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The Roster: Crossover Vehicle Platforms

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author photo by Autotrader December 2008

The "car-based" platform, though the most ubiquitous, is certainly not the only category of crossover. There are also major categories such as the "truck-based," "wagon-based," and "minivan-based" platforms. There's more than one way to tie your shoes, and there's more than one way to build a crossover.

First things first: what is all this about platforms? Well, cars can be unibody or body-on-frame. The body-on-frame technique mounts a separate body to a rigid frame (often from a truck design). This is preferred for heavy-duty vehicles as it provides the necessary structural integrity that enables them to pull and carry large, heavy loads. The more car-like unibody vehicles, on the other hand, are built from a one-piece body structure and frame that utilizes the design of the metal to provide structural integrity.

Car-Based
Thanks to their unibody platform, car-based crossovers provide better handling, are lower to the ground, and get better gas mileage than conventional SUVs and vans. Traditionally, truck-based SUVs are good for off-roading and hauling, but they sacrifice the quality of the ride. A car's frame eliminates that problem, offering a smoother ride and better handling and cornering. Lowered height decreases the chance of rollover by making the vehicle more stable, and the vehicle's overall decreased weight and aerodynamics can increase fuel economy. Examples of car-based crossovers are the Ford Edge, Cadillac SRX, Toyota Rav4 and the Toyota Venza.

Wagon-Based
Wagon-based crossovers utilize everything consumers loved about the old station wagon and eliminate everything they disliked about putting SUV bodies on wagon/sedan platforms. The modern, trendy-looking wagon bodies sit atop the suspension and wheels often found on SUVs, providing spirited handling and plenty of room for cargo. Examples of wagon-based crossovers are the Volvo Cross Country, Subaru Outback 2.5 XT Wagon, and the Audi Allroad.

Van-Based
Although they serve their purpose well, minivans are about as hip and cool as leather seats after sitting in the summer sun. So these SUV/minivan melds, dubbed the "SUVan," are steadily gaining in popularity. They offer the most important minivan features, but in a more esthetically pleasing extended SUV body: room for all the kids and cargo, fold flat seats, and ample storage. This type of crossover is also stepping things up with features like wipe-clean interior panels and hinged rear doors, increasing the family-friendly factor — all in a car your kids won't be embarrassed to see you pull up in. Examples of van-based crossovers are the Chrysler Pacifica and Buick Rendezvous.

Truck-Based
Although not one of the more commonly thought of configurations, the SUT (Sport Utility Truck) has carved out a niche for itself. The general definition is an SUV passenger compartment with a truck bed on the back. On the majority of these models, the bed and passenger compartment are fused together, rather than the bed being a separate container. Some of the most recent examples are the Ford Sport Trac, Chevrolet Avalanche, Hummer H2 SUT, and the Chevrolet Envoy XUV.

Box-Body (a.k.a. "What's That"?)
The recent wave of box shaped vehicles has really taken off in the last few years. Many attribute the success of the uniquely shaped PT Cruiser as the catalyst for this mini-trend. Based on low-riding platforms, these "boxes on wheels" are showing up from many different automakers and range from the petite to the medium-sized. Although some variants are seen, most are thought of as squared-off hatchbacks or shortened wagons. Here are a few that you may have seen around town: Scion xB, Honda Element, and the Chevrolet HHR.

©2008 AutoTrader.com L.L.C.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The Roster: Crossover Vehicle Platforms - Autotrader