The Difference Between a Crossover and an SUV


There used to be a time when cars’ body styles were clearly defined and there was a proper distinction between a sedan, hatchback, station wagon, minivan, and SUV. So if you read a Cadillac XT6 review and the vehicle is referred to as a mid-size crossover SUV, what does that even mean? Crossovers are those vehicles that don’t fit into a specific classification and have properties of two different body types. A crossover SUV is not as rugged and high-riding as a traditional SUV, but higher than a normal sedan. It aims to provide some of the advantages of both.

In the case of the XT6, it cannot traverse tough off-road trails like a proper off-roader, but it has far better ground clearance and all-road ability than a low-riding sedan. While several hundred thousand Americans still prefer to buy sedans each year, the market segment is shrinking and crossovers and SUVs are taking over because they are so much more versatile than normal cars that can take a maximum of five people and run out of ability when the road deteriorates or a few inches of snow appears. It has become the most popular vehicle type in the USA.

Crossovers defined

Of course, the line between a crossover and SUV can be poorly defined and it is not always easy to pigeonhole a specific vehicle. Generally, crossovers lack serious off-road hardware like proper 4WD systems, lots of wheel articulation, locking differentials, and, importantly, plenty of ground clearance. They might have part-time AWD systems and be higher off the ground than a car, but they cannot do serious off-road work. Their AWD systems are more there for traction on poor roads than for driving up the side of a mountain. And that’s more than most people need. Here are a few examples:

  • Toyota RAV4
  • Nissan Rogue
  • Tesla Model Y and Model X
  • Honda CR-V
  • Audi Q5
  • Porsche Macan
  • Range Rover Velar
  • Lexus UX and NX
  • Ford Escape and EcoSport
  • Hyundai Tucson

Advantages and disadvantages of a Crossover


  • Lighter weight and better fuel economy than an off-roader
  • Better handling and performance on tarmac than a heavy-duty 4×4
  • Better ground clearance and all-weather ability than a car
  • Increased height over a sedan means a better view over traffic
  • Three-row models available with more seats
  • AWD and 2WD configurations available
  • Lower MSRP than hardcore 4×4 SUVs
  • More frugal in terms of fuel economy over a full-sized SUV


  • Gas mileage is worse than a normal sedan’s
  • Handling not as good as that of a car
  • Off-road ability not as good as that of a serious 4WD SUV
  • Not as spacious as a full-size, three-row SUV

SUVs defined

For the purpose of this article, we are going to refer to SUVs as the more traditional type that is slightly more off-road focused, and while they are still luxurious, have a focus equally shared between space, versatility, and capability off the beaten track. It’s worth noting that some SUVs that can go well off the beaten track are also offered in a base model that might lack serious off-road hardware. But the real deal has the necessary underpinnings to tackle rougher terrain while still being plush on road, and can venture well beyond the places where a normal crossover will call it quits. Here are a few examples:

  • Cadillac Escalade
  • Lincoln Navigator
  • Ford Explorer and Expedition
  • GMC Yukon
  • Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban
  • Land Rover Discovery, Defender, and Range Rover
  • Lexus GX and LX
  • Toyota Sequoia, 4Runner, and Land Cruiser
  • Nissan Armada and Pathfinder
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee and Wrangler Unlimited

Advantages and disadvantages of SUVs


  • Endless drivetrain and seating configurations available
  • Very powerful models with high-horsepower engine options are offered
  • Can tow heavy loads
  • Can go off-road
  • A range of very large, full-size options available with up to nine seats
  • Lots of space for people and cargo


  • Can be very large and heavy, and be cumbersome to drive and park
  • Poor miles per gallon compared to other vehicles
  • Top models can be very expensive
  • Worst for on-road handling in comparison with crossover and sedans

Making the right choice

There is a reason why crossover SUVs like the new Cadillac XT6 are so popular and that is because they offer all the rough-road ability and ground clearance the average buyer will ever need. This class of car might be a compromise, but it’s a happy compromise and offers just enough attributes of both sedans and SUVs to keep most people happy. Think long and hard before paying a high price for a heavy-duty SUV with 4WD if you are hardly ever going to use it. The poor MPG figures and stodgy handling on-road might not be worth it.

Read every review you can find on the models you are considering and compile a shortlist of the ones that will most likely suit you, considering how much you are willing to pay. Then go for a test drive in the models on your shortlist and note each one’s good and bad points, so you can get a clearer picture of which one will be best for you. Do your research and make sure you know which features are standard and which cost extra, what the vehicles’ safety ratings are, and how they fare on J.D. Power in terms of their reliability ratings.


Consider getting on the electric-vehicle (EV) bandwagon, as there are now so many great electric SUVs and crossover available out there. If you have level 2 home charging installed and the public charging infrastructure is good, you can benefit from silent running, punchy performance, and zero tailpipe emissions. Great crossover in this class include:

  • Tesla Model Y and Model X
  • Audi e-tron and e-tron Sportback
  • Ford Mustang Mach-E
  • Volkswagen ID.4
  • Mercedes-Benz EQC
  • Jaguar I-Pace
  • BMW iX3
  • Hyundai Kona Electric
  • Kia Niro EV


There is not another vehicle class in which there is such a vast choice of models available as the crossover and SUV class. These are the cars that Americans now prefer because of their unmatched versatility and the sheer number of features, configurations, and sizes offered.


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