My recent experience with the Volkswagen ID.4, along with the vehicle surviving a 1,000-mile off-road race in Mexico, got me to thinking. The history of crossover vehicles shows that they were kind of a scam, but when a manufacturer does an EV crossover right, it makes the vehicles a legitimate SUV again.

The Origins Of Crossovers

In history, the roots of an idea aren’t always super clear. Sure, there are times when a vehicle manufacturer does something new and everyone else follows (Tesla is well on its way to that), but other times, it’s unclear. Crossovers are in that latter category. I used to believe that the crossover category started with 4-wheel-drive cars like the AMC Eagle of the 1970s and 80s, and to some extent that’s true. I’ve seen others point out that the Jeep Cherokee was of unibody construction instead of body-on-frame, and that could make it the first crossover, and again, that’s a valid point.

The big problem with calling a Jeep Cherokee or AMC Eagle the predecessor to crossovers is that they are very mechanically different from something you’d see today, like a Chevy Equinox or Toyota Highlander. The Jeep and Eagle both had longitudinal engines, meaning the back of the engine where the crank puts power out faced the rear of the vehicle. To get power for front wheels, a transfer case was used, and then there was a differential in the front and rear to change the angle of power and put it out to the wheels.

The crossovers, on the other…

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