Monday, April 11, 2016

Fastback SUVs: Honda Gives Up, Germans Try It

I have no problem with creative thinking in the automobile industry.  Of course, many creative car concepts aren't very successful.   Consider crossover SUVs with fastback styling.

The SUV (Sport-Utility Vehicle) in its crossover (sedan-based, as opposed to truck-based) form is essentially a Station Wagon (or Break, as it is called in some countries).  Moreover, it is a station wagon with a tall body where the driver and passengers are higher off the road than would be the case in a standard sedan or conventional station wagon.  But a fastback body profile negates the station wagon aspect of the accepted SUV concept, a potentially risky marketing move.

Honda's fastback crossover SUV Crosstour (first marketed as a Honda Accord) was launched in the USA for the 2010 model year and withdrawn from the market after the 2015 model year due to poor sales.  Presumably what potential buyers were seeing was a fat sedan with less carrying capacity than an equivalent SUV.

I should mention that in practice, SUV luggage areas are seldom loaded to the point where rear-view vision is obstructed.  That suggests that the Crosstour was probably as practical a hauler as a conventional SUV -- most of the time.  But not all of the time, and that might have been the design factor that reduced potential sales.

Even though it was known that the Crosstour was not a market success, for some reason BMW designed and launched its X4, a slightly smaller version of the Crosstour for the 2015 model year as did Mercedes with its GLE Coupe.  The Honda and BMW have about the same wheelbase -- 110.1 inches (2797 mm) for the Crosstour and 110.6 inches (2810 mm) for the X4, while the GLE is longer at 114.8 inches (1916 mm).  But the Crosstour's length was 195.8 inches (4973 mm) compared to the X4s 183.9 inches (4671 mm), a difference of about a foot (30 cm).  The GLE's length is nearly that of the Crosstour, 192.6 inches (4892mm).

It will be interesting to find out if the X4 and GLE Coupe do better in the American market than the Crosstour did.  So far, I have seen few of these on the streets and highways.


Seen from the front, the X4 (central image) is stubbier, less graceful then the Crosstour (upper image).  The relationship of the GLE Coupe (lower image) to the Crosstour is similar.

Profile views show that the Crosstour has greater hauling capacity than the X4 thanks to its greater rear overhang.  The GLE also has short rear overhang and, considering the relationship of the rear doors to the wheel openings, less trunk room when the rear seatback is upright.

All of these cars seem more like four-door hatchback (5-door) sedans than crossover SUVs of any kind.

Additional comparative views of the storage zones of the Crosstour and X4.

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