There's nothing like the great American road trip: the open road, the scenery, the cramped seats, and the limited trunk space. Well, that's if you're hitting the road in a car. But if you decide to hit the road in an SUV, you've got plenty of room for all your friends and their gear, plus a rough ride and horrible fuel economy. Maybe an SUV isn't the best choice for a road trip either.
Whether you hit the road in a car or an SUV, you're going to face some choices. Cars get good fuel economy, but can only seat up to five, and don't have a lot of space for stuff. SUVs solve the space equation, but get bad fuel economy compared to cars and they often have rough rides -- not exactly the stuff a comfortable road trip is made of.
Choosing between a car and an SUV for your road trip can seem like one of those catch-22 choices you don't have to live with, but there's an option that gives you the benefits of cruising in a car (a comfortable ride, good fuel economy) and the pluses of road tripping in an SUV (plenty of space): you can take a crossover.
Keep reading to learn about the surprising benefits of cruising in a crossover.
Crossovers car SUV bodies on car platforms. So they ride and drive like cars, but have the space of SUVs. That's especially noticeable when it comes to cargo space.
Let's compare the Honda Accord and the Honda CR-V. The Accord starts at $21,380 and the CR-V starts at $21,895. So, the CR-V is a bit more expensive, but it has 35.7 cubic feet of cargo space. That's more than twice as much space as the Accord's 14.7 cubic feet. And yes, the CR-V's 21/28 miles per gallon (8.9/11.9 kilometers per liter) city/highway fuel economy rating is a bit less than the Accord's 23/34 miles per gallon (9.8/14.5 kilometers per liter), but let's do some more comparisons. If you were to take an SUV like the Honda Pilot, you'd pay $28,320 to buy it and get just 17/23 miles per gallon (7.2/9.8 kilometers per liter). Though you'd have seats for eight people, cargo space actually suffers with that arrangement. Behind the Pilot's cramped third row is just 18 cubic feet of cargo space. When it comes to choosing a roadtrip car, it pays to be like Goldilocks. The Accord is too small, the Pilot is too big and the CR-V is just right.
It seems like some SUVs have enough space to pick up everyone you know and everything they own, but those same SUVs also seem to pick up every bump in the road. SUVs tend to have rough rides. That's because of how they're built. SUVs tend to have body-on-frame construction. In this type of construction, the body of the car is welded to a frame. That frame is strong, allowing the SUV to tackle rough off-road trails. This type of construction is also sometimes called truck based, because it's how trucks are built. In essence, SUVS are trucks with an enclosed cargo area.
SUVs also have suspensions that are rugged, so they can go off-road and tow heavy loads. Those suspensions aren't meant to soak up bumps -- they're meant to get over them. As a result, riding in an SUV can be rough and jarring, particularly if the road surface isn't perfect.
Crossovers, on the other hand, are built on car platforms, which are designed with a smooth ride in mind. Their suspensions are meant to soak up road imperfections, and allow for smooth handling. The result is a ride that's a lot quieter and more comfortable than what you find in most SUVs. When you want to hit the road without having it hit you back, a crossover is a more comfortable choice than an SUV.
The car-based construction used in crossovers not only helps them have a smooth ride, but it also makes them lighter than most SUVs. That means they can have smaller engines and get better fuel economy than most SUVs do.
Let's do some comparisons from an iconic SUV brand that's now making crossovers: Jeep. The Jeep Wrangler is considered by some to be the first SUV. The 2011 model has EPA fuel economy ratings of 15 miles per gallon (6.4 kilometers per liter) in the city and 19 miles per gallon (8 kilometers per liter) on the highway. The Jeep Patriot, a newer crossover, gets 21 miles per gallon (8.9 kilometers per liter) in the city and 26 miles per gallon (11.1 kilometers per liter) on the highway. That's quite an improvement. In fact, the EPA estimates the cost to drive 25 miles (40.2 kilometers) in the Wrangler is $5.25 (with gas at $3.57 a gallon) while the cost to go the same distance in the Patriot is just $3.88. If you're heading out on a road trip and saving $1.37 every 25 miles (40.2 kilometers), it can really add up. Over a year, the EPA says you can expect to spend $3,149 fueling up the Wrangler and $2,329 fueling the Patriot. And, if your need to go green goes beyond keeping cash in your wallet, the EPA estimates that the Wrangler emits 11 tons of carbon each year, while the Patriot releases just 8.1.
Hit the road in a crossover instead of an SUV and you'll have enough cash to visit roadside attractions like the World's Biggest Ball of Twine and even hit the gift shop.
Cars are great for road trips because they have smooth rides and tend to get better gas mileage than SUVs, but if your trip involves more than five people and you're taking a car, someone is going to have to stay home.
The nice thing about crossovers is that some of them are as large as SUVs and can seat up seven people in three rows. Their SUV-style bodies give them extra length and space for passengers. Crossovers like the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse have third row seats that are comfortable for adults, making them good road trip cars for a big group. In many crossovers you can even get great cruising features that are tough to find in cars. For example, the Ford Flex has an optional refrigerator in the second row, and the Buick Enclave has an available rear-seat DVD entertainment system. In the Dodge Journey you can even get satellite backseat TV which shows a limited number of live television stations. Features like that are hard to come by in cars and can make the miles pass a lot faster.
But there's one more surprising reason to cruise in a crossover. Keep reading to see what it is.
If you've been reading this whole list you've probably noticed that all the benefits of a crossover are also benefits of minivans. Minivans have lots of cargo room, smooth rides, and if you need a fuel-efficient way to transport seven people, a minivan is tough to beat.
But minivans are still minivans. As practical as they are, they're the butt of jokes and nothing screams "mom jeans" or "dorky dad" like a minivan. For a lot of people, that's just fine. But if you don't want to put up with all the baggage that comes with driving a minivan, a crossover is a good way to get the practicality you need and the style you want.
Another point crossovers have over minivans is size. If you don't need to carry more than five, you can go for a small crossover like a GMC Terrain or Honda CR-V. But minivans pretty much just come in one size. That large size is great for cruising with a crowd, but can be a lot to deal with for commuting and parking in small downtown garages. A small crossover is not only spacious for people and luggage, good on gas and smooth, but it also can be easier to live with day-to-day if you don't need the space of a minivan.
What are the best reasons to buy a crossover vehicle? Read about 5 reasons to buy a crossover vehicle at HowStuffWorks.
- 5 All-wheel-drive Crossover Vehicles
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- 5 Vehicles That Were Crossover Before There Were Crossovers
- 5 Strangest Vehicles Ever
- What was the first crossover vehicle?
- Who coined the term 'crossover vehicle?'
- Why are crossovers good for retirees?
- What are the benefits of crossover vehicle design?
- Where did the idea for crossover vehicles come from?
- Have automakers tried crossover vehicles in the past?
- What's the difference between a crossover and an SUV?
- U.S. Department of Energy. "FuelEconomy.Gov: The Official U.S. Government Source for Fuel Economy Information." U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (June 26, 2011) http://fueleconomy.gov/
- U.S. News and World Report. "Buick Enclave Review." U.S. News and World Report. Sept. 10, 2010. (June 27, 2011) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Buick_Enclave/
- U.S. News and World Report. "Chevrolet Traverse Review." U.S. News and World Report. Jan. 25, 2011. (June 27, 2011) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Chevrolet_Traverse/
- U.S. News and World Report. "Honda Accord Review." U.S. News and World Report. Aug. 27, 2010. (June 27, 2011) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Honda_Accord/
- U.S. News and World Report. "Honda CR-V Review." U.S. News and World Report. Oct. 26, 2010. (June 27, 2011) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Honda_CR-V/
- U.S. News and World Report. "Honda Pilot Review." U.S. News and World Report. June 8, 2010. (June 27, 2011) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Honda_Pilot/
- U.S. News and World Report. "Ford Flex Review." U.S. News and World Report. June 8, 2010. (June 27, 2011) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Ford_Flex/