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What is an SUV?

J. Beam
J. Beam

SUV is the widely used and known acronym for Sport Utility Vehicle. At first conception, an SUV was a vehicle that combined the towing capacity of a full-size truck with the passenger and storage capacity of a minivan. However, as consumer demands have changed, so has the vehicle. Many manufacturers now focus on fuel-efficiency and driving and riding comfort, rather than towing capacity.

Typical features of an SUV include seating for five to seven, high seating and road positioning, roomy interior, non-dedicated trunk space, high engine capacity and 4 wheel drive capability. Though it was originally designed to be an off-road vehicle for sporting purposes, its popularity has spawned several different breeds, including the luxury SUV.

Some contemporary SUV's are considered luxury vehicles.
Some contemporary SUV's are considered luxury vehicles.

Like cars, the SUV has different classes and sizes. The mid-sized version, which typically seats five, is the best-selling variety in the United States. During the SUV’s height of popularity, the Ford Explorer remained the top-selling model. Compact and full-size SUVs appeal to many consumers equally, but for different reasons. Luxury versions have the same features as standard class models, but contain upgraded interiors and trim packages typically associated with luxury model vehicles, such as leather interior.

The SUV is a popular choice for family transport.
The SUV is a popular choice for family transport.

Though many modern day motorists value the SUV for its size and roominess, many others criticize their lack of fuel-efficiency and their contribution to air pollution. Consumers who value the vehicle do so not only for its size, but for its perceived safety advantages. Though crash test safety ratings vary with makes and models, some are known to pose the risk of rollover.

The SUV is designed to travel off-road.
The SUV is designed to travel off-road.

Some of the more popular makes and models of SUVs include the Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Blazer, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, Honda CRV, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hummer and Land Rover, and the Nissan Pathfinder. For those who enjoy the flexibility of combining weekday comfort with weekend fun, it has proven to be a leading choice in vehicles. Similarly, having 4 wheel drive capability and towing capacity without the passenger restrictions of a truck appeals to many car buyers and keeps the SUV a leading seller.

As a concern for the environment and the demand for fuel-efficient vehicles increases, manufacturers worldwide are continuing to explore ways to make improvements to the SUV family to keep them a leading selling vehicle.

Discussion Comments


An SUV is a great thing to have if you travel a lot with other people. No one feels cramped, and you have space for everyone's suitcases.


I borrowed my friend's SUV while my car was in the shop. I had to drive it to work, and I had a bit of trouble parking.

The spaces are kind of narrow in our lot, and I had quite a time squeezing between the other vehicles. There was only one spot left when I got there, and I was so afraid I was going to scrape someone's car!


@suntan12 – That is great news! I thought that the only way I could afford to purchase one was if I saw a used SUV for sale in someone's front yard, but now, I think I'll wait and save up for the kind with good gas mileage.

I will be starting a family soon, and I know that I will need to trade in my two-door sedan for a more roomy vehicle. I don't think we will need anything as large as a van, but an SUV would be perfect.

I hope to have two or three kids in the next few years. I know that we will need plenty of space for car seats, diaper bags, and luggage for when we visit the grandparents.


@Sunny27 – Wow, that is terrible gas mileage! I have heard SUV owners complaining of having to pay so much to fill up their tanks, but I didn't know they would have to do it that often!

Of course, many SUVs do have larger tanks that hold more gallons of gas, but if you burn through it that quickly, I can see how it would be a problem. I can see why you would have to refill your tank so often.


@Sunny27 -You know because of the increasing governmental CAFÉ standards they are making the SUVs a little lighter in order to comply with better gas mileage.

I recently bought an economical SUV that offered 22 miles to the gallon in the city and 28 miles to the gallon on the highway. The SUV also came with a lot of luxury features so although it is was only $25,000, it felt like a more expensive SUV.

I used to lease a luxury SUV and decided to buy this one. The only thing that I did not like about my new SUV was that it only had a four cylinder engine and that as a little problem when you are used to a six cylinder engine because the acceleration is not the same.

But that is one of the reasons why the gas mileage is so good. So I guess you have to have tradeoffs. But for me, I know that I found the best SUV.


@Cafe41 -I also love SUV’s but some of the luxury SUVs really offer low gas mileage so filling up your gas tank is expensive.

My husband had a luxury SUV and it offered eleven miles to the gallon in the city and seventeen miles to the gallon on the highway. He was constantly filling up his gas tank.

He was considering a hybrid SUV because of the gas savings but these new SUVs are more expensive than the traditional SUVs. Although you do save on gas mileage, you lose that advantage because the additional cost of the hybrid SUV is so much higher.


I agree that safety is the biggest reason why I bought a new SUV. About twelve years ago we had a really bad tropical storm and there was a lot of flooding all over the city. Many people in cars had to abandon their cars but those with SUV’s were a little safer because the vehicle was a little more elevated from the ground.

I had a sedan at the time and vowed to get an SUV and have driven one ever since. I think that the best SUVs have a combination of roomy seats and great safety features. I always look at the insurance ratings before I buy an SUV because I want the safest car because of my children.

I also look at a lot of the consumer advocacy magazines to see which ones they recommend.

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    • Some contemporary SUV's are considered luxury vehicles.
      By: Oleg Fedorov
      Some contemporary SUV's are considered luxury vehicles.
    • The SUV is a popular choice for family transport.
      By: Tom Wang
      The SUV is a popular choice for family transport.
    • The SUV is designed to travel off-road.
      By: Patrick Poendl
      The SUV is designed to travel off-road.
    • An SUV.
      An SUV.
    • Off-road SUVs tend to be smaller and lighter than those built for mostly on-road driving.
      By: Robert Wilson
      Off-road SUVs tend to be smaller and lighter than those built for mostly on-road driving.