It translates, of course, to ‘Sports Utility Vehicle’ – although you could be confused into thinking that it actually stands for a ‘Stylish Urban Vanity’ statement. After all, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of sport, or utility, in most of today’s SUV’s. Well, to see if that’s true, we took some of the newest, and most popular, SUV’s on the market and pointed the compass (the Pajero Sport has one) in the direction of the most dreaded dirt trail that we could find. Only a third of our bunch (of six) were four-wheel drive – a prerequisite for sport in an SUV I would think – so we had to choose a more manageable trail rather than the one we had originally planned, which sort of resembled the floor of the Sea of Tranquillity on the dark side of the moon (not that any one of us have hitched a NASA ride to the Lunar surface of the moon of course, so that’s a mere approximation).
Regardless of the severity of the terrain (or lack thereof), once we were off-road, it was clear that there was really only one true SUV in this bunch – and that was the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. The Toyota Fortuner would have had a fighting chance, since it’s based on the mighty Hilux, but our test car was fitted with an automatic transmission and was missing the bits to engage the center differential. The Pajero, meanwhile, ticked all the boxes – Dakar trophies in the cabinet, locking diffs, a manual gearbox, low range, serious wheel articulation, massive ground clearance, and a torquey diesel mill. I think that just about covers sport. On the utility front, it has 7 seats – the majority of which fold away so you can carry pretty much the entire contents of your home should you feel the need to take up the living habits of a Gypsy (also a great SUV by the way).
The only other vehicle in the bunch to have all-wheel drive was the Audi Q3 – and, while it’s pretty impressive for what it is, it’s never going to drive down a cliff side! But that’s not to say you can’t have the best of both worlds – luxury, sport, and utility all rolled into one. Perhaps it could be called an SUV2 – Stylish Urban Vanity Sports Utility Vehicle. The perfect contender for this prestigious – albeit cumbersome – crown would be the Range Rover. It can climb rock faces with the best of them, look like a million bucks while doing so, and make you feel like the Prince of Persia floating on a magic carpet in the process. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Well, perhaps your bank manager.
Let us know what you think about the SUVs in our feature. And don’t miss our BIC test either, which is on distinctly different terrain – from the craters on the Sea of Tranquillity to Grand Prix circuit smooth. Oh wait, it is a Grand Prix circuit – so that’s not an approximation then.