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The Car Industry Is Obsessed With the Letters R and X

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author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2017

I've recently come to the conclusion that the automotive industry is obsessed with the letters R and X. You probably haven't realized this, or you can only really think of the Lexus RX, so I must be wrong. Or perhaps you think I'm truly crazy, and this is my cry for help. But I'm certain of it.

Here are just a few examples: The Acura RDX, RLX and RSX. The Cadillac SRX. The Cadillac XLR. The Honda CRX. The Jaguar XJR and XKR. The Lexus RX. The Mazda RX-7 and RX-8. The Saturn Astra, Aura and Outlook's XR trim level. The Subaru WRX and WRX STI. The Australian Mitsubishi trim level VRX. The Toyota Corolla and Matrix XRS.

These two letters even manage to find their way, together, into a lot of car names. Chevrolet Express. Ford Explorer. Ford Excursion. Ford Taurus X. Pontiac Grand Prix. Subaru XV Crosstrek. Toyota Matrix.

Even when automakers create fake car names, the letters R and X show up. When Chevy wanted a weird, memorable name for its new subcompact crossover, it became... the Trax. And when Nissan needed a fake name for their body-on-frame SUV, made sure it included an X and two Rs: Xterra.

Considering how infrequently these two letters appear together in real life, they sure seem to show up a lot in car names.

So I've pondered this for a while, considered things, really thought about why this might be happening and came up with a conclusion: Automakers think R and X are the letters that reallllllly make their cars seem both sporty and capable. They must've tested thousands of letters (OK, maybe 26) in thousands of focus groups, and I think they've discovered that people really just love R and X. Those letters make them feel alive. Special. Fun. Vigorous.

Those are the letters of the active lifestyle.

Bear with me for a moment, because this isn't as ridiculous as it might sound initially.

Here's my thinking: We all know the letter R signifies a car with high performance. Audi puts R as a prefix in front of its car numbers to signify something special: RS4, R8. Jaguar sticks it at the end for the same reason: XJR, XKR. And there are countless other cars that go from normal (Nissan Skyline GT-T, Volkswagen Golf) to high performance (Nissan Skyline GT-R, Volkswagen Golf R), with just that one letter: R. So it's obvious that R demonstrates excitement, performance and speed.

And then there's X. Undoubtedly the most overused letter in automotive naming, X seems to signify all-wheel drive and capability. The BMW X3, X5 and X6 are all "more capable" SUV versions of the regular ol' 3 Series, 5 Series and 6 Series. BMW uses xDrive to mean the same thing. All Lexus SUV models have an X in their names -- NX, RX, GX, LX -- as do all Infiniti SUV models (QX30, QX50, QX60, QX70, QX80). Acura puts an X in every single one of their car names, because their cars are just that capable, while Volvo takes normal car names and places an XC in front of them to signify a capable, strong-willed, go-anywhere SUV or tall wagon.

So, you have X signifying capability, and R signifying performance. And so automakers must think, "If we add these two things together, we have a car that's both speedy AND capable!" And since we modern, "active-lifestyle" customers surely want speedy, capable automobiles, I think we can all agree that nothing makes more sense than throwing together those two letters in order to convince us the car we're considering is exactly that.

And indeed, consider some of the cars that use these letters. No car is pitched as a greater combination of "performance" and "capable" than the Subaru WRX. The Nissan Xterra is a go-anywhere fun-haver (the X) that's also built for the road (that's the two Rs). The Cadillac SRX and the Lexus RX are both trying to make drivers think they're sportier and more capable than they really are. I could go on.

And so, people of the Internet, I think we've reached a conclusion here: The automotive industry is obsessed with combining the letters R and X in order to make you think that you're buying a car that's both fast and highly capable. This is why an unnervingly high number of vehicles are named this way. And if your personal automobile doesn't have an R and an X somewhere in the name, well, you're simply missing out on the active lifestyle you deserve.

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The Car Industry Is Obsessed With the Letters R and X - Autotrader