Saturday, January 04, 2003

Question for ya

Why when the economy was in the dumps and fuel prices high do we still continue to buy huge busses (SUVs)? The "little dick" argument doesn't work, there are just as many if not more women driving SUVs than guys. So what is it with Americas obsession with this gas guzzling behemoths? I for one don't get it. They are more likely to roll (higher center of gravity), they get at least 1/2 the gas mileage of cars, they are not safer in the winter, though most of their owners think so.

I've thought long and hard about this issue and I feel I can state with confidence that unless you live in the country with a bunch of kids or you are heavy into the outdoors, you shouldn't be driving an SUV.

Give me one reason why there should be a massive Expedition commuting to the office every day. And I'm sorry the "kids" argument doesn't hold water. Their are mini-vans and lots of QUALITY wagons. Most auto makers have very nice wagons. These aren't the wood paneling monsters of yesteryear, these are sharp and fun cars. Some car enthusiasts a few years ago liked the Audi wagons better than the sedans for handling because they had a bit more weight in the back.

So lets see:

SUV = Large, Cumbersome, Fuel Inefficient

Wagon = Smaller but still roomy, agile and fun, better mileage than SUVs.

SUVs Large Fuel Inefficient (city/highway) Cost Approx. Yearly Fuel Costs (15,000 miles per year)
2003 Ford Expedition XLT Popular 4WD 4dr SUV (4.6L 8cyl 4A) Maximum Seating: 9 Automatic: 14 mpg / 18 mpg $28,617 - $37,343 $1350
2003 Ford Excursion XLT Premium 4WD 4dr SUV (6.8L 10cyl 4A) Maximum Seating: 8 Estimated: 9 mpg / 12 mpg $32,828 - $44,864 $2000
2003 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer 4WD 4dr SUV (4.6L 8cyl 5A) Maximum Seating: 7 Automatic: 14 mpg / 19 mpg $24,781 - $34,006 $1250
2003 Lincoln Navigator Premium 4WD 4dr SUV (5.4L 8cyl 4A) Maximum Seating: 8 Automatic: 11 mpg / 16 mpg $45,348 - $50,998 $1600
2003 Dodge Durango SXT 4WD 4dr SUV (4.7L 8cyl 5A) Maximum Seating: 5 Automatic: 13 mpg / 18 mpg $25,423 - $36,234 $1400
Wagons Good Sized More Fuel Efficient Cost Approx. Yearly Fuel Costs (15,000 miles per year)
2003 Subaru Forester 2.5 XS AWD 4dr Wagon w/Premium Package (2.5L 4cyl 4A) Maximum Seating: 5 Automatic: 21 mpg / 26 mpg $19,815 - $24,298 $900
2003 Volkswagen Passat Wagon GLS V6 4dr Wagon (2.8L 6cyl 5A) Maximum Seating: 5 Automatic: 19 mpg / 27 mpg $22,128 - $39,064 $1000
2003 Volvo V70 2.4T Fwd 4dr Wagon (2.4L 5cyl Turbo 5A) Maximum Seating: 5 Automatic: 21 mpg / 28 mpg $27,677 - $33,457 $1025
2003 Audi S6 Avant quattro AWD 4dr Wagon (4.2L 8cyl 5A) Maximum Seating: 5 Automatic: 15 mpg / 21 mpg $58,000 $1300
2003 Audi A6 3.0 Avant quattro AWD 4dr Wagon (3.0L 6cyl
Maximum Seating: 5 Automatic: 18 mpg / 26 mpg $38,000 $1050
My Car Small Fuel Efficient Cost Approx Yearly Fuel Costs (15,000 miles per year)
1999 Volkswagen Jetta GL 2.0L Maximum Seating: 5

Manual: 24 mpg / 31 mpg

Then: $16,700

Now: $10,500


Compiling this list was a learning experience. Wagons don't really have a lot in the way of seating, but they have more storage space than a sedan, usually 35 to 40 cu feet. SUVs by their sheer size will have more cargo room. I didn't list mini vans, though they are between the SUVs and Wagons. They have more storage and seating but their mileage isn't as good as the wagons. Of course mini-vans aren't cool. Everyone is so image conscious in the city. A CEO or doctor with a family isn't as likely to drive a mini-van. They have to look good around their peers.

I threw the Audi A6 in the mix for the hell of it. It's out of most peoples reach and is nearly as fuel inefficient as the SUVs. It's a sports car wagon. What do you expect when you put an engine as large as in those huge SUVs, with all wheel drive into a smaller lighter frame? Bet those long family trips would be wild going through Utah, Nevada or Montana, where you have long stretches of nothingness.

My car says it seats 5, but that's misleading. It seats 2 adults comfortably up front as long as you're not much taller than 6 ft. I'm 6 ft and I fit well. My buddy John is 6'4" (I think) and his knee caps would be blasted off if the passenger airbag deployed. Well maybe not, but you get the picture. Two short adults can sit relatively comfortable in the back. But I think it's best suited towards children. Three children could fit very comfortably.

Do you see my point? Even my small car is good for a pretty decent sized family. I still have 13 cu ft. of trunk space. Sure there are those, like my boss, who has 4 kids and my car wouldn't be adequate. He has a mini-van. Those who insist on having SUVs for image purposes are only polluting the air, many times faster than I in my smaller car. They are helping drive fuel prices higher and higher because they are using twice as much as everyone else.

And people wonder why I get so pissed when I get stuck behind an SUV that I can't see around. Ugh!

Here is another good argument against huge SUVs.

Car facts from Edmunds and the US Department of Energy.

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