SUVs Are Not A Trend : Stating What’s Obvious

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Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Concept
Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Concept | Photo: Volkswagen

We often refer to trends when it comes to automotive designs. Crossovers and SUVs have surpassed the trend state and are here to stay

We often read that kids never want to buy what their parents drove. I completely understand although I grew up with station wagons and currently own two and have purchased five over the last ten years. You could say that I’m not trendy when it comes to cars but that may very well change in time. No, it won’t…

A trend, or fashion, is practically pre-determined to evolve or change over time. If fashion is seasonal, car trends tend to last one or a few decades. Targas, minivans, station wagons, all have had their 15 minutes of fame and are all but forgotten now. Mass-consumption SUVs, which could be argued became a thing in the early 90s (Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee) are already closing in on 30 years of fame, and there are no signs of declining interest. As you probably know, the future still belongs to them, and will for a very long time.

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The reason for the undying appreciation for the SUV is that they can do everything, or almost. With the sole exception of full-size pickups, they are absolutely un-compromised modes of transportation. And I do mean un-compromised.

I was recently on a family vacation (parents, grand-parents and two kids) and although I would have loved to squeeze everyone and everything in my station wagon, any station wagon, it was never going to happen. I was fortunate enough to borrow a 2019 Volkswagen Atlas Execline with R-Line package where everything, and most importantly, everyone fit comfortably. As one of the larger midsize three-row SUVs available today, it handled luggage, beach chairs and related toys, two strollers, a small cooler, diaper bags and countless other random bags of stuff, two baby seats and four adults with little room to spare. But it all fit and no one complained on either 8-hour drive.

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Essentially, the SUV’s two-box design is the ultimate in automotive form. With the advent of high-tech deign methods, it can also be a generous canvas for designers to have some fun and create attractive products. The VW Atlas or Subaru Ascent are not a Pagani Huayra but upon closer inspection, SUVs like the Mazda CX-9 and Audi Q7 are quite good looking.

And so, you have form and function in one single body style. The main advantage of the SUV’s two-box design is height, or more specifically, that there are no precise guidelines to its design. A station wagon must keep a lower profile and roofline to be classified as such even though it too basically sports a two-box design. An SUV or crossover can be low-slung or as tall as a building, it matters not.

Mazda CX-9 GT
2019 Mazda CX-9 | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The SUV then, is the pinnacle of automotive design. I say because there is no greater evolution of automotive design that will bring more to the table for average consumers. That is, of course, depending on how you feel about minivans. Myself, I’m thinking the VW I.D Buzz is looking mighty sweet as a replacement for my station wagon in a few years. As the vast majority of car buyers like neither wagons nor minivans, the SUV wins out. I suspect that a large portion of today’s kids being driven around in Nissan Patfinders, Hyundai Santa Fes, Dodge Durangos and others will eventually come to the conclusion that the latest Kia Sorento, Chevrolet Traverse or Toyota Highlander are what will fit their lives best.

2020 Toyota Highlander
2020 Toyota Highlander | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

And when I stated no compromises, I also meant driving experience and efficiency. For those who still enjoy taking the wheel, the VW Atlas, Mazda CX-9 and Honda Passport are still sufficiently entertaining – and I’m not mentioning the likes of the BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne and other luxury SUVs. Finally, my tested 5,250+ lb Atlas (with humans and gear), through mountain passes, congested city streets, traffic and highway driving over an 1,100km journey returned an 11L/100km fuel consumption average. Earlier this decade, this was a good result for a 5-seater midsize sedan, unladen.

So, if you’re anti-SUV and love 2-door coupes, best you stock up on Honda Civics and Subaru BRZs now ‘cause they’ll be all but phased out in time. By then, I figure 75% of the automotive landscape will be SUVs of all shapes and sizes. I myself plan on hoarding station wagons…

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