Ah, the monsoon – clear skies, blooming flowers, walks in the rain... endless traffic jams, rivers in the roads and floating cars. Well, that turned quite quickly! But that’s what happens on our roads at even the slightest hint of a drizzle. One minute you’re enjoying the serenity of the first drops of rain, and the next you’re struggling to keep your neck above water – or at least the intake of your car. So, it’s no surprise that SUVs are growing in popularity, as the levels of trepidation are inversely proportionate to how high off the ground you are. It was quite heartening, in fact, to see Mahindra Thar’s, fitted with snorkels, driving through submerged roads following the Kerala floods – presumably to deliver emergency supplies.
Sure, SUVs are a growing global trend, but more than just using them for the school run – as they tend to be used in the West – we really do need them to brave our obstacle-ridden roads. So, in this issue, we look at some proper hardcore off-roaders to see if modern SUVs remain the terrain-conquering monsters that their predecessors once were. But, even if they’re not climbing, leaning and articulating four-by-fours, the modern crop of crossovers serve the purpose as well – what with their raised ground clearance and increased suspension travel. In that vein, we’ve also got a comparison between the facelifted Hyundai Creta and Mahindra XUV500 for those of you who intend to keep your SUVs largely on the road. At the premium end, SUVs are no less popular. As a result, Jaguar is beefing up its SUV portfolio as it plays catch up to the German luxury triumvirate of Audi, BMW and Mercedes. At one end of its SUV range sits the E-Pace, which we’ve driven for this issue, while, at the other end, we expect to see the larger and more luxurious J-Pace to be Jaguar’s future flagship – which we’ve previewed thanks to our Italian partners, Quattroruote.
Closer to home though, we need to shift the debate from which SUV to choose to what we can actually do to improve our roads. As it turns out, the Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha and is currently languishing in the Rajya Sabha. Srinivas Krishnan – better known as Srini – has an extremely infectious laugh, but he’s not laughing as he delves into this matter in his opinion piece. Be sure to check it out to see why this important piece of legislation matters to us all. As Srini points out, the number of fatalities on our roads is equivalent to a packed Airbus A380 crashing and killing everyone on board every day! Imagine that. Imagine the uproar, and resulting action, that would occur if even a single A380 crashed anywhere in the world – God forbid. But, in our case, our politicians don’t really seem concerned. They were too busy politicking, or hugging as the case may be, during the recently concluded monsoon session of parliament to even bother debating the amendment.
I shared my own experience last month, following a failed attempt at dealing with law enforcement following a crash outside my house – in which, thankfully, no one was hurt – and I’ve been grateful for all the words of support. More than that, I couldn’t believe the number of people who shared their own litany of (similar) woes – everything from cases filed against them when they were kind enough to take accident victims to hospital, to coming up against an ineffectual law enforcement mechanism when they’ve been victims themselves. Certainly not all, but much of this is addressed in the amendment that’s presently gathering dust in parliament. I’m not sure what there is to debate when we’re talking about saving lives on our roads – the deadliest in the world – but we’ll have to wait for parliament to reconvene to see if anything ever comes of it.