Are you on the hunt for a new SUV? You have a plethora of alternatives to choose from, perhaps even too many. With so many SUVs on the market, it can be difficult to find one that meets your needs in terms of performance, features and economy – but not with theCarSpecs’ help. Every year, we test, evaluate and rank hundreds of cars, including the latest SUVs.
If you are not sure where to start, you can consult our guides and articles to find the right SUV.
What is a sport utility vehicle?
SUV stands for “sport utility vehicle” SUVs are characterized by their high ride height, high roof, elevated seating position, and open cargo area. These features were essential to early SUVs, which were designed to be more rugged and functional than cars. Most of today’s SUVs are also characterized by a slightly larger body, greater ground clearance, and (often) optional AWD or all-wheel drive.
But because of the evolution of the industry, some SUVs now defy convention. Some are tiny and car-like, increasing their appeal for everyday use at the expense of their off-road capability. Others have the roof removed for a sportier appearance at the expense of space for passengers and luggage. As a result, the SUV market is more diverse than ever.
Is a crossover different from an SUV?
These days, the terms crossover and SUV are often used interchangeably, although they were not once considered synonymous. Before crossovers dominated the new car market, SUVs were derived from trucks and often featured a frame-style body and solid axles. This strategy can improve off-road capability and towing ability, which is why it is still used by a minority today. However, these utilitarian underpinnings can sometimes significantly compromise on-road comfort, fuel efficiency, and interior space.
In contrast, crossovers (also known as CUVs) are designed with unibody construction and typically share platforms with cars and other on-road vehicles. As a result, they drive more like cars, thanks to the rigidity provided by body and chassis integration and the ride quality provided by the independent suspension. The towing capacity and the ability to cross difficult terrain may be compromised.
SUVs are primarily distinguished by their upright dimensions, higher seating position, higher ride height, and combined cabin and cargo space; crossovers share these characteristics. Although crossovers are often classified as SUVs, it would be misleading to refer to all SUVs as crossovers.
Visit this page to learn more about the technical differences between an SUV and a crossover.
SUV driving checklist: 5 things you should consider
If you are used to driving a vehicle, driving an SUV will feel quite different. The larger size and higher ride height may contribute to the vehicle feeling rather sluggish to drive. Also, be aware of the dive when accelerating and braking. It’s nothing you will not get used to, but do not expect an SUV to always drive like a car.
You may be interested in an SUV because of its elevated seating position and better visibility. Make sure you can also see around the car as you survey the road ahead. Depending on the design of the SUV and the size of its windows, the window line can obscure your view in tight situations or block out low-riding vehicles.
You are probably in the market for an SUV, so you can transport your family occasionally. Therefore, do not just get comfortable in the driver’s seat. Check how you fit in each row’s seats and how easy or difficult it is to get in and out. Also, look for vents, USB ports, and other comfort features to keep rear passengers comfortable as well.
Storage options: Maybe you have a specific use in mind for your SUV. Maybe you need to haul camping gear, business documents, or your pets. If the dealer allows it, you can bring them along for the test drive or just a stroller or piece of luggage. Either way, fold down the seats and stand them up to determine the vehicle’s cargo space. Check if there is more storage space in the compartments under the floor and in the center console.
This SUV can be a significant improvement over your previous vehicle in terms of parking. Consider where and how you can park it if it is larger than usual. Is it too big to fit in a garage? Is it too long for parallel parking? Consider these dimensions as well as any accessories, such as roof racks or bike racks, that you may need.
Reasons for buying an SUV
You should get an SUV if you want size and adaptability “just in case.” If minivans are not on your shopping list and you have a lot of kids or frequently transport people, three-row SUVs offer plenty of room. Even small SUVs can be beneficial to pet owners, outdoor enthusiasts, and business owners because of their cargo space. The higher ride height and optional all-wheel drive of SUVs can be beneficial for those who live in regions where changing seasons lead to varying road conditions. Or if you simply feel safer driving because you can view your surroundings from a higher perspective, an SUV offers just that.
Why you should not invest in an SUV
If you want to optimize fuel efficiency or driving enjoyment, you should avoid buying an SUV. Because of its lighter weight and lower drag, a vehicle with the same engine will have better fuel efficiency than an SUV. Because of these characteristics and a lower center of gravity, cars are often better than SUVs in terms of handling, acceleration, and braking. People who live in temperate climates with smooth roads do not need ground clearance for SUVs. SUVs offer little advantage over cars if you rarely transport people and goods.
What is the difference between AWD and 4WD?
Using all four wheels to improve traction is a best practice, and a typical reason drivers choose SUVs. Four-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) are the two methods (AWD). Although both systems have the same effect – transmitting power to all four wheels – they serve different purposes and offer different benefits.
Vehicles with all-wheel drive are often more robust and suitable for off-road driving. This is confirmed by the fact that they are often equipped with creeper gears and traction-enhancing differential locks. Some four-wheel drive vehicles require manual shifting. Even when the all-wheel drive is not in operation, the required components increase the weight and complexity.
All-wheel drive, on the other hand, is designed to improve traction in more typical driving situations. AWD often engages automatically, whether the vehicle is on a wet road or just trying to reduce wheel spin during acceleration. Some systems limit the amount of power that can be transmitted to a particular wheel, making AWD less competent off-road. However, certain configurations of AWD are tailored to provide better handling.
Should your SUV have all-wheel drive or AWD? If off-road excursions and bad weather driving are on the cards, you need these features. However, if an SUV’s main attraction is its passenger or luggage capacity, FWD or RWD will likely suffice. When choosing, keep in mind that four-wheel drive and AWD often compromise fuel efficiency and add cost.
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