SAV vs SUV: What Is An SAV?

Most people are familiar with the term “SUV”. It stands for Sport Utility Vehicle, and these large vehicles are popular for their combination of passenger space and off-road capabilities. But what about SAVs?

In this article, we’re going to look at what is an SAV, as well as compare the two, SAV vs SUV.

What does SAV mean?

SAV stands for Sport Activity Vehicle and is a term used exclusively by BMW.

Unlike normal SUVs, BMW says a Sports Activity Vehicle is focused on overall power, space, and towing capacity.

It is a combination of BMW’s sports car engines embedded into a vehicle that has interior space and offroad features like a truck.

SAV vs SUV BMW X7 M50i

Which BMWs are SAVs?

All of the X-series BMWs are considered SAVs.

There are 10 different models to choose from here, all in different sizes and specs to suit the needs of all kinds of BMW drivers. These models include:

  • BMW X1
  • BMW X2
  • BMW X3
  • BMW X4
  • BMW X5
  • BMW X6
  • BMW X7
  • BMW iX3
  • BMW iX
  • BMW iX M60

Another model is being added to the list in 2022, the BMW XM, the flagship SAV that also forms part of the M-division heritage line-up.

This will make it the first SUV/SAV to be part of the anniversary models that BMW created with the first M-vehicle, the BMW M 3.0 CSL that drove in the 1972 Nurburgring Six Hour endurance race.

What does SUV mean?

SUV stands for Sports Utility Vehicle, it is the ultimate combination of passenger car comforts combined with the abilities of an offroad vehicle.

There are many subcategories of SUVs that range from CUVs all the way to extended-length SUVs, but SUV is the broad category that all of these vehicles fall into.

SAV vs SUV: What’s the difference?

When it comes to differentiating between an SAV and an SUV, there is very little that differentiates them on the outside, apart from the BMW badge of course.

SAV is a proprietary term used by BMW to market their SUVs in a more sporty fashion than their competitors.

BMW even goes as far as to market SAVs as SUVs with sports car engines.

“Simply put, an SUV is defined as a sport utility vehicle and has more characteristics that combine both features of a truck and a car. 

Some SUVs adopt more features of a truck versus a car while others take on more characteristics of a car than a pickup truck.

By contrast, a sports activity vehicle sports many of the features you know and love within the SUV, but offers a more sporty stance.”

BMW of Columbia

For many SUVs, this is a distinction that is true, most SUVs are built on the platform of a truck or for the smaller SUVs, a hatchback.

But this isn’t true for all SUVs, as many other car manufacturers also put sportscar and even supercar engines into their SUVs.

Additionally, they also tune the 4WD system and suspension for improved on-road performance providing a similar sporty stance to that of an SAV.

Other brands usually then refer to these SUVs as “track-focused SUVs” or “sporty SUVs”.

Some examples of these are the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk with 707hp (527 kW) or one of BMWs direct competitors, the Audi RS Q8 with 591 hp (441 kW).

Compare that to the most powerful BMW SAV, the iX M60 with 619 hp (455 kW).

Another marketing angle used by BMW for the SAV is that it provides an increased towing capacity and optional racks for storage of bikes, canoes, etc. This however is something that basically all SUVs also have an advantage in over regular road-going vehicles.

So, the real difference mostly comes in the form of marketing and not actually something that is physically produced and will be experienced on the road (or off of it).

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does only BMW have SAVs?

The term SAV for passenger vehicles (and toy replicas) is a proprietary term owned by BMW. This means no other car manufacturer can use this term on their SUV lineup (or any other passenger vehicle lineup).

For BMW, this helps them differentiate their vehicles from the competition and helps place a premium emphasis on their entire lineup of SUVs.

Even if the competition may have a better vehicle, they won’t be able to label their vehicle as a Sports Activity Vehicle, which could influence the buying decision of consumers.

What is the smallest BMW SAV?

The BMW X1 is the smallest SAV available to purchase.

The BMW X2 is actually smaller than the X1, however, BMW classifies this vehicle as a SAC (Sports Activity Coupé).

What is a BMW SAC?

SAC stands for “Sports Activity Coupé” and this is what BMWs their more sporty SUV lineup as.

These vehicles feature more prominently a lower coupé roofline, modern design, and a more sporty seat position.

What does SAV mean for Tesla?

SAV in the context of Tesla means “Shared Autonomous Vehicle”. This is a proposition of Tesla’s Elon Musk that Teslas that are not being used by their owners can be used as a robotaxi for the community.

This is the only other automotive-related SAV acronym so far.

Final thoughts on the SAV

The BMW SAVs (and SACs) are mostly just a marketing play at differentiating their lineup from a very congested competition.

These vehicles perform similarly to their Crossover and sport SUV competitors without really offering anything unique that can only be had from BMW (apart from the badge and label SAV of course).

At the end of the day, BMW produces some great SUVs, like many other car manufacturers, so if in the market for a new vehicle, don’t let fancy marketing jargon affect your purchase.

Find a vehicle that fits your needs best.


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Article by

Jaco Schrader

Jaco is the automotive heart of our platform. Born and raised in Namibia, he began his journey in the automobile sector in 2012. Launching his own automotive repair business in Africa and fitting a Toyota 1UZ-FE V8 in a Ford Sierra, Jaco brings over six years of hands-on automotive experience. He’s a self-taught expert in various mechanical and electrical aspects of vehicles.

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