SUVs. They seem to be a topic that causes a lot of divides, arguments and pushed buttons. Something that was once the preserve of off-road enthusiasts and suburban mums has become one of the biggest and fastest-growing segments of the car market. Everyone is trying to get a hand in there, even Ferrari! There’s also the growing trend of convertible SUVs. The most successful of those has been the Range Rover Evoque Convertible, which has done a lot better than anyone ever expected it would.
Personally, SUVs don’t offend me at all. Sure, they may have been lampooned in the 90s and 00s as gas-guzzlers with a tendency to roll over during evasive manoeuvres, but things have changed a lot. Today’s SUVs are much more fuel-efficient, won’t murder you if you’re trying to avoid an elk and there’s a range of sizes and levels of performance to suit everybody! The Mercedes-AMG GLA35 is a great example of an SUV that doesn’t let practicality and sensibility compromise performance and fun factor, with its AMG-built 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, sporty suspension and brakes and sophisticated AWD system. Similar things can be said about the Ford Puma ST, with its Fiesta ST underpinnings and drivetrain and the Puma SUV’s reputation for being a great car to drive even in base model 1.0 Ecoboost form. Honestly, it’s a bit ridiculous that people would overlook something like this just because of its “SUV” designation.
Something very important to note is that a big reason why people buy SUVs is that they’re very easy to get into. This is especially important for people who have mobility issues. It’s the same reason why people jumped onto the craze for MPVs, mini-MPVs and tall small cars 15-20 years ago. The height of the seats relative to your hip and the higher stance of the car means that often you can just slide right in, barely having to bend at all. That is a blessing no end for either those who have the aforementioned mobility issues. Or, alternatively, it’s a blessing for lanky people like me who can find getting into low-slung sports cars a chore.
A lot of SUVs also tend to have really good legroom and a lot of adjustment options. Again, this makes things an absolute breeze for people like myself who have arms and legs that are probably too long to be real. The Tesla Model X takes this a step further with its falcon-wing doors which, from my own experience, by allowing you to step right in in a fully standing position make it super easy to get into the middle row of seats. That’s something no other car allows you to do.
Yes, that does mean a lot of SUVs get bought by pensioners now. Honestly, does it really matter? Just because you’re a pensioner doesn’t mean that you’re not a petrolhead!
I guess another part of the petrolhead anger is the growing numbers of these cars that incorporate some level of electrification. Honestly, that’s fine. The car industry is moving further and further towards low or zero-emission vehicles. Things change. The industry moves on and people are trying to innovate as much as possible in a world where we’re heading towards a climate disaster (or we’re in one already, if some people are to be
believed). If you’re an old-school petrolhead and you still want your V8 sports cars with manual gearboxes, they’re not going to go away any time soon. That’s if Ford and General Motors have any say about it!
Furthermore, SUVs aren’t bad looking vehicles. The Jaguar i-Pace is one of the coolest looking cars ever made, I think. Ian Callum further proved with the i-Pace what an incredible designer he is, making something that looks more like a spaceship with its flowing curves, whilst still retaining a lot of the Jaguar identity. Oh, and did I mention that
the i-Pace was raced in its own racing series supporting Formula E? That’s pretty cool, right?! The Tesla Model X isn’t a bad looker either, as is the gloriously boxy and chrome-laden current generation of the Lincoln Navigator and its smaller Aviator sibling.
As petrolheads and car lovers, we need to stop being so mean to SUVs. They have their place. Clearly, they’re making the car companies a lot of money. That allows those companies to carry on making the more specialist traditional sports cars. The vast majority of SUVs aren’t boring-looking anymore either! Like all other cars, SUVs have evolved massively and they shouldn’t be tarred with a horrible brush. To paint the SUV in exactly the same light that people viewed it with in the 90s and 00s does a disservice to how far it has evolved as a class of car.