From that first chariot to the most modern supercar, through the horse and cart along the way, a mode of transport has always been a status symbol. The brash stockbroker spinning into a parking lot in a Bentley is a cliche for a reason.
In recent times, one of the most popular ways of combining your need to get from A to B with your desire to show you have a bit of money in the bank has been purchasing an SUV or a 4×4. They’re large, imposing and usually come with a ton of add-ons. As well as being among the more sought-after vehicles, however, they’ve also become some of the most demonized.
It is worth asking whether those detractions still hold true in 2017. As with all well-worn criticism, it’s worth revisiting some of the keenest criticisms and seeing if the story has changed. Many of the criticisms were valid, but is the SUV still a sinner, or has it become a saint?
#1. “They’re Prone To Rolling”
As far back as the 1980s, there was a received wisdom that driving an SUV on a bendy road was putting your life in the lap of the gods. A steep turn, a sudden swerve to avoid something, and there was a real chance the vehicle would tip. Sheer dumb luck would govern whether it would stop rolling in time for the inhabitants to be saved.
In 2017? Fortunately, by the end of the last decade, changes had been made to make this worry a thing of the past. Modern SUVs and 4x4s, with better weight distribution and RidePro 4×4 suspension among other additions, are actually less likely to flip than the average car. On those occasions that they do, those inside the SUV are also more likely to survive.
#2. “They’re A Pollution Menace”
It’s an inconvenient truth for 4WD owners that – due to their larger size – their vehicles do use more fuel for the same journey than a family sedan. That’s not likely to change, either. The reputation of off road vehicles as “gas guzzlers” may feel like an attack, but it’s one based in fact. Since the first 4x4s hit the road, it’s been a hard one to argue.
In 2017? Recent studies of whether a car is environmentally sound have centered on a “dust to dust” perspective, meaning how much of a footprint it leaves from the first steps in building it to when it is scrapped. On this front, some studies found that the Jeep Cherokee is on a par with the Toyota Prius for environmental impact.
Verdict: The jury’s out.
#3. “They Encourage Dangerous Driving”
There’s no avoiding that the attraction for some SUV drivers is the feeling of power and dominance they can give you. For some time now, eyewitness reports and received wisdom in the aftermath of collisions with other vehicles and with pedestrians have suggested that 4×4 drivers have been to blame because they – often subliminally – feel like they own the road.
In 2017? This is one that is still hard to argue against. Because you’re sat higher up in a 4×4, you are in a more protected position and study after study has shown that the safer you feel in a car, the less safely you’ll drive. Sometimes that can be to your cost and, all too often, the cost of others. With great power comes great responsibility.
Verdict: Sinner. It doesn’t make you a bad driver if you own a 4×4, but you need to account for that illusion of safety.