Har­ris

Top Gear (UK) - - COLUMNS -

The older I be­come, the less I un­der­stand the world. The older I be­come, the more I blame the Sports Util­ity Ve­hi­cle for ev­ery­thing that is wrong about mo­tor­ing in 2018.

The SUV is the least sen­si­ble, log­i­cal or help­ful so­lu­tion to per­sonal trans­porta­tion you could hope to imag­ine. It would take – sorry, has taken – a bunch of clever en­gi­neers and de­sign­ers many years to de­vise such a com­i­cally bad way of get­ting about the place. But they man­aged it. Then they needed the mar­ket­ing com­mu­nity to per­suade an en­tire gen­er­a­tion that their ter­ri­ble idea was worth buy­ing into – which has been ac­com­plished with such con­sum­mate ease that the process now ap­pears to be com­plete. We are reach­ing peak SUV.

What we are now left with is a buy­ing pub­lic that prefers cars which are heav­ier and phys­i­cally larger than they should be – against a back­drop of en­vi­ron­men­tal pres­sures to which the most ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion is to make cars lighter and smaller. Go fig­ure. I have to keep pinch­ing my­self to be­lieve it’s all hap­pen­ing. Some­times I think it’s just some big prac­ti­cal joke per­pe­trated by the world’s co­me­di­ans. You couldn’t make it up.

Ford will soon only sell SUVs and the Mus­tang in the US. There will be no op­tion to buy a clever, small, ef­fi­cient Fi­esta. Now this might pref­ace an ex­plo­sion in elec­tric ve­hi­cles, but right now it doesn’t look too smart. The bare facts are pretty dif­fi­cult for lovers of con­ven­tional cars to digest – SUVs now ac­count for 34 per cent of global car sales, and that fig­ure is set to rise.

Can you think of an­other in­dus­try that would al­low it­self to be over­come by such il­log­i­cal think­ing? Imag­ine if you walked in to buy a wash­ing ma­chine, and the per­son sell­ing it told you that this new model was less good at wash­ing clothes, used more elec­tric­ity, didn’t fit the same space as your old ma­chine, but had a load of chrome stuff on the front and the neigh­bours will think you’ve made a ton of cash. You’d tell him to have sex and travel. But that’s ex­actly what you do when you chop in that old 3-Se­ries es­tate for an X3. Je­sus, have you seen the new X3? In fact, don’t get me started on BMW. That X7 thing? Al­legedly, it’s the fall­out from one de­signer bet­ting an­other he couldn’t graft a four-foot chrome arse to the front of a truck and then per­suade the board to build it.

But peo­ple now want these ma­chines. They are a metaphor for the in­se­cu­ri­ties of our species in the year 2018 – ev­ery­one now needs to pub­licly as­sert their wealth and su­pe­ri­or­ity, and the best way to do that is sit up high, be­hind some ridicu­lous chrome mous­tache and sur­vey the land­scape. It would be funny if it weren’t so pa­thetic.

Where will it end? I don’t know – per­haps some sen­si­ble soul will ban the bloody things, but the real an­swer prob­a­bly lies in the chil­dren of to­day. Gen­er­a­tions tend to rebel against the de­ci­sions of their pre­de­ces­sors, so hope­fully just as the cur­rent crop of young­sters ig­nore Face­book as an em­bar­rass­ing folly of their par­ents, so too will they look at their vast trucks and laugh at the ab­sur­dity of it all.

That’s a long way off, though. There is still much more SUV non­sense to come, no doubt en­dorsed by celebs and the prom­ise that driv­ing a shitty barge will some­how im­prove your life. For now, I can of­fer two so­lu­tions: the first is to go and try a car be­fore you buy a truck. Go and drive the new Ford Fo­cus, or a 3-Se­ries BMW – and please ad­vise your friends to do the same. Fail­ing that, move to the coun­try least af­fected by the SUV in­fes­ta­tion – Ja­pan. The food is fan­tas­tic, too.

“Peo­ple now want SUVs. They are a metaphor for the in­se­cu­ri­ties of our species in the year 2018”

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