Your Complete Guide to SUV Types and Brands

As an auto industry analyst, I‘ve seen explosive growth in SUVs over the last 5-10 years across size classes and price levels. With so many options now available from nearly every major brand, I created this comprehensive guide to help compare the key differences – so you can decide what utility vehicle best fits your needs.

Whether you‘re looking for a smooth-riding crossover to zip around town or a rugged off-roader to explore backcountry trails, I‘ll break down all the SUV flavors so you can confidently narrow your choices. I‘m excited to be your guide through the great SUV marketplace today!

SUV Category Overview

The SUV marketplace now spans a wide spectrum from small, car-based crossovers to full-size truck SUVs capable of towing over 9,000 lbs. Major categories include:

Crossovers – Blend car-like ride with light utility chops
Midsize SUVs – Balance versatile space with moderate capability
Full-Size SUVs – Maximum passenger and towing capacity
Luxury SUVs – Premium features and refinement over off-road talent
Hybrid SUVs – Improved MPG without sacrificing space
Electric SUVs – Zero-emissions driving and instant torque

Next, we‘ll explore each category highlighting the most popular models. As we compare SUV types and brands, I‘ll call out key stats like horsepower, cargo capacity and tow ratings so you can match each vehicle‘s strengths to your needs. Let‘s hit the road!

Luxury SUVs – Premium Perfection

While luxury sedans grab headlines for brands like Mercedes and BMW, their upscale SUVs shouldn‘t be overlooked – especially as premium SUV sales soar. By combining refinement, prestige and posh amenities with available AWD grip, luxury SUVs create an enticing synthesis.

Luxury SUV Sales Increases 2017-2021

YearNew SalesIncrease

*Pandemic-related factory shutdowns stunted growth in 2020, but the luxury SUV segment rebounded strongly in 2021.

Let‘s explore why by checking out key models:

Porsche Cayenne – Porsche perfects the modern luxury SUV formula with sports-car drivability, posh cabins boasting extensive customization options and enough performance to outrun many sedans.

Acura MDX – Redesigned last year, Acura‘s 3-row family hauler sets new standards for its brand blending premium design, a quiet cabin and Acura‘s latest tech. An available hybrid AWD powertrain returns up to 26 MPG.

Volvo XC90 – Leadership in safety interfaces with seven-passenger utility for families, wrapped in Scandinavian minimalism and clean, technology-rich interiors.

Beyond posh amenities, dedicated SUV platforms allow these luxury models to maintain all-weather grip that their sedan siblings often lack – expanding their year-round capabilities as primary family vehicles.

Top-Selling Crossover SUVs

While the SUV category first developed from truck-based recreational 4x4s decades ago, unibody crossovers using car platforms have exploded in recent years thanks to efficient packaging and car-like maneuverability. Compact crossovers now dominate non-truck US new vehicle sales.

Crossover Sales Increases 2017-2021

YearNew SalesIncrease
20174.34 million+9%
20184.61 million+6%
20194.85 million+5%
20204.19 million-14%*
20215.32 million+27%

The pandemic interrupted steady growth in 2020, but broader acceptance of roomy crossovers for weekday commuting and outdoor weekends continues driving sales skyward.

To blend car attributes with light truck capabilities, crossover SUVs leverage unibody construction and transverse engines akin to passenger cars, while integrating higher ground clearance, AWD systems and light towing capacities from SUV lineage.

Leading options include:

Honda CR-V – Spaceious, reliable compact crossover capable of up to 1,500 lbs of towing in AWD trims

Subaru Forester – Standard all-wheel drive provides foul weather traction even in base trims thanks to Subaru‘s Symmetrical AWD system splitting torque 50/50 front/rear

Hyundai Tucson – Sharp style inside and out stands out in its compact crossover class while delivering strong value

Jeep Cherokee – Iconic Jeep brand applies its off-road pedigree in a city-friendly compact package with impressive approach/departure angles for venturing slightly off-pavement

Small in size but huge in popularity and sales volumes, compact crossovers offer just enough utility for many modern families and couples needing an elevated ride height without extreme truck attributes of larger SUVs.

Midsize SUV Breakdown – Finding the Right Balance

Splitting the difference between compact cute-utes and full-size truck-based SUVs, midsize SUVs strive for the ideal middle ground in the heart of the market. Two- and three-row layouts cater to growing families while balanced dimensions provide a Goldilocks combination of power, passenger room, off-road agility and premium features.

For outdoor enthusiasts not requiring extreme rock crawling, mid-sizers like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner hit a sweet spot with legitimate 4×4 chops while remaining civilized for school runs and shopping trips.

Key Midsize SUV Capability Comparison

ModelMax Cargo CapacityTow RatingOff-Road Angles
Jeep Grand Cherokee68 cu ft7,200 lbsApproach 37°/Departure 30°/Ramp 23°
Ford Explorer87 cu ft5,600 lbsApproach 21°/Departure 21°
Toyota 4Runner47 cu ft5,000 lbsApproach 36°/Departure 26°

Note how Grand Cherokee combines top-end tow ratings with small dimension tradeoffs while the aged 4Runner ranks off-road agility over towing strength or cargo volume. Identify your key priorities within balanced midsizers like these.

Full-Size SUVs Boast Big Numbers

When passenger volume and max towing muscle rank above all else, truck-framed full-size SUVs complete heavy lifting that crossovers cannot match. Built using pickup architectures, beasts like the Chevy Suburban and Ford Expedition tow over 9,000 lbs while seating up to 8 or 9 passengers comfortably.

Combined with lavish amenities keeping the entire family happy on road trips plus advanced driver assistance tech, these body-on-frame giants make formidable multifunction family vehicles – albeit with the higher operating costs and challenging parking dimensions associated with full-size trucks.

Key Full-Size SUV Stats

ModelCargo CapacityTowingLengthAvg. Combined MPG
Chevy Suburban144 cu ft8,300 lbs225 in19 MPG
GMC Yukon XL Denali144 cu ft8,000 lbs226 in19 MPG
Ford Expedition MAX104 cu ft9,300 lbs221 in20 MPG

Note the similar dimensions and capabilities between GM corporate cousins Suburban and Yukon XL catering to maximum passenger and cargo priorities. Meanwhile, Ford leverages advanced materials in its aluminum-intensive Expedition to achieve similar interior volume and trailering skills as larger rivals.

All three provide commendable tow ratings edging over most other vehicles short of heavy-duty pickups. When there‘s serious work to be done hauling boats, RVs or equipment plus shuttling your tribe, these modern full-size options polish the formulas blending blue collar grit with white glove amenities.

Hybrid SUVs – Miles Per Gallon Gains

While many buyers accept the fuel economy compromises associated with SUV versatility over passenger cars, hybrid tech availability improves this equation with gas mileage rivaling smaller vehicles. Alternating gas and electric power or combining them for performance bursts realizes environmental gains without diminishing utility attributes.

Hybrid SUV MPGe and Range Comparison

ModelMPGeElectric Range
Toyota Highlander Hybrid36 MPGeUp to 36 miles
Ford Escape Hybrid100 MPGe37 miles
BMW X5 Hybrid50+ MPGeUp to 31 miles

Note the MPGe advantage of Escape‘s plug-in hybrid system maximizing electric-only propulsion before its gas engine kicks in for longer drives. With 37 miles of electric range from a fully charged battery, many owners‘ daily commuting loops reap the efficiency benefits with minimal gas usage.

Meanwhile, Toyota‘s hybrid synergy drive eschews plug-in charging in favor of self-charging through regenerative braking to sustain electric assist perpetually. Both approaches realize their own strengths suiting different driving profiles.

Environmental benefits mirror financial ones too – while Highlander Hybrid returns 94 MPGe combined or 36 MPG once gas power joins forces, considerably besting its 28 MPG standard gas AWD counterpart. That boosts mileage and saves you money at the pump.

Electric SUVs – Silent Utility

Though early all-electric SUV options remain somewhat scarce, a new wave is set to charge into the marketplace soon as brands leverage expertise from prior EV sedans into utility formats. Combining instantly available electric torque in heaviest trims plus advanced technology interfaces, these emerging EVs aim straight for the heart of the mass market.

Until more models arrive, early electric SUV adopters have just a few promising choices:

Tesla Model X – Futuristic style and317 miles of driving range on a full charge cement Tesla‘s technology leadership

Rivian R1S – This electric-only startup focuses entirely around battery-powered pickups and SUVs designed for outdoor adventure

Audi E-Tron – Traditional German luxury and quality fused with leading-edge EV range and performance

But anxiety not, many more affordable and family-friendly electric SUVs are en route from nearly every major manufacturer over the next 3-5 years. As charging infrastructure expands globally to catch up with demand, electric SUV adoption promises cleaner, smoother-accelerating utility transport – albeit still at premium prices…for now.

Key Takeaways – Finding Your Ideal SUV

After reviewing all the exciting SUV types available today, I hope you‘ve got great clarity around your ideal blend of utility dimensions, seating capacity, luxury features and drivetrain preferences guiding you to a few stellar options for your needs.

While SUV categories have mushroomed to the point of potentially causing choice paralysis, remember fundamental questions:

1) Passenger and Cargo Priorities – Will kids, pets and bulky gear fill the SUV often or is light errand usage more likely? This clarifies ideal size class limitations.

2) Performance Requirements – Do you plan to regularly tow heavy trailers or boats demanding robust capabilities that smaller crossovers cannot match?

3) Off-Road Inclinations – Even if deep mud or rocks aren‘t likely destinations, AWD and moderate ground clearance opens recreation access during all seasons depending on regions with heavy winter weather.

4) Luxury Desires – Leather seats and surround views are wonderful daily perks if budgets allow. Identify whether base trim utility or premium amenities hold priority.

5) Alt-Fuel Preferences – Seeking maximum MPGs? Hybrid models offer the best real-world efficiency but trail top EVs for tech cachet if you can adapt to charging stops.

I hope this comprehensive guide gives clarity in identifying your personal sweet spot amid the expansive modern SUV marketplace! Feel free to reach out with any other questions.

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