4x4s and SUVs are amongst the most capable vehicles money can buy. They can go almost anywhere, do almost anything and can carry large loads of people and their luggage in the process. Yet their most amazing ability is their tendency to attract largely unfounded criticism from vast swathes of society; environmentalists, safety campaigners and cyclists being the most vocal.
We happen to think SUVs aren’t as bad as their reputations, so we’ve come up with a list of 10 reasons why it’s still OK to drive one — even in the city. Let us know whether you agree with these in the comments below.
They’re not all ‘off-roaders’
They’re also really well-suited to more mundane tasks. Many so-called off-roaders can indeed take their occupants off the beaten track, but this is not their primary purpose in life. Modern 4x4s are designed for a range of purposes: commuting, carrying kids, hooning down b-roads, towing caravans and in some cases acting as luxury limousines.
Just because their list of capabilities also includes getting up and down slippery hillocks doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact they’re also really well-suited to more mundane tasks.
They’re massive — and that’s a good thing
One in seven families have three or more dependent children. Try loading them all into a Ford Focus. It ain’t gonna happen.The average family in the UK consists of 2.3 people – a couple of adults and a child of some description. For most families of that size, an SUV might be overkill. However not all families are the same. One in 7 families have three or more dependent children. Try loading two grown-ups, three car seats, three push chairs and a a bootful of bags into a Ford Focus. It ain’t gonna happen.
Even small households have extended families and will need to carry grandparents, cousins and kids’ friends on a reasonably regular basis. When these situations arise, average-sized cars, which typically seat five, simply aren’t large enough. The next step up is a larger vehicle such as an SUV that can seat seven.
They’re well-adapted to city life
SUVs can scan the road ahead and apply the brakes automatically if they detect cyclists or pedestrians.Modern SUVs are incredibly luxurious and are often fitted with the vary latest technology. Cars like the Range Rover are equipped with multiple cameras that provide a 360-degree view of the vehicle, virtually eliminating the chances of running over anyone or anything during low-speed manoeuvres. Even the Nissan Qashqai has a similar system.
Some SUVs can also scan the road ahead and apply the brakes automatically if they detect cyclists or pedestrians that run out in front of them — even if the driver fails to spot the danger.
Not all SUVs are 4x4s
Many manufactures offer two-wheel-drive SUV variants that provide better fuel economy and lower emissions. There are 2WD versions of the Range Rover Evoque, Land Rover Freelander, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota RAV4, BMW X5 and others, so don’t judge a book by its enormous metal cover. Even those that do offer 4WD aren’t always sending power to all four wheels simultaneously. Vehicles like the Hyundai Santa Fe get about using 2WD for the most part, and will only engage all four wheels when you take them off road or they begin to lose grip.
They can be cheap to run
The Range Rover Evoque eD4 returns 56.3mpg. A Ford Focus Estate returns 55.4mpg.Not all 4x4s are gas guzzlers. SUVs tend to use the same engines as smaller cars, so they can produce similar economy levels. SUVs tend to be heavier, and the fact their engines are asked to drive four wheels instead of just two means their engines do more work, but they’re still not as thirsty as many people think. The Range Rover Evoque eD4, for example, returns 56.3mpg. A Ford Focus Estate with the new hyper-efficient 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine, returns 55.4mpg. Admittedly, there are versions of the Ford Focus that return better economy but again the point is that we shouldn’t judge cars by appearance alone.
They don’t all poison the environment
Cars aren’t automatically kinder to the environment just because they’re smaller.The heavier a vehicle is, the more effort required to get it rolling, the more fuel it uses – that much is true. But not all modern SUVs are bad for the environment. Taking the Range Rover Evoque eD4 as an example, we can expect 133 grams of CO2 per kilometre driven. A Focus Estate powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine dumps 137g/km. Again, there are versions of the Focus that have lower emissions than that particular Focus, but it’s worth keeping in mind the fact that ‘normal-looking’ cars aren’t automatically kinder to the environment because they’re smaller.
Range Rovers are cleaner than Fiat 500s
Yes, folks, a Range Rover is carbon neutral for the first few years of its life.The Range Rover is the poster child for destruction, right? Perhaps, but you’ll probably do more damage to the environment with a piddly little Fiat 500 than that monster in the picture above. It’s a little known fact that Land Rover operates a CO2 offset program, whereby the company actively compensates for the CO2 emitted during the manufacturing assembly as well as those emitted from the exhausts of its cars during the first 45,0000 miles of driving.
4X4 drivers are not (all) assholes
Some SUV drivers think they’re superior to people in smaller cars. But we all play our part on the motoring food chain. Car drivers think they’re above motorcyclists, motorcyclists think they’re above cyclists and cyclists think they’re above pedestrians. We all hate each other, so to single out the apex predator is to disregard the bitching and moaning that occurs lower in the food chain. Even if 4X4 drivers do turn their noses up at regular car drivers, they are no worse than Ford Fiesta drivers that look down on ‘annoying’ cyclists.
SUVs are not as dangerous as you think
The main cause of road traffic accidents isn’t the size of the vehicle, but the size of the brain inside the person driving it.We’ve all heard horror stories of SUVs rolling over or careering into a line of hapless children, but how likely is this? The truth is – not very. Tall vehicles such as SUVs have a higher centre of gravity than normal cars and are more likely to roll if you drive them like a fool, but the vast majority are now fitted with rollover mitigation technology to minimise the chances of this happening.
Yes, they have higher bonnets, which are more likely to cause life-threatening head and chest injuries. But so do buses. And people carriers. And vans. And lorries. To single out SUVs in this way is to ignore the fact that the main cause of road traffic accidents isn’t the size of the vehicle, but the size of the brain inside the person driving it.
All vehicles have weaknesses in extreme circumstances. Small city cars are more likely to be obliterated in head-on collisions with larger vehicles. Medium-sized cars at entry-level price points often don’t have truly advanced safety systems installed (as they often are in luxury SUVs) because such systems are expensive. No car is perfect, and to seize on one car’s failings while ignoring another’s is incredibly shortsighted.
People are entitled to own 4x4s even in the city
SUVs are perfectly ‘suitable’ for city life, provided they fulfil the requirements of the people that own them.We regularly hear arguments that suggest SUVs don’t belong in cities, and that people should drive more ‘suitable’ cars. This, we believe, is nonsense. SUVs are perfectly ‘suitable’ provided they fulfil the requirements of the people that own them. If a person needs a large vehicle that seats seven people, carries a shedload of luggage, is packed to the rafters with technology and has the added bonus of offering extra traction in inclement weather, then it’s their prerogative to buy one. Just because city folk don’t use them for off-roading doesn’t mean they’re not entitled to use them for any of the other things they’re brilliant at.