By Andrew Kelly
One of the newest, hottest trends in the mainstream auto industry today is the crossover SUV. These vehicles, named “crossovers” due to their blending of car-like driving dynamics and size but SUV and Minivan level of ride height have proven to be a smash hit among Gen X and Millennial car buyers. Crossovers have been such a smash hit that American automaker, Ford, recently announced they would be ceasing all sales of normal cars in the US except for a special version of the Focus- built specifically for US consumers implementing crossover-like body styling and features- and, of course, the Mustang. Traditionally sporty car manufacturers such as Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Lamborghini are beginning plans to produce their own lines of crossover SUV’s to meet demand. But are these cars on stilts worth the price premium they command over their car counterparts? I’d argue not.
For example, let’s look at the Ford Focus- a small, compact sedan- and the Ford Escape- a car which is basically a Focus with a lift kit and plastic body cladding. Despite being basically the same car as the Focus, the Escape starts at a price premium of over $5,000 dollars over the Focus. This is highway robbery, especially when you consider that a base model Focus will come with the exact same standard of equipment as the pricier Escape. The sad part is that people will still pay the price premium for the Escape, despite the fact that you can find a used Fusion with very low miles, comparable interior space, and pretty much all the options for about the same price.
Overall, I can’t understand the allure of paying a 5 grand premium for what is essentially the same car with the same level of equipment, just raised off the ground a few inches with beefier tires. These cars aren’t going to be doing any serious off-roading. In fact, Swedish auto magazine Teknikens Värld tested the 4WD system on Honda’s CR-V compact crossover and found that the 4WD system never turned on, even under heavy uphill driving. I guess that makes crossovers the automotive equivalent to wearing hiking shoes if you never go hiking, the idea of being rugged and “outdoorsy” without being the part. But if that’s what people are buying crossovers for, why not buy something like a Subaru Outback? A large, comfortable car that looks rugged while still being a great value and coming with standard. AWD seems right up the alley for the average crossover buyer, and if someone were to tell me they planned on buying one, I’d probably recommend one of those instead.