In the development of an FAW SUV, one of the goals is to achieve a state of the art drag level. In order to achieve such an aggressive target, feedback from aerodynamics has to be included in the early stage of the design decision process. The aerodynamic performance evaluation and improvement is mostly based on CFD simulation in combination with some wind tunnel testing for verification of the simulation results. As a first step in this process, a fully detailed simulation model is built. The styling surface is combined with engine room and underbody detailed geometry from a similar size existing vehicle. From a detailed analysis of the flow field potential areas for improvement are identified and five design parameters for modifying overall shape features of the upper body are derived. In a second step, a response surface method involving design of experiments and adaptive sampling techniques are applied for characterizing the effects of the design changes. The characterization is followed by an optimization step to find the best possible drag improvement from these design changes. At the same time the wind tunnel tests at the Shanghai Automotive Wind Tunnel Center with a fully detailed clay model of the vehicle confirmed the performance improvement of the simulation results.