A crossover (or CUV: crossover utility vehicle) is a vehicle built on a car platform and combining, in highly variable degrees, features of a sport utility vehicle (SUV) with features from a passenger vehicle, especially those of a station wagon or hatchback.
Using the unibody construction typical of passenger vehicles instead of the body-on-frame platform used in light trucks and the original SUVs, the crossover combines SUV design features such as tall interior packaging, high H-point seating, high center of gravity, high ground-clearance or all-wheel-drive capability — with design features from an automobile such as a passenger vehicle's platform, independent rear suspension, car-like handling and superior fuel economy.
A crossover may borrow features from a station wagon or hatchback, such as the two-box design of a shared passenger/cargo volume with rear access via a third or fifth door, a liftgate — and flexibility to allow configurations that favor either passenger or cargo volume, e.g., fold-down rear seats.
Most crossovers produced by mass market auto manufacturers are front wheel drive. However, luxury carmakers such as BMW, Infiniti, and Mercedes (which also includes a Jeep WK2 derivative underpinning the 2011–present Grand Cherokee) use the rear wheel drive setup. In both cases, all-wheel drive is usually an option and often standard equipment depending on the market. Crossovers are typically designed for only light off-road capability, if any at all.
The first concept was designed by Georgios Michael and produced since 1974 by Neorion, but the production was stopped after 4 cars. The first ever mass-produced crossover was Russian Vaz 2121 Niva. First models started to roll out in February 1976 with mass production started in April 1977.
The crossover term was used as a market segment description and one of the reasons Chrysler purchased American Motors Corporation (AMC) in 1987. The automaker acquired the famous Jeep brand and vehicles from AMC to add to its successful minivans, giving Chrysler a "solid position in the so-called 'crossover' market, which is somewhere 'between' cars and trucks and the fastest-growing segment in the entire industry."
Some sources indicate the term crossover began as a marketing term, and a 2008 CNNMoney article indicated that "many consumers cannot tell the difference between an SUV and a crossover." A January 2008 Wall Street Journal blog article called crossovers "wagons that look like sport utility vehicles but ride like cars."
Though crossovers have become a defined market, they are not an entirely new concept. The Willys-Overland Jeepster convertible coupe offered many of the features that define the crossover. A more direct crossover antecedent is the AMC Eagle, a vehicle that "pioneered the crossover SUV" category. As a precursor to today's models, AMC's "vehicles worked well and sold well" and the "surviving Eagles to look like the "early man" version of a CUV, sort of a missing link of the car world."
The market segment spans a wide range of vehicles. In some cases, manufacturers have marketed vehicles as crossovers simply to avoid calling them station wagons, or have produced crossovers mainly because station wagons have fallen out of favor with buyers in a particular region such as the United States.
By 2006, the segment came into strong visibility in the U.S., when crossover sales "made up more than 50% of the overall SUV market." Sales increased in 2007 by 16%. For Audi, the Audi Q5 has become their second best-selling vehicle in the United States market after the Audi A4 sedan. Around half of Lexus' sales volume come from its SUVs since the late 1990s, the big majority of which is the Lexus RX crossover.
In the U.S., domestic manufacturers were slow to switch from their emphasis on light truck-based SUVs, and foreign automakers developed crossovers targeting the U.S. market, as an alternative to station wagons that are unpopular there. But by the 2010 model year, domestic automakers had quickly caught up. The segment has strong appeal to aging baby boomers.
The term crossover and SUV are sometimes interchangeable, sometimes used in combination, depending on the marketing or public perception of a particular vehicle. The broad spectrum of crossovers includes:
- Mini crossovers: e.g., Ford EcoSport, Fiat Palio Adventure, Fiat Sedici/Suzuki SX4, Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke, Mini Countryman, Buick Encore/Opel Mokka
- Compact crossovers: e.g., Audi Q5, BMW X1, BMW X3, Dacia Duster, Mahindra XUV500, Ford Kuga, Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner/Mazda Tribute, Mazda CX-5, Jeep Compass, Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail, Acura RDX, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Range Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Infiniti EX, Opel/Vauxhall Antara, Skoda Yeti, Subaru Forester, SsangYong Korando, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan, Volvo XC60
- Mid-sized crossovers: e.g., Acura ZDX, AMC Eagle, BMW X5/BMW X6, Chevy Equinox/GMC Terrain, Chrysler Pacifica, Ford Edge/Lincoln MKX, Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Nissan Murano, Cadillac SRX (2010-), Saab 9-4X, Mazda CX-7, Mitsubishi Outlander, Infiniti FX, Hyundai Santa Fe/Kia Sorento (2011-), Porsche Cayenne, Toyota Highlander, Volkswagen Touareg
- Full-sized crossovers: e.g., Acura MDX, Audi Q7, Dodge Durango (2011 -), Ford Flex, Ford Explorer (2011-), Honda Pilot, Lincoln MKT, Mazda CX-9, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Mercedes-Benz R-Class (all of which offer three rows of seating for 7 or 8 passengers as standard)
The European MPV or large MPV may broadly resemble the crossover, including vehicles such as the Mercedes-Benz R-Class, and Ford S-Max. During the development of the Dodge Journey (Fiat Freemont), Dodge benchmarked several European vehicles.
A short[clarification needed] list of current crossovers with their platform genealogy (similar vehicles are grouped together):
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- Couture, Justin (3 February 2008). "2009 Dodge Journey Road Test". Car Reviews.com. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
- Haines, Steven (2008). The Product Manager's Desk Reference. McGraw-Hill. pp. 13–14. ISBN 978-0-07-159134-8. Retrieved 2010-01-29.