A sport utility vehicle (SUV) is a type of vehicle. It is built as a rugged vehicle for cargo and passenger carrying. Originally SUVs were not designed to be fuel efficient but modern designs are getting better fuel mileage. In 2014 US sales of SUVs were over five million vehicles.
The typical SUV is a two-box design. Unlike a pickup truck (US term) that has an open cargo box the SUV has an enclosed cargo/passenger compartment. It has upright seating for five to seven passengers. It has an open interior with no trunk. It is often built on a pickup truck chassis for towing capacity, and usually has four wheel drive. Only about 15% of SUV owners ever go off-road. According to Jeep Wrangler brand manager Kevin Metz, 60% of Jeep Wrangler owners go off-road while around 80% of Rubicon owners do.
A similar class of vehicle is the crossover SUV, a common Northern American term. That is built on a car chassis. Often it uses a Unibody chassis instead of the heavier body-on-frame design of SUVs. Crossover vehicles often have all-wheel-drive instead of four-wheel drive. Crossovers are usually lighter than SUVs and get better fuel mileage. In general, when referring to an SUV, many include crossovers. However it is incorrect to refer to an SUV on a truck frame as a crossover.
The term "sport utility vehicle" came into popular use in the late 1980s. Until then, they were marketed as station wagons. An early example of marketing a civilian off-roader as a "sports utility" is the two-door pickup version of the 1966 Ford Bronco. In 1974 Jeep used the term "sport(s) utility vehicle" exactly in their brochures for the 1st generation Jeep Cherokee.
Off-roading sports change
Many kinds of off-roading in the USA are centered around SUVs.
- Rockcrawling is a popular off-road sport. Vehicles used for rock crawling are usually modified with different tires, suspension and gear ratios. Rock crawling takes time to learn and can be very expensive. Most rock crawlers have full-time jobs and many get sponsors to help with the costs. The object is to get the vehicle across difficult to near-impossible rocks and terrain without completely destroying the vehicle.
- The Camel Trophy competition (1981–2000) was an annual 4x4 competition. The first Camel trophy was held on the Trans-Amazonian Highway, a 4,000 kilometres (2,500 mi) road across Brazil. Over the next eight years, the expeditions crossed Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, Zaire, Brazil, Borneo, Australia, Madagascar and Sulawesi before returning to the Amazon. After the first year the endurance event came to be dominated by specially equipped Land Rover vehicles. The Camel Trophy Owners Club is a group of people who collect ex-Camel Trophy vehicles.
- Jeep Jamborees have been held since 1953. Jeep Jamborees are off-road excursions that travel historic and scenic trails across the US. In 2013 alone there were 32 events in various locations. All models of Jeep enter the events and drivers range from first time off-roaders to seasoned veterans.
- Easter Jeep Safari is an annual event held at Moab, Utah. It has been held every year since 1967. It runs for nine days ending on Easter Sunday and can have up to 1,000 vehicles of all kinds; not just Jeeps. It uses up to 40 trails in the Moab area. Trails are rated from easy to difficult.
- King of the Hammers is a one-day 200+ mile endurance off-road race. It combines desert racing and rock crawling. This race is held in February on Means Dry Lake at Johnson Valley, California USA. 2015 will be the 9th annual King of the Hammers event. The vehicles are extremely modified and for off-road use only.
There are many reasons why SUVs have become popular. One reason is the comfort of their large cabins. Many models can carry almost as much as a minivan. Another reason is the driver sits higher than other cars, giving better all-round vision. SUVs with truck frames are heavier (sometimes much heavier) than standard cars. Their size gives them an image of safety.
Men aren't the only targets of SUV and CUV ads. For example, some ads for the Subaru Forester are deliberately aimed at women buyers. Roughly 35 to 40 percent of SUV buyers are women. Ads commonly show SUVs driving across boulders or perched on a mountain peak. Advertisers know that one important reason many people buy SUVs is image.
Practicality for larger families is a consideration. Not only can the vehicle take a family of five or six, plus luggage, but also the family dog (who often has a special compartment at the back). On the other hand, the vehicle doesn't fit standard parking spaces. That can be quite a problem in, for example, the UK. The alternative, when groups of more than four travel, is to take more than one standard size car.
Other names change
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- Patrick Hueller, Rock Crawling: Tearing It Up (Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 2014), pp. 24–25
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- Keith Bradsher, High and Mighty: The Dangerous Rise of the SUV (New York: Public Affairs, 2003), p. xiii
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