Long gone are the days when the term SUV commanded respect in the circles of people (like myself) who appreciated the beauty, poise and ridiculous combination of obscene power and balls-to-the-wall fun. Kids today have no idea what they're missing.
Kids today think an SUV is their mom's Freestyle, their dad's X5, or the Ford Escape their parents bought them on their 16th birthday because 'it's cute and all their friends have one'. Dear nerdy dad: your Honda Element is not an SUV. It is a box-shaped blight upon the Earth.
One of the most poignant examples of this SUV de-ballsing (SUVDBL) trend is the upcoming 2011 Ford Explorer. Recently, it has been announced that the upcoming revision to the best selling SUV for the last decade and half will be built on the same platform as the Five Hundred and the Freestyle. Are you kidding us, Ford? The Explorer didn't get popular because it was built on the same platform as my grandmother's car, quite the opposite, in fact. Everyone bought one because they were reliable, spacious, and actually worked off-road. News like this makes me sick.
There are exceptions to the SUVDBL, however. The newest 4Runner Trails are excellent off road, as are current Jeeps. Newer Tahoes and Suburbans are sufficiently good off-road, as well as still being aggressive-looking, but fewer and fewer people are using them as off-road vehicles, and more are using the $35,000 - $65,000 monsters as school-run cars.
No, when I think of the term 'SUV', only one vehicle comes to mind: the full size Ford Bronco. There was nothing that wasn't good about the Bronco's, if you don't count the base engine, an inline . 6Front seats that could comfortably support even the largest of us. A storage box on the floor between the front seats whose depth was beyond measure. The most comfortable back seat that I have ever had the pleasure of sitting in, which, when collapsed and stowed behind the front two, offered sleeping room for up to 18 people. Actually, it was more like three people, max. But it still felt quite big.
I have owned two Broncos in my time, both 1991's, one with the 351 and one with the 302. They both served me well, and the only reason they are not still sitting in my yard is that I owned them when I was in high school and making $75 dollars a week. This isn't a huge problem in and of itself until you factor in the fact that the Broncos have a 30+ gallon fuel tank, and gas had just hit $3.30 a gallon. You do the math. I hope that never again do the gas prices get so bad that I am forced to drop a Benjamin to fill up a gas tank.
Depressing stuff about the economy aside, the amount of noise that could be generated by the 351 Windsor was positively Biblical. If you walked underneath it, which you could do with Broncos (without putting them on lifts), your eyes would be greeted with a scene the likes of which more than half of modern SUV owners will never have the pleasure of experiencing. A transmission the size of Rhode Island; bolted to the back of the engine, and not underneath it. A transfer case as big as an average man's entire torso, with drive shafts the diameter of his legs. (If you have a VUE and don't know what a transfer case is, Wikipedia is always helpful.) And...is that... *GASP* A SOLID REAR AXLE?!?
These are the things that make trucks and less-than-modern SUVs wonderful. That excellent combination of raw power and a drivetrain that is slightly antiquated, but rock solid and bulletproof.
So if you are in the market for something in which to haul your family around, don't cave to your wife or husband's demand for a mini-van or namby-pamby SUV. Tell them that this is America, and we like our trucks with the engines in the front and the differentials in the back. Tell them we want enough low end torque to remove that 300-year-old oak tree stump from the back yard, even though we will probably never get around to it. Tell them we don't care about gas mileage or the Ozone layer, and that V-6's are for little girls. Tell them you want an SUV that has never NOT come with four wheel drive.
Tell them you need a Ford Bronco.
This piece was written and submitted by a Jalopnik reader and may not express views held by Jalopnik or its staff. But maybe they will become our views. It all depends on whether or not this person wins by whit of your eyeballs in our reality show, "Who Wants to be America's Next Top Car Blogger?"