New SUVs look like they’re going back to the future

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New SUVs look like they’re going back to the future

SUVs have been on a long strange trip.

After World War 2 the segment got started when the Willys Jeep became a civilian and gave Americans an affordable new way to enjoy the great outdoors.

It was followed by more vehicles from the Jeep brand and the likes of International Harvester Scout and Ford Bronco in the 1960s, the latter of which was the first to adopt the Sports-Utility Vehicle description in its marketing.

More refined models were added to the mix with and started being used as family cars, then AMC changed the game by turning the Concord car into the four-wheel drive Eagle in 1981.

The Toyota Rav 4 kicked the crossover craze into gear in the 1990s while the cool factor of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer lured people away from sedans, station wagons and minivans by the hundreds of thousands, even if the dirt parking lot on the soccer field was as far as they would ever go off the pavement.

In the U.S., SUVs of all kinds account for over half of the vehicles sold, so automakers have found a way to make them fashionable again by going back to the future.

Aside from the continued success of brands like Jeep, Subaru and Land Rover, many companies are turning their street-smart utility vehicles back into off-roaders with new trims that improve rough road capability, or at least make it look like they do. There is even a minivan along for the ride and the new trend is coming just as more Americans are getting involved in outdoor activities, due to the coronaviruses epidemic.

Here are some of the latest SUVs aimed at active lifestyle customers. Automakers are looking to appeal to today:

The subcompact Trailblazer Activ is available in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and gets tougher styling than the other trims, plus improved ground clearance and designed for more rugged terrain than the rest of the lineup can handle.

Ford has created a new Timberline trim for the Explorer and Expedition that makes them more suitable for off-road use, with underbody protection, all-terrain tires and all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive systems tuned to be better on rough surfaces. The Expedition has a woodsy feel that lives up to the model's name, thanks to the signature dark green upholstery.

It is a mostly cosmetic upgrade that includes more aggressive front and rear styling and a slightly wider track for its all-season tires, but Honda says later versions will get functional modifications as well.

The new Alabama-built compact crossover SUV was designed to handle light off-roading in all trims, but the Meridien builds on that with additional features like all-terrain tires and rocker panel protection.

The SUV may have stolen the minivan's mojo, but the ultimate people carrier is back with a vengeance. The Sienna Woodland comes with a standard hybrid all-wheel drive system good for 35 mpg and gets the necessary increased ground clearance from 6.3 inches to a whopping 6.9 inches and redesigned front and rear fascias expected from one of these packages, along with a standard tow hitch and roof racks to bring along enough gear for the seven passengers inside.