Posts Tagged SUVs

All Wheel Drive and Cup-Holders

The popularity of the SUV fascinates me.  The size of the average family is smaller today than at any other time in American history.  Yet, our houses and our cars are bigger.  A family with two kids barely needs a small hatchback, but a great many of them are driving around in massive SUVs that seat 5 or 7 adults, with enough storage space for a small army.  A great many single persons I know drive SUVs.  Many couples with grown children or no children have SUVs.  They are more popular than simple reason would suggest.

Modern SUVs are very versatile passenger cars.  They can tear down the freeway at 85 miles an hour, then turn and go off road and then back onto the freeway, all the while cradling its passengers in leather seated comfort.  Over the last decade, I’ve driven a variety of SUVs, mostly company cars and a rental or two, ranging from a basic GMC SUV manufactured in the late 90s to a brand new top of the line Nissan Murano, a Mercedes G-class SUV (which I referred to as the “Invade Poland on the weekend” car) and a Land Rover that felt like it was going to tip over every time you turned a corner.

Although some SUVs are two wheel drive, most have four wheel or all wheel drive, which makes sense in locales that have snowy winters.  But in the South and Southwest, which receive occasional snow storms?  Not so much.  Even in snowy winter cities, SUVs only make sense a limited number of days per year.  And yet, look around you at a stoplight.  Something more than simple safety and practicality is at work.

SUVs evolved from the army Jeep but the average SUV is far removed from its vehicular ancestor.  Modern suspension and steering alone so far exceed the original as to render it little better than a cart pulled by a mule.  The interior of even a low-end SUV is far more comfortable and equipped than people driving those army jeeps could have ever imagined.  A small SUV – for example Nissan’s Juke or Volkswagen’s Tiguan – comes with an array of features and creature comforts that used to be associated with extremely high-end luxury  models.  Salespersons report that its not uncommon for buyers to step into a vehicle and check first for the cupholders before looking for anything else.

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