Thinking Inside the Box

While SUVs have now been around for more than a decade — and trucks for decades longer — the latest vehicles in both classes show some distinctive design changes.

At the core seems to be a quest for safety and security. We want to know where we’re going, and to get there without any major problems. Whether we’re driving more miles or taking longer to drive the same shorter route we’ve traveled for years, we’ve decided we’re going to be in the vehicle awhile and want to be comfortable.

But we wouldn’t mind, occasionally, looking tough for the rest of the world.

For SUVs, boxy and imposing appears out of vogue. Taking the place of that look are rounded corners and curved sides, making it seem as if the vehicle probably hatched from an egg as opposed to popping out of an over-sized cardboard box.
Someone seems to be pushing down on that egg, too, getting the center of gravity lower, just a bit closer to the road. Not too far down — that’s what customers like about the SUV, after all, is having a better view — but perhaps not feeling as if they are scaling a skyscraper, either.

And if you look inside, the trend is luxury, extras, and perks. It’s not so much a message of “Come in and get going,” as it is, “Come in and relax,” taking its cue more from our living rooms and dens than from the vastness of the open road.
These trends combined are making SUVs seem less daunting to drive, according to Tom Baxley at Hayward Chevy. “Sales keep going up, technical innovations keep increasing gas mileage, but more and more, it’s like driving a regular car. They ride like a car, too. Customers don’t feel like they’re driving this huge, truck-like thing. It’s like driving or riding in a sedan.”
One of the more noticeable features inside is a navigation system or assistance service such as OnStar. “With certain industries the services are more popular than others — for instance, real estate agents often ask for the navigation systems,” explains Scott Jobe of Sunnyvale Chevrolet.

While trucks have picked up many of the luxuries of sedans and SUVs, their design appears to be headed in a very different direction. The inside of the truck has softened, so to speak, but it isn’t ready to completely yield its masculine persona.

“Trucks are getting a more angular look,” says Baxley. “They’re moving away from the rounded shape that has been common the last few years. They’re more aggressive-looking, with sharper angles. It’s comparable to an older, smoother, and more distinctive look,” he explains.

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