What’s the difference between an SUV and a crossover? Let us explain

suv vs crossover whats the difference mercedes benz g class
It’s one of the largest vehicle segments within the automotive industry and it’s continuing to grow at a monumental pace. The question is: are we talking about SUVs or crossovers?

Perhaps 10 years ago, we may have been referring to the former, but these days, consumers are swarming to dealers in search of crossovers. While you may have assumed that a crossover is really just an SUV with a marketing buzzword affixed to it, there are actually significant differences between the two categories of vehicle. That being said, some automakers will still cross-pollinate between the two names depending on what they feel the market is demanding.

In this article, we’ll breakdown how Sport Utility Vehicles and Crossovers are built differently, for different purposes, and why you might be shopping for one versus the other.

Popular SUVs and Crossovers

Before diving into the major differences, here are some examples of more popular crossovers and SUVs to help you distinguish between the two while scouting your next vehicle. These are not exhaustive lists by any means.

Crossovers:

SUVs:

Rugged or Road Warrior

The differences start with each model’s designated purpose, and therefore which platform it will be based upon: a car chassis or a truck chassis. Crossovers are mostly built to handle with the ride quality and convenience of a car, while SUVs are built for more challenging terrain, larger payloads, or hauling duties.

Crossovers start with a car’s “unibody” architecture, which simply means the body of the car and its frame, or “foundation,” are a single piece. SUVs use a “body on frame” make-up that links two independent pieces together. The benefits of a unibody design are that it’s lighter, which leads to better fuel efficiency, agility, and a softer ride. Meanwhile, a heavier “body on frame” design is far more durable both in terms of rust and when driven on high-impact terrain.

There’s a common misconception that heavier, more rugged SUVs are safer in an accident, and in some ways, the assumption isn’t totally off. Due to their construction, SUVs, especially in low-speed collisions don’t yield as easily as lighter crossover bodies. That also means they can be repaired easier in most instances. However, in serious accidents, crossover chassis and bodies are engineered with more crumple zones, like a car, which take the force of a hit and transfer less impact to a vehicle’s occupants. Obviously, this means a serious accident will “total” most crossovers, but chances are, the passengers will have fewer bumps and bruises than a similar impact in an SUV.

Choosing The Right Platform

In recent years, the two vehicle categories have become far more similar in their capabilities, but depending on how you will use the vehicle, either an SUV or crossover may be tailor-made to you and your family.

Thanks to the use of lighter construction materials like aluminum, some “body on frame” SUVs have significantly improved fuel economy ratings, therefore making their inert ability tow more weight and soak up unpaved terrain more accessible to those who like to explore. Crossovers, on the other hand, are now being equipped with advanced all-wheel drive systems, locking differentials, and adjustable ride heights, that push the limits of a traditional “unibody” architecture.

It’s no wonder these models have passed traditional sedans for market share.

Though it’s certainly a smaller segment of the market, some consumers are looking for performance crossovers and SUVs. In this circumstance, the type of thrills will dictate the recommended vehicle segment. If you’re looking to mob through deserts or forests at high speeds, the durability of an SUV is the way to go, but if you plan to drive post-haste on paved roads, the inherent structural rigidity of a crossover will suit your purposes. This point is made clear with how body-on-frame performance SUVs are engineered, like the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro, compared to unibody performance crossovers like the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Toyota’s TRD Pro Series trucks absorb the impact of rough roads with ease, turning them into from-the-factory pre-runner candidates, while SRT’s wizardry turns a high-riding crossover like the Jeep Grand Cherokee into a track star.

Here’s a short list of normal, day-to-day scenarios followed by the best choice of vehicle:

  • Soccer practice: Crossover
  • RV, boat, or trailer towing: SUV
  • Camping: Crossover
  • Commuting: Crossover
  • Rock crawling: SUV
  • Transporting Bengal Tigers: Crossover
  • Visiting Jurassic World: SUV
  • Rescuing your country’s ambassador while being chased by his/her would-be captors through an abandoned city: A really fast sports car

Both crossovers and SUVs deliver amazing passenger and cargo space, while offering families greater visibility and safety on-road and off-road. It’s no wonder these models have passed traditional sedans for market share in the automotive industry, and there are no signs of the trend slowing as automakers find new a better ways to improve fuel efficiency.

Cars

Kia’s HabaNiro concept is an autonomous electric car that knows when you’re sad

Debuting at the 2019 New York Auto Show, the Kia HabaNiro concept is supposed to preview the future of the everyday car. That future will include artificial intelligence tech that can read the driver's emotions, according to Kia.
Cars

The 2020 Subaru Outback wants to take you to (and teach you about) the outdoors

The Outback is one of Subaru's most significant models, so the Japanese firm couldn't afford to make a mistake when it overhauled the model. The sixth-generation Outback is still rugged but more user-friendly than ever before.
Cars

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Turbo shows value and performance can go hand in hand

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata goes in a bold new design direction, with LED streaks on its hood and sleeker bodywork all around. It starkly contrasts with the current Sonata's conservative design.
Cars

2020 Ford Escape gets sleeker styling, greener powertrains, more tech

The 2020 Ford Escape gets redesigned for the first time since the 2013 model year. Ford brought back the hybrid powertrain, and is adding a plug-in hybrid option for the first time.
Cars

More tech and more space make the Mercedes-Benz GLS the S-Class of the SUV world

Mercedes-Benz introduced the second-generation GLS at the 2019 New York Auto Show. The company's biggest and most luxurious SUV gains more tech features in its quest to become the S-Class of the SUV world.
Cars

Would you buy the Tarok compact pickup truck? Volkswagen wants to know

The Volkswagen Tarok pickup truck concept will make its United States debut at the 2019 New York Auto Show. The truck first appeared at the 2018 Sao Paulo Auto Show, and VW wants to see what U.S. buyers think of it.
Cars

Sick of civilization? Volkswagen’s Atlas Basecamp concept lets you get away

Volkswagen revealed the Atlas Basecamp concept ahead of its debut at the 2019 New York Auto Show. Built for overlanding, this family-hauler was upgraded jointly by Volkswagen and aftermarket manufacturers.
Cars

The 2020 Nissan GT-R Nismo sheds weight, uses racing tricks to stay sharp

The 2020 Nissan GT-R Nismo isn't dramatically different from the 2019 model, but Nissan made changes where it counts. The updated GT-R Nismo is lighter and offers better aerodynamic performance, according to Nissan.
Cars

Nikola previews $80K NZT off-road EV speedster with 590 horsepower

Nikola Motor is taking reservations for the NZT, a high-performance, all-electric off-highway vehicle (OHV). The $80,000 NZT has 590 horsepower, 775 foot-pounds of torque, and reaches 60 miles per hour in 4 seconds.
Cars

Bored with stock? The best tuner cars are begging to be modified

Modification has been around almost as long as the automobile itself. Here are 25 of the best tuner cars you can find, ranging from American muscle standouts to Japanese drift cars.
Cars

21 charged in Chicago carsharing heist; 100+ cars stolen, many still missing

More than 100 Mercedes-Benz vehicles belonging to carsharing service Car2Go were stolen in Chicago. Police are still working to recover all of the cars, which are equipped with GPS, and 21 people have been charged.
Cars

The VR goggles you wear to shoot alien ships is helping Magna design car parts

Canadian automotive supplier Magna has started using virtual reality in its research and development department. The technology helps engineers get a better view of what they're working on, whether it's an interior part or a powertrain.
Cars

From rugged wagons to hot sports cars, the 2019 NY Auto Show brought it all

From city cars to supercars, anything goes at the New York Auto Show. Automakers from all over the globe traveled to the 2019 show to unveil their newest concept cars and production models.
Cars

Toyota leads $1 billion investment in Uber’s self-driving tech division

In a move that has been a long time coming, Uber filed its S-1 documents, which sets the stage for the company to finally go public with an initial public offering. The company could be valued at more than $100 billion.