Opinion: Maybe Crossovers Aren't So Bad, After All?

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
opinion maybe crossovers aren t so bad after all

Maybe it’s just automotive Stockholm Syndrome, but after 15 years of testing vehicles, a huge percentage of which have been crossover SUVs, I’m ready to say it: Crossovers aren’t so bad.

Yeah, I know, you’re going to ask me to blink twice if I am OK, but hear me out.

First of all, I still remain a fan of rip-roaring sports cars, but let’s face it – even during boom times, sports cars are a small part of the market.

Second, I remain a steadfast sedan man. I am NOT, to be clear, suggesting I’ve abandoned that position. I still find that sedans, particularly mid-sizers, can get the job done for many drivers and their families.

Nor am I arguing here that crossovers are better than wagons (few of which remain), minivans, or body-on-frame SUVs. It would be a fool’s errand to try to argue what segment of vehicles is the “best”.

I am merely saying that for all the crap that we enthusiasts and auto journalists fling at crossovers, maybe only a small bit of it is actually justified?

Again, I get the arguments that wagons and minivans can do utility better than crossovers and that crossovers only exist because, for people of certain ages (particularly older Millennials and most, if not all, of Gen X), wagons and minivans get unfairly written off as deeply uncool. And you know what? I am not going to argue that crossovers are “better” when it comes to utility, driving dynamics, or even fuel economy. Generally speaking, they aren’t.

But I am starting to understand the appeal. Most crossovers DO look better than most minivans, and while some wagons are sexy AF (looking at you, Jaguar XF Sportbrake), most aren’t going to make me look at them the way Homer Simpson looks at a pork chop.

Fuel economy, or at least range if not mpg, is generally acceptable. I’ve given up hope when it comes to sporty driving – few crossovers do it well, and even fewer do it well without costing way too much – but most ride well enough. Most are comfortable, and most handle cargo just fine. I can see why people who have what marketers call “active lifestyles” and/or people who cart around a plethora of passengers and/or pets like them.

Crossovers just simply offer a jack-of-all-trades balance, and some manage to even look reasonably stylish. Minivans don’t often look cool (with apologies to our resident van fan, Matt P.), and while wagons can turn heads, too many don’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I mourn the dwindling of the mid-size sedan as much as anyone, and I believe that sedans can do more in terms of cargo and passenger hauling than most folks realize. I still believe mid-sizers have a place in the world, and unless practicality forces my hand, my next daily will almost certainly be a sporty sedan of the compact or mid-size class.

I still won’t argue that crossovers are the best choice for most buyers. But if we’re going to be stuck living in a crossover world, well, it could be far worse.

[Image: Lincoln]

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2 of 93 comments
  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Jul 11, 2022

    "and most, if not all, of Gen X" Speak for yourself sir, we may be old now but we're not lame... Hatchbacks are nice in a pinch, but they are fundamentally small unpretentious wagons. A coupe or reasonable sized sedan is nice for people hauling and the driving experience. An SUV should be the big stonkin' truck people won't be able to afford to drive soon, but it has a place. The crossover has no place, it is an aberration which has no real point to exist.

  • Polka King Polka King on Jul 15, 2022

    Crossovers are the ideal vehicle. Anything else is crippled one way or another. If you are an auto journalist, all you care about is how fast it goes, but nobody else cares about that.

  • FreedMike Can the final last call edition be the Secretary Special, with a V6 and a vinyl roof?
  • FreedMike I’ve never heard of this so I’ll have no problem not attending.
  • ToolGuy As I understand it, the Toyota Prius basically lasts forever because the engine gets a gentle duty cycle and the battery gets babied. This seems like the opposite of that.[Impressive tech, not for me, but then neither is the Prius.]
  • Dusterdude Excellent work ! Your stories are always linguistically interesting . Even if you weren’t writing about a quirky car on a long and adventuresome journey - I know your write up would still be interesting ! ( I also have a Soft spot for large cars - as my daily driver is a 2000 Chrysler Concorde )
  • MaintenanceCosts There have always been just two reasons to buy AMG cars: the menacing, hard-edged V8 warble, and the styling with subtle shapes but perfectly aggressive details. This is missing both of those things: the styling has gotten cartoonishly aggressive, and the engine will sound like a fart-can Civic. I don't understand why I should want it.