Why The Modern SUV Is Completely Pointless

I recently refuted the existence of the recently announced Ferrari SUV which got me thinking: could I refute the SUV concept as a whole? As it stands, I am very much against the SUV’s existence, and in the comments of my previous piece about the Ferrari F16X, I vowed that I would write this very article.

Well as promised, the time has come for me to finally debunk the existence of the modern SUV. Unfortunately in order to do this, I may have to sound like a consumer car journalist at certain points, but as car people I hope that you’ll bear with it. With that disclaimer out of the way, I am now going to go through exactly why I think that the modern SUV is completely pointless - and it will be thorough; no stone shall be left unturned.

1. They Sacrifice Speed

First, let’s talk about speed. If you look at almost any SUV offered by a manufacturer, and then look at their equivalent estate, the estate car is nearly always faster. This is down to one obvious major factor: weight.

A base BMW X3, for example, is 330kg heavier than the base BMW 3 series - 330kg - that’s a massive difference. The effects of which are seen clearly in the performance, with the 140hp 2.0L diesel X3 getting from 0-60 in 10 seconds, and the equivalent 2.0L diesel 3 series estate (also with 140hp) cutting that time to 8.9 seconds.

But I’m not just picking on BMW, as this is a trend that is seen across the board when it comes to comparing SUVs to their estate counterparts, no matter where you look. Weight is such a vital factor when it comes to speed, and it is one that no manufacturer can get around.

If we also continue to compare the two aforementioned BMWs in terms of top speed, you’ll find that the X3 also tops out at 120mph, whilst the 3 series romps ahead at 130mph. Again, this difference in speed exists with every SUV.

In addition to a greater kerb weight, SUVs also have to contend with drag from the air. Put simply (and rather obviously), SUVs have a higher drag coefficient because of their larger profiles, thus causing the top speed deficit.

To add to the effects of the extra weight, SUVs also suffer from a higher centre of gravity. Both of these factors affect the speed that can be carried through the corners, making SUVs slower both on the straights and through the bends.

First blood goes to the estate car then, but it is just one of many victories. After all, another significant problem with SUVs is that…

2. They're Always More Expensive

Bigger is always better…right? This is the mantra by which companies build an SUV. Unfortunately, the saying is also applied to the price that these companies then demand that you pay.

Take a look at the picture above that’s taken from Mercedes’ actual website, and you’ll see the gulf between the prices of a C-Class estate, and the GLC (the SUV version of the C-Class). It’s not just a small difference, it’s near enough a £6500 premium. Or perhaps you want an even uglier, even less practical version of the GLC? Well the GLC Coupé is even more. A whole lot more.

At £41,335, the GLC coupé isn’t just a joke, but one that costs over £11,000 more than the C-Class estate. And it’s the same story across the entire range - an E-Class estate will cost you £37,205, whilst the GLE SUV will cost you £14,000 more, and as for the GLE Coupé? That’ll be £25,000 more.

‘Where does this money go?’ you may ask. The answer, is into Mercedes’ pocket. That’s right, that money gets you pretty much nothing. Whilst you do get a taller car which means more headroom, as well as a taller driving position, that’s pretty much it. The E-Class offers better performance, and also (surprisingly) better legroom, as the E-Class is actually a longer car.

And before you say that the extra money gets you more toys to play with, I can assure you that it doesn’t. After using the Mercedes configurator, I discovered that the base E-Class estate gets all the same kit as the GLE and GLE Coupé. Rather fundamentally, the E-Class is also cheaper to run.

Yes, the base model GLE gets AWD, but remember that it costs £14,000 more. With that money you can specify your E-Class in a higher trim, thus getting Mercedes’ 4Matic AWD, as well as a few extra gadgets to play with. And even if you just want more headroom, is it really worth £14,000 extra?

The estate is therefore better value for money, and cheaper to run. Talking of which…

3. SUV's Are Less Economical

On the theme of costing less to run, it’s worth remembering that SUVs always cost more to live with. Using the example of the Mercedes GLE vs E-Class estate, you will find that the base E-Class is thirteen insurance groups below the base GLE.

Then, the weight and drag coefficient that I talked about earlier come into play again. Since the GLE has more of both, it achieves 20mpg less than the E-Class. So it’s not only slower, but also less efficient.

Although I’ve only used the comparison of the GLE and E-Class estate to make this point, it still remains true for any other example. This is because SUVs are always heavier and taller than their estate counterparts, meaning that they’re all victim to the same problems.

4. They're Less Useable

In an everyday sense, SUVs are less useable. This may sound silly to a lot of you, because you may say that some SUVs have seven seats, which is more than can be said for most estate cars. But the two seats in the boot are largely useless for anyone other than small children or amputees, and since a lot of people don’t have seven children and aren’t missing a leg, you’ll find the two rear-most seats folded up most of the time.

But in a lot of instances, estate cars (surprisingly) have larger boots than the SUVs (this is a particularly consumer journalist-y part but bear with it). The Audi A6 Avant for instance has 565 litres of space with the rear seats folded up, and 1680 litres with the seats folded down - thus beating the Q5 which has 540 litres with the rear seats up, and 1560 litres with the seats down. You could also argue that having a taller car means loading heavier items into the boot is harder due to an SUV’s higher boot sill.

It’s worth mentioning that usability also means how usable a car is in everyday driving. This is where the SUV suffers due to their larger width; meaning that driving in tighter streets, or in multi-storey car parks, as well as parking can be more stressful than in an estate car.

5. They're Uglier

This last point is completely subjective, I know. But since it’s only car enthusiasts that will be reading this, I expect that this opinion will be welcomed.

My opinion is that an SUV can’t match the smooth, svelte and elegant lines of a well designed estate car. Whether it’s their higher profile or their generally more boxy looks, it’s hard to imagine that many people think that an SUV can match an estate car aesthetically.

It is for these key reasons that I consider the modern SUV to be pointless in an era that is obsessed with style, low emissions, and enjoyment. It’s high time then that the estate car should make a triumphant return to our roads as the sensible, but fun family car.


Archive Aston (Aston Martin squad)

I completely agree. The same can be said with Aston Martins new SUV the DBX.

07/21/2017 - 11:19 |
9 | 0

That’s right. I hate the fact that Aston (my favourite manufacturer of all time!) is making a damn SUV.

07/21/2017 - 11:42 |
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Tomislav Celić

Thank you

Thank you soo much

I love you

07/21/2017 - 11:38 |
4 | 0

Haha thanks I love you too

07/21/2017 - 11:42 |
1 | 0

Dude…. thank you. I live in the US and suvs have taken over its awful. I hate driving any suv, needs to stop lmao

07/21/2017 - 11:50 |
3 | 0

Absolutely. When you consider the reasons that I gave in the post above, it’s impossible to understand why SUVs have become so popular.

07/21/2017 - 12:02 |
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a tahoe can tow about as much as a silverado while also being able to carry more people and being smaller

07/21/2017 - 15:46 |
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About small kids in the SUV back seats.
I’m 6ft and I fit in my cousins XC90 easily.
So it’s pretty usable

07/21/2017 - 12:08 |
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Matt Davis

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

That’s true I’m not saying that SUVs aren’t usable, I’m just saying that estates are more usable. I would also say that I’m about 6ft as well and I fit perfectly into my dad’s B7 gen Audi A6 Avant.

07/21/2017 - 12:12 |
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Dat Incredible Chadkake

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)


07/21/2017 - 15:47 |
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Valdemar Johansen

You wrote this pretty big article, and spend some time on, yet you comepletely fail the understand that people like to sit high up. Many people also feel safer in an suv, even tough they arent.

07/21/2017 - 12:31 |
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No I did acknowledge in the article that you do get a taller ride with SUVs. But I also said that I don’t think that this small change justifies the thousands of pounds extra that you have to pay to get it.

07/21/2017 - 12:35 |
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And you could also say estates are no where near as comfortable, are less refined, can’t tow as much or as well, can’t go off-road and are generally are smaller.

There’s pro’s and con’s with both, they’re for different demographics the SUV for people that favour more comfort and need to tow more often. The estate for people than need to carry a lot of stuff in the car, and prefer something that’s easier to handle.

I like both equally the likes of the 3 series touring, C-class estate, VW Tiguan and BMW x5 are all great looking cars I’m sure you’ll agree.

07/21/2017 - 12:32 |
2 | 0

If you want to buy an SUV for the purpose of going off road and towing things, then you get a Land Rover. I’m OK with Land Rovers because they specialise in off roading, giving them a purpose that can’t be fulfilled by an estate. I also don’t mind Land Rovers because they ONLY make off roaders, so it’s not as though they’re introducing SUVs in order to replace estate cars that they make.

Most SUVs however, aren’t bought for off roading, they’re bought for poncing around town. In England we call them ‘Chelsea tractors’. If you look at anyone that ever bought an SUV to go off road, you would see that they bought a Land Rover.

This means that there is no need for BMW or Audi to make SUVs, because no one in their right mind would take an Audi Q7 over a Land Rover Discovery Sport, or a Range Rover for off roading purposes. The only reason people take SUVs like the Q7 is for taking their kids to school.

07/21/2017 - 12:43 |
1 | 1

As for your point about comfort, it’s true that SUVs have more suspension travel, resulting in a nicer ride, but most SUVs also try to be ‘sporty’, meaning that they get stiffer anti-roll bars etc. which has an effect on the ride.

You may be right that SUVs have a better ride than a lot of estate cars. But what I’m saying is that the ride in most modern estate cars isn’t awful. It’s not like you need an SUV to have a comfortable ride, most estates ride fine. But I’m also asking whether having a slightly better ride and slightly more headroom really justifies the premium that you pay when you buy an SUV.

07/21/2017 - 12:48 |
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You forgot the fact that most modern SUVs are basically handbags on wheela

07/21/2017 - 13:03 |
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In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)


07/21/2017 - 13:03 |
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Matt Davis

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

You’re right a lot of people buy them more as fashion statements. But I would argue that estates are better looking and even more stylish.

07/21/2017 - 13:09 |
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Derek Steele

I personally like your argument, and it was well written… but I mean honestly this argument needs to be made elsewhere other than CarThrottle because most people already agree with you on here. This article could serve as an eye opener elsewhere if people want to read it.

07/21/2017 - 13:18 |
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Thanks a lot! Now that you mention it, I am an aspiring automotive journalist, and I’m using Car Throttle as an opportunity to get experience so that I can put it on my CV in a job interview.

If I do get a job in the future, rest assured I would certainly write a piece similar to this to address this issue once and for all!

07/21/2017 - 13:28 |
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Derek Steele

Well good luck and I hope you get the job! I’ll look forward to reading more articles written by you in the future. Also, another big point you could use for your argument is why the SUV was originally created, although I’m not sure if the reasons why that I know are the actual truth.

07/21/2017 - 13:33 |
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Thanks a lot! Thanks also for your feedback, I’m getting ready to do another article soon.

07/23/2017 - 11:05 |
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Martins Skulte

sorry, i only saw one valid point(4th), but only in a short term and in specific tasks :/

07/21/2017 - 14:26 |
2 | 2

So you think the fact that they’re slower, less efficient and way more expensive aren’t valid points?

07/23/2017 - 11:04 |
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