What's with all the SUV hate?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 2004

Dear Tom and Ray:

You mentioned in a recent column that you are often critical of people who don't need SUVs or other behemoth trucks but buy them anyway. I consider you two to be reasonably intelligent, but what's with this liberal wackiness? Isn't this America, where one can drive any vehicle desired? By the way, I drive a Mitsubishi Eclipse. I can't see around those huge SUVs during the day, and at night, their headlights shine right into my eyes. And they could squash me like a bug. Still, I don't feel I have any right to dictate which vehicle someone chooses to drive. How do I know what someone else truly needs? -- Randall

TOM: This certainly IS America, Randall. That's why we're entitled to give lousy, ill-informed, misleading and generally inflammatory advice through the media, and sound absolutely certain of ourselves while doing so. It's a great American tradition!

RAY: Actually, you ask a fair question, Randall, and here's how I'd answer it: We have absolutely no power to dictate what people drive, but we do give our opinion when people ask us for it.

TOM: During the past 10 years, a lot of people have called or written to us when they've been tempted to buy an SUV. People saw SUVs as fashionable -- friends or neighbors had them. People also perceived them as safe. And, of course, if you drove one, you wouldn't have to worry about seeing over other people -- they would have to worry about seeing over you.

RAY: What a lot of people didn't seem to know about SUVs is that they're not all that safe (more rollover deaths than other types of vehicles), they drink gas, they handle badly, ride uncomfortably, are hard to park, they're a danger to other cars, and they're responsible for so many ripped inseams (from people trying to get up into them) that they've been endorsed by NHTSA ... the Northern Hemisphere Tailors and Seamstresses Association.

TOM: Having test-driven a lot of SUVs, we found that they're a lot like hula hoops: The novelty wears off pretty quickly. So, that's information we want our readers to know. In fact, the other day my brother was testing a Lexus GX470, a luxury SUV. I was test-driving a Kia Spectra, a little Korean-made shoe box. He was begging me to swap with him.

RAY: I couldn't take it anymore! All that swaying around and bumping up and down, and I was down to my last pair of unripped khakis.

TOM: Now, if people know all that and decide that they want one anyway, we have no say over it. Nor should we. We are just of the opinion that if you don't really need an SUV (and that's YOUR decision), you might not want to make all the compromises that owning one entails. We feel an obligation to share that opinion with our readers who ask.

RAY: And since this is America, those who disagree with us are welcome to use our column to line the bottom of their bird cages. Or buy Rupert Murdoch's media empire and fire us. Was that a knock at the door?

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One