You can have it all by Richard Webb

After a decade of relentless competition, carmakers have finally created the perfect car, it seems. Richard Webb takes a look at the phenomenon that is the SUV. 

The evolution of car design has resulted in a type of vehicle so perfect that almost every manufacturer has launched their version of the same car, the SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle). Or so it would seem if you look around and see how many SUV’s are battling it out for your hard-earned income. 

SUV’s can trace their origins to military vehicles following the US army’s request to car makers to create a tough vehicle for transporting soldiers over challenging terrain. The Willy's 'Jeep' was the outcome, and it’s had a huge influence on the car you drive - or aspire to drive - right now. 

To keep the American’s on their toes, the British Land Rover emerged in April 1948, followed by the Toyota Land Cruiser in 1953. Fast forward a few decades and the segment really took off in the 90’s, with more economical, affordable and safer models. Recently, brands like Nissan have excelled with affordable, quality products like their Qashqai, and at the top-end, even luxury car makers like Bentley and Rolls-Royce are entering the market. 

But what is it about the SUV that has captured the imagination of today’s car buyers? Size is a part of the appeal - compact models like the Renault Captur and Ford Kuga included - and there are larger variants like the Volkswagen Toureg and bigger still, with a larger cabin and 7 seats and 4x4, all of which are a big hit with buyers. Add cargo hauling and towing abilities with high ground clearance, the wish list of every customer type has been catered for in a single vehicle. It’s easy to see why they are such a hit in Britain. 

It could be argued that SUV’s are somewhat vanilla as each brand apes the other with similar looking products, but of late, the car companies have been putting serious effort into 

differentiating themselves from other brands by emphasising their unique attributes. Consumers want to see the inherent meaning in the cars they buy and will reject ‘cookie cutter’ designs if they are not able to differentiate between all of the myriad offerings. This is where branding comes in as a vital asset for the manufacturers, because we seek out the logo that we have linked with desirability and build quality. 

If you're looking for a seven seater, then the Volvo XC90 boasts a whole new platform and a superbly efficient range of four-cylinder engines (The T8 plug-in hybrid is a technological tour de force), with the style and quality to easily hold its own against the best of any others. For me, the D5 Diesel is the clear pick of the range - it’s punchy enough to get up and go when needed and it’s quiet and refined too. 

The zenith of the range is the powerful and economical plug-in hybrid-powered T8 - arguably the most desirable, but most buyers will still be smitten with the generous safety tally and up market kit you get on entry-level Momentum. There's a load of standard goodies too, like sat nav, climate control, LED headlamps and leather. 

The key to the XC90’s appeal though, is its spacious, up market interior with the refinement and smooth progress of a limousine. It emphatically shows that the Swedish brand has the innovation, panache and build quality to do battle with the very best Teutonic offerings. 

I reckon Napoleon’s quote; “Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide” holds true for the SUV market today. Somewhere out there is your perfect car and I suspect it will be an SUV. I’ll find mine at the Volvo dealership. 

Article credit: Richard Webb and