What is an SUV? | Continental Tyres

Products for Car / 4x4 / Van

A variety of SUVs lined up with Continental tyres

SUV tyres

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 vehicles to one of the most popular car categories available
  • Not all SUVs are 4WDs
  • There are different SUV tyres 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 tyres 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 tyres. 

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 tyres

Select the correct tyres for your SUV

How to choose SUV tyres

The key thing to know when selecting tyres 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 tyres 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 tyres are best suited to your vehicle here.

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

Do all SUVs have four-wheel drive?

Large SUV going off-road in nature

Not all SUVs have four-wheel drive. So what is the difference between SUV, 4WD and AWD?

Read More

Can I take my SUV off-road?

Most SUVs can go off paved roads to a certain degree, but for serious off-roading, you need four-wheel drive and tyres that can tackle any terrain.

Read More

SUV tyres

Red SUV on a city road

If you're looking for new SUV tyres, there are several things to consider to ensure safety and quality.

Read More

SUV tyre legal limits

Depending on where you are in the world, you should be aware of several SUV tyre limits.

Read More

Replacing SUV tyres

A mechanic changing SUV tyres

There are several indicators that tell you when you should replace your tyres. Even if you've never had a puncture, they could be showing wear.

Read More

How do I find out the correct SUV tyre pressure?

Person adding air to their SUV tyres

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

Read More

Find the perfect Continental tyres for your car