The great pre­tenders

Fiona Bar­ber won­ders how so many SUVS, once back-coun­try work­horses, are now show ponies that sel­dom leave the sub­urbs.

The Press - Your Weekend (The Press) - - Viewpoint -

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

City Shit­tee.

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