I’m not as sure about the “hi-lo” aspect, as I am about convenience trumping performance. The iPod started that…and came out just as the industry was arguing over two competing HiDef audio formats. Both failed. Instead a realtively crappy format (MP3 or AAC) won. Streaming isn’t on par with BluRay, but is gradually winning.”

      The only “arguments” over high-resolution audio formats were in obscure, dark corners. The vast majority of people aren’t interested in the wankery of audiophools who carry themselves like they can tell the difference between a mouse fart and a rat fart from a mile away.

      “Good enough” and “convenient” will almost always win in the market.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        There was plenty of worry about “loosing the intent/impact/vision…” of the “artists”, in music industry circles, as well. Just as thee was in film circles when the VCR came out. And I’m sure, when the cassette tape came out as well.

        Convenience does win out, though. Literally to the point where the type of music being popular, is influenced by the medium in which it is distributed and listened to.

  • avatar
    slance66

    And the vast majority of people don’t want manual transmissions or brown station wagons. They don’t want cars that can pull over 1g on the skidpad or hit 200MPH. Nor do they need a dedicated rock crawler Wrangler Rubicon or similar. Specialty vehicles don’t make much sense for most people. The reality is, the folks here are generally more like those audiophiles.

    Whatever failings a modern Explorer has, it is roomier, more comfortable, has better visibility and is better in light off road or snow than a Taurus. The handling is worse, but not dramatically worse. The same is true for a Grand Cherokee vs a 300 and a CR-V vs a Civic.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    Using fashion, which is nebulous at best, to explain the rise of the CUV is something I just can’t get behind. Yes, there are the “Hi-Lo” outfits but that isn’t anything new and it does little to explain the public’s desire for CUVs.

    Using JC Penney and Sears, two companies who’ve been in decline for years, as poster children for why you don’t want to remain the middle is disingenuous. Their problems weren’t caused by being in the middle rather by management who, for whatever reason was too resistant to change. There are other companies that occupy a similar space in the market. Namely Walmart and Amazon, but wishing these two behemoths “good luck” with surviving attacks form the luxury stores above and the discounters below paints a different picture.

    I don’t understand limiting compromise to CUVs. All cars are compromises. In fact, most vehicles (sea, air, land) are compromises.

    Many things that the author contributes to fashion I contribute to the march of technology. Look at the many features non luxury/premium cars come with today that were once only available on the higher marques. Why?

    Technology advances, more companies adapt it, it becomes cheaper and the cycle repeats.

    Take a look around your house and you’ll see the same. Not so long ago, a network enabled laser printer was something a business would use, not a home. What changed? The tech got cheaper. What was once a specialty item becomes more mainstream.

    This is nothing new. It’s the way it has always been. The rapid increase in technology has made it both more apparent and more attainable.

    • 0 avatar
      Waftable Torque

      Those are fair arguments.

      I used JC Penney and Sears because it’s a familiar example of a business model that is attacked from below by those with a superior cost structure and economies of scale, and from above by aspirational branding and marketing. Amazon and Walmart are what I would consider discounters, though Walmart’s sizeable footprint today could eventually leave it vulnerable to competitors with even better cost controls.

      Perhaps I should have used Mercury, Oldsmobile, Acura, or Buick to make my point that being in the middle is a difficult place to be when your competitors have a clearer value proposition. The main point is that chimerism has become socially acceptable, and I can see how my article could have been clearer about that.

      You and several others point out the role of technology, and I don’t disagree at all. I would just add that there has to be an underlying groundswell of social acceptance to accompany it.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    people my age that would have been comfortable sitting down inside an integra would rather step up into a CRV. decent space, good value (especially the base), not too big, not too small, not too austere, not too gaudy.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    so the fact that I despise crossovers should come as no surprise since I have no time or patience for fashion trends? Of course a cargo shorts t shirt and sandals sort of guy is gonna love wagons and hatchbacks?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    You’ve made a good argument, but I think that you’re overthinking it.

    For starters, we know that crossovers and trucks are popular as passenger vehicles in part because people like to see up high. Height provides a sense (or illusion) of safety and strength that appeals to a broad arrange of consumers, including some who have opposing personality characteristics (the wannabe tough guys who associate height with strength and the timid who do not wish to have the feeling of being surrounded.)

    For another, low slung cars are more of an aberration in automotive history. Cars descended from horse carts; the low-slung fighter-plane-inspired coupes are largely a post-WWII phenomenon that is proving to have been generational in nature. We’re simply returning to what we had before, a process that began in the 70s when the mini-truck boom put ride height back on the menu, which led to minivans, which led to suburban- and female-targeted SUVs and the luxury pickup truck, which led to crossovers.

    It’s natural for consumer products to become more feature-laden over time — what was once unusual becomes ubiquitous. Compare a modern mainstream compact car to an old luxury car, and you’ll find that the compact probably matches or beats it on features (although the luxury car might have some more costly materials.)

    For Americans, the OPEC crisis redefined passenger car benchmarks for both the mainstream (Japanese) and luxury (European, most specifically German.) This encouraged the domestics to pursue trucks because those foreign rivals had no tradition of making larger trucks and Detroit’s reputation had not been diminished in that segment.

    So here we are, with styling preferences that are normal by historical standards, appeals to innate psychic desires for safety and ego, and a market strategy that suits a group of automakers that were badly hurt by the shift in passenger car tastes. The vehicles in those segments became nicer because they inevitably would and all of the other ones did.

    The Greatest Generation returned from WWII with a taste for low-slung cars that were reminiscent of fighter planes and the incomes to pay for them. That impulse is long gone, and women play a much greater role in choosing what ends up on the driveway.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      I agree, except I wouldn’t say the minitrucks of the ’70s “put ride height back on the menu.” 4×2 Datsuns, Toyotas, LUVs, etc. weren’t any higher than the personal lux coupes of the day. If anything, I’d say it was the ’80s 4×4 compact pickups and their SUV brethren.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The mini-trucks were a bit taller than the compact cars against which they directly competed. Not high by today’s standards, but these things are evolving.

        I should add to this that the station wagon peaked in the early 60s, due to the emergence of the Ford Econoline and other passenger vans. So hints of the trend were already in place fifty years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Excellent analysis in my opinion, pch.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Agreed. I’d like to see PCH write editorials for TTAC.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          My first piece will be entitled “Josef Stalin: Car Guy”. Or something like that.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Evidently he drove a Packard for a while.

            http://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g32341-d2486962-i39264585-Automobile_Driving_Museum-El_Segundo_California.html

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “There’s no greater thrill than a ZiL!”

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZIL-41047

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I am very much digging this one, it’s almost worth the trip to the gulag.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZIL-41047#/media/File:2013_Moscow_Victory_Day_Parade_(07).jpg

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I think he’d probably have to win a fight to the death with Ronnie Schreiber to do so. And maybe others too.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I truly wish that “Stalin” was included in the TTAC spam filter, with exceptions for only when it is used in jest.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Stalin – it could be just bad grammar and spelling…….

            My car be stalin…………

            groan……. rim shot ;)

            Hard to tune a spam filter to block the inability to comprehend political systems or abuses of mankind based upon power and greed.

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            Lou_BC your car be stalin because its fuel-air mix be lenin out!

            You need to be bakunin to a parking space with your car when that happens.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      While I’m sure fashion played a (perhaps the…) part, the move from BOF to unibody construction allowed for lower cars post WW2. As they now do on CUVs vs earlier SUVs.

      And, in those days, cars were more often driven closer to the edges of their (lower) dynamic envelope, than they are today. Dynamic performance actually mattered back then, while it is now mainly a bragging rights feature. And lower will always mean better performing, dynamically, all else being equal. In a car. Emphatically not in (cough, Harley Lowrider) bikes :)

      Less restrictive speed enforcement, so that a V6 Accord would save a realistic hour L.A. to Vegas over a similarly priced CUV, would no doubt dampen the CUV (and Harley) stampede. At least at the margin.

  • avatar
    09box

    I like PBR but not at $5 a pop. The old man beer the make your own steak place in Illinois sounds good. I’ll take a brown station wagon with a manual transmission please. Since no one makes those anymore, a CX-5 or HRV with three pedals will do.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    Just the term “crossover” makes me want to puke, does anyone other than auto journos use it? does anyone ever say “we are going shopping for a crossover?”

    maybe we should just call them cr-v’s, as in kleenex or xerox.

    in my limited observations, they are usually driven by middle aged women with older or grown children, thus the post-minivan vehicle.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    To think that CUVs started with this ugly thing:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Volvo_TP21_at_Battlesbridge.JPG

    Then became mainstreamed by this thing:
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d3/1987_AMC_Eagle_wagon_burgundy-woodgrain_NJ.jpg

    And thanks to this thing, are becoming deformed and cramped:
    http://images.gtcarlot.com/pictures/73447678.jpg

  • avatar
    PalestinianChicken

    This is a fine piece on the prevalence of “high-low” in our consumer culture, and can easily be extended to society in general (think P. Diddy and his “white” parties out in the Hamptons).

    However, I’d argue that “high-low” isn’t a perfect descriptor of the popularity behind crossovers, since they’re more about how function forces modularity in automotive design/assembly. (let’s go with “functional modularity”)

    Crossovers are a composite of features that we find happen to find desirable in cars today. Building on Pch’s comment, they include: height, passenger/cargo space, gas mileage, safety, driveability, ability to handle different sorts of weather, profitability, use of existing platforms, etc. Whereas high-low is about the cross-pollination across the style hierarchy, there isn’t anything inherently “classist” about the above functions. More gas mileage and 4-wheel drive may be useful and desirable, but there isn’t anything inherently luxurious about them. That high-low isn’t a great comparison is evident by how little time the author spends describing how exactly crossovers are a mélange of “high” and “low.”

    It’s still a very well-written thought piece, but I would argue that it doesn’t apply to crossovers per sé. And the forces of “high-low” in culture have existed well before 1989; the jackets one wears while bombing about on track days is the descendent of the jacquet, which was practical prole clothing that filtered up to the upper classes during the High Middle Ages.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      I agree with this. High-low is just overcomplicating the crossover phenomenon. It’s just cars returning to the form they were in before the Bill Mitchell “long, low, and wide” school of design took over in the 1950s. Taller cars just make more sense for most customers, and AWD has become popular on all types of vehicles when it is available.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Longer, lower, wider is coming back in vogue. Each new generation of CUVs seems to get a little lower and sleeker and farther away from the jacked up box that SUVs were originally. Now if only airy greenhouses would come back in style.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Crossovers have a couple of appealing features for automakers:

      -They use less fuel than comparable SUVs (which makes consumers happy and reduces the market risks that comes from relying on gas guzzlers)

      -They are built on car platforms (which they continue to need) instead of on small truck BOF platforms (which they mostly don’t)

      It’s an obvious transition to make if you look at it from a production standpoint.

      • 0 avatar
        PalestinianChicken

        Sure, and I was careful to mention desirable characteristics of the crossover for both the consumer and producer. The crossover is about combining desired functions in an almost-modular way; the class-based “high-low” explanation doesn’t really work here.

        Of course, we can go down the rabbit hole of how “luxury” and “class” are socially constructed, but let’s not.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        And by making them look as much like SUVs as possible, at least at first, the makers avoided any practical-car stigma. The stylistic evolution of the crossover from the SUV rather than the car, Outback excepted, was a completely brilliant marketing coup.

    • 0 avatar
      Waftable Torque

      PCH101 suggests that crossovers are a natural progression back to its original form factor (tall, safe); the inevitable commodification of formerly luxury features into all car segments through the diffusion of innovation; and the protected truck market. I have no doubt it’s all true. And I agree with your premise that my high-low argument is mainly aesthetic.

      But I’d argue that the reason high-low is the simplest descriptive explanation for crossovers is that customers are now comfortable entertaining the idea that a generalist that fulfills traditionally opposite values can now co-exist in a single product. Thus we’re moving away from specialization and the hard-core, and I expect exotic hyper-cars, desktop PC “rigs”, most hi-fi equipment, and other unitaskers will eventually take up smaller chunks of our collective interest.

      It’s a fascinating discussion to bring to TTAC. And I look forward to hearing about Stalin’s cars!

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Another possible/likely reason for CUVs rise, is that cars are increasingly serving a pure transportation need. Not a fashion/status/get laid need, as they did for the Greatest through X generations. And as pure transport pods, they are, for most people, hard to top. The other “needs,” are now increasingly catered to by Apple, Hermes, Whole Foods and boring vacations to places with more Philippe Starck hotels than beaches.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        We have less specialization today because it is no longer necessary. We have mundane passenger cars today that can beat a Ferrari 308 in a stoplight race. No reason to give up creature comforts, rear doors and the back seat unless you want to.

        • 0 avatar
          PalestinianChicken

          Waftable, I think the “generalist” which you and Pch describe is very apt. To take my smartphone as an example, 15 years ago would’ve been thrilled to have a cell phone, a Diamond Rio 32MB (!) mp3 player, and an AOL account, but now I would never dream of buying those thing as separate goods, even accounting for technological improvements. I still am inclined to think of high/low as an aesthetic idea, and would suggest that what may be the case is a 2×2 matrix where high/lo and functional modularity interact with each other. But it’s an intriguing idea, and I hope there’ll be more pieces like this from you (or others) in the future!

          Stuki, the trend away from cars as conspicuous consumption is growing but it’s not entirely new. Folks both within industry (Ford, VW, etc) and motivational psychologists like Ernest Dichter have realized since the 1960s that there was a growing segment of the population (particularly the young college-educated white collars) that valued cars as transportation (e.g. Prius, as Waftable mentioned) and showed off their taste/class in other ways, such as Whole Foods or Fitbits.

  • avatar
    PalestinianChicken

    (Sorry, forgot to respond to the earlier thread, apologies!)

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Kudos on a well written piece but I’m going to have to point out you miss a more basic point than “High-Low” which is: people are lemmings. Period.

    There may be a few outliers who actually dream up bizzare trends but most of the 95 IQ or so population doesn’t know or care about them until they are bombarded with media on the subject. TV, radio, billboards, Freakbook and most importantly peer pressure, which all suggest they consume certain products in a certain manner. On the automotive front, Pch wisely points out above the CUV reduces reliance on gas guzzlers while utilizing small car platforms instead of small truck platforms which are no longer needed. So CUV popularity -which just happens to benefit the industry in two key ways- is coincidence, the result of “high-low” thinking, or simply the end result of a careful media campaign? I’m going with the latter.

    FTR I’m typing on a desktop-replacement laptop listening to a youtube on a home surround sound stereo, but in front of me is an Ipod Nano which I occasionally hook up to the stereo, and I don’t know what a “feature” phone is but if its an actual damned phone I will take it.

    Instead of technology being there to serve us, more and more we are there to serve it. F that noise.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “Lemmings”
      My wife a while back was grumbling about having a minivan while all of her friends were switching to CUV’s. Humans are prone to “hive” behaviour. We are ultra-social which was a highly effective survival mechanism. Conformity comes from that social need to fit in. It kept us alive as cavemen and now it makes us buy what is popular in our own social (tribal) circles. Advertising does (whether we like to admit it or not)does play to these primitive behaviours.

      “High/low” in some respects does fit the CUV class but does it explain why it exists? It is part of the picture but both Pch101 and Palestinian Chicken add some interesting points. A while back Jack Baruth commented on the sweet spot of vehicle dimensions.

      There may just be a “sweet spot”, a do-it-all generalist that appeals to a large base of people. To some the attraction is “high/low or generalist or hive mentality.

      Loved the discussion.

      Waftable Torque aka Daniel great job of triggering an incredible discussion.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      “What is that, a Freak Book?”

      “Yeah, it’s a book of freaks!”

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I get to plead innocent to the charges. My daily watch is a Tudor that is within 60 seconds a week. My stereo is Marantz circa 1962, with Rectilinear speakers model year 1970. The daily driver is a two door V8 rear driver 18 years past intro and the house was built in 1906. Even my neglected golf game uses Hogan blades from 1982. I would hate to admit how old my suits are, but I had them tailored to be timeless, and I believe Zegna and Armani White speak for themselves. The point is that quality is timeless as well as immune to the fickle nature of “fashion”. If you are constantly aware of even what High-Low is, you have already lost. Being comfortable in your own skin with your honest decisions based on the collective good in your own sphere of influence should be the basis for earned comfort and security.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      EXACTLY what you said, olddavid.

      My house was built in 58 with an addon in the 80’s, but has a creek behind it, is a block from the community pool, and two block from public regional train service.

      My DD is an 18 year old Panther, a Grand Marquis. I liked the idea of the four doors to go with the RWD, BOF, V8 package.

      And I have always felt that the best way to be “stylish” or “cool” was to carry yourself naturally while wearing and doing things that you are comfortable with.

      Just about anything will work if you aren’t being pretentious about it, and if you don’t project insecurity.

      • 0 avatar
        CincyDavid

        My DD is 19 years old, just got my 200,000 mile badge from Volvo, I was polishing some 22 year old Allen Edmonds Arlingtons this morning that are finally getting ready for their first resole. I wear the same “style” of clothing that I wore in the 80s, only a couple of sizes bigger.
        I wear suits until the seat of the pants get too shiny, or the elbows on the jacket get shiny, at which point they get retired…I try to buy reasonably nice stuff, maintain it well, and keep it until it no longer does what I want it to do.

        I could give a rat’s hat about looking cool, I don’t want to put that much thought into it. When my biggest decision is whether to wear a white shirt, or light blue, it simplifies my life tremendously.

        Having said all that, my kids all fight over who gets to drive the 10 year old Kia Sportage…they prefer it over the newer Honda Civic and Accord that are in the fleet. They like to sit up and see what’s going on around them. My wife likes new cars because she has ZERO mechanical aptitude and doesn’t want to have to worry about it.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Great article. It touches the many areas I tend to discuss. Subjectiveness is what this discussion is about.

    The most common trends in motor vehicles is not driven by any one country, even the beloved pickup in the US. There are more pickups designed and developed outside of the US now, and some are ground breaking vehicles that are now directly contributing to US pickup truck growth.

    The impetus driving products tend to not be US in origin, even in automobiles. Ferrari? Lamborghini? Even the many consumer driven and desirable products are not US in origin.

    Just look at what platfrom are being driven on the roads in the US. Really full size pickups and related SUVs are American, with a few muscle cars.

    The US will buy these foreign platformed vehicles by the bucket load, why? Because of market size.

    Name one expensive and desirable vehicle that is designed in the US that has the brand power of an EU prestige or luxury vehicle maker? Caddilac?? What a joke. Lincoln, another joke. Jeep? In your dreams.

    …….. F-150? In many countries approached a person and stated you own a F-150. They will say “WTF is that a smart phone?”

    The US does have a couple of nice vehicles on offer for the global market. The Mustang. This is probably the best vehicle the US manufactures for trend setting appeal. Even then the vehicle has just caught up to it EU and Japanese competition.

    The US can never be a global trend setter with it’s homegrown vehicles, ie, Big Three. The Big Three tend to produce better designs outside of the US.

    The reason is regulations, barriers and tariffs promote and protect the market encouraging a specific vehicle makeup in the US. Huge pickups and SUVs.

    These vehicles will never find a market outside of the US. There will always be a handful that like them. But never enough to build an export market of “trend” setting vehicles.

    So, why not look at what really impacts vehicles sold. Design and style represents a small part. Have a look and you will see the most popular vehicles are mundane, boring, appliances, even in the CUV world.

    The ground breaking, stylish, performing vehicles are just not a part of the common man’s life. The common man may make drain babies over them, but at the end of the day he will put a roof over his and his family’s head and give them food first. Cars are really secondary or even tertiary in the big picture of life.

    CUVs. Are nothing new like many here are stating. They are just the evolution of what we drive.

    Remember it was only a little over a century ago, or five generations that a buggy was considered better than a cart. Hence, cars were trendy. But we have not changed, we still buy a “cart”, a modern version of the cart. CUVs, SUVs and pickups.

    It’s in our genes, since time began.

    Because most of the world is just common people.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Big Al – ??????????

      You still don’t get it.

      Some things may appear subjective but they often aren’t. The need to conform and to fit in to a group are survival mechanisms. We are highly socialized animals. That is a hardwired genetic trait.

      There will ALWAYS be unique traits associated with specific peoples based upon shared upbringing,defining cultural events, geography, standard of living etc.

      You can’t generically say what works in the rest of the world will work fine in the USA. If viewed purely from a technical aspect then one can say yes BUT none of this is technical.

      It is emotionally driven and an offshoot of that is culture. Culture is NOT homogeneous across the world.

      Your fixation on pickups is a prime example. Big pickups don’t work in “old world” congested cities, or 3rd world minimalistic roads, or impoverished countries.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Hey Lou,
        Thanks for your repsonse, or was it?

        Hmmm …… re-read my comment, I really don’t much correlation in your comment and my views.

        Just another dig?????

  • avatar
    friedclams

    I loved this article, chock-full of interesting ideas. And I agree that convenience is trumping performance in our society. But I dunno… crossovers? They “check the boxes” for buyers (feeling of safety; headroom; easy in-out; easy cargo-loading; high seating position; OK on gas; easy to load kids in-out). No one is buying these on looks, or even “aspirationally”.

    Crossovers are like those functional boxes on wheels that Syd Mead conceptualized for Blade Runner. I would argue they are almost beyond any consideration of high-low; rather, they appeal on a functional and reptilian (This box will protect me and my family!) level. I don’t see conflicting dualities in crossovers, somehow.

  • avatar
    John

    If you ask me, the pyramids are the venereal warts on the beautiful Louvre.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    What is so functional about a sedan with a sloping roof with little headroom in the back and a not so big trunk? We did not buy a CRV to be cool but to be functional and easy to get in and out. Maybe a CUV is a jacked up station wagon but then if you want a wagon there are few choices. There is more reason to the trend toward CUVs than the cool factor.


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