« Photo of John Lennon (And Double Appeal) | Main | Car Magazines (Completely Pointless OT) »

Tuesday, 09 October 2018

Comments

Interesting. That would never have occurred to me. Thanks, Mike.

At five foot eight inches tall and 158 pounds the charts indicate that I’m a few pounds overweight but my waist (32) means I’m in the right zone. I never realized that the fringe benefit of being in shape is the ability to enjoy any car I please. I will keep driving my Honda CRV because it’s good for hauling lots of photo gear while still being relatively fuel efficient. I fit well in Aston Martins, I just can’t afford one.....

Most of these things are called SUV's but they are not functionally a real SUV like a Jeep or a Land Rover. You have to be insane (or way too gullible) to take one far off the pavement.

You mention that they have high ground clearance but they really do not. When you are behind one at a traffic light just look at how much clearance there is between the differential hump and the pavement. Not much is the answer. No imagine a foot tall rock sticking out of the road surface.

We have come across these things miles off paved road, often in a ditch with a broken axle or other disastrous failure. They are looking at a $1,000+ tow charge not covered by insurance.

I will grant you the 'easier to get in' excuse but IMO most of these are just wannabees who have fallen victim to adverts. My real off road Truck is anything but easy to get into BTW.

I lived in Arizona for a year, the first and only time I lived anywhere where cars ruled as the primary way to get about. I distinctly remember on more than one occasion witnessing people gradually rock their way from side to side in their seats to gain the necessary momentum to get themselves up and out of their cars- the car itself left rocking in their wake as they emerged...

My "life list" includes six sports cars and four SUVs. Everything Mike wrote is true.

My wife and I currently have one of each which makes us both happy. I drive the sports car.

Related: I have a DSLR and a mirrorless.

So how does this fit with your long love of the Miata? Presumably the last time you had a Miata, which wasn't that long ago you weren't at your High School fighting weight?

That being said I am on the wrong side of the BMI line and drive an SUV but have for more than 20 years starting with the first generation of the Honda CRV and now with a slightly sportier Mazda CX-5. I look at some sedans but in a land of big pickups, even bigger SUV's where even the CRV and CX-5 look small I couldn't pull the trigger on a smaller car. I really liked the form factor and driving experience of a few of them and didn't find them all that hard to get into but looking up at the surrounding vehicles (or my other views being blocked by them) was not a comfy feeling for an every day driving experience. Now a Miata as a second car...

[I'm not very typical. I'm on the larger side (not really big, but 6'1.5" and 233 lbs.), but I like small cars. I also greatly prefer manual transmissions, to the point that driving automatics actively bugs me. My current car, which I like more now than when I bought it, is closely related to the Civic Si I mentioned in the post. It's an Acura ILX 2.4, which has the same drivetrain as an Si from that time frame (2014) but is softened and more luxurious than the Civic it's based on. It's an up-to-80% car...it drives and handles well at up to 80% of its capability. Beyond that it start to show its weaknesses. That's the opposite of a real performance car, which doesn't come into its own until you're pushing it past 80% of its capability. But of course most cars are like mine.

As for my NB Miata (a 2001 SE), I loved it, but I almost did a YouTube instructional video showing the proper technique for a too-large man to get into and out of a Miata! There were a few tricks to it. And it HAS to be a second car if you ask me. I only drove it in the Winter a couple of times, but one on of those occasions I got stuck on an icy "hill" on which the slope was barely detectable. It was pretty funny. Just couldn't get the car to move. I had to enlist a number of neighbors to help push me to the garage. --Mike]

“Ever wonder why so many people are buying SUVs and crossovers these days?”

Cup holders.
It’s all about cup holders.

I don't like SUVs but when my BMW 3 series lease is up I'm going to get a small SUV. Why? My wife has arthritis and finds them easier to get into and out of, as mentioned in the article. For us older folks comfort and ease of use is paramount.

It's not just "fat and unfit", Mike. If you have bad arthritis in your knees, or you have just had ankle or hip replacement surgery, (or ankle surgery, as my daughter just had), it's *really* hard to get in and out of a sedan, especially a small one.

When we moved from Seattle to Montana in Feb 2017, we traded our Prius for a Ford Edge. Our reasons had nothing to do with comfort but specifically with AWD, clearance over snow ruts, and cargo space.

While I love driving the Edge (we got the Sport model with the twin-turbo engine), I find it harder to get in and out of than the Prius. I'm 6'1" and my wife, at 5'2" and little change really finds it harder to get in and out of. But then the Prius never really had low seats to begin with--it's nothing like crawling in and out of my father's highly modified 76 Corvette with scorching hot straight exhaust pipes running along the sides beneath the doorsill.

But I'm also reminded how nice the higher driving position is whenever I rent a sedan on a trip.

I suffered a stroke five years ago that left the right side of my body weakened. I was only 37 years old.

I drive a Ford Crown Victoria, a large sedan that sits low to the ground. I have no difficulty getting in and out of it.

My parents have a Chevrolet Trailblazer, a midsize SUV. I am glad I don't have to drive that thing. It is really hard for me to climb into it; it sits too high off the ground.

I'll keep my sedan over a crossover or SUV any day.

I know someone who is healthy and in her 80s who has had sedans her whole life. She just bought a crossover for that very reason, now that she is older. (It is also a RAV4, which is car-based not truck-based so it is not an SUV -- by the way.)

The BMI is not an accurate assessment of body mass relative to height. It was developed in a study of men in the 40s and has shown to be inaccurate.

Acc. to Nick Trefethen, the BMI exaggerates thinness in short people and fatness in tall people.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265215.php

Example: Pro tennis player John Isner is 6' 10" tall. At 245 lbs, a BMI calculator says his BMI is 25.6, and that he is "overweight". If any of you saw John play recently at the US Open, there is NO WAY he is overweight. John, like most professional male tennis players is ripped.


I'm a 6'2/230lb 77 YO. I can get-in-and-out of any vehicle that I can go nose-over-toes. Anything from a Prius to an F150. My next car may well be a high-mileage subcompact—as Reggie Jackson once said: the only person I need to impress is me.

Even for things like food shopping, the higher floor height means not having to bend over as far getting heavy items in and out. Now, as a home owner that does a number of things around the house and yard, the CR-V is just the thing for hauling bags of mulch, soil, large power tools, Ikea furniture, etc.

When I was living in New York, the high ground clearance and AWD beat the snot out of a sedan for commuting in the snow. They aren't great play toys, but they can be exceptionally handy utilitarian vehicles.

Crossovers are just tall station wagons but uglier. The manufacturers like them because for regulatory purposes many, especially the four wheel drive versions, are classified as trucks and don't have to meet the safety, economy, and emissions regulations set for cars.

The secret to getting into a sportscar is to sit down on the seat with both feet on the ground, then put your legs into the car. Butt, then head, then feet. My car is only 45 inches tall and it's easy to get into once you stop trying to go in feet first.

Americans like things that are big, or at least *bigger*. And there's always more 'stuff' to haul. Carmakers love optioned-up 'luxury' vehicles (I'm including AWD here) because that's where the profit is. Gas is cheap. So.. Ok! Let's go! And thus 'crossovers' have half the market.
(BTW, I wonder if a RAV4 actually has more carrying space than a '49 Plymouth wagon, not that it matters)

Mike , I'm sure all the reasons you gave are accurate,-especially seat height / road visibility (partly because there are lots more 'high' cars to see over) but I think there is at least one more reason because even young families who are slim and fit are choosing them. The reason has to do with the increasing safety regulations around child and baby furniture. The stuff has gotten Huge. We had our first grand child 2 years ago. My Daughter has a BMW X3 and has been looking toward larger cars because the car seat is so large that when installed as required , rear facing in the rear passenger side seat, the front seat has to be so far forward it is almost unusable. Go away for the weekend?? you now need a portable safe crib, a stroller engineered like a Ferrari and various and sundry child specific paraphernalia--enough to fill a Mercedes Sprinter van.
Multiply that by every family with young kids, and there is a legitimate need for more space.
I am old enough to have grown up before there was such a thing as a car seat.....we did have an active safety device though, every time we made a short stop I got pinned to the front seat back by my Dad's right arm.......
Understand that I am not arguing against child safety, just pointing out how their ballooning size affects every family who buys a car.

Despite my affection for Miatas, I’ve always held onto a lingering love for the Model A Ford. Specifically the ‘31 coupe which I had in high school. I realized the other day that the 2004 Honda CRV which has replaced my 2012 Miata (don’t ask) sits very much like the Model A. The seat height and its position relatve to the steering wheel and pedals feel like a close match. The view out the windshield is at about the same elevation. All in all, it’s a doppelganger driving experience, just a lot faster and more comfortable. Who knew!

Sold my Solara and bought a RAV4 in 2015 for one primary reason: knees. At 73 then, I had difficulty getting in and out of the Solara.

Been aging out of a lot of stuff, it seems.

Speaking for ourselves only - we actually bought a used RAV4 in 2012 for the height and storage reasons. Makes a great photo safari vehicle.

Ground clearance is a big one for me. Lots of gravel and dirt roads as we alive a few miles from pavement. Winter ice and snow has to be dealt with even if you live in town.
Then, space for tripods, cameras, frames, ladder/step ladder, camping gear.
Winter specific tires on a second set of rims is important and Nokian Hakkapeliitta studded snows for me and non/studded for my wife's vehicle. Tried Blizzak, Michelin X-Ice and the Nokians win. Since at least 6 months are Winter Tire time, it makes sense. Much safer and with an all wheel/4wheel drive vehicle it is even better. Start, stop and turn so I can avoid the nutcases who can't control their vehicles.
The higher driving position makes it easier to drive defensively and avoid a lot road problems.
Then..., newer vehicles sure do ride comfortably these days.

Sitting up higher isn't all beneficial. First, it reduces sensations of speed, so every speed limit seems lower, and every drive seems slower. (If you don't understand why, just go drive a go-kart.) Every city street will feel rougher, too, because your head's additional height above the surface amplifies every dip and yaw from uneven pavement and potholes. Rollover risk is increased, of course. And all that increased frontal area and air rushing under the un-aerodynamic underside reduces your fuel economy.

For illustration, let's compare a VW GTI and a VW Tiguan, because I owned both. They're as close as a compact car and a CUV could be, with the same wheelbase, suspension and engine. The Tiguan had 300 additional pounds of AWD hardware and an automatic, while the GTI had the DSG.

The GTI always beat the Tiguan's efficiency by about 5 mpg. It had a taut but smooth ride, while the Tiguan tormented you with head toss and undamped bumps from every pebble (tip: don't order the 19-inch wheel option). And -- funny story -- coming back home from the dealer, my teen daughter, who was accustomed to the Tiguan's pace, squealed when I merged with traffic. "Dad, how fast are you going?!?" Sixty-seven, only two over the limit, but it did feel like more.

I drive the original crossover - a Subaru Outback. It's really just a buff station wagon. This choice has more to do with the fact that I have been driving Subarus of one kind or another since the mid eighties. Brand loyalty baby! Of course it helps that they are extremely dependable and stick to the road in all conditions.

Hmmm ... I'm only 160 (used to be 150) at 5'11 and like a car with legroom. I've been driving either a pickup truck or SUV for at least 25 years now, so it's not about ease of getting in/out for me. However, I will freely admit that the number one, overriding factor in the choice of the SUV I bought a year ago (and any car I might buy going forward) was seat comfort for my creaky back.

I wonder if pudgy fingers are behind the fad for full-frame cameras?

Drove some of those SUV's and didn't like them. My concession to a 75 km commute (each way) was to buy an Audi Quattro. ok, it's 18 years old, but with good tires it's a beast! BTW I travel on paved roads and haven't missed a day's work no matter what the weather. Same could be said for my previous car, a Lincoln Town Car. I think good tires and working on your driving skills gives better results than just buying a newer car.

This is only peripherally related both to your post today and to your ruminations some years ago about standing desks, since it involves not sitting or standing but, um, squatting.

I’ve been forced to consider mobility-related issues since family members and friends have begun to require extensive and expensive care because they have difficulty rising from chairs. Since my wife’s research involves (load-bearing and exercise-related) osteoporotic fractures, and my work has long centered on diarrheal diseases, I somehow morphed from bone density considerations and standing desks to squatting toilets and their relation to fitness.

Bear with me: I suppose that people who use squatting toilets (e.g., slit toilets in China, fields in much of the world) maintain their mobility longer than we here in the States do, and perhaps would be more able to slide into a car seat than we are if they had cars available to them. My daughter takes a different tack: she calls us most evenings to cajole us into doing the New York Times “seven minute workout” which might help us to get up and out of chairs a few years longer: the exercises include a “wall sit” to strengthen our quadriceps, but it might be more effective to just pretend every morning that we are visiting a gross airport toilet cubicle, where—despite the lack of any meaningful microbiological benefit—the apparently popular strategy of hovering over the seat could provide other health advantages.

[You scoff, but local scuttlebutt has it that at the Corning Museum of Glass they caution people to be careful sitting on the toilet seats without protection from disposable covers, because certain types of Asian tourists, who come through in large numbers on tour buses, refuse to sit on the toilets and instead squat over them with their feet on the toilet seat. Other guests then gets their bums, butts, derrieres etc. soiled by the dirt from the other guests' shoes. It's a problem. --Mike]

I agree with the ease of entry/exit. The midsize/small SUVs (CUVs to some) are much more comfortable to those of us with bad knees, backs, etc. Our 2016 CRV is the most comfortable vehicle we have owned.

But do not underestimate the utility for daily use. The larger flat load area makes schlepping groceries, boxes, luggage, TVs, furniture, etc. so much easier than sedans with a high liftover into an odd-shaped trunk with limited height.

And once you travel in a CRV or RAV4 with the comfort and space, getting 30-35MPG like I did last week on a LA-Phoenix round trip, you are convinced.

And a side benefit is these CUVs have great acoustics for enjoying audio entertainment.

I used to have an MGB that, as my back got bad, I could only enter if the top was down. Now I find that anything lower than a vehicle with at least seven inches of ground clearance is a problem - back and legs. I just got a Subaru Ascent to replace my Outback and am finding that I have a bit of difficulty adjusting to the additional inch or two of height when getting in and out. Based on my experience I would assume that SUV sales to us old folks are probably increasing but would guess more buyers are families that are escaping the dreaded mini-van.

[The average age of new car purchasers is rising because the average American can no longer afford the average new car.

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/28/that-shiny-new-car-is-out-of-reach-for-many-americans.html

--Mike]

I was 90% of the way to buying the new Genesis G70 when it comes out next month. I was coming off a lease of a G80. I went to the dealer and saw the new Hyundai Santa Fe. Took a test drive and changed my mind and bought it. The main reason was ingress/egress comfort. It has proven very utile and has a lot more usable storage. It is not sporty, just competent. I never once thought about wandering off paved roads and neither do most buyers. The Jeeps are made for that. I got front wheel drive and am quite happy, it has all of the nanny gear that I have come to like. So I see it as going from sports sedans, which I have always had, to a pleasant appliance. I am 72 and sporty driving in north Florida is hard to find anyway.

Unfortunately my Subaru's engine "let go" on the motorway almost a decade ago and the car became an uneconomical repair job. But for that, I think I'd still be driving it, even though it was almost old enough to come complete with a chap to carry a red flag in advance of it.

It coped with all kinds of weather, was a great weekend "let's do stuff" vehicle and It had a cunning button to lift the suspension, when needed, by3". Why a European model worked in inches I don't know, but the chap with the red flag was able to explain what that meant in mm.

As soon as you went over 50mph the raised suspension dropped. I wonder if they'd have shifted more units if it stayed up like that to look a bit more macho, or if it popped up with a click of the remote unlock like the old Citroens used to do (on ignition). To Kirk's comment, I'd like an Aston, but I'd love an old soft top DS.

For a macho van, give me one of those 70s/80s/90s GMC Vandura or Chevrolet G20s, flat top, not the high-top conversion stuff. It wouldn't necessarily need to be black with a red stripe up the side and a spoiler on the roof, and it could have some windows down the side, but with the high stance and snub nose, they look pretty dang macho to me, but it could just be nostalgia talking... I'm happy with my VW Alltrack.

Whereas in London, the taxis are tall so you can fit your top hat in..

As a 73-year-old owner of a Toyota Highlander hybrid and a Prius, I get to do this experiment every day. And, yes, it is definitely easier to get in and out of the Highlander. On the other hand, the Prius can give me mid-40's mpg in city driving, but the Highlander only 24-25 mpg. That is a substantial difference.

Here's a thought: There's bigger divide between fat and skinny people than there is between GOP and Dems, Tories and Labourists, Blacks and Whites, and so on. I don't think a skinny guy can really understand an obese one. I was a tall, lanky dude all my life and I certainly can't. I mean, on intellectual level all explanations make sense, the reasons people get fat - genetic disposition, socioeconomic conditions etc., but deep under there's this mean thought - "if only you slowed down the chow intake and sped up the walk..." And I suppose, from talking to my friends of thick bone it works the other way around. They would ask "how do you stay so thin at this age?" and when I say "I don't eat", they look at me funny, like I'm lying through my teeth, hiding some wonderful medicine that keeps me lanky...

Guilty,
Honda Odyssey,
For Me.


At 6'4" and 285 I have always had a bit of a problem with automobile seating. However that did not stop me from owning a '65 corvette. That said I had driven 4x4 vehicles for decades because of my journalism career (now retired btw). The current crop of so called suv are so over-refined I cannot imagine owning one. Recently a man tried to use a fake ID to buy a $101,000 suv. Give me an older Nissan or better yet an International Scout if you can find one.

Why are the people who drive these things terrified of cornering? They all slow down to 2 mph and slowly creep through the turn, as if they're concerned about tipping over if they go any faster. It's like watching the docking of the Queen Mary.

[Made me laugh. Alone in my car, I sometimes yell "throw it around there!!" or "be brave!!" or something along those lines. It's especially noticeable up here because the 2-lane is 55 MPH speed limit and people drive 60-65 MPH, and it takes a long time and a long distance to gently brake to that 2 MPH turn-off-the-road speed. --Mike]

Here is the sequence - VW GTI which was an absolute joy, to a VW Eos after a rental in Cyprus introduced me to top-down living/driving, to a Volvo XC-90 when the carseat and the Eos conspired against my back. I've had the XC-90 for almost 2 years, and now have 2 kids.

The floor-to-ceiling height and ingress/egress is fantastic. I'm 6'2", 195 pounds and for the first time I don't feel confined. That being said, I still dream of a Honda CRX Si (1988 vintage).

Stephan is correct about the inaccuracies of BMI. All it is is a rough cob of a tool that doesn't account for muscle, thus the uselessness for determining anything about athletic or other muscular people. It also assumes men and women have the same ratio of muscle and fat. It was never intended to be some strict determiner of obesity. NYT even had an article on that several years ago.

Since I was a kid my father, and later I had 4wds or pickups because we did need them for snow, hauling things, or real off road use. That was before they became SUVs. By the way, a 2wd pickup is about the most useless vehicle ever in snow. Better to have a van with at least a little weight over the drive wheels.

I have only once had or driven an SUV and that was was on my second recen road trip in the US. On the first I had ended up with a sporty-looking Hyundai coupé; low and very small. I was looking up at everything going past me, including the wheel hubs on the trucks, and I was terrified. In Europe trucks are smaller and a lot slower - they governed to a maximum speed of 90kph (c. 58mph). I still shudder at the memory of the drive up I95 to DC in the rain, with trucks hammering past me on both sides, and the little Hyundai shaking in the slipstream.

So on my return the following year, I hired an SUV purely because it was bigger and higher.

I've been driving a Subaru Outback for the last 15 years. I really think of it as a station wagon, but like it for the AWD, which has saved my bacon a couple of times on snowy Vermont roads. I did test drive a Forester once, but hated the way it cornered. To me "higher" means "higher center of gravity," which feels in turn like less stability. Maybe that feeling of loss-of-balance is an illusion. But, I'll stick with lower.

Most SUVs these days are crossovers even if they are body on frame designs. They have taken a lot of utility out of them and most of sport too. There was a time when a SUV was an enclosed truck. Not the case for most of them now. I was following a recent model Ford Explorer this morning. They need to scratch Explorer off it. I'm surprised it can make it over a speed bump it sits so low. It could barely get across some of the cow pastures I drive and few of the dirt roads I must traverse to get to the job sites in the forest. It would high center on rutted roads.

And Ford Escapes and similar vehicles have control arms on the rear end now. Look under one when you are sitting behind it at stop light. You'll see the lower arms. Those are just asking to hang up on a rock. If you want a SUV that has a lot of S and U, buy a crew cab, pickup and stick a camper top over the bed. Now if my bonuses come in, I'll get rid of my old Jimmy and buy a small pickup. 4X4 if I can afford it.

I bought my first SUV (4Runner) because I thought it was cool. Once I owned one, though, the thought of going back to any kind of sedan or coupe just didn’t make sense. I didn’t buy the SUV it for it’s superb “do anything” utility, nor for the ride height. But those two things proved so superior to any other vehicle I’d ever owned I’d just never consider anything else. I’ve owned 3 4Runners and am currently driving a Forester XT (hot rod and SUV) and absolutely love it.

I personally prefer an actual station wagon to today’s version, the so-called SUV (most of which are really just a more macho looking minivan). My MB E350 wagon has more cargo room than the equivalent MB SUV. It gets better gas mileage, handles and rides better, fits better in my garage with the roof box, and looks much better. We just did a 2800 mile road trip and averaged 28.3 mpg, including all our sightseeing and city driving. We regularly visit Vermont for skiing and, with proper winter tires, seem to have less trouble than all the SUVs I see in ditches along side the road.

Sadly, it's the last remaining real full-sized wagon you can buy in the US, now that Audi, BMW, Cadillac and Chrysler have all abandoned the market.

And, for the record, at 67 (next month) I have no trouble getting in and out of the Benz or my other car, a 2007 Carrera.

What a sad statement about our national physique, and ultimately about us!

See Page 3 of:

https://www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/Obesity-Update-2017.pdf

If you want some sport in your SUVs and could find one, some these would be interesting.

https://petrolicious.com/articles/11-classic-off-roaders-that-are-still-off-the-radar

Jim Grey is confusing SUVs and Cross Overs. And SUV is a truck. Never to be confused with a car. A crossover utility vehicle (CUV) is a vehicle built on a unibody car platform combinin. We already call those cars.

Is this the same reason why people are so infatuated with mirrorless cameras? I hear the rationalization of reducing weight and bulk. Maybe that Pentax 645z wouldn’t seem so big and heavy if we reduced ”weight and bulk” in other places.

But face it: the station wagon was the most useful vehicle ever devised. It died for the same reason a man feels like he’s trading in his masculinity to drive “his wife’s” minivan. I like my Ford Flex—the modern station wagon; so be it. I rented a car in Columbus a few years ago and was provided with a swoopy red Camaro. Never again. Ingress and egress was bad enough. But the reclined position I required to keep from having to open the sunroof meant I was trying to view the road through the bottoms of my trifocals. Not that I could see the road through those horizontal slits they called windows.

(BMI is the worst misuse of statistical description being used for prescription promulgated by fat doctors to make us feel guilty—I was in the “overweight” category at BMI 27 when I completed an Ironman triathlon and had 8% body fat. I’m at 29 now, and I still run 4-6 miles several times a week. Liars and statistics and all that.)

My Miata and then three Prisus later, as my old neck gets stiffer and stiffer I can barely bend it enough to slide backwards into the drivers seat.
As soon as the lease runs out, it's a Subaru Forrester for me. A pickup truck would be even better, but they're too high off the ground to park me arse into the seat.
(Pity, as my 2016 Prius gets 50-70 mpg.)
Gawd, getting old sucks (until one considers the alternative.)

This year I took delivery of a 2018 Audi SQ5, which I ordered to my specifications. It wasn't my first choice—that would have be an Audi S4 station wagon, which, sad to say, is unavailable in the USA. I did find at age 75 that getting into and out of a 2018 Audi allroad wasn't easy despite its flat seats. The SQ5's extra height helped despite the sport seat's high side bolsters. I've owned quick sports cars and sedans; the SQ5 is a delight to drive and yet, it's quiet, comfortable, fast, agile and fine for four or even five people in a pinch. By the way, I never thought of the SQ5 as a CUV or an SUV. It's a high, but short, GT. So far, so good.

Minivans are the best utility vehicles you can imagine. Unfortunately manufactures make them as ugly as possible in USA for no reason. I was looking at Sienna once; there was a choice of either beige or grey interior and console looked and felt like they used the cheapest materials they can find. Horrors. I know Europeans have a better choice in minivans, but they do not bring them over.

The easiest car I’ve had to get in and out of with the comfort and space to boot was my ‘71 Citroen Safari spaceship. I could raise that baby any height between 6” and 12” off the ground through the hydraulics and carry all my lighting and assorted gear in the back. And in a pinch, I could crank start it, too...

An “SUV” qualifies as a pickup truck under the current (CAFE) standards, and has to meet less stringent mileage standard than an automobile. I rest my case, Mike!


YB Hudson III

Mike, I'm the same age as you, 5'11" and 228 - the heaviest I've ever been. Sure, I'm not in proper shape but I've had issues with varous BMI's even when I was a lot thinner. I suspect that medical professionals, looking with alarm at the ever-growing size of most Americans, keep lowering our target weights. Mine is theoretically 165 - at which my head looks too big for my body and I don't feel good.

That being said, I have no trouble getting into most vehicles larger than hardcore sports cars. And I hate both SUVs and CUVs. If someone were to make an affordable SUV with real off-road chops and a manual transmission (I'm thinking modern Suzuki Samurai), I'd be right there. The Jeep Wrangler is hilariously expensive.

The great irony is that I own a Subaru Forester, which has done me no wrong. It's been reliable and trouble-free, and is very good in bad weather. It also doesn't pretend to be something that it's not. All very admirable things. Except that it bores me to death.

I bought it so that my wife could drive it as well (she needs an automatic). I considered trading it for another Forester with a turbo but that's not offered anymore. Neither is a manual transmission. But tons of driver assistance technology is now standard in every Subaru - meaning I'll never buy one again. They're not made for me.

The problem is, most other new cars aren't, either. This lifelong gearhead and ex-racer looks around and finds virtually every vehicle that he can afford is either boring or obnoxious. The target markets seem to be 18-year-old boy racers, terrified parents and big-truck poseurs.

I honestly have no idea what I would buy if my car were totalled tomorrow.

[Your thoughts about your Forrester mirror why I dumped my '12 RAV4 before its time: it just wasn't satisfying to drive. I *still* feel guilty, because it was a great vehicle that served me very well and did me no wrong whatsoever. It was just that I like to drive and I didn't like driving it. --Mike]

In 2011 prior to hip replacement sugery it was excruciating to enter and exit a normal height car. It took several minutes while bearing too much pain. And post surgery trips to doctor follow ups were only slightly better. Fast forward to 2018 I have a classic 1988 LandCruiser with over sized tires and lifted for a fairly tall ride. I am keeping the old girl. Fuel consumption is high but at less than 1000 miles a year it's far cheaper than payments on a $30,000 shiny new SUV. And the old LandCruiser saved me enormously during and after Hurricane Harvey 13 months ago. Almost every other car in my immediate area was totaled in the high waters. But I drove away after the water receded with the few remaining possessions I could save.

Ah, the old GTI. I had an '83, I think. Yes, good seats, and very "tossable."

SUVs are selling well on this side of the pond too. Some may buy because of the ease of getting in and out but I think it's just the latest fad. I don't get it. They are expensive and relatively thirsty. My Golf GT does 40 mpg and often near 50 on a run. That's imperial gallons though. I think they are larger than gallons in the USA. The Quashqai is the best seller over here. Some say it looks good. I say ugly.

I think those tall, truck-type vehicles are all pot ugly. I think most large sedans are also, today, not so much ugly as devoid of personality. 80s Mercedes cars looked good, but lost their charm with the advent of the rounded look and the drowsy, sloping lights. The BMW 8 Series was a stunner.

Car choice is as much emotional as practical and pocket-shaped - I guess - unless you live in a snow-cursed land or in a Spanish finca, when you need a tank for safe access. I recently lost the engine undertray of my Fiesta to a rigidly fixed steel gate-stop plate projecting up from the ground at the entrance to one such property. The gates were wide open, and I was distracted by the passenger and looked at her at the wrong moment. Had the gates been closed I'd have taken note of the stopper... Fortunately, the engine was untouched but the tray screamed its protest along the road the four miles to the Ford dealership.

Mike's response about the Cornell Museum of Glass to brian's medically-related off-off-topic comment triggered a memory of a Finger Lakes connection.
My late father had or borrowed a copy of 'The Bathroom: criteria for design', by Alexander Kira, Cornell, 1966. Highly relevant research into a fundamental question of ergonomics, as I recollect.
At home, my solution to the toilet/dodgy knees problem is to use a child's toilet stool to get my knees higher, and put it aside to stand up.

Despite the tummy, in my recent search for an automotive upgrade I refused to go the "brick" route; I want a car, not an air dam. Being European, I also wanted to get a bit greener - plug-in hybrid seemed the way to go but the choice was, indeed, very small. I ended up with a nearly new BMW 530e - delighted so far except for the tiny trunk because of batteries.

As we electrify I fear that the mid-sized sedan will become a thing of the past: it is easy to add lots of expensive batteries to a huge SUV, tougher with a compact sedan, both financially and space-wise.

I turn 65 in December. I've had both knees replaced, and the hips are beginning to behave like they need similar attention as well.

I drive a 2012 Prius, and I perform the following maneuvers when I get in and out. I will sit down in the car with my feet outside the door, then swivel 90 degrees to get my feet and legs in. To get out, I do the reverse. The door is narrow enough that if I have to push to stand up, I can. I intend to keep the Prius for as long as possible, as it's fully paid off, and not having a car note is a wonderful thing. That, and in spite of having over 95,000 miles on the vehicle, it still gets about 55mpg, mostly on the highway, and at reasonable speeds (i.e. 55-65mph).

I went through an SUV phase in the early 2000s, and left it when I bought my first Prius in 2009. After driving that SUV during the gas price shocks of 2008 I don't want to get another.

I use the bed in my 1990 Toyota pick-up at least 4 days a week, and the 4WD every time I leave the house. I live 8 miles out of town, on a steep unimproved dirt road, on Van Isle, BC. Just goes to show that everybody isn't the same.

LOVE my 2008 Toyota Sienna. We are a family of 4, with 2 kids, and this van has taken us on innumerable road trips, camping excursions, home remodeling hauls, crosstown moves, birthday parties and more. On a recent trip to Home Depot, I purchased a 12’ long handrail and it fit in the van along with all 4 of us, cans of paint, and other items for our remodel project - and all the doors were closed!

Don’t give a fig for how “macho” it is in other people’s eyes. All I know is for ten years it has done everything I’ve asked of it, been next to no trouble, has nearly 180,000 miles on it, and runs like a champ! It is the perfect vehicle in my eyes.

Strange...nobody mentioned the legendary Mitsubishi Pajero. Don't they sell at all in the US? Or is it a bit too small for Americans?
It ushered in the SUV craze in India; today, one can see just about all the vehicles mentioned above and even some that aren't, such as the Porsche Cayenne.

We do love our cars. We spend so much time in them that they become an extension of our home…but with the option to roam. I think the seat height issue is just a side effect of the American desire for a big broad car to drive across a big broad country. A big car is comfort. A big car is luxury. A big car has room for all our stuff. I think many people were never thrilled with the trend toward smaller and smaller cars made of plastic and aluminum. Big is a better fit, in many ways. Those who like the smaller roadsters and motorcycles are always in the minority but these are the only vehicles that let you stay in touch with the road and be a part of the world you’re traveling through.

Speaking of big country, I hitched a ride from a Brit many years ago just north of Flagstaff and he was astonished at the landscape and the fact that there were no people in it. He was commuting between Flag and the Canyon because he could not get a room at the Canyon.

I went out and measured my seat heights and the "compact" 1st Gen Tacoma PreRunner and Suzuki VStrom (The pickup truck of motorcycles) both have a 31 inch seat height. I guess I know what I like. I never really thought about it before. I do like sitting up higher. I don’t know that I could ever go back to sitting on the ground, especially in traffic.

Sharing more than just a name, I couldn't agree more with Rob L:

"I still want a truck, but my Toyota Sienna [minivan] is the best car I've had. Reliable, tough, carries all my stuff—even better, I don't have to unload everything after a camp out, or deal with covering stuff, etc. The only vehicle that would truly give me an advantage over my van is a full-length Suburban, in that it would have 4WD and ground clearance and about the same room, but at twice the price and half the MPG."

My dream "car" since I was a kid wasn't something small and fast. It was a Chevy Suburban. Growing up, all my Boy Scout leaders had Suburbans and they were so darn practical it amazed me. (A full size pickup truck with a cap on the back would be a good second choice if needed.)

A Honda Odyssey is the vehicle that does our heavy lifting for the family. I wish it had AWD or 4WD (something Honda has resisted but Toyota has embraced) but other than that, I have zero complaints. I may be a suburban stereotype, but I'm darn comfortable and rarely find the setup lacking.

When it came to replace our second car (an aging Sonata that had done very well in its 160,000 mile life) I tried to convince my wife that we needed a second minivan but alas cost was a factor, so we settled on (no surprise) a crossover: Honda CR-V. A good amount of room, able to haul camping gear and Boy Scouts (now that my son is a scout) and yes, even occasionally go off-road. :) I might get that Suburban (or equivalent) someday, but for now practical beats all others.

The inclination in North America toward bigger and bigger vehicles is unfortunate. Especially in older cities with relatively narrow streets (like mine). My pet theory is that it's simply an arms race. Vehicles keep getting bigger because drivers in smaller vehicles get nervous looking up at all the absurd SUVs, crossovers and pickup trucks.

Your theory about crossovers being easier to get in and out of brought to mind childhood trips to church once my father got his first of two Suburbans. My mother grumbled about trying to get in while wearing a skirt (dad would not abide running boards). A few years later, I drove my date and three other couples to prom in a Suburban. My mother insisted that I take a step stool with me, which the girls welcomed as a thoughtful accommodation.

6’5 and 270 (1.97 and 123kg) I had no trouble getting in or out of my Toyota Aygo, which is the size of a Chevrolet Spark. Now We have a Nissan Note. A bit bigger car and a bit more spacious.

Curious. Whatever happened to the Mercedes you bought in 2009? It didn't stay around long.

[I had it for three years, during which it lost a whopping $9,000 of value. What soured me not just on that car, but on the brand, was a plastic part that couldn't have cost more than $1.80 to make. It broke, and the Mercedes dealer wanted something like $535 to replace it!!! It was as if the dealer was saying, "we'll charge you a fair price for the part, and then take an extra $500 from you just because you have no other option." I rationalized that there are some people for whom $500 is an incidental expense and insignificant, but that I was unlikely to ever be one of them. It was a vivid reality check.

It's weird, but M-B really does project "I'm wealthy." The weirdest thing that happened to me along those lines: I paid $24k for the car in 2009 (it was a 2003 I think), about average for what a new Honda Accord was going for at the time. A friend, when she saw my car, exclaimed, "A MERCEDES! Wow! Fancy! I could never afford one of those." And she herself was driving a brand-new $44k SUV!

But I'm glad I had the experience. I enjoyed driving the M-B for a while and it cured me of any further desire to own one. --Mike]

I won’t argue with you, but I did buy my first SUV for the presumed reasons. I needed the AWD because I frequently traveled to Toronto and other parts of Southern Ontario. For one, if I wanted to go see my children in Toronto or Stratford in the winter, then dammit I wanted to be able to GO. And I ended up working in Windsor for 10 months, travelling back to Rochester every 3-4 weeks. In fact, the first thing I did in Autumn after I got the CR-V was buy Nokian winter tires (tyres in Brit-speak) and I quickly learned what a difference they make. It made the QEW and 401 (especially the stretch between Woodstock and London) much safer.

And hauling gear? Yes. We used to tent camp more frequently and my significant other believed in “no place like home ... so let’s take enough to fill it the SUV and feel at home!” Or, on solo trips, a bit of luggage, two camera bags, tripod, film and cooler fit quite nicely in the cargo area without cramming.

Now ... yeah, it’s easier to get into, it IS the right height for visibility without being a jacked-up F-150.

When it came time for a new vehicle there was no question of what I would get. And the newer model got better mileage.

Interesting note about facility of access to SUVs. But why are women now the majority drivers of SUVs (at least in Northern Virginia)? And the faster they drive.

The comments to this entry are closed.