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Remember When SUV Rear Glass Opened Separately?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro November 2016

There was a time, many years ago, when you'd walk up to the tailgate of an SUV, your hands full of stuff, and you'd have two options: You could open up the rear glass and quickly stick your things inside, or, for larger items, you could open the entire tailgate. I liked this era. What happened to this era?

I remember that back in the early 1990s, my mother had an Isuzu Rodeo with rear glass that opened separately from the tailgate. Of course, I also remember that the Isuzu Rodeo had a giant spare tire you had to swing out of the way before you could open anything -- a feature I'm glad is gone. But at the time, the rear-window thing seemed normal. The Jeep Cherokee had it, the Grand Cherokee had it, the Ford Explorer had it, and so on. Now it's all gone.

Although I don't personally know the glass-opening situation with every SUV on the market, I do know that one of the last glass-opens-independently holdouts, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, finally did away with the feature a few years ago. The Ford Escape offered independently opening glass until it was redesigned in 2013. And most cars, like the Ford Explorer, gave up on it more than a decade ago. So what gives?

I suspect the problem here is twofold. For one, most people just don't use the independently opening rear glass, and automakers have done exhaustive market research to figure this out. This shocks me to my very core, as I would use my independently opening rear glass every single day if I had such a feature. I would walk up to my car on days where I don't even drive, just to open the rear glass and nuzzle it a little with my face, like a puppy who wants to be fed.

The other problem, I think, is that creating independently opening rear glass takes more work than we all realize. For example, if you create rear glass that opens independently from the tailgate, you have to make a separate set of hinges on the top of the glass, which affects your tailgate design. And most automakers that created tailgates with separate rear glass didn't put the rear wiper on the glass itself but on the tailgate, which probably presents further challenges.

And I understand all that. But sometimes, when I'm walking up to my car with a desk fan, I don't want to open the entire heavy tailgate. Instead, I just want to open up the glass and throw it inside. And then nuzzle it a little.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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Remember When SUV Rear Glass Opened Separately? - Autotrader