What's the point of an SUV?SUVs are among the most popular cars on the road today, but why is that? Carfection explores their appeal and asks: Do we really need them?
[SOUND] Hands up if you've ever wanted an SUV. Don't be shy because pretty much everybody does. They're wildly popular. The luxury ones are mobile status symbols. They make people feel happy and look good as they trundle down the road above everybody else but I have a question. Why? Why does everybody want these? Why do we love them so damn much? This is our long-term BMW X-5 crew car. It's big, has a brown interior, and lets producer Charlie sit in the back of it to film whatever car we're focusing on in any given week. For what we need, it's pretty damn perfect. But I actually think SUVs are a little bit pointless. And before you all start typing angry comments about how I'm the anti Christ or something like that, let me explain where the SUV actually came from. While there were a few before the Willies Jeep, the World War II go anywhere car is kind of the beginning of a list You see, after that came the Land Rover Defender, then the likes of the G-Wagon and the Range Rover, various Jeeps and basically from a tiny rugged acorn grew a huge road of big, heavy off road vehicles. The breadth of ability that all wheel drive offered meant that people who actually needed to go off the beaten track, farmers, people that worked the land, could actually do so. They weren't cars for nipping to the shop. They were wagons for herding sheep. Still, as time went on, the old SUV appeared with more luxury bits on it. And the people of the world started to love them. Wanna drop $150,000 on one of these things? You easily can nowadays, but is someone who picks up a Bentley Bentayga ever going to show it any mud? Realistically they're gonna spend most of their time in the cities. There are swathes of them. In large population centers. No more are they really built for people who need to go up mountains and things like that. There more, now, look at me vehicles. A black SUV riding on massive wheels bearing down on you isn't something you're gonna miss, is it? But for the rest of us, well, [MUSIC] You can get most of the space with a decent sized estate car. If I needed such space, and didn't live in the countryside where all wheel drive can be a necessity. That's probably what I'd go for. You can still spend silly money on a big estate. And it can have the right badge on its nose, as well. A couple of decades ago, no one would have believed that BMW would have. Dared to have made something like the X5. They made saloons and sports cars and things like that. Not a big boxy off-road thing, but now here we are in our X5. So what's it like to drive? What is it that makes? Quite so good. And it is a genuinely good car. It's utterly fantastic. There are lots of driving modes to play with, there's comfort, which is well, comfortable. There's EcoPro, which kind of gamifies being efficient. It will tell you how many miles you've gained on a tank, and how brilliant you're being at saving the world. There's a sport mode, and a sport plus mode, which means you can't really drive it in anger. Which for us, when we're working on circuit is actually really quite handy. It means this old thing can keep up with a lot of stuff. The steering on it, it does vary from mode to mode, but it's decently weighted. It feels very nice. You don't get amazing feedback through the front wheels, but you can feel where you are. You know what the front of the car's doing. The breaks again they're very strong. They're really good there's no carbon surrounding nonsense here. They just work. They're decent pedal modulation and you can feel them gripping and doing their job nicely when you need them to. The response again it various from mode to mode. I do rather like it in sport plus. So you can just plant your foot and off you fly. In all as a driving experience it's great. The automatic gear box is smooth, it's quick, it's slick. It gets more aggressive depending on the mood you're in, obviously. But when you're just tooling around town or on the motorway you don't really notice it doing its job. It just does it, which is wonderful. The overwhelming thing about it is just how comfortable I have a heated seat, I have a seated steering wheel, yes. But the seat is an interesting shade of brown, but some people like that. Not really my jam, but if you like it fair play to you sir or madame. The entertainment system is ridiculously easy to use. The [UNKNOWN] works immensely well. The phone connectivity works immensely well. Everything on the steering wheel is within my grasp. It's a truly brilliant car. And BMW is selling these by the fistful. Everybody wants a slice of X5 action. This is sort of where the Ranger Rover was in the last generation. It's not overwhelmingly expensive and it's big and there's plenty of space. You can happily take a group of proper grownups a couple of hundred miles with all their stuff in the boot without any real complaints. The X540D, the car that we have, is plenty quick. It's pretty efficient though I don't tend to drive it that way. And you know what? It's pretty damn good. So what's the jam with it, why do people buy these things? Why are they so popular? Well, because it's an aspiration, a big shape to be seen in. You can get stuff in and out easily, you can see more of the road and feel a little bit more secure in it. Some of them may even venture off road as well. How novel. By the way, the SUV is here to stay. So God bless them and everyone who sail in them, I suppose. They're not for me, but if they are for you well, fill your boot. [MUSIC]