The suv has become an integral part of the street scene. But who are the pioneers of the genre? And – to make the question philosophical – what exactly is an SUV? We selected seven cars that have made the SUV what it is today since 1935.
1 – Chevrolet Suburban (1935)
What is the first SUV ever built? Brands tumble over each other yelling, “Ours!” We looked at the claims of Jeep and Land Rover, but found Chevrolet’s argument the most credible. The Suburban has been around since 1935. It was based on a truck, which gave you a high seating position, and offered a lot of space for passengers and luggage. In the sixties it got four-wheel drive, in the seventies two rear doors. After 86 years, the Suburban, grown into a shameless mastodon, is still in Chevrolet’s price list. This makes the American the king of SUVs.
2 – Porsche Cayenne (2002)
Porsche is not a brand that turns its ear to sentimental buyers. Despite wistful complaints, the air-cooled boxer engine was banned in 1997. When the lover had recovered, he had to swallow an even more bitter pill. Porsche launched an SUV. In 2002, the Porsche Cayenne received an unfavorable reception from the press and the public. Porsche did not care and saw the number of zeros in the bank account increase rapidly. In the US in particular, people were not so strict in teaching and the Cayenne was immediately embraced. In the end, everyone was satisfied: with the proceeds from the Cayenne, Porsche was able to further perfect the 911.
3 – Hummer H2 (2002)
You know Icarus, the figure from Greek mythology who is punished for his pride? Hummer is the Icarus of the automotive world. The H2 symbolizes everything that is wrong with the SUV: it is too big, too heavy and too thirsty. In a Hummer you feel untouchable. In America, Hummer drivers were fined an average of five times as often as other drivers. Because of its ungainly dimensions, when parking, you quickly overlook a friendly old lady … The pride was fatal for Hummer, it went bankrupt in 2010. Still, the brand is likely to make a comeback this year. With an electric SUV!
4 – Lamborghini LM002 (1986)
Lamborghini is originally a tractor brand and you can see that a bit in the LM002. The base lies with the American army, which in 1977 was looking for a successor to the Jeep. The Lamborghini prototype was not chosen, but in 1985 an all-terrain vehicle in XXL format was introduced. The LM002 had a 375 hp V12 under the hood and had a drinking problem that would scare even the AA: it consumed between 25 and 42 l/100 km. The overweight was also a cause for concern, the LM002 weighed 2800 kilos and was two meters wide. For that you got something in return: a top of 235 km/h, a hundred sprint in 8.3 seconds and bewildered looks from bystanders.
5 – Range Rover (1969)
As early as the 1950s, chief engineer Charles Spencer had plans to build a station wagon on high legs. Not with the usual rigid axle with leaf springs, but with comfortable coil springs. The pre-series was called Velar, which stood for Vee Eight Land Rover. In the end, the name Range Rover was chosen. The mix of British chic coupled with serious off-road performance and great comfort was a hit. The first generation lasted no less than 25 years. The current design can still be traced back to the more than fifty-year-old primal model. In 2017, the Velar name was polished up for a new Range Rover model.
6 – AMC Eagle (1979)
Sometimes the line between an suv and a crossover is thin, so we have removed the Nissan Qashqai (too little suv) from our shortlist. We chose the four-wheel drive AMC Eagle, which was a crossover before the term had reached the automotive world. The body of an ordinary car was screwed onto the chassis of a Jeep. It can be that simple in life. But as is so often the case: the time was not yet ripe for the Eagle, only twenty years later, these types of cars became more popular. Less than 200,000 Eagles have been built in the seven years it has been in production.
7 – BMW X6 (2007)
To be fair, BMW is not the first major German car brand to introduce an SUV. That was Mercedes with the ML. But when everyone got used to the X5, they did something crazy in Munich. A new genre was created within the SUV segment, the SUV coupe. That became the BMW X6, which was less practical than the X5, but more expensive. No one would fall for that, you would think. But buyers were open-eyed in BMW’s marketing talk and all competitors came up with their variant of the X6, which proved to be a trendsetter. But actually the design looks suspiciously like that of the Pontiac Aztek …