The sport utility vehicle (SUV) has been around since the early 1930s in various forms. Early predecessors of the closed-in truck were used in the war and made by Jeep. Surfers on Hawaii’s North Shore had the Woody, which was a station wagon with a higher roof to hold surfboards and sports equipment.
The first modern version of sports utility vehicle cars was the Chevy Suburban. General Motors manufactured the first model in 1936 as a cross between a car and truck, with more passenger room than a typical car and more carryall space than a car. The Suburban, with its four-wheel drive engine and large cargo area, has been a popular choice for SUV owners for decades. It falls in the category of large SUVs.
Different types of SUVs are recognized mainly by their size. SUVs start with the compact models such as the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4 and the Ford Escape. Compact SUVs may come in four-wheel drive models, although most are standard two-wheel drive models with fuel-efficient engines. The mid-size SUVs such as the Ford Explorer and Chevy Blazer are the next type of SUV that are most popular as four-wheel drive family cars and utilitarian vehicles for working drivers who need to haul equipment. In addition to the Suburban and Ford’s Expedition, one of the most popular large SUVs is the giant Hummer, built by General Motors, fashioned after the military’s high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle. Large SUVs typically have towing abilities and bigger V-8 engines.
All auto manufacturers produce a form of SUV, some with luxury amenities and others that thrive on hybrid technology and safety or off-road features. The Cadillac Escalade is a luxury SUV with built in features such as leather seating, global positioning systems (GPS) and DVD players, smart brakes and integrated chassis control systems. BMW, Mercedes and Porsche also produce luxury SUVs. Hybrid models of SUVs run on a mix of electrical and standard gas fuel for their energy source. While Honda and Toyota were the first to introduce hybrid SUVs, most manufacturers are getting on board and bringing out hybrid models of their own, including the luxury models.
Through the years, the SUV has garnered wide acceptance as both a utilitarian family car and a status symbol. The SUV craze hit the roads in full swing in the 1990s and, despite safety and energy concerns, continues to remain a popular choice for drivers. The latest permutation of the sports utility vehicle is the crossover SUV that returns to its roots. The crossover SUV, sometimes referred to as a CUV, is closer to the original large station wagon models that preceded the modern SUV.