Of all mankind’s manifold sins – and that includes the cardinal ones – surely the foulest is hypocrisy. It’s hypocrisy that makes politicians waffle on about things like transparency and service delivery, before having a jolly good snigger and sticking their snouts back in the trough.
It’s hypocrisy that makes celebrities rant about the evils of the paparazzi, all the while wooing them like a love-sick teenager. And it’s hypocrisy that’s at work when it comes to my vehicle tastes.
Now you see, I know that SUVs – to use a rather vague term to encompass (generally) four-wheel-drive vehicles with leisure pretensions – are just wrong.
Environmentally speaking, they’re criminal. What else would you expect from something that requires a grossly disproportionate amount of materials and energy to manufacture and run?
And the very notion of a “hybrid SUV” is hilarious. Building something the size of a Panzerkampfwagen and then giving it battery and internal combustion power in the name of all that’s green, is like trying to make an orgy morally permissible by the use of condoms.
Dynamically speaking, they’re horrors. For all the electro-trickery that modern SUVs might employ, trying to override the laws of physics in something the size of a barn is a challenge that’s yet to be solved. So a large SUV, with its high centre of gravity, is neither going to brake nor corner like a road-hugging sedan half the weight. But you probably know that already.
They’re not particularly affordable. In CAR Guide, you’ll find the Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG listed at an angina-inducing R2 633 000 – and while I know that it’s an iconic vehicle, I am rather naughtily taking an extreme example to illustrate my argument, while a vastly less expensive G350 should be available in SA in early 2011.
They’re not even that wonderful to drive. Unless you’re traversing vast uncharted wastes, or at the very least emulating the adverts and launching a ski boat while your wife, children and Golden Retriever admiringly look on, or whatever image it is they use to sell these things, SUVs are nowhere near as nice in daily use as a perfectly sensible, four-door sedan.
And other people very probably won’t be staring at you in envy, but in disdain. While the commanding seating position of your SUV might allow you to lord it over the proles, the sheer bulk of the rolling shed you’re piloting also tends to obstruct their view of the rest of the traffic.
Several SUV owners and drivers appear to cultivate an unfortunate image, too. Just the other day I was left in awe at the combination of bullying and entitlement affected by the woman who nudged in front of me in a Lexus LX570. Here, I marveled, was a solo 60 kg female piloting a 2,7-ton tank. Yet far from looking ashamed at this obscene paradox, she appeared to revel in it.
But why then have I just spent a week not only testing but reveling in a Suzuki Grand Vitara 3,2 – even though it didn’t so much as muddy a tyre or otherwise utilise its laudable off-road ability? I enjoyed every aspect of the Vitara, too, from its V6 acoustics to its sensible if slightly dated cabin architecture.
And why then, when the idly curious ask what vehicle I’d choose as a daily driver, given a bottomless budget, do I invariably reply “Range Rover”? (I mean the “Big Body” as it’s colloquially known, and not the worthy Sport, which seems to be increasingly attracting an unfortunate buyer demographic.
The answer is, quite simply, the feeling of invincibility and regal serenity I get, sitting high above the rest of the traffic, knowing that, should I choose, I can conquer the most torturous terrain. And that, I’m afraid, makes me a hypocrite…