It’s a quickly fading feature. And I for one am sad to see it going the way of the wing window. A tail gate window is a useful invention of the automobile world. Station wagons – which were the family haulers of choice before SUVs – had back windows that rolled down.
More SUVs and crossovers should have it.
It makes it easier to load and unload cargo. It gives you that extra bit of room for your fishing pole or extra long piece of lumber. And a rear hatch window that rolls down lends the passenger compartment a more open feel with increased air flow.
Here are six SUVs with back windows that roll down.
1. Toyota 4Runner
The perennial favorite to offer this amazing feature is the Toyota 4Runner. Many owners love their 4Runner for its character, personality and sense of adventure. Toyota 4Runners have always been usably utilitarian. The first generation was introduced way back in 1984 when Let’s Here it for the Boy by Deniece Williams and Dance Hall Days by Wang Chung were on the air waves.
It was basically a Toyota Hilux which featured a body-on-frame design and a removable camper shell so you could enjoy nature. But by the second generation, the Toyota 4Runner had morphed into a legitimate SUV sprouting two extra doors and a roll down rear hatch. But while every 4Runner since 1990 has gotten this feature, controversially it will not be making a return on the 2024 4Runner.
2. Jeep Grand Wagoneer
Disappointingly, the rear tail gate window also doesn’t roll down on the latest Jeep Grand Wagoneer. While the new model enjoys a more sedate, urban aesthetic perfect for cruising down boulevards and suburbs. The classic rig looked comparatively ferocious, ready to ramble up dirt hills. Especially when moded out on a custom suspension with a trail-ready wheel and tire package.
The original Grand Wagoneer was produced from 1962 to 1991. It was more plush than what people were used to getting from a 4×4 in its debut. It paved the way for the class of vehicle known today as the SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle). You could pick up your Grand Wagoneer with either two or four doors like the XJ Cherokees.
Not only could you get the Wagoneer with an optional V8 powerplant, but it had a tail gate window that rolled down. Today, the Grand Wagoneer makes its return as a high-end trim level and remains Jeep’s biggest offering.
3. Ford Bronco
While the Jeep Grand Wagoneer may have paved the way for SUVs, the Ford Bronco was the first automobile to be specifically called a sport-utility vehicle. Broncos are the type of automobile you get when you’re into some serious off-roading.
Now after a 25-year hiatus, I’m glad to see it back and badder than ever. Older Ford Broncos were equipped with rear-hatch windows that roll down even up to the 1996 model year.
Did you know that Ford was one of three companies commissioned to develop the World War II Jeep? With that knowledge in mind, it should come as no surprise that the latest Bronoco was designed to compete against the Jeep Wrangler.
Although the new Bronco looks purposefully more rough and tumble than a comparable Wrangler. Sadly, the rear hatch roll -down window didn’t come back this time around.
4. Chevrolet Blazer
I’m talking about the old square body K5 model. Produced from 1969 to 1994 before being replaced by the Tahoe in 1995, this was GM’s smallest full-size SUV. It was built to compete against the Ford Bronco (MotorWeek called it the other 4×4).
It was a short wheelbase truck with either rear- or four-wheel drive. Like the Toyota 4Runner the original K5 Blazers had a full removable top until the half-cab design was introduced in 1976 (this was used until 1991).
This second generation K5 spanned almost two decades with the convertible top beginning a few inches behind the driver and passenger doors and running back to the tailgate.
The convertible top incorporated the rear hatch glass and tailgate into a single unit, which allowed the glass panel to retract inside the tailgate either through manual or electric operation. Doug Demuro can show you more details.
5. Toyota Sequoia
Although the latest Sequoia is more powerful with reportedly better fuel economy. Regrettably, it loses the previous generation’s convenient power roll-down hatch window.
But you can find the second-generation Toyota Sequoia from the 2008 to 2022 model years with back windows that roll down. It’s an incredible feature for when you’re all loaded up, but you need to access your gear.
Maybe part of the reason why Toyota decided to 86 this feature is because the switch for the rear window button and tailgate key is known to break. When that happens the Sequoia’s neat little party trick no longer works leaving the rear-hatch window stuck in whatever position you left it last.
To fix, you could try twisting your key in the tailgate from the lock to the unlock positions several times. This has been known to reset the power hatch window.
6. Ford Explorer Sport Trac
Okay, so this isn’t technically an SUV. But it does derive from an SUV. A very important SUV, in fact. 75% of all new car sales are SUVs or crossovers. That’s all thanks to the Ford Explorer.
To say the first-generation Explorer had mass appeal is an understatement.
Ford knew their audience and knew just how they’d use the Explorer – it was the bestselling SUV in its segment. Based on the third gen Explorer, the Sport Trac competed against other four-door pickups like the Nissan Frontier, Dodge Dakota Quad Cab and Honda Ridgeline.
How did it differentiate itself?
The Sport Trac offered an industry-first power rear window with one touch up and down control. The ladder frame was stretched an extra 14.3-inches (16.8-inches in the second generation) from the Explorer. It was an SUT (sport utility truck).
But if I’m honest, I never understand the point of this vehicle. And apparently, neither did anyone else. Which is why Ford pulled the plug after just two short generations.
Why is the Back Windows That Roll Down a Feature That’s Disappearing?
Many reasons: While I think a back window that roll down is a convenient feature that allows for more cross ventilation without committing to a convertible design.
It’s a feature that’s fallen out of favor with many owners that have lived with roll down tailgate windows that no longer roll down. Often, these roll down tailgate windows are the source of interior leaks.
Plus, the added weight of glass makes the tailgate harder to open and close.
From an engineering perspective, roll down hatch windows are becoming increasingly more challenging to implement on account of more aggressive SUV tail gate designs.