The great pretenders
Fiona Barber wonders how so many SUVS, once back-country workhorses, are now show ponies that seldom leave the suburbs.
Ever since I read Ben Elton’s Gridlock, I’ve been fascinated by car names. I’ve never found one to rival the magnificence of the model in that novel – the Global Crappee – but a few have come close.
All hail the Mitsubishi Active Urban Sandal, the Isuzu Bighorn, the Mazda Bongo Friendee and its more muscular sibling the Bongo Brawny.
Trust me, there are hours of fun to be had with glass of chardonnay and an AA magazine.
These days what really gets my motor running are the dreamy monikers ascribed to some SUVS. Ahhh, the sense of off-road freedom and promise of unbridled adventure they engender.
You can almost feel the icy mountain air as you step out of your Highlander, X-trail or Discovery. Inhale the scent of pine as you rumble through conifer plantations in your Forester, Explorer or Expedition. Taste the salt air as you toss your surfboard into the back of your Sportage, Outback or Land Cruiser. Oh, the places you’ll go…
Shame then that you live in the suburbs with streets as wide as varicose veins and more stop signs than The Devout Catholic’s Handbook. And that you seldom venture out of your patch, a congested rectangle between the school gate, New World, the orthodontist’s and the office. “But, but, but…” splutters my friend who roars around in a beast that looks as if it has just devoured my Corolla, “I tow my boat. I take it to the farm.” And it’s true; it’s a workhorse. It’s not one of the pretenders that promise man-versus-wild folly but deliver man-versus-carpark shopping trolley. You see, most SUVS these days are simply tall versions of sedans, with sporty or going-into-combat veneers.
Our resident motoring guru tells me many are two-wheel drive; some are even front-wheel drive.
They might look like the real Mccoy, but they’re as much use for the work they were originally designed for as Nana’s mobility scooter.
So what are they good for? Certainly not parking and navigating narrow streets, judging by the daily horror shows in my hood. Will you just keep to your own side of the road – you are not driving a Sherman tank!
Although, I suppose, you can fit in lots of kids, golf clubs, yoga mats, designer dogs, organic veges and I’m-so-outdoorsy-intrepid-me delusions. I just think vehicle companies just need to dream up new names that are not in danger of flouting advertising standards. I’m thinking the Lumberer, Lardo, XL Pretender, Carpark Cruiser and Congestion. And, as a nod to Gridlock, the Big