Where Have All the 4X4’s Gone?
|Toyota FJ Cruiser|
In the last few years the trend is, taking SUV’s that used to be solid four-wheel drive trucks and turning them in to big, tall, mall running station wagons for nothing more than trying to look good. The SUV craze of about 10 years ago has given way to the crossover (CUV) craze. These new crossover vehicles are the silliest things ever made, and are generally a direct reflection of the desire people have to be both stylish and practical at the same time (which usually never works out), and the desire to drive something that feels like a car but somehow looks tougher.
To the 4WD purists such as myself this crossover craze has been nothing but offensive. All of the rugged, tough, off-roading machines that started the migration from station wagons, sedans and minivans to machines of manliness, are now evolving into a bunch of tall fat station wagons that the minivans replaced back in the 80’s. Perhaps history is only repeating itself. A fine line exists between dopey old station wagons like the Ford Country Squire and the new CUVs like the Ford Flex. This leaves few options for the outdoorsy types such as myself who actually like to dip our four-wheels drives in the mud, and bang them on a rocks a bit just for fun, all the while having the capacity to haul kids and all of their stuff with you.
|A wussified, dolled up Tahoe.|
|The original Ford Explorer|
|2011 Explorer. A Taurus station wagon |
for the new generation.
The new Dodge Durango is pretty much the same way. Used to be tough, now it’s tough to keep it from getting stuck in the mud. It’s nothing more than a fat station wagon. The new Nissan pathfinder is going to get the same treatment. Once an icon of the SUV market now reduced to nothing more than a frivolous bit of inner-city transport that really offers nothing practical to its owners. Remember the Chevy Blazer, S10 or full-size? They are no longer around and the vehicles that are the most direct descendant represent nothing that that the originals did.
|The new Dodge Durango. If you squint it almost looks like|
an old Crestwood or Polara station wagon.
|One of the tough old Nissan Pathfinders.|
Obviously the reason that so many of the classic SUVs are being wussified is that people buy them. Just because they are popular doesn’t mean that they are any good. Tobacco, and alcohol are also really popular but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily worthwhile.
A few car companies still offer manly machines that remain true to their roots. Jeep still builds the Wrangler which might be called the original SUV. The Wrangler is still an excellent option for anyone who wants to do a little rock crawling once in a while or for anyone who wants to take a dip in the mud. Some of the other offerings from Jeep such as the Grand Cherokee and Liberty are still legitimate off-roaders, at least for now. Jeep has recently taken to offering some useless crossovers such as the Compass and the Patriot, but those are separate vehicles from the traditional SUV offerings from Jeep.
|Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Trail rated and ready to go|
As we cling to the hope that vehicles like the 4Runner and the Wrangler keep it real, and keep it tough, comfort can be taken in the fact that most likely the CUV craze will fade into something else at some point. Because people are always changing their minds, it is likely that CUVs will change into something else. As long as I can have a real 4X4, the masses can do whatever they want to do to seem socially acceptable pulling in and out of the mall parking lot.