Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The first of this class of vehicles was arguably the AMC Eagle which debuted in 1980, and married Jeep 4X4 off-road functionality with the AMC Concord car-based platform and bodywork. However, the Eagle suffered from poor sales throughout it's production and it was discontinued in 1988.
In the 1990s, an SUV and light truck craze took hold of the North American vehicle market, catapulting what once was a small piece of the market that was originally dedicated to farmers and outdoorsmen to vehicles that were being used as family cars , to the extent that by the end of the decade, light trucks accounted for almost 50% of all new vehicle sales, and overwhelmingly the popularity of the SUV segment was responsible for this shift in buying patterns.
Traditionally, SUVs were heavy-duty truck-based appliances, with body-on-frame construction. In response to market demands, automakers had been continually making each successive generation of their SUVs more and more "car-like" but the inherent limitations of this configuration made them poorly suited for their new primary function as family haulers.
Research showed that a vast majority of SUV owners never took their vehicles off-pavement, much less used them for fording streams or climbing boulders, which was their original raison d'etre. An opportunity to provide what this new type of SUV owner actually wanted was siezed.
Customers liked the idea of all-weather traction provided by four wheel drive, the ability to haul large items or a good number of people, and enjoyed the "commanding" seating position and sense of security that they believed the mass of an SUV provided, but mostly they liked the implication of an active, outdoorsy lifestyle that an SUV suggested, and that minivans and station wagons implicitly did not.
The Toyota Camry-based Lexus RX300 was introduced in 1999 and was an instant sucess. It provided all of the afforementioned attributes that customers were looking for in an SUV, but additionally provided car-like attributes such as a smooth ride, (relatively) good handling, low step-in height and decent gas mileage, all while providing the desired SUV psychological imagery.
The term "Cross-Over" was applied to the Lexus RX300 to indicate its indeterminate status and was retroactively applied to progenitor models such as the AMC Eagle and Subaru Outback. Given the inherent fuzzyness of the "Crossover" designation, and automakers' desire to introduce vehicles into this currently "hot" segment, any number of improbable vehicles that are far removed from the original SUV concept are grouped in this catagory. The designation now signifies almost any non-truck based model that carries some form of SUV styling cues or attributes.
Car-based crossover SUVs vehicles have three primary advantages over truck-based SUVs:
- Handling - The unsafe handling characteristics of trucks with respect to sudden, evasive maneuvers has been demonstrated and accepted. Their high center of gravity, tall tire sidewalls, and long-travel suspensions (designed for heavy cargo and off-road use) make designing a truck-based SUV to be resistant to rollovers extremely difficult. Car-based crossovers ride lower and feature more road-appropriate suspension designs, that while limiting their ultimate off-road utility makes them much more stable and responsive.
- Economy - Car-based crossovers are much lighter than their heavy-duty truck-based cousins. They also feature light-duty all wheel drive or even just two wheel drive rather than less-efficient and heavy four wheel drive, and use lighter unibody construction as well as coming equipped with more practical "on-road"-oriented tires. As a result, most crossovers get only slightly worse fuel economy than station wagons and sedans based on the same platform owing primarily to the fundamentally less efficent aerodynamics of the SUV shape.
- Cost - Light-duty car components can be cheaper to build and in fact, many modern crossovers are based on small economy cars, driving underlying costs lower still.
Given the market's demonstrated insatiable appetite for SUVs and SUV-like vehicles, the automakers have been scrambling to imbue the desired characteristics (with varying sucess) to a wide range of disparate products from station wagons such as the Subaru Outback and Audi Allroad to Minivans like the Pontiac Montana SV6, and Mazda MPVAll Sport extending even to sedans like the Subaru Outback SUS and Ford Five Hundred and running the gamut from entry-level, inexpensive models like the Honda CRV to the luxurious and pricey Cadillac SRX.
Almost every automaker participating in the North American Market has a "crossover" vehicle, and the selection of choices has exploded. A short list of current crossovers with their platform geneology follows (similar vehicles are grouped together):
|Acura MDX/Honda Pilot||Honda Accord|
|BMW X3||BMW 3-Series|
|BMW X5||BMW 5-Series|
|Buick Rendezvous/Pontiac Aztek||U Platform (GM Minivans)|
|Cadillac SRX||Sigma Platform (Cadillac CTS & STS)|
|Chrysler Pacifica||Chrysler NS Platform (Chrysler Minivans)|
|Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute||Ford CD2 platform(Mazda 626)|
|Ford Ecosport||Ford Mk6 platform (Fiesta)|
|Ford Freestyle/Mercury Mariner||Ford CD3 platform(Mazda 6)|
|Ford Territory||Ford EA169 platform|
|Honda CR-V||Honda Civic|
|Hyundai Santa Fe||Hyundai Sonata|
|Infiniti FX||Nissan_FM_platform(Infiniti G35)|
|Lexus RX330 /Toyota Highlander||Toyota Camry|
|Mitsubishi Endeavor||Mitsubishi Galant|
|Mitsubishi Outlander||Mitsubishi Lancer|
|Nissan Murano||Nissan Altima|
|Subaru Forester||Subaru Impreza|
|Toyota RAV4||Toyota Corolla|
|Volvo XC90||Volvo P2 Platform (Volvo S80)|
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