When The Off Roaders Became Soft Roaders, Jeremy Clarkson Was There To Bitch About it

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Welcome to Sunday Matinee, where we highlight classic car reviews or other longer videos I find on YouTube. Kick back and enjoy this blast from the past.

Once upon a time, if you had an SUV, that meant you enjoyed doing some serious off-roading, or going on a safari for vacation, or you needed to invade a foreign country.

But starting in about the late 80s, SUVs began to be adopted by fancy monied people who had no intention of taking them on a safari. And as Jeremy Clarkson put it in this 1991 Top Gear test, that meant the makers of those SUVs started shoehorning in "Jaguar-style luxury," even if the cars themselves remained capable off-roaders. (This is before the advent of the crossover SUV, which took the last part out of the equation when carmakers realized that no one ever used them that way.)


First, he tests the Toyota Land Cruiser, a vehicle he says killed off Land Rover in Africa. He starts by whining about the buttons. "I wish someone would explain to the Japanese that we don't measure luxury by how many buttons there are." Yeah, well, from where I'm sitting in 2013, someone needs to explain that to the Americans, the Europeans, and the Koreans as well. Somewhere along the line we started doing just that.

Next there's the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, a perennial Jalopnik favorite, which he dings for being ugly (sacrilege!) and having sluggish power in diesel form. But he praises the Geländewagen for its comfort, quality, and high perch over lesser cars.


Finally, Young Jezza drives the Range Rover, which he says takes the cake. It's kind of funny how the British car always seems to come out ahead of the pack on Old Top Gear — he calls it "the best off-roader you can buy." Whatever you say, Jeremy. Old Top Gear wasn't very far off from being British Motorweek most of the time.

Which one would you take and why?