Recently in this threadand this one there has been a lot of back and forth between the pro and anti SUV camps. I thought that this would be a good place to talk about the issue. Also to the Mods: I know that there are some similar debates on this issue, it is my sincere belief that this is different enough to warrant its own thread, and that it is “Great Debate worthy” if this assumption is wrong, please accept my apologies and move this to a better location.
On the pro side, there have been basically three main arguments made:
[li]It is a matter of personal choice.[/li][li]There is a legitimate need for this vehicle.[/li][li]All of the Fuel efficiency/safety issues have been more or less trumped up by the anti-SUV camp.[/li][/ol]
I want to be up front in that I am (within reason) pretty firmly in the anti-SUV camp. I decided to do a little research.
From the Ford website: the Ford Explorer gets around 17 to 21 Miles Per Gallon, The Windstar (a Mini Van) 17 to 23, the ford focus (couldn’t find model type, but looks like sedan to me) between 25 and 36 depending on the model.
OK, so just from a mileage point of view, it looks as if the Mini Van and the SUV are in the same ballpark. Based on just Ford it would seem that just from a fuel efficiency the argument that a Mini Van is preferable to an SUV can be debunked.
However the EPA website is rating the Ford Explorer emissions at around 4 (10 being best) the Windstar at 5 and the Focus at around 6 or 7. So, it looks as if the SUV is at least marginally worse for the environment.
From the National Highway Safety Administration the preceding vehicles stack up like so: Explorer mostly not tested, but rollover getting 2 or 3 stars (the more stars the better). Windstar Getting around 4 or 5 stars in front and side impact and around 4 stars in rollover. The Focus coming it at around 4 or 5 stars for side and 4 for rollover. Conclusion: at least from a rollover point of view, the SUV is quite a bit worse than the other cars that I looked at.
So much for the brief overview of the quantifiable data (the conclusion of which (as far as I can tell) is that the SUV is not really a great idea). The evidence seems to show that these vehicles are about the same as a Mini Van fuel efficiency wise, a bit worse for the environment and more dangerous (specifically in the propensity to roll over). Given that the Mini Van would meet the same need as the SUV for the Urban and Suburban driver, and is a lot safer, it seems the logical choice.
Personally, my experience is that these vehicles cause me greater distress that others. They are hard to see around, they tend not to see me and (from a simple physics point of view) pose a greater risk to me.
Socially, to address the choice argument, I will state that I have yet to have anyone give a convincing argument as to why it is ok for the choice of one person to eclipse that of the other. This makes me feel like a second-class citizen. I say this in the sense that if I do not wish to be creamed in a wreck and wish to be able to see the road, I will need to give up my safe and fuel efficient vehicle.
I am eager to hear the opinions of others