Choosing the Right SUV – Part I

    Choosing an SUV— Is it just me or does it seem that every other day the auto industry is adding another Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) to their line up?

    How are you supposed to remember what the Q95 was compared to the 97X or the Q7 or even the X5? How do we keep straight this alphabet soup the carmakers are serving?

    It’s really not that confusing once you read this or spend hours upon hours researching it.

    To understand the SUV, we must first understand the roots of this outdoor giant. The earliest arrival of the SUV was the Willies Jeep, used during World War II. This was a capable vehicle that proved itself over and over. After the war there was a surplus and these vehicles were offered to the public; thus the civilian-owned SUV was born.

    During this same decade, other companies such as Land Rover and Toyota made their own versions of the Willies Jeep. These vehicles quickly gained popularity and helped tame the wild, making it more accessible to humans.

    The evolution of the current lineup of SUVs came through Land Rover and Toyota. These companies made their vehicles more comfortable and passenger friendly, offering more space and luxurious options to their vehicles. If you were to compare the early SUVs with the ones today you’d be shocked at how much they have evolved.

    Now it seems as though there are more choices of SUVs than passenger cars, and you’re not far off. Currently there are almost 80 SUVs in production, ranging anywhere from the American made Jeep to the Korean made Hyundai. Even the performance carmakers Porsche and BMW have SUVs in their lineups. So how do they all differ, and how do they compete against each another?

    Most of the newer SUVs are falling into a new category called the Crossover. These vehicles are built on a passenger car platform to give it a “car” like ride and better handling. Although this sacrifices much of the off-road capability, in return it gives the passenger more room and comfort.

    The Honda Pilot is an example of one of these. This is built on the same frame as the Honda Odyssey, Honda’s popular minivan. The Pilot therefore rides and handles like an Odyssey, but includes extra room, ground clearance and 4-wheel drive capability that you would not typically find in a minivan or passenger car.

    Another example is the Nissan Murano. This crossover vehicle comes equipped with All Wheel Drive, but you wouldn’t want to do any serious off-roading in this vehicle. But it has the room, clearance and ride height that is appealing to more and more American car buyers.

    SUVs are placed into categories depending on their size. These include Full size, Mid size, and Compact SUV. Full size generally seats 6-9 persons, Mid size will seat 5-7 and a compact seats 5 or under. Also figured into the category descriptions are overall length, width and interior dimensions.

    Next: Choosing an SUV – Part 2