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Death of the body-on-frame SUV?

I wanted to start this discussion b/c I'm curious what other people think.

I used to own a 2001 Chevy Tahoe LS 4WD. While I loved it, after having to spend 50+ on every tank of gas, I opted for my new ride...

2003 Honda Pilot AWD LX. I must say that I have never missed the extra cargo capacity on the Tahoe, and like 99.999% of all SUV owners, I towed with the Tahoe less times than I have fingers and toes (nothing heavier than the Pilot could handle I might add).

I for one just cannot see how anyone can possibly buy body-on-frame SUVs these days! There is just no comparison. While some people need great off-roading, the majority of SUVs can't deliver on this. Cargo capacity and passenger capacity is also now clearly better in crossovers (see Acadia/Enclave/Outlook). Add to this $2.80+ gas and the better mileage and drivabiltiy of crossovers like the Pilot...man, stick a fork in body-on-frames!
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Comments

  • boxtrooperboxtrooper Posts: 843
    IMHO you are experiencing the difference between a Mid Sized SUV and a Full Size SUV more than whether or not there is a frame under it.
    ..
    My Trooper's mpg is important to me. I get 16.7 around town which is just as good as our minivan which like your Pilot has no frame. (Pilot is a shortened version of the Honda minivan, given how nice that minivan is, that is a good thing) On the highway our minivan gets 24 to 27 mpg because it is aerodynamically shaped and low to the ground. On the highway my Trooper with a frame gets 21 mpg at 65 mph and 19.5 at 70 mph. I bet your frame less Pilot is within a mpg or two of my Trooper with its frame.
    ..
    If there will be the death of body-on-frame it will not be from MPG but from government regulations that specify that the vehicle has to crumble like a ball of aluminum foil if it is in a collision.
    ..
    SUV is just a tall station wagon. I think cross over is just a name for mid height station wagon. The future will hold "green cross overs" which will be low to the ground station wagons that get good mpg.
    ..
    Even though I tow and go off road infrequently, I like to drive a vehicle that can get me through those situations with confidence.
  • catamcatam Posts: 331
    I can't think of any other vehicle on the road that can transport my family of 6 and 2 of my kids friends, ( 8 people), plus tow my 6000 lb boat to the lake and haul all my gear other than a Chevy Suburban or a Ford Expedition EL. As long as there are people out their who need to tow and haul people body on frame will live on.
  • atfdmikeatfdmike Posts: 414
    I think Boxtrooper is right! The unibody construction you seem to enjoy cannot withstand the punishment of load and time like a body on frame! GM took its' full size vans back to this architecture for just that reason. I think each driver has to look at their individual usage to determine whether the rated capacities they expect will be delivered through the vehicle they wish to use. The new SUV's mentioned are examples of crossovers that deliver on passenger capacity but passenger and towing weight can take them out of the running. One guys opinion.
  • bobw3bobw3 Posts: 2,997
    You're right...but most Suburbans/Expeditions I see driving down the road aren't towing anything and have one or two people in them. I just wonder how many people buy the big ones out of need or just desire to drive something big?
  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 3,811
    "You're right...but most Suburbans/Expeditions I see driving down the road aren't towing anything and have one or two people in them. I just wonder how many people buy the big ones out of need or just desire to drive something big?"

    We should consider that these large vehicles are expensive. If people have a legitimate need for periodic towing, it's possible that they cannot afford an "everyday" car in addition to the large SUV, so they buy the SUV and not a smaller car. And then they drive that large car all the time.

    However, many people want the safety of a large heavy vehicle in case a collision occurs. They are safest in a crash with most vehicles, provided the driver keeps in mind that they are top heavy and large. But most of the new trucks come with some kind of stability control.

    If you have some money, you could buy both the large truck and a nice hybrid, but most people are not in that class.
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 9,828
    i like rwd, and most good suv's have a real 4 wheel drive system. i like to take mine where i fear to tread occasionally.
  • catamcatam Posts: 331
    To be sure, there are some out there who buy these large SUV's "just for show".
    A couple of points to condsider though. As another poster pointed out most people can't really afford an extra vehicle for limited use. I have done the math, you literally can't buy, insure, drive, and maintain a 3rd vehicle and save money vs. the cost in gas on driving the Suburban around daily. (the simple math, I spend about $100 in gas per month on my Suburban, a small car that averaged 30 mpg would cut my fuel bill in half to $50. Good Luck finding a car for $50/ month)

    I haven't towed my boat anywhere since October, as boating on frozen lakes tends to be a little tough. But come summer, I take the boat out 2-3 times per month for weekend outings.

    I would happily drive a more fuel efficient vehicle if the basic laws of physics didn't dictate that I need a vehicle with the size and power of a Suburban to do the job I need it to do.
  • suv4betsysuv4betsy Posts: 38
    You're on the mark catam.. We use the space in the back of our aging Passport all the time, how else are you going to haul 300 rolls of TP from Costco? ;) Seriously it is the trip to Costco, or weekend ventures to the ocean, kids haul all the toys in the back. We also need 4WD for the occasional snow storm to get to/from work. I didn't find many alternatives to 4WD with trunk capacity other than form of SUV. It is the most practical/utilitarian vehicle for us. I can't ever think of owning a typical sedan again.

    I don't know if anyone has looked at the 2008's coming down the line but they are getting larger again, bigger engines, and the new 2008 EPA estimating rules are going to drop mileage even more. There's a lot of heavy marketing baraging us every day on TV to have the biggest most powerful vehicle on the planet. I'd even say the market is still in favor of more and more truck sales as much or greater than SUV market.
  • boxtrooperboxtrooper Posts: 843
    A friend has replaced her minivan with a nearly new hybrid Civic or something like that. The family's other car is a Tahoe. She says the switch is nice for lower cost of fuel, but she has to plan more carefully to swap for the Tahoe in anticipation of picking up her kids friends along with her own kids or for anything that requires more room. Her kids have to plan for only the things they need in the seat with them, other stuff has to be placed in the trunk.
    ..
    Her change to a hybrid was cost effective because of unforeseen circumstances that landed the hybrid in her possession, she had to decide to keep the minivan or the hybrid not both.
  • volvomaxvolvomax Posts: 5,274
    I don't think the body on frame SUV will go away entirely, but its numbers will decrease.
    One other thing to consider is that the body on frame vehicle is cheaper to build than a unibody SUV.
    So, the motor companies bottom line is enhanced by these trucks.
    Also, as others have mentioned, they deal with heavier loads and stresses better than unibody vehicles do.
    However,they are inherently less safe than unibody vehicles.
  • odie6lodie6l Hershey, PaPosts: 1,078
    yeah, but Toyota is getting ready to unveil it's Hybrid Minivan. that alone will flood the market with people who "gotta have it" and don't need it.

    Odie
    Odie's Carspace
  • boxtrooperboxtrooper Posts: 843
    Odie, I like that name!
    Toyota has made an investment in Isuzu for diesel engine technology. I think an Isuzu diesel/hybrid minivan with an inline diesel designed to be easy to work on from the accessible side that gets 40+ MPG would suit a lot of people. Diesel has produces less "carbon footprint" than gasoline and gasoline less than ethanol fuels.
    ..
    I would go for the diesel even if not a hybrid, because simple is very good for reliability. The hybrid would give stop and go drivers excellent response and the diesel would be awesome over the open road.
  • bobw3bobw3 Posts: 2,997
    For those folks who use the towing capability a few times a month in the summer, then it does make sense to own something that can handle your towing needs. But I think it's unlikely that many of the soccor moms/dads driving Expeditions, etc in subarbia or on their morning commute do much if any towing.

    I think most folks (and I don't think folks on these forums are "most folks") buy the big SUVs strictly for image and style. No problem...it's their money. But since the huge body on frame SUVs are bought mostly for image/style, just as style's change, so will the number of folks buying this sort of vehicle if they really have no need...and the reduced numbers indicate this. But you'll always have a core group of folks (those posting here) that will always have a true need.
  • boxtrooperboxtrooper Posts: 843
    My sister says she and her husband drive big SUVs for two reasons:
    ..
    1.) they have been in accidents where they were stopped and some other driver missed a turn or in some other way smashed their minivan and car at different incidents. The SUV on frame especially the largest of them, survive better when being crashed into, so they drive big SUVs for safety.
    ..
    2.) The second reason is that she is self employed and can get a huge discount / rebate from the federal government for buying a vehicle in excess of 6000 lb. GVW. So the big SUV costs her much less than a car or even a hybrid to drive. The federal discount is meant for plumbers and the like, but all that is needed to qualify is the 6000 lb.
  • tidestertidester Posts: 10,109
    but all that is needed to qualify is the 6000 lb.

    No, that's not all. You must also use the vehicle for business - plumbing or otherwise.

    tidester, host
    SUVs and Smart Shopper
  • bobw3bobw3 Posts: 2,997
    SUV on frame especially the largest of them, survive better when being crashed into,

    If you're sitting in an big SUV or a small sedan and you're car is hit in the side by a big SUV, the small sedan being lighter may move upon impact and absorb some of the shock, where the heavy SUV will just sit there and take the impact.

    Then you have to look at the door design to see which one absorbs the impact better. I don't know if you want a lot of heavy steel pushed into the passenger cabin.

    Bottom line is that weight is only one factor and not necessarily an advantage in every type of crash situation.

    What was the outcome of your sister's two previous accidents? Any serious injuries? I would think that folks in accidents tend to overcompensate, sort of like someone who has a friend who died in a plane wreck, so now they'll will never fly. Or they'll never let their kids play football because they heard about a kid dying from a freak football injury. Or they'll never eat food X because they heard on the radio that food X causes cancer in rats.

    If we take safety to the extreme, everyone would be living in their basements eating organic rice every day and never leaving their house. To me, everyone driving giant SUV just to "be safe" is just as extreme.
  • boxtrooperboxtrooper Posts: 843
    I think the safer feeling in the big SUV comes from the frame for strength and the height, so the sedan will go under or crush its hood to absorb the energy. Just this afternoon I saw the aftermath of a mid to smallish Japanese brand car rear ending a Yukon. I looked like the Yukon might have scratches on its plastic bumper cover while the car needs a whole new front end, and is definitely not drivable.
    ..
    I think there are people out there in little cars that want to do away with big SUVs for fear of being run over.
  • barnstormer64barnstormer64 Posts: 1,106
    I think there are people out there in little cars that want to do away with big SUVs for fear of being run over.

    I don't worry about them running me over. But I do care about not being able to see around them. :mad:
  • bobw3bobw3 Posts: 2,997
    Sometimes, the worse-looking damage to the car equals less damage to the occupants.
  • nbxnbx Posts: 28
    My problem with BOF SUVs out of Ford these days is excessive weights that have crept into Explorer and Expedition models. When you reach say about 5,000-5,200 lbs curb weight in a BOF 4wd SUV, moving the thing around becomes a chore. 5,800 to 6,100 lb curb weights for 2007 Expedition and EL in 4wd are major turn-offs for me even though I have been a full-sized SUV driver for 27 years. Even though the newer 4.6 and 5.4 L powered rigs are actually somewhat nimble, why not engineer out 500+ lbs per model and still have a BOF vehcile that does the hard working jobs.

    Back in about 1995, a Ford dealer manager pointed to a Ford Bronco and said that it was the best new vehcile value on the lot. An over statement, but you still see Broncos hard at work in forests and firehalls and police special units and in private use by hunters, boaters, outdoorsmen. The rugged drivetrain, BOF, H/D engine and tranny, etc.,allow for many years and hundreds of thousands of miles of use with repair, rehab and replacement. This is especially true if the model in question had lockout to allow 2wd high when 4wd was not in use. So there is a demand for such a BOF at least in the short wheelbasees or else these units would no longer be in such active service.

    No argument at all with your unibody and points about the excellent Pilot. Very popular vehicle with high resale value. Well done Honda. That's just that market.

    But as long as there is adequate fuel at suitable prices, there will be a demand for heavy boat and trailer SUV towing, large family and cargo moving, and tough SUV jobs to be done. The BOF SUV simply is nowhere near dead.

    ..the auto companies study and refine these various markets constantly..when the sales fall the companies respond..
  • Just commenting on the idea of driving a second car for the daily commute and then having an Expedition (or other) for when it's needed. I tried this for about two years and gave up. Yes, the cost of insurance alone on the second car is more than the extra gas of driving a large SUV every day but the bigger issue for me is that I had to plan my days around what vehicle I had. Finally I just admitted defeat. With two dogs and two kids and bikes and skis and all the rest I'm impressed and jealous of anyone in a similar situation who is efficient enough to survive with a small SUV / sedan.
  • bobw3bobw3 Posts: 2,997
    Since you probably put the skis & bikes on the roof and the dogs behind the 2nd row, you could get something smaller like a Subaru Forester and fit what you're talking about.
  • sddoc07sddoc07 Posts: 19
    I had no idea that so many people would contribute to this topic - thank you for your thoughts!

    Bobw3 - I totally empathize with your points on safety of BOF SUVs. My dad, a Suburban disciple, has driven one since 1988 and has had a number of serious crashes (mostly not his fault =)) that he has walked away from with not so much as a headache. In contrast, the cars that run into Suburbans look devastated. That being said, he doesn't drive the thing like a racecar and when people do, they tend to flip.

    I have a question for everyone - why is GM so ancient with its refusal for rear IRS and thus non-rear folding seats? Is there an advantage to their solid rear axles?
  • boxtrooperboxtrooper Posts: 843
    solid rear axles have been the most efficient drive, independent axles take more gear changes and each change is a loss.
  • bobw3bobw3 Posts: 2,997
    My dad, a Suburban disciple, has driven one since 1988 and has had a number of serious crashes (mostly not his fault =)) that he has walked away from with not so much as a headache. In contrast, the cars that run into Suburbans look devastated.

    No offense, but I wouldn't want to be driving anywhere near your dad on the road, especially after the comment, "mostly not his fault" I wonder how many accidents he could have avoided if he wasn't driving such a big vehicle?
  • dificadifica Posts: 9
    Well, there has obviously been a lot of new unibody crossover SUV's coming lately, and obviously those are the choice who want to use an SUV for just commuting and running errands.

    But for those people who really use BOF SUV's off-road and towing abilities, it's just basically a crew cab pickup with a bit shorter bed and a bed cover as standard, and if they weren't available, they'd be using those, but SUV's are simply more user friendly with their one pull opening rear hatches and various other small things, such as the slightly smaller size (crew cabs are hugely long) and the more luxurious interiors of many SUV's compared to pickups.

    If i were to buy a towing vehicle now, i'd go for a regular cab pickup (live alone, no need for four doors), but as a combined family and recreational towing and off-road vehicle (i doubt too many SUV's are used in only work conditions, companies apparently tend to use pickups), there aren't many options.

    So, the BOF SUV isn't going anywhere in a long time.
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 9,828
    rwd. jeep grand cherokees are unibody plus rwd. not sure how many others.
  • I am the exact opposite....I did away with the small car for the SUV because I was run over. My Subaru Legacy was totalled last June because a Dodge 2500 truck ran a red light and nearly T-boned me (hit just in front of the passenger door). I felt like I was on the end of a whip. I still have effects from that wreck. No question about what to buy to replace the Subaru. I'm in an Expedition now.
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 9,828
    off road capability and towing capacity.
    for a while bof rwd suv's were better than the alternatives, for many people.
    the circumstances have changed.
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,254
    SUVs and trucks? BOF ones?

    Isuzu Buying Alabama Land for Plant (Auto Observer)

    Moderator
    Minivan fan. Feel free to message or email me - stever@edmunds.com.

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