Sport utility vehicles entered the automotive scene as 4×4 alternatives to station wagons, sedans, and minivans. They quickly became the go-anywhere, haul-anything preference for families across the United States. These were the vehicles that allowed drivers to skip the Holiday Inn and venture deep into the woods if they so desired.
They were large, heavy, and capable rigs that rode high and gave drivers a commanding view and comforting presence in the midst of the surrounding Civics and Corollas. The fact that early V8-powered SUVs sucked gas fast enough to watch the fuel gauge drop didn’t matter, because gasoline was cheap and the economy was strong.
Then the bottom fell out in 2007 and the game completely changed. Large SUVs became symbols of excess and waste. Filling their gas tanks required a second mortgage. Falling sales inspired a new breed of SUVs, one that could still haul up to 8 people, but compromised some off-road ability for more civilized fuel economy numbers.
It’s an evolution that continues into this day and is embodied by the new Audi Q7.