By: Andy Newbound
Have you noticed how certain drivers get a bad press? Boy racers, Sunday drivers, Caravan Towers, Audi owners, and of course, the much maligned 4x4 drivers.
Apparently, 4x4 drivers are killing the planet. They drive dangerous vehicles. They hog the roads. They’re even responsible for increased levels of child obesity. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear that the leader of North Korea invented these cars.
Yet despite all this negative PR, these vehicles still remain a very popular choice for many drivers. And not just those who live in rural areas, or cash-rich WAGS residing in wealthy boroughs of London and Cheshire.
So, what exactly makes a 4x4 the car of choice for so many drivers? To answer this question we’ve taken a close look at these all-terrain cars and what they offer.
There’s no disputing that these vehicle are safe. They’re made to be robust, tackle the most demanding environments and survive in the toughest terrains. 4x4 cars such as Nissan’s X-Trail are designed to cope with the aftermath of mud slides, rock falls, flooding and more. So a little UK rain and a touch of frost or snow hardly worries them. And for the designers and manufacturers, survival of the passengers is just as important as survival of the car.
In addition to a plethora of safety features, your average 4x4 delivers a far higher driver ride than most other vehicles. This naturally means that as an occupant, you have a much better level of visibility, so you can see more of the road than other drivers. Often, this can be like an advanced warning system; giving you a better opportunity to observe the actions of other drivers and the chance to safely adapt your own driving much earlier.
Cars like the Hyundai Sante Fe are big with a capital ‘HUGE!!’ This means there’s always plenty of space for you and a great big gang of passengers. Many 4x4s have seven seats, so they can easily accommodate large groups. There’s no squeezing people in or scrimping on leg room either; the extra space means everyone travels comfortably. So family holidays or long distance journeys with friends or colleagues are all handled with ease.
What’s more, there’s always a cavern of space in the boot for everyone’s belongings too. Plus enough room to clear your garage or junk room with just one or two trips to the local tip. There’s a reason why those stallholders with the most stock at your weekend car boot sale all drive 4x4s.
Oh yes they are! In fact, it’s something of a myth that they are all fuel-guzzling monsters, driven by marauding diesel demons set on destroying the planet. Famous 4x4s, like the iconic Range Rover, can return up to 56mpg. That’s even more economical than a popular family estate car. And many smaller 4x4 SUV vehicles use the same economical engines as smaller cars, so if you drive them frugally they can be just as kind to your pocket.
No, we haven’t taken leave of our senses. It’s not just fuel economy that compares with so-called ‘greener’ vehicles. Emissions aren’t necessarily the 4x4’s Achilles heel any more. Some produce emission levels that are even kinder to the environment than family hatchbacks and thanks to manufacturers like Range Rover (who run CO2 offset schemes) they can actually be much greener. Now, that’s a surprise isn’t it?!
We’ve touched on this earlier – vehicles like Jeep’s Renegade and Grand Cherokee are manufactured to handle pretty much whatever is thrown at them. This includes weather conditions, like severe rain, ice, snow and wind. Plus, they can cope with whatever the UK’s roads bring their way; from steep hill climbs and winding mountain passes, to pot-hole ridden roads and exposed rural dirt tracks.
Remember, when the going gets tough these vehicles get even tougher, so if you need to venture off road for work or pleasure, or find yourself parked beside a muddy sports field, you’ll want to be behind the wheel of one of these; it’s what they’re made for!
Ah, but, they’re not a city car. Right? WRONG! Your average 4x4 can comfortably handle any kind of road surface and any kind of road. They are precision engineered machines, so sharp turns and tight spaces are easy work for a 4x4.
They’re often packed with advanced technology too, which can automatically help with braking if a cyclist or pedestrian gets a little close. And multiple cameras give you the perfect 360 view; something many so called city-cars can’t match.
One regular criticism of 4x4 drivers is that they use them to pull that other much-maligned road vessel – the caravan. We can’t dispute this. But there’s a good reason so many 4x4s are used for towing; they’re strong! And that means they’re safe.
Towing anything heavy like a caravan, trailer or horse box is serious business and not just for the driver. If the vehicle loses control for just a second, it can spell disaster for whoever is on the road at the time. So it makes sense to use a car that’s big, powerful and up to the job rather than something smaller.
These 4x4s have major pulling power, with the largest able to tow up to 3,100kg. So if you see one of these big boys, like a Kia Sorento or Volvo’s XC90, connected to a caravan on the motorway or country road, breathe a sigh of relief. Everything is under control.
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