SUV (Safe Utility Vehicles)

31 Jan

A lot can be learned from history books and looking at what mistakes have been made in the past.  Learning from past follies is a wise practice, especially when your building products that are sold in the millions and carry their owners for hundreds of thousands of miles in a variety of weather conditions.

SUVs became popular in the 1980’s with the debut of the Jeep Cherokee and have continued their rise in popularity for 30 years, but SUVs haven’t always been what they are now and many opponents of the SUVs seem prone to getting hung up on the past.  There are many books, magazine articles, and television spots depicting SUVs as environmentally unfriendly, gas guzzling road hogs.  In the mid 90’s, the high selling Ford Explorer came with faulty Firestone tires that would blowout and cause potentially fatal rollover accidents, which only added to the belief that SUVs were also unsafe.  Take a drive in any number of 2011 SUVs and stereotypes of boxy, awkward, and fuel slurping SUVs immediately lose their relevance.

1980's Jeep Cherokee

For 2011, SUVs like the Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango, and Jeep Grand Cherokee, have undergone complete transformations.  No longer can these elevated family haulers and weekend camping rigs be classified as dangerous enemies to the ozone layer.  For simplicities sake, a quick look at the all new Ford Explorer should be sufficient.  During the 1990s the Ford Explorer was the highest selling family vehicle sold in the United States.  Ford hopes to make a comeback tour with the current edition, minus the mass rollovers due to faulty tires, of course.  How exactly have SUVs become safer and more efficient?  Most past SUVs were classified as truck based SUVs, which meant that they shared most of their parts with trucks, parts such as frames and engines.  It doesn’t take rocket science to know that trucks don’t handle like cars, or least didn’t but that’s another story for another time.  Trucks from previous years were cumbersome and awkward around corners, they had a tendency to want to tip over if driven aggressively, and of course, they liked to make trips to the gas station on what seemed like a bi-weekly basis.

Today, truck base SUVs are few and far between and even they have improved with great leaps and bounds.  The majority of SUVs however have crossed over, in fact, many are called cross-over SUVs, which means they are a mix between a car and a truck.  The Ford Explorer, originally, had been a truck based SUV.  Today the 2011 Ford Explorer shares its frame and many of it’s moving parts with a Ford Taurus, a family sedan.  Yet the Explorer still boasts a seating capacity of 7, a taller seating arrangement, decent towing and cargo capacity, and up to 25 MPG on the freeway.

2011 Ford Explorer

Power for the new Explorer is currently a 3.5L V-6 , but Ford will be offering the Explorer with a turbocharged 2.0L turbo I-4, which will produce roughly similar performance but 30-percent-better fuel economy.  A four cylinder in a large SUV?  The stigma busting doesn’t stop there.  For 2011 the Ford Explorer also comes equipped with a terrain management system, which allows the driver to select what type of terrain they are driving on.  Depending on what terrain is selected the Explorer will adjust its throttle response, traction control, steering inputs, and gear selection to get the most traction out of what is available.  Many similar systems on new SUVs will also adjust the ride heights in the suspension.

The 2011 Ford Explorer is considerably different from the Explorers of the past, even last year.  The point is SUVs are no longer the horrible road hogs they were once made out to be.  Many may not be the rock crawling, Moab elite like many would like them to be, but they certainly get the job done for what they are designed to do.  If you need a serious off-road machine, go get a wrangler.  For everything else there most current SUVs will get the job done and they’ll be kind to the wallet and safe in the corners.


One Response to “SUV (Safe Utility Vehicles)”

  1. Davis February 1, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    Bookmarked, I enjoy your site! 🙂

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