I recently helped a family buy a new Lexus RX450h – the brand’s premium SUV offering. What was interesting in the build up to the purchase was the debate between husband and wife who deliberated (for quite some time, I might add) between a more environmentally-friendly estate and a trendy SUV. Make no mistake, both styles of vehicle have their advantages and disadvantages which this blog will discuss in the next couple of paragraphs.
Let’s start with the estate. Riding in the back of the family Volvo may conjure up memories of endless hours of boredom, but the reality is that this style of vehicle was chosen because it was so darn practical. Not only could you chuck everything in the boot with the greatest of ease but you could, with the help of overly restless kids, access most everything packed while en route. Need that extra pack of batteries for your soon-to-be-dead Walkman? No worries – just reach into the open boot behind the back seats and you’ll find them in the Fred Perry w/e sports bag. Meanwhile, the handling characteristics of an estate were only minorly affected in comparison to their equivalent saloon offering. This allowed the more spirited driver to justify the purchase and in effect offset the stigma of the potentially less sexy estate. Fast forward to today and the performance credentials of higher-spec’d estates are mind-blowing while giving up none of the original practicality. The Germans and their Tourings and Avants have models that can keep up with supercars typically associated with modern-day £200k/week salaried footballers.
Now let’s discuss the SUV. Its origins date to the US Army-issued General Purpose vehicles (aka G-P, hence Jeep) of WWII while shortly thereafter English farmers welcomed the robustness of the Jeep-inspired Land Rover. But you really needn’t look any further than to the US for the proliferation of the SUV here in the UK. US manufactures in the late 80’s were more than happy to throw these new-styled urban tanks at buyers while charging more than traditional estates, courtesy of extra materials used in the manufacturing. Add in a healthy dose of sport/rapper celebrity endorsement and voila, SUV’s became the ubiquitous vehicle for the more style-conscious amongst us. Narrow roads a challenge? Certainly not! That VW Polo will definitely get out of MY way! Who needs better handling when you’ve got the stereo blaring Li’l Mix with all the kids singing along in this veritable birthday party on wheels?
But which of the two is… better?? The simple truth is that you can’t really compare them side by side – they’re just too different. The SUV’s are typically much bigger in size and as such offer more interior cabin space for those families that need it. For families who are more concerned with the environmental impacts of the oft diesel-powered SUV’s, the lighter and better handling estate would certainly reign supreme in the decision process.
All this to say, one isn’t better than the other. But choose sensibly and try not to be swayed by trends. The family that recently purchased the hybrid-powered Lexus are delighted because it checks a lot of boxes. This model should be at the top of any family’s short list.
As always, keep calm and drive on.