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A variety of SUVs lined up with Continental tires

SUV tires

What is an SUV?

Learn what really defines an SUV

SUV defined: What does SUV stand for?

  • SUV stands for sport utility vehicle
  • SUVs are generally high, spacious and versatile
  • The SUV has evolved over time, from military off-road vehicle to one of the most popular car categories available
  • Not all SUVs are 4WDs
  • There are different SUV tires for off-road and on-road purposes

Simply put, an SUV is an abbreviation for a sport utility vehicle. As the name suggests, this category of vehicle offers a whole lot of space for all your sporty and utilitarian needs.
With increased ground clearance, a high roof and often a large rear, there’s whole lot of space for passengers, luggage, pets, work tools, and towing or hauling, for those who may need it. And remember, there’s no need to be thrown off with the word ‘sport’ – in sport utility vehicle – you don’t need to be a person who’s constantly out and about on rugged outdoor adventures to use an SUV! The utility aspect on the other hand will suit most drivers as it means there’s lot of space for whatever your day-to-day activities include.
Let’s explore how the SUV has evolved over time, what different types of a sport utility vehicle are available, and most importantly, the tires you need to best suit your needs.

Willy’s Overland Jeep, a military vehicle for WWII

Willy’s Overland Jeep: one of the first SUVs

How the SUV has evolved

One of the original uses for utility trucks dates back to World War II, when an all-terrain military vehicle was required to transport soldiers. This vehicle needed to be durable, have a lot of space, and be able to handle rough and unforgiving surfaces.

The sport utility vehicle has significantly evolved since this time. Fast forward five decades to the 1990s, the vehicle became more affordable and has been a consumer’s top choice across many continents ever since.

Today, we are spoiled for choice. Drivers now have the opportunity to select a unique vehicle to match their lifestyle – from performance, electric and hybrid SUVs to crossovers. The options are plentiful! But remember: whatever car you have, it’s vital to have the right tires. 

Jeep Cherokee, a popular SUV in the 90s

The Jeep Cherokee: a classic SUV

What types of SUV are there?

Depending on where you reside in the world, you may come across a huge variety of SUVs in different sizes with varying functions. The trend towards SUVs is largely driven by the convenience of their design. They have a high roof and what feels like endless headroom, legroom and storage space. Additionally, most roof lines on SUVs don’t sweep down towards the boot of the car the way sedans and wagons do, so visibility is improved and space can be used more effectively.

While the shape and design of utility vehicles are inspired by their off-road heritage, they are not necessarily four-wheel-drives. While some utility vehicles do have four-wheel-drive – sometimes known as four-by-four, 4WD or 4×4 ­– capabilities, most tend to be all-wheel drives (AWD) and some are even two-wheel drives not suitable for off-road driving at all. Find out what defines a 4WD here. 

 A performance sports utility vehicle fitted with Continental tires

Select the correct tires for your SUV

How to choose SUV tires

The key thing to know when selecting tires is whether you’ll be using your SUV for off-road or on-road purposes. If your SUV or CUV (crossover utility vehicle) will mostly be driven on tarmac and might only go as far as hitting gravel roads, there’s a chance you can use tires similar to what sedans or wagons have – even if your car has AWD. If your car is capable of 4WD and you know you’ll be using it in off-road conditions, there are a few variables to consider – including the season and load index. Find out which SUVs are capable of going off-road here.

You can also find out which SUV tires are best suited to your vehicle here.

If you’re still unsure what tire you need, visit your local Continental tire professional. They’ll be more than happy to help you! 

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Can I take my SUV off-road?

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SUV Tires

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SUV tire legal limits

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Replacing SUV tires

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How do I find out the correct SUV tire pressure?

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Tire pressure is vital for all tires, including SUVs, but off-road tires are slightly different.

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Find the perfect Continental tires for your car