Home » As Sedans Continue To Die, Will SUVs With Trunks Rear Their Ugly Heads?

As Sedans Continue To Die, Will SUVs With Trunks Rear Their Ugly Heads?

Daft Trunk Dd Ts
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With the rise of EVs, we’ve talked before about how the word “frunk” is becoming part of our vocabulary, yet while this change is happening there’s another historic shift occurring within the automotive world.

Cars with traditional trunks are disappearing. The Chevy Malibu is the last gasoline-powered American sedan you can buy with one, and it’s going off to live with its SS454 great uncle up in the sky very soon. The shift to crossovers has relegated the traditional trunk-equipped sedan to a small minority of vehicles, and even most of those have such sharp “fastback” rooflines that it’s only a matter of time before they’ll finally end up with the hatchbacks anyone can see they desperately need.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Hot take: I think the sedan has not breathed its last.  I do, however, think that in the future it’s going to be very different, and I’m not entirely happy about where I think it might go.

Give ‘Em The Boot

It’s sort of hard to believe how long cars have had trunks. The whole idea seems to date back to cars from a hundred years ago with an added-on box stuck to the rear of the passenger compartment for luggage; car design seemed to just integrate that into the basic form of postwar cars and it just stuck.

From a logical standpoint, a two-box shape vehicle can hold so much more than a three-box, yet there are benefits to a traditional trunk which people still like. Anything you put in there is protected from prying eyes. Smelly wet golf clubs won’t spread their odor into the passenger compartment. Road noise from the rear tires is typically cut down. Your Uber driver can stuff luggage in there without giving you a chill that an open SUV hatch would.

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Back in the seventies, hatchbacks were briefly a popular thing until manufacturers released versions of the same cars with traditional trunks that just cleaned up in the sales department. General Motors famously offered hatchback-looking sedans (that weren’t hatchbacks at all) which the public soundly rejected; once they put normal-looking trunks on the back instead sales skyrocketed.

Cutlass 5 13 24
Source: GM

After launching the three-door hatchback, Honda later offered a notchback four door Accord. This thing was an instant, runaway success that dealers marked up to absurd levels; it would ultimately outsell the hatch and push it out of the lineup a decade later.

Accords 5 13 24
Source: Honda

At about the same time, Volkswagen stuck a trunk onto the back of the world-beating Golf/Rabbit and called it the Jetta. Like the Accord, it eventually put paid to the hatchback models that spawned it.

Rabbit 5 13 24
Source: Volkswagen

History doesn’t always repeat itself, but it seems to happen just when you least expect it to, and in ways you wish that it didn’t.

Trunkenstein

Car design seems to be influenced by functional advancements (like aerodynamics) as much as pure aesthetic trends (tailfins, those stupid weird shapes on “C” pillars of current cars) in a desperate effort to be “different”. Sometimes it’s a bit of both. If you look at the way pickups and crossovers are used today, as well as how they tend to appear very similar, that points to a possible odd trajectory in their future.

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First, let’s look at most pickups you see on the road today (at least in urban areas). The vast majority keep it classy by having the cargo bed totally covered. At the same time, most crossovers provide a “privacy” roll-out cover that’s almost always closed to hide the contents from passers-by.  This all points to a desire for making a more secure area for cargo in these vehicles, but it’s not like you’d make a pickup with a regular trunk in back, right? Who would even think of doing that? Brazil, apparently. Ford trucks in this South American nation were subject to some very bizarre modifications from independent contractors.

From 1979 to the late eighties, Ford of Brazil sold the F-1000; this was essentially a Fifth Generation 1967-72 American Ford F-series reborn with odd attempting-to-look-updated trim details (c0mposite headlights! grey lower cladding! black window trim!). Coachbuilder SR Veículos Especials made this already bizarre machine even stranger by converting it to the F-1000 Deserter SR XK. At first glance, the Deserter looks like an AI image created from typing in the wrong prompts, but it’s a real vehicle. That’s a car-like trunk lid stuck on the back over the short bed.

Brazil Truck 2 5 12
Source: OLK (car for sale) via Ford-Trucks.com

For whatever reason, they didn’t make one or two Deserters and then had to crush them out of shame. No, they must have found enough takers that later another outside fabricator named Tropical Cabines took a big Ford F-250 truck, chopped the tail, and added a trunk lid and taillights that appear to have been taken off of a Focus sedan. Once again, I don’t know how many Ford F-250 Tropiclassics were actually created, but the answer appears to be “a hell of a lot more than you would think”.

Brazil Truck 5 12
Source: Mercado Livre (car for sale)/Shift

Surprisingly, there were some “trunked” trucks and crossovers sold here in the US many years back, though they didn’t catch on.  The funky two-seater Suzuki X-90 featured a trunk, and earlier generations of the Subaru Legacy Outback offered a standard sedan version alongside the much more popular wagon.

Trunked Vehicles 5 13 24
Source: Suzuki, Subaru

Naturally, this was a few decades ago, and much has changed in that time; the term “crossover” didn’t even exist back then. Also, back in the nineties, people would likely find it unthinkable that anyone thirty years later would be drawn to a jacked-up sort-of-truck “coupe” with a fastback for no particular reason, yet here we are. People actually buy these:

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Fastback Coupes 5 13 24
Source: BMW, Mercedes

Why do people put these strange-looking conveyances in their driveways? My guess is that they’re trying to escape the “station wagon” feel of a typical SUV and somehow appear different. If that’s the case, will trunk-backed crossovers be next? I had to get a glimpse of just how bad this could be. Get ready for some Sport Utility Sedans, or SUS; I can’t think of a more appropriate name in this case.

Trunk In The Junk

We could certainly search for various SUVs or crossovers that might, maybe, lend themselves best to the add-a-trunk treatment. On the other hand, we could just get whatever utes I can find pictures big enough to Photoshop and proceed. Let’s absolutely do the latter.

The Nissan Rogue fits the “average crossover” wallpaper appearance norm pretty well, so it’s a good one to start with. We’ll lower the roof a bit over the tops of the doors, move the rear backlight forward, and somehow try to make this thing work. Taillights have to move down lower on what is now the trunk lid, and I’ve increased rear overhang just slightly.

Rogue Stock 5 14 24

Rogue Sedan 5 14
source: Nissan

Whoa, the Toyota Grand Highlander “sedan” looks a bit odd, but then again with that massive grille and blocky fenders, it’s not like you’re ever going to turn it into a Series III XJ6 any time soon. The extra mass of the rear cargo area on the standard Highlander sort of helps balance the heavy front end and…nah, you’d need a two-story building on the back of it to “balance” out that big face. Honestly, the grille-for-days part of this thing is far more objectionable than the roofline ever could be. Woof!

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Highlander Wagon 5 12a

Grand Highlander Sedan 5 12
source: Toyota

When I think “Buick” I always see a sedan. I know they’re trying desperately to dispel the image of a handicapped tag hanging from the mirror in a Cracker Barrel parking lot, but if there’s any brand that could use cars with trunks it seems like Buicks would be first in line to get fitted with one. Let’s try one of the little sport-utes, the Envision (full disclosure: such is my disinterest that I had to go back to the website twice to remember what these things were called).  More overhang, moved the backlight, lowered the roof. I didn’t even move the taillights:

Envision Wagon 5 14

Buick Envision Sedan 5 14
source: Buick

Here the larger (and soon to be replaced) Enclave gets the same treatment; the fender bulges work surprisingly well. I mean, it still looks ridiculous, but better than I expected, like the equivalent of a fender bender and not a near-fatal car wreck.

Enclave Sedan 5 12

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Enclave Wagon 5 12
source: Buick

Yes, I’ll stop now, but you get the idea. I actually spared you from a few that were even worse. You’re welcome.

Get The Trunk Out Ma Face

Years ago, our parents saw someone with slightly flared jeans, and then within months some of them were wearing pants that made them look like elephants. Dynasty came on around your bedtime; your mom watched it religiously and weeks later she was wearing blouses that made her look like an American football player. The quest for the “next big thing” and “being different” can take us in odd directions.

Look, I don’t like this any more than you do, but at some point buyers will hanker for a vehicle that isn’t a five-door SUV or a pickup truck. Minivans were once The Thing To Have but then over time became social albatrosses when they appeared everywhere; it’s easy to believe once-cool “outdoorsy” crossovers and SUVs will do the same thing. The escalating heights of new cars mean they can’t go back to a sedan with traffic towering above them (or so they think), so it’s possible that these odd Frankensteins could become a thing.

Prove me wrong. Please.

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Myk El
Myk El
2 days ago

It’s a weird effect that the grilles look so out of proportion when you trunkify the designs there.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
5 days ago

Ew.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
6 days ago

Lamborghini was there 40 years ago, and now the rest of the world has almost caught up to Lamborghini in tastelessness..

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamborghini_LM002

I don’t care if the LM002 really was a sedan or not, it looked like one.

Last edited 6 days ago by Jakob K's Garage
Ffoc01
Ffoc01
8 days ago

And this is how the humble Volvo C70 was brutally mutilated into the Youabian(?) Puma!

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
8 days ago

We already have “SUVs with trunks”

They’re called pickup trucks (with bed covers).

JDE
JDE
8 days ago

The Avalanches and Caddies had built in flip top bed covers, Honestly I am sure more of that will become the norm in the currently booming mini to Mid size truck markets.

Dingus
Dingus
8 days ago

I don’t know if crossovers are going anywhere. People can’t seem to get enough of them and US automakers are going all-in on them.
I’d be fine to see them die off a lot, but I’m not holding my breath.

I presume that since we’ve been on a steady trajectory of more mean, more aggressive, more butch, more big, that this will keep going. I’m not sure what the logical next step is however. I’m guessing things that look like a new Bronco will be more the norm. Chunkier tires, bigger fenders, taller, wider, just more of everything. That’s what has been going on with trucks, so I anticipate that it will be more the same for crossovers and such.

I would think at one point insurers and government would change the weight maximum for standard issue drivers licenses. Right now it is 26,000 lbs.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
8 days ago

SInce we have lighitng enthusiasts (fetishists, even!) here, can we play “where are those lights from?” That F-1000 appears to have front lighting from a MK 3 Ford Escort, and rear lights from a Chevrolet Omega. Obviously the rear lights on the other one are from a Focus.

Also, take the side-view envelope of the modern sport utility sedan proposals and superimpose them on the profile of, say, a ‘53 Chevy sedan. I suspect they’ll be awfully similar.

Last edited 8 days ago by Theotherotter
Erik McCullough
Erik McCullough
8 days ago

These didn’t look as bad as I thought they were. They look like they could exist in the world, just like a Subaru Outback sedan.

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
8 days ago

One that seemed to work out well is 2018 “The Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury“.

Dan Manwich
Dan Manwich
8 days ago

The Murano Crosscabriolet has a trunk, right? These are basically just hardtop crosscabriolets.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
8 days ago

These things make the cybertruck look…slightly less awful.

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
8 days ago

And not a single mention of the AMC Eagle? Damn that’s just rude.

Ben Chia
Ben Chia
8 days ago

God, they all look horrible.

Steve Gray
Steve Gray
9 days ago

Maybe I’ve missed something, but doesn’t Cadillac still build ICE sedans (CT4, CT5) with trunks? If so, saying “The Chevy Malibu is the last gasoline-powered American sedan you can buy with (a trunk.)” isn’t exactly correct.  

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
9 days ago
Reply to  Steve Gray

You wrote my comment for me.

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
8 days ago
Reply to  Steve Gray

Came to say this as well. Yes they do, and I have not seen any sign of them discontinuing these either.

Sivad Nayrb
Sivad Nayrb
8 days ago
Reply to  Steve Gray

“Journalism”.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
9 days ago

Yeah I think people have largely been converted by the wagon back of most crossovers today, even if they have let the traditional wagon die along with many of the sedans. Except perhaps as a weird style thing to try to be different just for the sake of difference (new Toyota Crown) I don’t see this happening so I don’t expect to see a deluge of them. Fingers crossed at least.

Last edited 9 days ago by Shooting Brake
Jared Leahy
Jared Leahy
9 days ago

I seem to recall those strange Brazilian trunked trucks arising out of some sort of legal loophole that meant a pickup truck with a trunk paid less in registration fees or taxes or something like that. How much? Apparently enough that it was still cheaper to craft a whole trunk for an SUV than it was to leave it alone.

Joke #119!
Joke #119!
9 days ago

So they just have to be high enough off the ground to be considered “not a car” and escape some regulations. But by all means, create a trunk that is useless 20% of the time (long things and/or large cube things).

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
9 days ago

Why Photoshop it? Polestar has already made this, it’s called the Polestar 4. Likewise Citroën’s hideous ë-C4 X. Also forgot about the Crown Cross as someone else mentioned.

Last edited 9 days ago by Alexander Moore
Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
9 days ago

If we go back to sedans, coupes and convertibles that are the general shape/size of a 1949-51 Ford, I won’t be upset.

But I want clean styling like those Fords, and RWD.

The downside?
Because they’re tall/upright vehicles – that means worse mileage/range.

Perhaps longer and lower will come back into fashion after all.

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