There used to be a day when you could classify the type of vehicle you were driving or looking to purchase. Most drivers drove sedans — they had four doors, a trunk and were very practical family cars.
Some drove station wagons, some with even three rows of seats! Pickup trucks were popular and then there were those who drove a van. Either you used the van for business or perhaps you were the type that converted it to a mobile living quarters, complete with shag carpeting and mood lighting.
Those days are long gone (gladly in some cases).
Today the lines are very blurry when classifying vehicles. Some are still thankfully clear. Pickup trucks still have a box behind the cab, although the selection of cab styles is numerous and most sports coupes have a sleek sloping roofline and two doors (but not all). Crossovers can describe almost any type of vehicle, and when it comes to sedans, some have four doors and some have five. A great example of blurring the lines is Mercedes-Benz’ GLC.
Check out the Mercedes-Benz website or stop by a dealership and you will find two GLC models. One model is what we would typically call a SUV or sport utility vehicle, with four doors, a large rear cargo area open to the passenger compartment and a rear lift gate for loading those bulky items. The GLC can also be selected as an SUV Coupe.
The GLC SUV Coupe is a combination of SUV and sports coupe. It has a sleek roofline that curves over the top of the vehicle and down towards the rear like you would expect in a coupe. It also has four doors, like a sedan and a rear hatch, so some would perhaps call it a hatchback, but with the AMG package, the 4.3-litre BiTurbo V-6 and all wheel drive, this GLC not only looks like a sports coupe but handles and accelerates (0-100 km/h in just 4.9 seconds) like one, too.
Mercedes isn’t the only company to blur the lines. BMW’s X6 is a larger SUV, but with the roofline of a coupe. In BMW’s own advertising, the “X6 combines the solid stance of an X model with the sportiness of a coupe.” With four doors and a rear hatch, this doesn’t meet the real definition of a coupe but certainly has the looks of one.
The station wagon designation has long been discarded, but there are a couple manufacturers still making this practical vehicle simply called a wagon. Volvo has a few wagon models and others such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi have a couple versions, but many manufacturers have replaced the station wagon with hatchback models which are really modern versions of the venerable station wagon.
Some hatchbacks are compact cars and prove to be economical to purchase and maintain. Other hatchbacks would fall more into the catch-all crossover designation, commonly equipped with all wheel drive, more ground clearance, a taller body design and seating for at least five people — and in some cases a third-row seat that will allow the vehicle to accommodate seven or eight passengers. Crossovers typically use uni-body construction rather than a full-frame construction often found in SUVs. Uni-body construction utilizes welded box sections of stamped sheet metal to provide strength for the body and those box sections are an integral part of the body structure.
A full-frame vehicle has a heavy metal frame that provides mounts for the powertrain and suspension, while the body structure is bolted onto the frame. Uni-body structures can be as strong or stronger than full-frame vehicles and are usually lighter, so they provide better fuel economy and performance. But full-frame vehicles are easier to configure for different body styles, sizes and options, like you would find on trucks.
If you find all this terminology confusing, you are not alone, but don’t let that bother you. When shopping for a vehicle, all you really need to know is what you need it to do for you. How many passengers will you carry? Will you be towing a trailer? Do you need cargo space for those garage sale finds? Do you value handling and performance over passenger space? Is fuel economy your primary goal or do you prefer more power or luxury? Answer the questions about what you need and do with a vehicle and then look for one that fills these needs. What they call it doesn’t really matter.