Sport utility vehicles have been around for as long as we can remember, and as their popularity is at an all-time high, it just makes sense that drivers are intrigued by their origins. For many, owning a piece of history, in the form of an automobile, is always exciting, and if you’ve ever found yourself mystified by the options as you pass by the used car dealers near you, you’re not alone. So, where did the SUV come from, and why are these spacious vehicles so highly sought-after by drivers everywhere?
When it comes to the history of SUVs, you’ll find that it’s filled with record-breakers, influencers, showstoppers, and more, all with the same mission––to offer drivers features and capabilities that they can’t find in other types of vehicles. Let’s pay tribute to the SUV as we continue to welcome more outstanding options into lineups across the board, as well as remember all of the models that have paved the way for the future of travel.
The modern SUV wears many hats. For some, their SUV is the ultimate family transporter, with enough space to handle more passengers and everything they’re bringing along for the journey. For others, their SUV serves as their adventure companion, crawling over rocks, trekking through uneven terrain, and venturing into new destinations, all with the agility and control of a professional. No matter what an SUV is used for, it excels in every way.
The original SUV wasn’t as diversely used as those found on the road today. They were more rugged in nature, serving a working purpose, mainly for the military during WWII. Their four-wheel drive capabilities, durability, and utilitarian nature allowed them to enter war zones without issue, providing much-needed assistance to the troops. Perhaps one of the first brands to really make a name for itself in the SUV segment was Jeep, with the first slew of SUVs primarily used in the war. Although Jeep quickly became famous for its rugged wanderers, debuting a lineup of civilian models shortly thereafter, it was Chevrolet that actually unveiled this type of rugged vehicle first, with its Suburban model in 1935.
The Suburban was built out of the need for drivers to be able to haul more people and cargo, offering a large stance that could accommodate so much more than other vehicles. It’s still in the Chevy arsenal to this day, recognized as the oldest nameplate in the industry that is still in production. Other automakers began trying their hands at SUV design shortly after, many of which stemming out of the need for more rugged vehicles during the war. Land Rover was one of them, with its Series I model. Ranging from convertibles to hardtops, two-door models to station wagons, Land Rover gave drivers a wide array of options to choose from to complement their travel needs effectively.
Ford joined the charge later on with its Bronco and Blazer models, two icons in the automotive industry known for their arsenal of features not yet found in many other models, including air conditioning and legendary style. The ’90s became the era where the industry saw even more SUVs making their way onto roadways across the nation, as drivers realized the benefits that SUVs delivered to their everyday travels. Every automaker, from Jeep to Chevy, Toyota to Ford, was adding more SUVs into their inventories. Today, SUVs occupy an overwhelming presence in our everyday travels, offering the perfect blend of performance and design to appeal to families, adventurers, commuters, and many others. As more SUVs and EUVs are introduced, the popularity of the SUV only continues to skyrocket.
SUV Record Holders
SUVs have become staples not only on the highway but also in movies, as well as the competitive arena. Perhaps one of today’s most famous models is the Nissan Qashqai, a 2000-hp SUV that broke boundaries with its legendary performance in 2018. Shattering the Toyota Land Speed Cruiser’s record of 230 mph on a closed runway, the Qashqai stunned with its top speed of 237 mph, making it one of the fastest SUVs in existence. Another jaw-dropper was the Lamborghini Urus, which stole the record from the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk in 2021 for the fastest SUV to travel on ice across the deepest lake in the world at 185 mph.
There are plenty of SUVs that can crush the competition when it comes to speed, and another one of these is the Porsche Cayenne, which stole the show at Nurburgring Racetrack in 2021. Here, this luxurious SUV blasted past the famous Audi RS Q8 to become the fastest SUV at this particular track, stunning its onlookers. With a lap time of 7 minutes and 38.925 seconds, the Cayenne beat out its nemesis by 3.328 seconds. These are just a few of the moments in history that SUVs were a part of that make them incredible forces in the industry. It just proves that SUVs can do more than just carry more people and gear; they can perform as some of the most impressive cars on the road and beyond.
SUV Fun Facts
SUVs have become commonplace in the industry, not just in the U.S. but all over the world; however, they’re not always referred to as SUVs. In general conversation, you might hear someone refer to their SUV as a crossover, but they still mean an SUV (though this term is generally reserved for smaller SUV models). In other parts of the world, like Australia and New Zealand, you might hear people refer to these popular models primarily as 4x4s due to their rugged nature and extreme prowess on uneven terrain.
Not all SUVs are used for off-roading, however, which is why there are typically two platforms to choose from, those built on a truck base and those built on a passenger car base. Truck-based SUVs are tuned more for exploration and adventure, whereas passenger car bases are typically geared more toward those seeking out a comfortable everyday commuter.
If you’ve ever driven an SUV, you know that there’s a feeling of camaraderie, especially among many Jeep owners across the nation. In fact, there are a number of Jeep Jamborees held across the country, bringing Jeep owners together for a weekend of discovery on the trails. There’s also the Easter Jeep Safari, held in Moab, Utah, where participants take on the 40 area trails on a nine-day adventure, drawing thousands of Jeep enthusiasts from around the country. Another SUV event that’s held in California is an endurance race, in which various off-roaders compete in a one-day 200+-mile endeavor on some of the most treacherous terrain imaginable. From rock crawling to desert riding, there are plenty of events catered to SUVs.
The Incredible SUV
From a rich history spanning back to before WWII to a slew of models that are among the fastest in the world, there’s a story behind SUVs that deserves to be told. These exceptional vehicles are well-equipped to handle any type of journey, and with so many options available, finding the ideal model for any type of drive is easy. It’s no wonder why there are so many SUVs on the road today, and when it comes to a vehicle with such a celebrated past, there’s perhaps nothing else that can compete with the accomplishments of the SUV. So, the next time you pass by one on the streets, remember where they came from and remember all that you can accomplish from behind the wheel of one of these legends. From the first-ever Suburban to today’s electric vehicles, SUVs have come so far, and when it comes to their future, it’s shining brighter than ever.