Why did SUVs take over from estates?There was a time when estate cars were the go-to option for families with people and things to transport. But these days SUVs rule supreme. We find out why.
For the longest time, the favorite go to option for families who needed a car that was a little bit bigger to transport people and goods was the humble estate. But now, everyone seems to be getting one of these, an SUV. The question is why? Well, we've got one of each, so we thought we'd try and get to the bottom of it. Estate first, I think. [MUSIC] So when I was a kid, and what seems like the longest Time before it. Estate cars or station wagons or shooting brakes whatever you want to call them were that go to for large families. Yeah. That was the thing. Right? My parents had a Peugot Estate which as terrible and didn't last very long. Then we had a Volvo 240. It was just a saloon car or a sudan with more Boot space, so all that was added was that extra boot space. Do you know where they came from originally? No! So estates were, or station wagons literally were station wagons. They were for taking all the luggage and stuff, so all the multiple cases etc., from From the estate to a station. Because in an age where train travel was actually sort of much more ubiquitous form of long-distance travel rather than now with the airplane, that sort of thing, so yes. That's where it came from. They were originally commercial vehicles. Is that where the tradition of wood paneling on the side of station wagons come from, that they were more of a? Yeah, I think so for the wood It's just very cool, [UNKNOWN]? [INAUDIBLE] Yeah, where did that go? Why does it seem to hang on for the longest time in the US. I can't imagine that. [LAUGH] So yeah, we still got a little bit of wood in here, what do you say? Is that real wood? I don't know. This is the V90 Cross Country obviously. I absolutely love this car. We drove it last year on On snow and ice in Sweden, and I realised how long it had been since I'd been in an estate car. And there's just something about it. That longer shape, rather than uprightness of an SUV. You get all the practicality of the larger boot, but- Yeah, I suppose it's simplicity, isn't it, really. It does look more elegant. And, again, there's sort of the shooting brake. There's a bit of a renaissance of those in [INAUDIBLE], every time somebody shows one like that, I'll say, A shooting brake. Aston Martin did recently, I love a shooting brake, and it just seems be something. They look fast, don't they? I'll never forget the The 850 touring car, Rickard Rydell in that. And it just, it looked cool. It shouldn't work. You think, well, it's not even practical, but somehow it still looked fast. Volvo, of course, were arguably best known For their estate cars. But they were pretty much every major manufacturer offered one at any given time. Why were they so popular as a body shape? I think it is that blend of practicality and being able to go fast and perhaps it's a lifestyle thing, perhaps it shows you've got a An interesting life, if you need that extra room to haul stuff around. Yeah. Perhaps that's saying something about you. Perhaps it's some sort of weird psychological thing for virility that you know. [LAUGH] I've got a big Estate. Therefore, I must have lots of children. [LAUGH] Right. Even if you haven't, I don't know. Perhaps there's something subconscious, with that. So, where there used to be a long bonnet As a replacement for a sign of virility. Well perhaps it goes from one to the other. Perhaps you have a young man starts out with a sports car with a sort of the long bullet for virility. And then later, the must come a switchover point whereby, yeah fine. I have a family I need to show off. Got a big family, I've used my long bullet. [LAUGH] In order to get my large estate. [MUSIC] We should probably talk about this car then specifically. Cuz it's really cool isn't it? Will you go for the cross-country version that this is or would you go for a? [CROSSTALK] Yeah, so we passed a regular V19 on the drive up, and it was the first time in a long time I'd seen both of them next to each other. And I'd got used to the slightly more ruggedness, the flared wheel arches, the kinda the plastic trim around the wheels, the higher ride height, just more ruggedness of this car. And then when you see it in the normal trip, you realize that the design, it kinda fits in a bit more with it. Yeah. It looks sleaker. And that sharpness of those lines coming back to the tail lights, works just that little bit better. It's more elegeant, isn't it? It is. You don't think of an estate car being elegeant, but it is. And this is a particular Good designers and it's really sharp, isn't it. Coming back to the idea of estate cars and their popularity, in the U.S. estate cars were huge. You look at any kind of family sitcoms from the seventies, eighties and nineties, and you'll see these cars peppered throughout. Popular culture. In the US market is now where we find far fewer estate cars than we do in Europe. So all of the great Audi estate cars, you just can't get them over there. Do you think that's because of a rise, not just of the SUV, but sort of probably more personal things like the F-150 and things like that, that actually everything has just grown and grown and grown It has reached a point where actually if you want to lug a whole load of stuff around in a massive great pickup. So you could well be right. That inability for the estate car to grow with the desire for bigger cars And also, it can get smaller, so it's very kind of a fixed platform. So maybe that's it, maybe it's because the estate car used that exact bit in the middle, that has fallen in the middle. People either want smaller car, or much, much bigger, okay. Yeah, well seeing as the Trend has gone towards SUV's and we just so happen to have one parked up. Think we should go and have a go in that, don't you? Ye, lets go swing into one of them. So SUV's. Why did they take over from estates as the go to for people who needed the bit extra room? But do you think it's a prestige thing? Cuz you think of all the, like the series Land Rovers, and the utilitarian four wheel drive cars that are being produced. Until the mid 70s, and you get the Range Rover, which is a kind of a luxury, almost lifestyle, before there was such a thing as lifestyle incarnation of that same bundle. And then But that was made for the wealthy, for the elite, for the royals. Yes. And then you start thinking well that's maybe a bit more aspirational. Absolutely. That's something that I kind of of wanna get into. We like things To feel different and special, give us a different viewpoint. And I think that has something to do with it. It could just be that we're nosey. Because it gives you the ability to look over edges and walls that you couldn't otherwise see over. And therefore we're an intrinsically curious species. Or it could also be the opposite because if you're higher it's harder for people to look in and maybe it Just it provides you the opportunity to drive without trousers on. [BLANK_AUDIO] They are like diver's watches, how many people do you know that own a diver's watch? And how many of those people actually take their watches to 200 meter depths? How many people do you know who have an SUV and never take it off road, or really anywhere muddy? This obviously can And do everything you'd want pretty much, in terms of going off-road and having proper capabilities, but some [UNKNOWN] just fumbled around aren't they. So you're paying for something you're not getting, for lesser than you would necessarily with an estate, this has been over-engineered for how it's gonna be used. So then how many people actually use the full capability of say, an iPhone. People like having the latest one. They like having the iPhone 10 for example. But how many people actually use the full capability of it? Is it just the case of we want more, we want more capability? We like the idea of that. You know in an We could drive across the nearest field. This is true. Here's a question. Yeah. Which do you think is easier to drive, an SUV or an estate? I think in my mind, when I look at the wheelbase of an estate as I get in, that sits in my head. Like, I've got a really long car here, so the idea of getting it through the narrow streets of London or You parallel parking it is a bit harder. Actually, when you put it next to an SUV it's not that much longer, it's just cause it isn't as tall, it doesn't seem as long. Probably, by that, the SUV in my mind feels easier to drive. Also, because you're higher up it's got that better viewing position. I wonder if that's what a lot of people, when they get into it and drive and Then I see you. That more elevated position, the ability to, sort of, look through a corner more. Because that's what people do when they're driving. Is possibly something that people like. That's it now, everyone is going to want an SUV forever. How much of this do we think is simply and purely [UNKNOWN] fashion, you know? At one point people wore bell bottom jeans. Now they wear skinny jeans. But does that mean that much like the clothes in my cupboard eventually estate cars will come back? Quite possibly. How about the clothes in my cupboard? No I would never Can I get mine, yeah. [LAUGH] You have the choice of two. Both keys are on offer. Which one would you prefer to take home this afternoon? I'd would take the Volvo. Purely because the way something drives is really important to me. I should like the increased travel you get in something like this. The fact that the center of gravity To me it's so much lower in the Volvo and you can feel it and dynamically, there is no denying that the Volvo is better. This is actually very good but yeah, I think I gave to the Volvo. At least well they're still our estate cars I think I have to agree. That one probably have my vote today. So in the most boring way of summing up First of all, estate's great, SUV's also great. It depends on your fashion, flavor, and taste of the week; but generally, it's whatever you prefer to go for. Both do the same kind of job perfectly. They do. Well, revelatory it is not. [LAUGH] But truth has been spoken. [MUSIC]