If you think you're seeing a lot of SUVs on the roads these days, well you're not wrong. According to a recent report in the Australian Financial Review Australia is predicted to reach a "tipping point" by the middle of this year when we'll be buying more new SUVs than passenger cars.
While sales of passenger vehicles are languishing we just can't get enough of SUVs, which are seeing record sales. The top selling models for many carmakers including Nissan, Honda, Subaru and even Porsche are all SUVs. We're drawn to them by their practicality as the family-hauler of choice that can tow trailers, caravans and boats if required, while also carting home the weekly shopping with ease.
But there's also a touch of fantasy about the family SUV – it's the lure of getting away from it all in the great outback. Most of us might be city slickers but we like to think of ourselves as the rugged outdoor type. With our SUVs we're always primed and ready for an outback adventure with the family. Well, the thought's nice anyway as we sit there in that traffic jam.
Modern SUVs offer all the comforts of passenger vehicles and even refined handling and performance, while more efficient engines have reduced their thirst for fuel. Any carmaker not producing SUVs these days is left behind in the rush. Even Bentley and Rolls Royce are getting into the act, Bentley with its $494,000 Bentayga and Rolls Royce with its massive upcoming Cullinan model, which is currently being tested.
Goodbye Land Rover Defender
It may be the beginning of an unlikely new direction for Rolls Royce, but it's the end of the road, or the off-road, for another famous four-wheel drive. The Land Rover Defender ceased production last year. The Defender was the final iteration of the classic boxy Land Rover, which was first launched in 1948.
The old Land Rover was the antithesis of today's SUV with barely a creature comfort in sight while offering ride and handling that could best be described as agricultural. They were loved by farmers, police forces and the military for their go-anywhere ability, but have also been pressed into service for less likely applications, such as ice cream vans.
Land Rovers have had some famous owners, Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, Sean Connery and even the Queen are just some of them. Over its astonishing 68 year production run Land Rover sold over 2,000,000 of its Series I, II, and III Land Rovers and Defenders.
Land Rover may have been the role model for other workhorse four-wheel drives like the Toyota Landcruiser and Nissan Patrol, but in 1970 the company also helped set the scene for the SUV when it introduced the Range Rover to the world. Originally a more powerful up-market version of the Land Rover, the Range Rover has evolved into a luxury go-anywhere four-wheel drive, albeit one with an unsavoury reputation for unreliability and high maintenance costs.
Dodgy reliability doesn't seem to have dampened Australian's enthusiasm for them however. Like other SUVs, Land Rover has been enjoying record sales of late.