Our family recently replaced an older car with a new sport-utility vehicle, or SUV. Our other automobile is also an SUV. In this post we’ll look at this vehicle type, of which we have grown so fond.

Looking for definitions and etymology for this word, we found quite a variety:

a rugged automotive vehicle similar to a station wagon but built on a light-truck chassis
Merrian-Webster Dictionary

 a rugged vehicle with a trucklike chassis and four-wheel drive, designed for occasional off-road use.

Merriam Webster indicates that the phrase was coined in 1978, while the Online Etymology Dictionary, not necessarily disagreeing says that the abbreviation, “SUV,” was in use “by 1988.” puts the phrase’s origin between 1990 and 1995.

What we take from all of this is that the phrase generally refers to a rugged automobile built on a truck (or “trucklike”) chassis. It is likely to have a body similar to a station wagon and be equipped with four-wheel drive. The phrase, and its abbreviation, was likely coined between the 1970s and 1990s.

By this definition, it turns out that only one of our family vehicles is actually an SUV. Our Toyota has four-wheel drive, is built with a station wagon-like body bolted to a separate truck-like frame. On the other hand, our new Subaru has all-wheel drive, and though it has a station wagon-like body, it is based on a car chassis. While our Subaru seems more rugged than the Focus it replaced, it’s difficult to argue that it is as rugged as our Toyota.

In his article, SUV – Sport-Utility Vehicle at, Jason Fogelson notes that modern SUVs are sometimes based on a car platform referred to as a unibody chassis – this is were there is no separate frame and body. In some circles these vehicles may be differentiated by calling them crossovers, crossover-utility vehicles, or CUVs.

Whatever they’re called, we’re found of our rugged, station wagon-like 4WD/AWD vehicles. Relatively new, both provide satisfyingly good fuel economy. The Subaru even does better than the old Focus that it replaced. The thing that we like the most is how well they facilitate our frequent outdoor endeavors camping, hiking, cycling, and more.


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