In this blog we will be exploring the popularity of “4×4”’s or as they are more popularly known now “SUV’s”. This type of vehicle has come so far in so many ways and in such a short period of time it really is amazing. Think about the level of economy and performance you would expect from a car of this type only ten years ago. For some reason the car that springs into my mind is the Jeep Cherokee. 15MPG, zero performance and fell apart after 50,000 miles! They still appeal to me though I must stress that. If you can put up with the fuel consumption they are great value now if you want a cheap family bus.
Look at the modern family and it is easy to see why we love these cars. The parents like the safe feel of the elevated driving position, the refinement, the space and for the really little ones this is so critical. The amount of possessions you need everywhere you go to have a child under 5 is quite unbelievable. Later comes ferrying around them and their friends, cricket bags, weekends away, drum kits etc etc etc. I have no doubt 80% of you are nodding and thinking of at least one family member. As kids me and my brother went through hobbies like wildfire! Each one had its rigmarole of necessary bits and bobs that all had to be carted from A to B and back again. Obviously, the safety factor of the all-wheel drive is a huge motivation and so it should be. Be honest, you love seeing a beached Mercedes in the snow. I do. I laugh aloud every time guaranteed. Until its me, then the people laughing are vile and rude. Modern system’s like BMW’s X-Drive give drivers their cake and eat it. Winter capability and 40MPG with a 0-60 that would embarrass more “quick” cars than we would like to admit. I know its extreme, but I drove a Cayenne Turbo once and what a machine that was. A 911 on stilts that can carry 5 people and all their luggage for a round the world trip. Amazing!
This duality I am talking about is the draw. There is an issue however. Do you want a car that has true off-road and towing capability? If you do many believe there is only one manufacturer that you can look at. Would you like Vogue or a Sport sir? Even with “X-Drive” or “Quattro” the melee of “on-road” 4×4’s just can’t compete when things get frozen, steep or god forbid both. BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Jaguar to name but a few all drive beautifully and will service your every requirement with opulence and an effortless grace that makes driving a joy for you and your five passengers. However, come December and the lad down the street crawls past in his Saxo trying not to drop his rollie in his lap as he laughs at your X5 juddering stationary as if it was shivering. Not ideal. You’re only hope is the bass from his boot will blast away all the snow surrounding your car and you’re in with a shot of getting to work.
Fear not comrade’s because the answer is out there, and it has been for a long time. For a reason I don’t really understand the penny just has not dropped in this country yet. Don’t want to spend Land Rover money? Do want the space, safety, refinement of a “4×4”? No problem. The solution is actually law in Austria, Bosnia Herzegovina, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, France, Poland, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, Spain and Switzerland. Granted some are more comprehensive than others. Some of those countries only insist on winter tyres in certain regions but the laws are still there for a reason!
In Austria, the law states that between 1st of November and the 15th of April, a car that has a maximum weight of 3.5 tonnes can only drive in winter conditions as long as winter tyres have been fitted. If you do not follow these laws, you risk a fine of around €5k as well as losing your vehicle to impound. If you are in an accident during the winter and you do not have winter tyres fitted to your car, then your policy will be deemed void so that’s a serious consideration too!
All these countries have laws about the usage of winter tyres, yet we bomb around on summer tyres in sub zero conditions in rear wheel drive cars and wonder why we struggle. Anything below an average of 7 degrees Celsius means a winter tyre will last longer and offer more grip and therefore safety than your summer compound. Normal tyres go brittle in temperatures below 7 degrees reducing their effectiveness and accelerating their wear.
Sure, they are not free but for those of you thinking “all well and good but I have to shell out a grand” engage your brains. You will own 8 tyres therefore doubling the amount of time before you need to buy more. You are splitting your mileage down the middle, so your summer tyres will last twice as many years. Sounds silly to spell this out but so many just don’t get it. The moral of the story here is this type of car offers so much for the average motorist, but certain stereotypes now need dispelling. They don’t lose money quickly, they don’t use excessive amounts of fuel, they aren’t more to tax and eco-mentalists don’t hate them like they used to because if they know their stuff they will know there are far worse offenders on the road.
Buy the car that suits you and your family but when winter comes or your kids get into Motor- Cross get some winter tyres.
Job done, happy motoring to all!
THE AUTO VIP.