February 21, 2018

Too many 4x4s x Far

Philip Shoulder

Back in February it was suggested by Which? Car Magazine that 4×4 popularity had plummeted, with the downsizing of cars becoming a “Significant trend”, amid soaring fuel prices, and proposed punitive tax measures, which would force owners to ditch 4×4 luxury for 2-wheel drive economy. Well…. why are they still here then? The roads are still overflowing with these appropriately named Chelsea Tractors.

A nice little town runabout!

A nice little town runabout!

Some look like they have been built for warfare – no doubt to combat the urban jungle – whatever that’s supposed to be – the product of unintelligible marketing spiel no doubt.
Many of these 4x4s resemble an armored car. Take the Jeep Cherokee for instance.
I was following one the other day through Richmond Park, and for the life of me, could not work out why on earth anyone would want to buy something as wholly unsuitable as that for road use. The windows were like letterboxes – more suitable for patrolling the bullet-strewn streets of Bagdad than dropping the kids of at school, or taking Rover out for walkies in the local park.

How anybody could see where they were going – heaven only knows! No wonder these things come stuffed to the gills with electronic wizidry like parking sensors and rear parking cams (on selected models).The ridiculous thing is, despite the vast overall dimensions of these Chelsea tractors, many of them have no more space than a conventional estate car or people carrier. Crazy or what! Added to this their high fuel consumption, high CO2 output, high insurance, high servicing costs…. Need I continue?

I can only conclude that the only reason people buy 4x4s for urban use is because either they are so naïve and clueless to these facts, or because they know full well how stupid and expensive these cars are – and that’s precisely why they choose to drive them. I hate to admit it but the latter argument is probably more accurate. The motivations for driving an urban 4×4 are more about status and image than any practical application.

If the 4×4 fraternity insist on driving these things, perhaps they could compromise and plump for something like the Lexus SUV.The new RX 450h – although not cheap at £41,600, boasts – in addition to a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine – a pair of electric motors that boost the available power to 295bhp, meaning a 0-62mph sprint of just 7.8sec. Yet going hand-in-hand with this sports car performance is the lowest official fuel-consumption figure of any premium SUV at 44.8mpg. The best bit is – wait for it – a CO2 figure of just 148g/km. That’s roughly the same as a 1.4 litre supermini.

The greenest 4x4 in town

The greenest 4x4 in town

It also benefits from tax breaks introduced for low-polluting vehicles and hybrids , meaning
an annual road tax of just £105, rather than £215 or £405 – which is more usual for a car of this size and power. In London it’s also exempt from the congestion charge .

But let’s face it, if you are the type of person who would consider an urban 4×4 – why on earth would you want to plump for a Lexus RX, when you could be driving a Range Rover Sport?

Tool of the Sloane Ranger

Tool of the Sloane Ranger

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