Some SUVs are almost as low to the ground as a sedan. However, others may require a step ladder to get in the door. Either vehicle, though, is likely to have a center of gravity higher than a car.
The high seating position of an SUV and high ground clearance take its center of gravity further above the road than a car.
It means that taller vehicles tend to be top-heavy and can turn over more quickly than vehicles that ride closer to the road.
We’ve also looked at how much SUVs weigh across classes.
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Do SUVs have a high or low center of gravity?
SUVs are taller and have a higher center of gravity than sedans, vans, and sports cars. Because they are high, it is easier for an SUV to roll over if struck by another vehicle or when navigating a curve too fast. When a lift kit is added, SUVs becomes even more top-heavy.
How does an SUV’s center of gravity compare to other vehicles?
Other vehicles have a high center of gravity, including pickup trucks and vans, specially customized vans with high-top roofs.
There was a time when SUVs had handling and performance more like bulldozers than trucks or cars, but that time has come to an end.
Today’s SUVs range from small vehicles, like the Mazda CX-5, Kia Soul, or Nissan Rogue. The extra-large Ford Expedition MAX-type SUVs over 18 feet long are at the other end of the size range.
We have more here on whether SUVs roll over more easily.
Vehicle ride heights and weights affect their center of gravity.
Sports cars can be a scant 4 to 5 inches from the road. However, the ground clearance of an SUV can be as high as 10 inches without modifications. Adding a two-inch lift puts you a foot from the ground and raises the center of gravity at the same time.
Vans and mini-vans also have a lower center of gravity than an SUV.
Even though vans and mini-vans may be tall, their frame is lower to the ground than an SUV. As a result, vans have ground clearance that is more like a car than an SUV.
Meanwhile, although they typically ride high, there are some SUVs with low ground clearance.
Do taller or wider SUVs have a lower center of gravity?
Low and wide vehicles are more stable than tall and narrow ones. However, even though it’s wide, it is still an SUV, which tends to be top-heavy.
Even the smallest SUVs do not have a center of gravity lower than comparable cars.
They can also be lifted, just like their larger stable mates, which changes the center of gravity.
Many SUV owners of Jeeps, and other highly off-roadable vehicles, offset the wheels a few inches outward of the hub to give the SUV a more substantive footprint.
This action limits your access to narrow trails.
However, it lowers your center of gravity and can make the vehicle less tippy.
Does an SUV’s weight affect the center of gravity?
The location of an SUV’s weight is what affects the center of gravity of an SUV. The center of gravity is called the ‘center of mass’.
This means that it is where the total weight of a vehicle is concentrated.
The higher it is, the less sure-footed a car will be, especially at higher speeds.
Is a higher or lower center of gravity better?
Whether your vehicle has a high or low center of gravity affects how and where you can drive it.
For example, if you want to blaze the twisties of a nearby mountain pass, you want a low center of gravity.
If you intend to take your vehicle from the beaten path down the side of that mountain, you need ground clearance.
And ground clearance means a higher center of gravity.
Sports cars and sedans have a center of gravity much lower than a pickup truck, van, or SUV.
As a result, they have lower ground clearance, which is the height of the bottom of your car to the road.
A vehicle’s ground clearance will allow it to forge creeks, climb over curbs and rocks, and hug a race track at over 200 miles per hour.
What SUVs have the lowest center of gravity?
The Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe have the lowest ground clearance, which translates to a lower center of gravity.
Part of the reason newer SUV designs are lower than former models is how they are constructed.
Why is the center of gravity lower on today’s SUVs?
Back in the 1950s, the first SUVs were built using body-on-frame construction.
Several SUVs, such as the GMC Yukon, Chevy Suburban, and Toyota 4-Runner, still use body-on-frame structures.
That was the only method used to make Utes for many years.
Often called a ladder frame, the foundations of trucks use two long metal rails joined by cross sections of metal. This is an excellent design for durability.
However, with solid axles in the front and back, the ride was as stiff as a two-horse buggy.
Modern versions of body-on-frame construction have the advantage of lighter materials than in the past. Also, adding such features as air suspension systems overcame the limitations of SUVs of the past.
Early SUV models rode harshly, were a handful to drive, and were, and many still are, beasts. Take them off the road, though, and the next day feels like you were in a wrestling match and lost.
Modern SUV features
Not today, though, as many of today’s SUVs have designs based on automobile uni-body foundations that have been beefed up, given extra ground clearance, all-wheel drive, and the attributes of a Swiss army knife when off-road and on.
Gone are the stiff, heavy, limited straight rails of a body-on-frame SUV. Although a few body-on-frame SUVs still exist and offer superior cargo and towing ability. The newest models of these older styles handle and perform better than earlier models due to advancements in engineering.
Every corner gets shocks, struts, and stabilizers when using a uni-body frame for SUVs.
Independent suspension and air ride systems allow SUVs to handle and perform as well as comparable sedans.
However, SUVs are still taller than cars, are top-heavy, and need to be driven with more care around curves. Windy conditions may also affect an SUV’s behavior more than sedans, coupes, and other vehicles that travel closer to the road.
Does adjustable ride height affect an SUV’s center of gravity?
You can have an adjustable air ride system added to most vehicles. In some newer SUVs, ride-assist is a standard feature and an option in others.
SUVs with adjustable ride heights include the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Audi Q7, and Land Rover Discovery, as well as others that share this feature.
At the push of a button, your vehicle can raise or lower, which increases or decreases your SUV’s center of gravity.
Adjustable height suspension will change the center of gravity of your SUV and make it higher or lower, depending on the position.
This great feature will give your vehicle much more versatility than other SUVs.
Raising and lowering your SUV allows you to reduce its height for highway use and increase it when the snow and puddles get deep. This feature also allows easier entry and exit of your vehicle.
How will you use your SUV?
A vehicle high enough from the ground to be helpful in snowy and rainy conditions is handy.
However, the tall stance of an SUV when traveling at highway speeds can make it a handful in good or bad weather.
SUVs also have greater passenger and cargo space than comparable sedans.
However, they are more expensive to operate and maintain.
Unless you have the daily need for an SUV, a sedan is a more economical purchase that will offer a superior ride and handling.