Monday, May 18, 2009

Hate To Admit It

Have I mentioned recently how much I hate SUVs?

Because I really, really do. I've never ridden in an SUV I've liked, much less driven one worth the effort of getting in.

For about six months back when I was in college I owned a Ford Bronco II. I think it was a 1986, but I can't remember for sure. It was a fun truck to drive, when it actually ran. Reliability-wise, it was a complete P.O.S. I had to walk backwards around it two times and knock on the hood thirteen times under the light of the waning moon just to get it to start. You don't want to know what I had to do if I wanted to go on the freeway.

It was two-tone ugly brown, with rust in all the right places, and a fading Megadeth sticker on the back window. The radio didn't work, the doors didn't lock, and it couldn't climb steep hills without belching black smoke out the leaky exhaust and some fancy footwork between the clutch and the gas pedal. I've never owned a more terrible car.

But it was fun because it was a truck, not a souped up station wagon status symbol. I could actually haul stuff in the back.

Ignoring the bad driving habits of their latte-swilling, cellphone-yapping, utterly oblivious drivers, modern SUVs, to me, seem to be too much car and not enough truck. Are you REALLY going to take that Escalade/Navigator/Expedition up an unmaintained dirt road to go camping?

Due to a fluke NRA-convention in town this weekend, my usual car rental establishment was sold out, so I had to use another. We were planning to go camping near Flagstaff, and we don't really like to take the Mustang on long, mountain drives anymore since it's reaching the age where breakdowns are more and more common. Anyway, I wanted to rent a full-size car, because if you're going to rent a car, why not get something nicer than what you usually drive?

Well, the rental place was out of full-sized cars (and I'd really been hoping for a Dodge Charger, too), so they upgraded me to a full-size S.U.V.

The truck they gave me was a Nissan Xterra. When I saw the ugly behemoth waiting outside, my heart sank a little.

I climbed up into the damn thing, got situated with the mirrors, put it in gear and, accidentally, tore ass getting out of the parking lot and into traffic.

It had a V-8 in there. Who knew?

I hate to admit it, but I warmed to it's monster-truckiness pretty quickly. It ate up the mountain grades to Flagstaff with no trouble, and there was room to spare even after loading all our camping gear in - and we travel heavy.

But the best part was getting out on to the previously-hinted-at unmaintained dirt road. I was chasing another truck with our camping buddies in it, and they were in a hurry. We slid through curves and powered up steep, gravelly hills without complaint.

Later, I discovered the switch to engage 4WD, which made the dirt roads even MORE enjoyable.

Man, I hate it when I have to concede that maybe, just maybe, not all SUVs are ALL bad.

All the same, we're not going to buy one.