In the past, SUVs might have been the clunky bigger brothers to saloon cars and the zippy city cars that many people love to drive around when traffic is heavy. Old SUVs were heavy, metal affairs that oftentimes did not have cruise control or even air conditioning. They were work machines that were only designed to get you from point A to point B over the roughest terrain. They made no promises about your comfort along the way. The suspensions in these vehicles were oftentimes very rugged to compensate for the rough terrain, but they were not very easy on your back. Also, the engines were large and inefficient. Big block V-8s delivered the power with massive cylinders and large air filters. What they lacked in efficiency they made up in size.
Everything about SUVs has changed though. They are no longer the clunky, massive affairs that handle poorly and drive terribly. Modern SUVs have modern features that put them in contention with any city car or saloon car. However, if you plan to head out to the countryside, one can be the perfect choice. Especially after you examine some of the modern features that make them exceptional vehicles.
The engines of the past were naturally aspirated big block V-8s that guzzled gasoline. Naturally aspirated means that they sucked in outside air as you drove around. This air is necessary to create combustion in the engine and to cool the engine somewhat. You would probably recognize the older style of air intakes. The massive circular air filter sitting on top of the engine is a sure-fire sign of an old style naturally aspirated engine. These were inefficient for a number of reasons. They could not create much suction so the air they take in is mostly passive. In addition, by virtue of being under the hood of the car and sitting on top of the engine, the air the engine is taking in is warmed up by the engine. Warmer air is less dense and, therefore, contains less oxygen. This decreases the combustion and performance of the gasoline in the engine. Your car loses power this way as well.
Modern SUVs are often supercharged to deal with these shortcomings of the past. A supercharger is a type of air compressor inside your car’s engine that compresses air and forces it into the engine at a much faster rate than atmospheric pressure alone. This means that the engine is fed with more oxygen and, therefore, more gasoline. The engine combusts a higher percentage of the gasoline, thus increasing the amount of force delivered by combustion and increasing the work done by the engine. The compressed air from the supercharger counteracts the warmth that disperses the air.
Superchargers compress air through the use of mechanical means. They often operate because they are mechanically attached to the engine, typically through the crankshaft. As the crankshaft turns while the engine does work, the supercharger is spooled. They can also be operated through the use of a belt or a drive connected to the engine.
Sometimes, a supercharger is powered not by mechanical means but through the power of exhaust exiting the car. When a supercharger is powered by exhaust, it is called a turbo supercharger. These are typically just called turbochargers. On modern SUVs, you see turbochargers typically on diesel engines. The turbo diesel is a diesel engine equipped with a turbocharger. Turbochargers differ from superchargers because they are powered by the exhaust of the engine as opposed to superchargers which are powered by a belt or crankshaft connected to the engine. Since superchargers are powered by the engine itself, they depend on engine speed for performance and they also rob some of the gas mileage by placing more stress on the engine itself. Turbochargers tend to be more efficient in this way. However, turbochargers are less responsive than superchargers. One has to wait for a turbocharger to spool up with the pressure of the exhaust before it begins compressing air. This creates a lag from the time of pressing the accelerator and when the turbocharger kicks in.
Turbochargers do rob some power from the engine though. They slightly obstruct the flow of exhaust gasses which creates some back pressure and decreases the power of the engine slightly. This effect is most pronounced at lower RPMs before the turbo spools up. This is called turbo lag. This is most apparent in gasoline engines because diesel engines perform best at the low RPMs so the turbo lag is not very noticeable. Turbo diesels are great for high-performance SUVs because diesel engines are at their most efficient under low RPMs such as one would use while in a low gear. Low gears are very useful for the type of 4×4 driving one does when off-road.
The transmissions of modern SUVs are typically automatic so that the driver can concentrate on driving. However, if you are feeling like you need better control of which gear your car is in, many of them typically have some kind of selective gear system. Every automobile manufacturer calls their system by a different name, but these are typically systems that allow the driver to shift the gears of the automatic transmission by moving a lever or pressing a paddle. Typically this is sequential shifting. That means that when you are driving in stressful conditions, you can shift down for more power when your automobile might normally shift up for higher top end speed. You know better than a mindless machine what needs to be happening.
Features such as selective gearing were unheard of in older models of SUVs. These models of SUVs made people think that SUVs were only for sport, but they are versatile vehicles that are nearly as comfortable as any saloon. Though they are slightly larger, they should be fine for any driving you want to do.