When you get down to the nitty gritty of it all, you’ll find that the difference lies in the platform of the vehicle. Crossovers incorporate a “unibody” build, which means that the body and frame are all one piece. A true SUV, on the other hand, had the frame and body built separately and then assembled later on.
Now, here’s where things get a little tricky – often times people will refer to unibody vehicles (which would technically be a crossover) as an SUV. For instance, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota Highlander, and Ford Explorer all utilize a unibody design…but most people still refer to those vehicles as SUV’s.
Back in the day, the term “SUV” brought up negative connotations in the minds of many, due to the large size and poor gas mileage associated with those types of vehicles. So, automakers started using the term “crossover” to describe a vehicle that was “crossing over” from the practicality of an SUV to the fuel efficiency and drivability of a car.
“SUV” is still used to describe pretty much anything with available all-wheel drive and a raiser ground clearance…so, if you’re unsure as to how to refer to a particular vehicle, going with the term “SUV” shouldn’t get you into any hot water.