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CAR TALK

Dear Tom and Ray: You are often critical of people who don't need SUVs or other behemoth trucks but buy them anyway. I consider you to be reasonably intelligent, but what's with this liberal wackiness?

-- Randall

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.

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