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Crossovers are a relatively new type of vehicle. They get their name from the fact that they typically blend the attributes of a car and a traditional SUV into a vehicle that crosses over between the two. Some current examples of crossovers include the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, GMC Acadia and Toyota Highlander. The term crossover is often used interchangeably with the term SUV even though they often have slightly different attributes.
The idea behind the average crossover is simple: Deliver the smooth ride and efficiency of a family sedan with the high-driving position, cargo capacity and rugged nature of a sport-utility vehicle. This is often done by combining the underpinnings of a car with the larger body structure of a sport-utility vehicle. This setup has several advantages that make crossovers so popular, along with some drawbacks.
One big advantage to a crossover vehicle is ride quality. Traditional SUVs often borrow their suspensions from pickup trucks, which gives them a less refined feel over rough roads. The Chevrolet Tahoe SUV is an example of this type of vehicle. Contrast that with the Chevrolet Traverse crossover, which is the same size as the Tahoe but has a suspension more like a car, so it has a smooth, refined feel.
Efficiency is also another benefit that crossovers have over SUVs. Because some SUVs are built on truck frames, they often weigh more than a typical crossover. Truck-based SUVs also tend to offer larger engines to give them higher tow ratings.
When it comes to disadvantages, the average crossover is generally a lighter-duty vehicle compared with a traditional SUV. That means they can't tow as much weight and they typically aren't as capable in off-road situations. It doesn't mean that all crossovers are incapable of towing a boat or venturing off-road, but in most cases, a truck-based SUV like the Toyota 4Runner would be a better choice for either activity.