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Understanding the Crossover Technology

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author photo by Autotrader October 2007

A popular definition of a “crossover” is “the act of crossing over in style, usually with the intention of broadening the commercial appeal to a wider audience.”* Crossovers have certainly accomplished that; they are currently the fastest growing segment in the US.

While many car manufacturers agree that the crossover is the next big thing, they are stumped about what, exactly, to call it. So it stands to reason that there are several confusing terms and acronyms floating around out there, all loosely defined, some used interchangeably, and none quite encapsulating what they’re trying to convey. Below is a quick glossary of the more common terms, and associated vernacular.

Crossover: a vehicle with the body of a sport utility vehicle (SUV) built on the platform of a car. Other names include:

- CUV or XUV: cross (or crossover) utility vehicle

- car-based utility vehicle

- car-like SUVs

- sport wagons

- sports activity vehicles (SAV)

- tall wagons

Curtain Airbags: engineered specifically to protect passengers during a rollover crash, which typically lasts longer than a front/rear/side impact crash. Special sensors enable the bags to stay deployed longer.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC): technology (traction and spin control with anti-lock brakes) used to increase and maintain control of the car. Particularly crucial during crashes and corrective actions, ESC manipulates such elements as wheel speed, engine power, and braking input to avoid mistakes such as over- and under-steering to help the driver keep/recover control.

Fuel Economy: how many miles per gallon a car gets. Crossovers, with their lighter framed and car-based platforms, generally provide better fuel economy than SUVs.

Platform: types include:

- Car-based: vehicle comprised of an SUV body on a car platform. Provides better handling than traditional SUVs. Decreased weight and lowered height reduces the chance of rollover and increases fuel economy.

- Truck-based / Sport Utility Truck (SUT): an SUV with the bed of a truck. Provides the towing and other utilitarian conveniences of a truck with the interior conveniences of an SUV.

- Van-based: SUV bodies atop minivan platforms. Also called “SUVan.” Poised to become the next family vehicle with such amenities as hinged rear doors, fold flat seating, wipe-clean interior panels, and ample cargo room.

- Wagon-based: wagon bodies atop the suspension and wheels of an SUV. Provides plenty of room for cargo and passengers while also having the handling of a car.

Rollover: the tendency of top-heavy vehicles to fall onto their sides (and potentially continue tumbling) during sharp turns and emergency situations - a risk which is reduced by many crossovers because of their lowered center of gravity.

Underpinnings: the system of supports beneath a car that serves as a foundation for the frame.

* Source: Dictionary.com


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Understanding the Crossover Technology - Autotrader