The Crossover Quandary

The crossover phenomena explained using the 2010 Volvo XC60

The crossover phenomena explained using the 2010 Volvo XC60
Defining the difference
Before discussing the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the crossover segment of the automotive kingdom, it’s important to properly define the term. However like all things automotive, definitions are generalizations at best, and open to plenty of diverging interpretations.

The XC60 provides greater ground clearance than a conventional Volvo wagon. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)

So here’s my take on “crossover,” which is one of the most recent iterations of the family ride. The term “crossover” has nothing to do with wearing clothing of the opposite sex when driving. It’s essentially a cross between a car and an SUV.

Think of it as building an SUV on the foundation of a car rather than a truck. The resulting product shares more in common with a family wagon car than a pickup truck, which is what most SUVs are founded upon.

For the purposes of discussion, let’s zero-in on a specific crossover to use as our specimen for further examination. I happen to be testing Volvo’s latest crossover the XC60 this week, so on the hoist it goes for a closer look.

Car underpinnings
The XC60 provides greater ground clearance than a conventional Volvo wagon but the space between terra firma and the XC60’s undercarriage doesn’t match that of a typical SUV. Also, the XC60’s suspension arrangement has more in common with a sedan than an SUV.

Available in most crossovers is some sort of an all-wheel-drive (AWD) setup to improve traction. Less likely is the presence of a low-range transfer case and true four-wheel-drive (4WD) capability. Most crossover AWD configurations are front-wheel biased, meaning that under routine usage the front wheels pull the vehicle.

When slippage is detected, the rear wheels are activated in aid of the spinning front wheels. This type of system is generally less robust than those propelling SUVs designed for off-road usage. The benefit though is less weight and mechanical drag, which results in greater fuel economy.

The typical crossover AWD system operates seamlessly and is for the most part, maintenance-free.

In my life, a crossover, such as the XC60, would make far more sense given that I don’t take my Disco off-road much. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)

By Rob Rothwell,

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