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Remember When SUV Rear Glass Opened Separately?

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. Find an SUV for sale

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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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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35 COMMENTS

  1. I wholeheartedly agree! I have a 2004 Ford Explorer with the option of opening just the glass or the whole thing. I use that feature every day and love it. My Explorer is now suffering an engine problem. I can’t find anything like her on the market. I NEED this feature — and VERY FEW current models offer it — and those that do have a puny little window that’s deeply slanted and “roundy” and a gate that too high for most people to reach into (Highlander, et al). PLEASE tell me that the car makers have realized their mistake and are bringing this feature back! I guess I will have to buy an old vehicle or get a new engine in what I have, for I just can’t buy one of the ugly “jelly bean” new vehicles. I need a squarer back with opening glass. Period.

  2. i want a rear window that opens so i can stick my kayak in.  i can’t load the kayak on the top of the jeep.  i just want to throw it in and go!  i also don’t want, AC, power windows, automatic transmission, cruise control, car that syncs to my phone – i resent having to pay for these things that i don’t want. #bringbackcrankwindows!

  3. I’m with you! I plan on driving my 2013 Grand Cherokee into the ground because it’s the last year the rear opening window is offered. I honestly don’t know how my life will function without it. 🙁 I’ve been praying Jeep would bring it back, but I guess they probably won’t. Sigh…

  4. I have the opening window on my 09 Tucson and use it frequently. I’ve put 40 8-10 foot long 2×4’s in the mid-size SUV several times over the years, and the opening window for me is one of the main features I’ll be looking for when it’s time to get a new car. Probably i’ll have to go with a used highlander or 4-runner, though if I didn’t live in the city I would probably get an F-150.

  5. I’m looking at it from an entirely different angle. Most people refer to the Jeep grand Cherokee as a truck rather than a car.  As such if I go to Home Depot and get large pieces of lumber or PVC tubing it was convenient to have the extra length sticking out the window. Even station wagons were used that way. And in the case of the station wagon, the window did not open separately, but instead rolled down into the door frame, like any other car window.

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