Can driving an SUV make you more aggressive?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 2008

Dear Tom and Ray:

I listen to your show a lot, and I completely agree that SUV drivers are a menace. I know, because I just bought one. I had a Saturn sedan and I was very careful and considerate. After I bought my Toyota Highlander, I realized that I drive faster, I can't see a lot of things I could see before, and last week I actually got out of my car and nearly got into a fistfight with another woman. I'm not usually a fighter; in fact, I'm a Catholic-school religion teacher at an all-boys school, and I'm really soft-spoken and patient. The only explanation I have is the SUV. It has changed me. I'm thinking about selling it, even though I only bought it in December. It's only got a four-cylinder engine, and it has front-wheel drive only, so it's not a big gas-guzzler. It's gray-green, and my neighbor started calling it "The Battleship," which is what it feels like. Should I cut my losses and get a Subaru? I want to be safe, but I also want others to be safe in my vicinity! -- Trish

TOM: Wow. So the SUV turned you into a jerk, huh, Trish?

RAY: Yeah. We're still trying to figure out what my brother's excuse is. He drives an MG.

TOM: To be honest with you, the Highlander hardly is among the worst SUVs. It's mid-size, it's based on a car platform and yours has the optional four-cylinder engine, so it's not like people can legitimately oink at you as you drive by.

RAY: However, it is quite a change from your old Saturn sedan. In the Saturn, when you got up to 60 mph, the noise and vibration probably told you that you were going plenty fast enough, thank you very much. But the Highlander is brand new. And it's very well-made. As a result, it's so quiet and smooth that even at high speeds, you don't feel personally endangered, like you did in the Saturn. And that lack of negative feedback has released your inner animal, Trish!

TOM: While I normally wouldn't put the Highlander in the category of dangerous vehicles, in your hands I guess it is. I mean, fistfight, Trish?

RAY: So, if it makes you uncomfortable, Trish, and you don't like the way you behave in it, then trade it in for something you like better. Life is too short to be known as "that jerk Trish." If you don't believe me, ask "that jerk my brother."

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