2018 chevrolet tahoe rst white with grille headlights and fascia in frame

What is the Difference Between Crossovers and SUVs?

SUVs vs Crossovers

If you haven’t noticed lately, SUVs are everywhere. Having all but totally replaced the sedan as the main driver for individuals and families alike, these vehicles offer the practicality of a van, the all-weather performance of a utility vehicle and cost as much gas as a larger car. Simply put, it would be silly to dismiss them as a trend. They’re probably not going anywhere any time soon.

You may have heard the term crossover used to describe SUVs recently. Automotive commercials, consumer review publications and crash-testing organizations often use this term to describe vehicles like the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Trax, Ford Edge and other SUVs.

So what is the difference?

Are SUVs and Crossovers the Same?

At first glance, it may seem like crossover is just another term for an SUV, and SUV is just another term for a crossover. While the two are conversationally interchangeable, there is a difference between their technical usage and it’s all about the way they’re built.

When a company decides to build a vehicle, they can do it two ways. The first way involved building a ladder frame, and attaching a cab or cab and bed to the top of it. This method called body-on-frame construction lets the vehicle ride higher, offers stiffer support for towing/hauling and allows the manufacturer to rely on a single platform for their automotive construction.

Trucks, like the 2018 Ford F-150 or the 2018 Chevrolet Colorado utilize body-on-frame construction. If you were 200 feet tall and able to pull apart a Ford F-150 with your bare hands, you would be able to pull the cab and bed away from the ladder frame underneath.

SUVs are, by definition, built on similar “ladder frames” with the body attached after the frame, engine and drive train have been put together.

team of engineers assembling ford super duty 2017 automobile and working on ladder frame

So what about crossovers? Crossovers get their name for “crossing over” the best traits of a car and an SUV. Up until the early 2000s, SUVs were large, unwieldy, gas-guzzling body-on-frame monstrosities prone to body roll and even tipping over if a corner was taken too fast.

In order to mitigate both their above-average fuel consumption, and tendency to tip over from the centrifugal momentum on sharp corners, automotive manufacturers brought the cargo volume, ground clearance, all-wheel drive drive trains and advanced safety features of SUVs into a uni-body design.

Unlike body-on-frame construction, uni-body design means the vehicle’s chassis is built like a car’s – as one solid piece. There is no shared frame between vehicles, just a single chassis to which the power train, drive train and body is attached.

This construction gives crossovers a lower center of gravity at similar ride heights, better fuel efficiency and improved handling. To reach these more universally-appealing traits, automotive manufacturers had to sacrifice a little bit of towing/hauling capability present on SUVs, but were left with a vehicle that is safe, powerful and handles like a family sedan.

How To Tell the Difference Between Crossovers and SUVs

If you’re among the majority of drivers who have adopted one of these vehicles, you may even be wondering what type you drive. One of the easiest ways to tell is to look at how the vehicle rides.

At Harbin Automotive, we like to put it this way:

You sit in a crossover, you sit on an SUV.

Due to their truck-like, body-on-frame builds, the wheels are usually farther below the driver on an SUV than a crossover. Look at the comparison image below between the Chevrolet Traverse and the Chevrolet Tahoe. Can you tell which one is which?

2018 chevrolet tahoe custom in red on desert dune

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe (SUV)

2018 chevrolet traverse in black on desert dune

2018 Chevrolet Traverse (Crossover)

Whatever one you choose, modern crossovers and SUVs both provide high safety marks for crash testing, a host of standard comfort and convenience technology and electronically-mitigated ride comfort and handling.

For more information on crossover and SUV offerings from Chevrolet and Ford, contact us today!

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