“Crossover,” a term once commonly used to describe a musician’s shift from, for example, country-western to mainstream or pop, is now being used to describe certain vehicle types. In the automotive world, however, the term “crossover” is little more than a consumer-friendly marketing maneuver, far more about broadening a vehicle’s appeal than anything else.
The terms “station wagon” and “hatchback” have long been turn-offs for the American car-buyer. Tell someone you drive either, and you’re likely to get an emotionless, if not disgusted, reaction. The term “SUV” is now falling out of favor too, generally associated with vehicles too large and too thirsty for today’s more conservative mindset, in terms of economics and the environment.
So, what’s a manufacturer to do when it comes out with a station wagon – or a hatchback – and one that’s smaller than the average SUV, but taller than the average sedan? Call the guys at marketing and tell them they’ve got a big challenge on their hands. What do they do? They call it a “crossover” – a cross between a sedan and an SUV. It drives like a sedan, but offers utility approaching that of an SUV.
There is no clear, specific definition of what is (or is not) a crossover – manufacturers are increasingly slapping the label rather recklessly across their product lines – it’s basically a new-era hatchback station wagon, one that is typically taller than a similarly sized sedan but notably less bulky and truck-like than an SUV.
Countless models are now described by their makers as “crossovers”– the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, Toyota Highlander and Lexus RX, to name a few – but these are still much more like SUVs than sedans (or even station wagons), their main crossover-like feature being that they are not based on truck platforms; they’re still fairly tall and SUV-like in nature. A few which seem more accurately described as true “crossovers” include the Ford Edge and Flex, the Lincoln MKX and the Toyota Venza, as well as the upcoming Lincoln MKT, all of which are less SUV-like, more akin to station wagons.
As more manufacturers create vehicles designed to fill specific market niches, we can surely expect the term “crossover” will be applied to even more vehicle types, just as the term “coupe” is now being used by some manufacturers to describe a four-door sedan with a low, coupe-like roofline (like the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Volkswagen Passat “CC” Comfort Coupe). But, at least for the time being, the term “crossover” is little more than a “fancy” name for what would otherwise be described as a station wagon (or a hatchback).