The Upcoming Extinction of the SUV

The Sport Utility Vehicle.

It began, according to most sources, with the MB Willys Jeep in WWII and slowly grew from off road toys to family toting land yachts. There were small ones and large ones. Some were, and are staples of the American roadway (the Suburban/Yukon/Tahoe), and some are elusive and rarely seen (the International Scout).
You may or may not have noticed, but they are slowly becoming extinct. By definition, we are down to only a few remaining.

Jeep Wrangler
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Nissan Xterra
Nissan Armada
Ford Expedition
Toyota 4-Runner

I think that is about it…

You may be staring at that list and thinking that I’m missing a bunch. Well, I’m not. The vehicles listed above have one main thing in common. They are built on TRUCK FRAMES and they are RWD or 4WD.

The replacement, or in some cases next generation, of the SUV is now what is known as a CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle). Sometimes they still refer to them as SUVs, but that, sir, is poppycock. These CUVs look almost exactly like an SUV, until you look under its hood and realize that the engine is sideways… indicating that it is front wheel drive… Then some, such as the Jeep Patriot, are badged as “4x4” or “Trail Rated”… Nice try buddy, there is a difference between AWD and 4WD.(that is a whole topic on it’s own, that someone smarter than me should expound on, please)

The new Jeep Cherokee is a prime example of this travesty. Do a tiny bit of research, and you will find that it is based on the Dodge Dart… a car… a front wheel drive car. I have also noticed that the Nissan Pathfinder is also now front wheel drive.

What we’re dealing with here is station wagons and minivans with a 3" body lift.

I understand the mpg problems and the high cost, but frankly, the cost of these estrogen laiden, jacked up dodge caravans is just as high in most cases. Also, the reliability of a cheap, clapped together FWD car versus that of a stout truck frame with a motor and tranny built to haul something more than the contents of a grocery cart… come on, people. You see a lot more 20 year old RWD & 4WD trucks and SUVs than you do FWD compact cars.

Here is a sample list of a few of these SUV look-a-likes:

Jeep Cherokee
Nissan Pathfinder
Ford Explorer
Ford Escape
GMC Envoy
Jeep Patriot
Jeep Renegade
Jeep Compass
Toyota Rav4
Honda Pilot

Its incomplete, I know…

What are your thoughts on this? Am I alone with my concern?

Allow me to say that I understand that the invisible hand of the free market will correct things if I’m wrong. But if I’m wrong, why have deceptive add campaigns?

I agree. And I own a Subaru Forester. I look at it as a station wagon with a bit more ground clearance, and bought it for that reason, as my last wagon (Passat) kept suffering damage going over speed bumps that I didn’t notice.

Actually I had the choice between the Forester and the Outback, they have almost identical specs. I picked the forester as I like sitting higher, and it was cheaper.

It’s all marketing hype. The only difference between most SUVs and minivans is that the latter has sliding doors and for former has higher ground clearance. (a bit of an exaggeration, but not a lot)


I don’t see this as an area of concern. I remember the days when SUVs were body-on-frame offroad trucks. Very, very few of them ever saw offroad duty more severe than parking in the grass at the Renaissance Festival. And for that people are driving around in vehicles that get 12mpg, block the views of normal cars, and preset a greater danger to normal cars due to their increased weight and bumper height. It’s stupid.

I find it silly to get a gas-sucking aerodynamic-brick when you’re just going to go get groceries in it. The SUV can’t die off fast enough as far as I’m concerned.

I first noticed the trend back in o7 when we bought or Jeep Liberty. I drove the Jeep Compass and the Ford Escape, and felt like I was driving an underpowered compact car. Then we got in the Liberty, and I was excited to see that in shared the engine and tranny with the baseline Ram 1500 and I was sold.
It does lack what I consider to be a truck frame, but it is RWD and has a decent towing capacity for it’s size. It scoots with the 3.7 Powertech V6, too.

We started shopping recently, and I was appalled by much of what I mentioned above. We narrowed it down to a Wrangler 4 door or a Nissan Xterra next. Hopefully, in about 8 months, I’ll be experiencing that new car smell once again.

The SUV can't die off fast enough as far as I'm concerned.


Let’s think about this for a minute. The defining characteristics of a true SUV must be a separate frame and 4 wheel drive. As I understand it, the recent Chevrolet vans are unibody construction. Hence, they are not really vans. I was in junior high when I drove a 1947_Willy’s jeep through the fields. It had two levers beside the floor mounted gearshift. One lever was to shift into 4 wheel drive and the other to select low or high range for the transfer case. Today, this is called part time 4 wheel drive. The jeep was a manual transmission. We presently own a 2003 4Runner. It has a knob on the dashboard to select 2 wheel drive, 4 wheel drive high or 4 wheel drive low. In 4 wheel drive high, it behaves like an all wheel drive. In 4 wheel drive low, I can push a button to lock the differential. Since it doesn’t have the part time 4 wheel drive setup, or a manual transmission, maybe it isn’t a true SUV. Mrs. Triedaq would argue that the 4Runner is not made for heavy duty use. The 4Runner is her baby. I bought her a Meyers snowblade for Chrisfmas for her 4Runner. I figured she could plow driveways to supplement her social security check. She made me take it back–said the 4Runner wasn’t built to push a plow and said that I could save my pennies and get an old Jeep, outfit if with a plow and I could go out and supplement my social security check. The citvilian Jeeps that were sold after WW II weren’t called SUVs as that term hadn’t been coined. IMHO, the closest thing to an SUV was the Jeep station.
wagon. However, it wasn’t available with 4 wheel drive until 1949. It wasn’t a true station wagon either, because back then true station wagons had wood bodies. The point is that there is no good definition of SUV.

People gravitated to SUV’s because the traditional large car was legislated out of existence because of CAFE. None of the FWD small replacements could tow a boat or travel trailer for the family vacation. So people bought SUV’s because they needed to seat 5 or 6. Mini-vans would do this and pretty soon mommies HATED their mini-vans anyway so they insisted on SUV’s because they were high up and tough. When gas got expensive and CAFE went after the 50% market SUV’s became, now we get the CUV, or what I call the Mommy-Ute and then the mini-utes like the CRV and RAV-4. The name I have for them isn’t PC so I won’t print it here. Basically these are all tall FWD cars. These sell to those that have no boats or big RV’s but like tall cars.

For those of us who tow, need room for 5 or 6, we have crew-cab and extended cab pickup trucks which pretty much have taken over from Tahoes and Durangos and Expeditions. We still pay big bucks for gas because we need to. The rest pay mini-van gas consumption while looking SUV-Cool. I’m OK with that.

PS, as a followup, I get about 30 MPG with my forester


Mr. Triedaq,
The way I read your comment, and the way that I understand the 4 runner (which could be wrong) is that it has a selector switch that offers 3 settings: 2wd, 4wd High, and 4wd Low.
According to my brain, which my wife claims can be flawed, that makes it “part time 4wd”.

I believe the difference btwn a 4wd and an AWD is that an AWD has a differential between the front and rear axles, and a 4wd has a transfer case btwn them, and selectable ranges.

I do agree with her that a snow plow on there is not the best idea. A 4runner is based on the Tacoma chassis and driveline, which is pretty stout. But a snow plow can be a very abusive tool, even on a HD fullsize truck.

The terms AWD and 4WD have been hopelessly confused by the carmakers. Also, there are 4WD vehicles with 4WD High and 4WD low, and with full time 4WD in the high (or additional) position. Jeep has that, as does GM, I think

If The People want it They will make it.
I don’t want it (truck based SUV).

One be reason for the past SUV boom was the drop in gas prices in the 1990s. Gas prices from around 1988 to 2002 were the lowest ever IN HISTORY:

Your point is a good one. The extinction of the SUV does coincide with the rise of the 4 door shortbed 1/2 ton pickup. It wasn’t but 12 or 14 years ago that you had to buy a 3/4 ton truck if you wanted a crew cab. Now that is all you can find.

About a 6 months ago, my boss ordered a new truck from ford. It’s a 2014 F150 xlt ext cab 4x4 with an 8 foot bed. There was only one to be found within 500 miles according to the dealer. He said they were dumbfounded when he said LWB.

It’s really more complicated. Wasn’t the Jeep Cherokee a unibody long ago and wasn’t it renowned for it’s truck like toughness. Some are too infatuated with frames and think that is what makes a true SUV. Well, take a look at the 10,000 lb tow rated diesel powered unibody Grand Cherokee SUV. Remember, ALL CARS used to have frames. Does that mean those things on the road now are no longer cars ? Sorry. Frames do not determine what is an SUV…it’s capability.

The full size Toyota Land Cruiser is alive and well, but it is so expensive that it is not selling well here. In the Middle east and other countries with bad roads, it is the premier management all terrain toy. I was driven around the Sahara desert in Algeria in one of those. There is also a Lexus version of this vehicle. Standard engine is a V8.

I agree that the pressure on MPG and weight reduction will make these vehicles less popular in the future. How many Hummers have you seen lately?

It seems that the minivan has it all over any SUV in terms of carrying capacity and versatility.

The previous generation 4 Runner had multimode drive train capability. 2wd, AWD (. 4 h on the dial) using a similar Torsen center differential as a Subaru and a lock capability ( lock button on dash) making it have truck off road performance. In Addition, , it had low range gearing (4l) that could be used both in the lock mode and the AWD mode. A great feature. But, too expensive to include in all models in the next gen.

A 4 Runner IS NOT based upon the Taco chassis whose frame is half open c channel. It hasn’t been for two generations. It is a full boxed frame much studier and probably looks more like the previous Tundra or a Euro derivative. They shared a motor at one time. The 4.0 but it has been up graded for the 4 Runner. The frames are much different even though they share many components.

The Taco frame is no where near as stout as a 4Runner. That is one of the reasons for the considerable difference in price of each…the 4 Runner also has rear coils making it ride much better with near the same towing capacity. I have and had both. The Taco I have a 2015, is OK but is light duty compared to the underpinnings of my 4 Runner. A full blown 4 Runner is superior in every way to. Comparable off road Taco. You don’t see them used as much because, who is going to beat up a $40k 4Runner when you can a $25k Taco. The next year 4 Runner may go back to the 4.7 v8 i( which priviuos gen had as option) it has grown so much…but who knows for sure ?

Notice that I put the Grand Cherokee in the legit SUV category.

I am astounded by the 10,000 lbs towing. according the spam advertisement I saw 20 minutes ago, that’s 800 more than the Ram 1500 diesel.

I also pointed out my Liberty is somewhat of a sub framed vehicle. Perhaps it’s the RWD vs FWD that I should be focusing on…

@DangerousDIY The 4 wheel drive system on our 2003 4Runner is called “selectable” 4 wheel drive. In 4 wheel drive high, it behaves like a. AWD. There is a center differential. It could be driven all the time on the highway in 4_wheel drive high. 4 wheel drive low is a very low gearing and is not suitable for highway driving. The differentials can be locked permitting all wheels to turn at the same rate. There was a V8 version of the 4Runner back in 2003 when we bought our 4Runner which has the V6. That version had “permanent” 4 wheel drive. The 4 wheel drive was always engaged. I don’t know if it had a low range or the differentials could be locked out.
We do find the seats quite comfortable for us on long trips. Our 4Runner has automatic temperature control. The. 1947 Jeep I remember did have a box heater under the dash, but with the canvas top and sides, the heater was woerhless. The passsenger side wiper was operated with a hand crank
I would that think the 4Runner would be rugged enough to push a snow plow. Mrs. Triedaq won"t let me test this claim.

In reality, all SUVS with unibody have sub frames which are reinforcements channels welded into the basic unibody structure. Honda Ridgeline does that with it’s truck giving it a ligit 5k tow capacity and best in class bed weight capacity. Not too shabby for a compact truck everyone disses cause it has no frame…WHUCH IS NOT TRUE. It doesn’t have a ladder frame but like the grand Cherokee, you weld enough of these sub frame members in the right place, you get a pretty sturdy vehicle…studier then some trucks with ladder frames. Ladder frames are superior in one vital respect. You can hang a bunch of different body styles on it. Other then that, they are actually cheaper to make strong but that doesn’t mean a unibody can’t be just as…

I’m not sure I need a body on frame platform to drive through creeks and fields to harvest lumber or such. I would like something that can carry a few people and cargo and pull a trailer. So in that sense I really don’t need the old style V8 heavy frame 4x4 and never really wanted one anyway. The reality is that customer cost demands, government requirements, competition, quality standards, etc. dictate a reduced number of platforms shared by a number of vehicles that can be quickly reconfigured to meet new designs. Probably a deuce and a half will be required for those needing to go off road in the future which is maybe as it should be.