Boxy SUVs Look So Much Better Without Tinted Windows

Image: Jeep
Truck YeahThe trucks are good!

After selling my 1995 and 1996 Jeep Cherokee Sports, I wondered to myself why I never found them as handsome as my 1991 or 1992 models. and while part of it had to do with the interior and grille, a big factor was the windows. And after thinking about it, I’ve decided that pretty much all boxy SUVs look better with clear, untinted glass.

This may seem like a fairly random take, but it’s an opinion that I’ve developed over time as I’ve paid more and more attention to small nuances of certain SUVs that make them stand out to me. One of those nuances that makes a big difference in how I perceive a design is window tint, and I’ve recently realized that, at least on most SUVs with upright profiles and large greenhouses, clear windows look better.

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Just check out the 1996 Jeep Cherokee Sport below, which I sold a few years back. This thing, in my view, would look significantly more vintage and thus, more soulful without tinted windows:

In fact, it’d look something like this:

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Yes, I know, the difference might seem subtle at first, but to me, the clear glass gives the vehicle a more airy, old-school vibe, and that’s just cool.

My perception is undoubtedly molded by some of the most beautiful SUVs of all time, on which the expanses of clear glass aren’t just footnotes in their overall aesthetic, but rather inextricable elements of it. Take the Jeep Grand Wagoneer below; perhaps more than the wood on the sides and the aggressive hood, it’s the enormous windows that gives the car true elegant presence:

Photo credit: Andrew Collins
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And while we’re on the topic of the most beautiful SUVs of all time, just check out all the beautifully clear, upright panes on this old-school Range Rover. Stunning:

Image: Land Rover via oldcarmanualproject
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Since pretty much the beginning of time, humans have used glass for artistic purposes. From gorgeous architectural marvels to elegant chandeliers and drinking vessels, there’s just something about that silica-based amorphous solid that attracts the human eye.

Obviously, there are a number of qualities that make glass so alluring, including the fact that it can be blown into extraordinary shapes. But on an SUV, I’m convinced that visible light transmission is key to its beauty, as tinting windows of an automobile is effectively the same—at least from a distance—as just removing the glass and replacing it with piano-black sheetmetal. And who wants big black squares on the sides of their cars?

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Anyway, let’s do a few more comparisons to see if I can convince you. How much more old-school safari-ish does this look:

Image: Land Rover
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Than this?:

Image: Land Rover
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What about this Jeep Wrangler (which is for sale at a dealership called Auffenberg Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram):

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Compared to this one?:

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Now let’s try it with a less traditional SUV like this tint-less Escape I saw in a parking lot the other day:

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Here’s how it would look with tinted windows:

Image credit: Ford (I’ve flipped the image)
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I think window shape plays a role in this, too. Large, squared-off glass looks better clear (in my eyes), but if there’s a more aggressive, lower-profile window, I think my stance on this softens a bit. For example, the sleek window on the back of my Golden Eagle Cherokee:

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That works well with tint, but to apply that to a Grand Wagoneer would be a major step backwards. Because on a boxy SUV with squared-off, tall windows, it’s that upright, airy look that lets the machine breath a bit. And it just works.

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About the author

David Tracy

Writer, Jalopnik. 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle, 1985 Jeep J10, 1948 Willys CJ-2A, 1995 Jeep Cherokee, 1992 Jeep Cherokee auto, 1991 Jeep Cherokee 5spd, 1976 Jeep DJ-5D, totaled 2003 Kia Rio