Today's crossover SUVs are tougher than you think
When the crossover SUV was invented, the idea was to bring the ride and handling of a passenger car to the body style of an SUV. Older SUVs were based on a truck chassis and used traditional high-low range gears on a part-time four-wheel-drive system. In contrast, crossovers were never intended for off-road driving at all. Crossovers came with front-wheel-drive or a light-duty all-wheel-drive system for on-pavement traction.
That has all changed in the last few years. With the exception of ground clearance, today's crossovers are as capable as any traditional SUV.
To learn more, we flew down to Huntsville, Texas to drive several crossover SUVs at the Texas Motor Press Association's 2019 Texas Off-Road Invitational event. At the event, we drove several crossovers including the Toyota RAV4, Honda Passport, Kia Telluride, Nissan Pathfinder, Range Rover Evoque and Subaru Forester.
Each of these SUVs uses technology to create off-road capability. Every crossover comes with traction and stability control. For example, the 2019 Toyota RAV4 offers traction control modes designed for off-road use. Available modes include Mud and Sand, Rocks and Dirt, Snow, and Normal. The RAV4 Adventure trim also includes Downhill Assist Control that keeps the vehicle under control while descending steep and slippery slopes, and an extra 0.4 inches of fixed ride height.
The all-new 2020 Range Rover Evoque includes Wade Sensing and All Terrain Progress Control. This crossover can drive through 23.6 inches of water, and there's a display mode to let you know how deep it's getting. All Terrain Progress Control is low-speed cruise control for off-road work. The driver controls the speed from 1 to 5 MPH, and the Evoque simply crawls over obstacles.
Several of the crossovers featured inclinometers. These displays show fore-and-aft pitch, left-and-right roll, and your front tire steering angle.
The all-new 2020 Kia Telluride midsize crossover won the Texas Motor Press Association's award for best SUV at the event. One of the features that distinguished the Telluride was the available wheel camera display. You can select a camera view that puts both front tires right on the center display. The Telluride was capable of going off-road on its normal all-season tires. There's also a view looking down from the front bumper to see rocks and obstacles that might pose a problem.
The point of these features is not that these crossovers are expected do a lot of off-roading. These crossovers are still intended to be family transportation. Yet everyone has gotten stuck in the mud at some point, either in a grass parking lot or by turning up the wrong road.
Today's crossovers are better than ever at getting you out of those annoying and embarrassing situations without a call for a tow truck. Finally, the advanced technology that makes a new crossover capable of going anywhere is also good for keeping the vehicle under control on the road in any kind of weather.