The earliest examples of sport utility vehicles - such as the Jeep and Land Rover -were direct descendants from commercial and military machines and trucks used in World War II.
The modern version four-by-fours started appearing from the mid-sixties which included the Jeep Wagoneer in 1963, the Ford Bronco in 1966 and the International Harvester Scout II made its road appearance in the early seventies.
When the Toyota Land Cruiser FJ-55 came into the SUV market in 1968, followed by the eye-catching Chevrolet Blazer (GMC Jimmy) a year later, they were still known as station wagons.
It took another ten years after Land Rover marketed the Range Rover series in 1970 before the modern day SUV definition of 'sport utility vehicle' saw widespread popular usage. Sales of luxurious SUV models increased with the introduction of mighty powerful 4-liter engines and the falling price of gasoline in the 1970s.
When the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard was ratified to regulate the fuel economy of passenger vehicles, car manufacturers evaded it by selling action utility cars as working automobiles.
The expanding popularity of sports utility vehicles among urban and city drivers has increased significantly in recent years.
The luxury 4x4 all-terrain cars now boast features which are worthy of any limousine with some crossover models adopting lower ride heights to accommodate comfortable and efficient on-road driving.
When it came to designing a sport utility vehicle the early models were mostly mid-size passenger cars constructed on a light truck chassis.
The first sport utility designs to roll into production were nearly all two-door models and some had removable tops.
As the years rolled by, consumer demand pushed the SUV market towards a four door version and by 2002 all full-size two-door sports wagons were gone from the industry.
The main exception to the rule proved to be the Jeep Wrangler which remained as a compact two-door body style. Nonetheless, even this old stalwart succumbed to a four-door variant in 2007 called the Wrangler Unlimited. Two-door SUV models reemerged around 2010 with the release of the 'unibody' design Range Rover Evoque and Nissan Murano convertible.
The vast majority of SUVs are designed with an engine compartment and a combined passenger and large cargo section. Unlike a station wagon body, sport utility vehicles have no dedicated trunk as a rule of thumb.
Nearly all mid-size (and full-size) cars offer three rows of seats with a cargo area and protective barrier situated directly behind the last row of seats.
SUVs are synonymous with high ground clearance, and an upright, boxy body. Their high hip-point (aka H-point) can make them susceptible to roll over. This is predominantly due to the vehicle's high center of gravity even though many of them are built on the same platform.
A comparison example exists by showing that the BMW X5 SUV has a rollover risk of 17.4% whereas the BMW 5 Series sedan is much lower around 9.3%.
The number of wordy descriptions and definitions for your SUV vary by country and by government regulations for their auto industry. They are mostly known as off-highway vehicles, but they often land in the same groups of vehicles termed with pickup trucks, light trucks, delivery vans, and minivans.
Their true classification is often determined by the fact that they 'permit greater cargo-carrying capacity than passenger carrying volume'.
SUVs are certainly considered as light trucks in North America mostly because the manufacturing, emissions, and safety regulations in the United States classify an SUV as a truck. Nonetheless, estimates suggest that one in eight vehicles being driven on north american roads is a sports utility vehicle or crossover design.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began to hold sport utility vehicles to the same tailpipe emissions standards as cars beginning in 2004. Nevertheless, the same auto may be a truck or a car for local licensing and traffic enforcement. The rule deviates from state to state. All SUVs are counted in the light truck segment regarding industry production statistics.
In markets outside North America the terms of 'four-by-four, 'off-road vehicle', and 'four-wheel drive (4WD) are commonplace. More often than not, most proud owners describe their powerhouse by its brand name, such as Land Rover or Jeep.
The European term for their prized work horse also relates to the brand and calling it a simple '4x4' defines their off-roader more often than not. Nonetheless, not all versions are equipped with four-wheel drive capabilities, and conversely, not all four-wheel-drive passenger vehicles are SUVs.
Despite having off-road capabilities, some models play only a secondary role, and do not always have the ability to switch between two-wheel and four-wheel-drive high gearing.
The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) categorizes all SUVs in the 'Utility Vehicle' classification for the purpose of automobile SUV definition, and carrying a whopping 27% excise tax. Staggeringly, if your off-roader measures more than four meters in length, incorporates a 1500 cc engine with 170 mm ground clearance, you might expect to pay 30% excise duty.
SUV cars are regularly driven off-road on farming land and in remote areas with limited paved roads. They are used where circumstances require a vehicle to have all-terrain handling, increased range, and superior storage capacity. Their counterpart meant for urban driving (including crossovers) generally have lower ground clearance and suspension which is designed primarily for paved roadways.
There are some buyers who choose SUVs because of the increased interior space with the added bonus of additional traction. 4WD vehicles provide safety advantages and much needed grip in areas with gravel roads, or for times when handling and snow and ice in winter is important.
All-wheel drive models (aka AWD) have gained huge popularity in some desert areas or in cities where drivers frequently encounter road problems such as rough roads, potholes, detours, and high water. Increasing use is also attributed to the high number of dirt roads outside major population centers, resulting in washboard and mud in the rainy seasons.
However, enjoying this motoring splendour is not all good news because SUV insurance premiums cost around 20% higher when compared to regular cars.
Modified SUVs, sometimes referred to as 'action utility vehicles', together with their more rugged off-road counterparts, are also used for exploration. In China, Australia, Europe, South America, South Africa, and the United States at least, 4WD clubs have been formed to go places which are otherwise unreachable by other normal road vehicles.
Modified SUVs also take part in automobile races, including the Paris-Dakar Rally and the Australian Outback. Another awe-inspiring competition is the Trophee Andros ice-racing series where SUVs also participate. Many 4×4 mud racing events and other activities take place throughout the US organized by clubs and associations.
There is no shortage of luxury and fancy vehicles (termed Luxury SUV) in the form of SUVs and pickup trucks being produced.
The new generation have it all with higher performance, comfort, technology, and all-important brand image.
Long before the Bentley Bentayga SUV was developed, the luxurious marketing category was created in 1966 when the Kaiser Jeep Super Wagoneer hit the roads. It was the first sport utility car to offer a V8 engine. It also boasted automatic transmission, and luxury car trim such as bucket seating, sun roof, cabin air conditioning, and equipment in a serious off-road model.
Four years later when Land Rover followed suit by introducing the Range Rover, the growing trend of owning sports utilities continued with other competitors adding comfort features to otherwise rudimentary and truck-based models.
In the late 1990s the pacey production of luxurious modern SUV 4x4 and Crossovers increased with autos such as the sublime Cadillac Escalade and the Lincoln Navigator. These symbols of opulence and expected safety features generated higher profit margins than non-luxury SUVs ever did. Side airbags and crash resistant door pillars, ABS, and electronic stability control, all fused together to produce a new era of grandeur sport utility vehicles.