Your Lexus will likely be a farm truck. So do your Bronco, 4Runner, Suburban Z71 or G-Wagon and other off-road SUVs.
why? The feds classify things differently from you and me. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration classifies some vehicles as passenger vehicles, and others as non-off-road passenger vehicles. This makes sense because most of us don’t use a Jeep Wrangler like John Deere. But this strange federal rule has created an entire class of SUVs that aren’t actually classified as passenger vehicles — and some look weird because of that.
To be classified as an off-road vehicle, it means that the SUV (or truck) does not have to meet the same fuel economy or safety standards as a “passenger car”.
28 degrees is the magic number for off-road SUVs
Perhaps the most egregious example of taking advantage of this rule was the first generation Lexus NX. The NX is a tall, five-passenger SUV, but the 2014 version had a strange sky-pointing snout. why? Because it has improved its angle of approach, which means it can approach a steep obstacle. Like a farm truck. This snout meant the NX didn’t have to meet the same fuel economy standards as the Highlander, for example. Instead, and because of that (and other things) it has been categorized as a “non-passenger vehicle”. Not that you can’t carry five passengers in luxury in the NX. Many other manufacturers also used the same trick.
Federal rules are clear, but not easy to meet
According to NHTSA, a vehicle capable of operating off the highway, as evidenced by the fact that it:
It has four-wheel drive or
Rated at over 6000 pounds of gross vehicle weight; And
It has at least four of the following characteristics calculated when the vehicle is at empty weight, on a flat surface, with the front wheels parallel to the vehicle’s longitudinal center line, and the tires inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure –
(i) The angle of approach is not less than 28 degrees.
(2) The breaking angle is not less than 14 degrees.
(3) The angle of departure is not less than 20 degrees.
(4) Operating clearance of at least 20 cm.
(5) The front and rear axle clearance is not less than 18cm each.
The angles of approach, penetration and departure are key in this matter. That’s why your truck has such a short distance from the wheel to the fenders, it improves the angle. These corners help you clear obstructions, but they also mean your truck can pollute more than a car.
A non-passenger vehicle is a vehicle that carries more than 10 passengers. Is that true.
A non-passenger vehicle is one that carries more than 10 passengers. Is that true.
Non-passenger vehicles include those that are manufactured to carry more than 10 passengers. Is that true. In addition to those that have a cargo volume greater than the volume of passengers, such as a cargo truck. This exempts school buses, RVs and other certain fuel regulations. But it also excludes Suburban, Bronco, Land Rover Defender and other off-road SUVs.
Manufacturers love this rule. It helps them meet the federal standards for Average Corporate Fuel Economy, or CAFE, because an off-road vehicle can pollute more than just a “passenger vehicle,” such as a minivan.
It stands to reason that if you drive a John Deere tractor, you shouldn’t be subject to the same standards as a city passenger car. But it did create a loophole for making some awkward-looking off-road SUVs.
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