A crossover or crossover utility vehicle (CUV) is a vehicle built on a unibody car platform combining in highly variable degrees features of a sport utility vehicle (SUV) with those of a passenger vehicle, especially a station wagon or hatchback.
Using unibody construction typical of passenger vehicles instead of the body-on-frame design of light trucks and the original SUVs, the crossover combines SUV features – such as a tall interior, high H-point seating, high ground-clearance, and AWD – with those of an automobile – including independent rear suspension, car-like handling, and lighter weight and better fuel economy than trucks or truck-based vehicles.
A crossover may borrow features from a station wagon or hatchback, such as the two-box design of a shared passenger and cargo volume with rear access via a rear liftgate door – and flexibility to allow configurations that favor either passenger or cargo volume, e.g., fold-down rear seats.
The term "crossover" emerged as a marketing tool.[when?] 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".
Among the earliest ancestors of what evolved into the modern crossover was the 1948 Willys-Overland Jeepster convertible coupe, which combined car-like features with Willys' proven off-road capabilities. In 1955, the Russian GAZ-M20 Pobeda was modified into the M-72 version to become the first unibody all-wheel drive car. A concept car using a Jeep Wagoneer (SJ) drivetrain was designed in Greece as a luxury limousine and four vehicles were made by Neorion. The Russian off-road VAZ 2121 Niva was introduced in 1976 featuring a unibody body and some mechanical components from the VAZ-2101 compact sedan, the Fiat 124-based Lada, and it saw success as a vehicle "best described as agricultural". Another contender before the crossover description became common was the 1977 Matra Rancho.
A more direct modern crossover antecedent is the AMC Eagle, a passenger road vehicle introduced in 1979 that "pioneered the crossover SUV" category before either had a name. American Motors' took a conventional unibody car and engineered a fully automatic four-wheel-drive system that gave it a raised ride-height, thus "begat today's modern crossovers". It was "the first production four-wheel-drive passenger car". The AMC Eagle "foreshadowed current crossover SUVs and AWD cars". Featuring "passenger-car comfort, plus 4wd security for all-weather security" the Eagle sedans and station wagons were a contrast to the fuel-thirsty vehicles built for rugged off-road that were marketed in the US at the time. AMC had "predicted that consumers would embrace a vehicle with the comfort of an automobile, but the ride height and foul-weather capabilities of a four-wheel-drive utility vehicle". As a precursor to today's crossover models, AMC's "vehicles worked well and sold well" and the "surviving Eagles look like the 'early man' version of a CUV, sort of a missing link of the car world". The AMC Eagle can claim "pioneering an entire segment of the automotive landscape".
Although "a lot of automakers lay claim to developing the very first crossover, but the AMC Eagle really was the very first crossover". A staff writer at The Atlantic wrote that Toyota debuted the first crossover in 1996 with the RAV 4 because "it was built on a car body". The current use of the term for this 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, among many others that are marketed in various markets:
- Mini crossovers: e.g., Chevrolet Trax/Opel Mokka/Vauxhall Mokka/Buick Encore, Citroën C4 Cactus, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Fiat Palio Adventure, Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Creta, Mini Countryman, Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008 (#2 in Europe), Renault Captur (#1 in Europe)
- Compact crossovers: e.g., BMW X1, Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain, Mitsubishi Outlander, Dacia Duster, Ford Kuga, Jeep Compass, Mahindra XUV500, Nissan X-Trail, Peugeot 3008 (all-wheel-drive Hybrid4 capability), SsangYong Korando
- Mid-sized crossovers: e.g., Acura ZDX, Chevrolet Blazer/GMC Acadia, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Ford Edge, Volkswagen Touareg, Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Flex, Ford Explorer, Lincoln MKT, Mazda CX-9
The European MPV or large MPV may broadly resemble the crossovers, 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.
Current crossovers with their platform genealogy (similar vehicles are grouped together):
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The price of entry, even for these most modest of luxury wagons, is about $40,000; $50,000 for a well-equipped version.
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