Hankering for a road warrior's chariot-otherwise known as a sport utility vehicle-but hate that truck-like handling? Want tons of cargo space with seats you can flip down or remove, but need the comforts of a passenger car for commuting? A crossover vehicle gives you the best of both worlds. With a car-based chassis instead of a truck chassis, a crossover provides all the characteristics of a sedan-cushiness, easy handling and conveniences-plus the sturdy features, versatility and capabilities of an SUV.
Crossovers are for those who don't want to give up lumbar-support seats, wood-grain dashboards, fancy trim and sporty performance but still love the ruggedness, high seat position, flexibility and roominess of an off-roader. Some crossovers are a mix of wagon, sedan and SUV, with suspensions that can be automatically raised for off-roading. These come closest to combining a business car, suitable for chauffeuring clients, with the four-wheel drive and other features necessary for enjoying a weekend in the mountains.
The most popular crossovers are in the midsize category and include Acura's MDX, Toyota's Highlander and the brand new Saturn Vue. Chrysler's PT Cruiser blurs the line between a microvan and a four-door sedan, and in the compact class, the Subaru Forester and Honda's CR-V stand out. Moving up to the luxury category, Lexus' RX300 gets high marks, as does the BMW X5, which is more wagon-like than SUV-like. Among the newest luxury crossovers are Volvo's Cross-Country wagon and the poster car in this category, Audi's elegant Allroad Quattro. With a 250-horsepower engine; an all-wheel drive system; a rear-facing bench seat; and a four-level, height-adjustable, pneumatic suspension, the Allroad, like the X5, is closer to a raised wagon than a sport utility, but it delivers results both on- and off-road.
Editor and consultant Jill Amadio has been reporting on the automotive industry for 23 years.