I have gone on record as anything but an SUV lover. My personal opinion is that all trucks are appliances lacking in the requisite fun-to-drive joy that warrants housing them in the garage with real cars. There are a few exceptional trucks - Porsche Cayenne, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 to name two - that have nudged my affection needle, but for the most part I'll take any pickup over practically every SUV because I believe an open bed is a far more useful hauling platform than a carpeted, fully trimmed extension of the passenger compartment. Cleaning a pickup bed after a nasty job is optional, something that can't be said when an SUV is used for dirty work.
So, last week on the very day the president's office wrote the $17.4 billion bail-out check to Detroit, after roundly castigating the Motor City for becoming so dependent on large SUVs, it was my day to drive a 2009 Ford Expedition. To help focus my thoughts on the legitimate reasons these motorized mastodons exist, Mother Nature dumped a heap o' snow on the entire state of Michigan.
The Expedition turned out to be the perfect tool for several tasks, not all of which were planned. During a two-day period, I used it to:
- Extract one BMW 135i from its snow bank burial site;
- Mash down the huge drift created by well-meaning plow operators who shoved their loads in a pile enveloping my mailbox;
- Haul several worthy Automobile Magazine staff members to and from a not-to-be-missed holiday party where gifts more precious than gold, frankincense, and myrrh were exchanged;
- Travel a long distance on hazardous roads to my son's wrestling tournament (where he won three of his four matches).
But the incident that decisively uplifted my opinion of the Expedition in particular and SUVs in general occurred while traveling home from the sports meet on a cold, snowy night. First the low-tire warning lamp lit up in the dash. Before we could find a roadside inflation pump, bad sounds began emanating from the right-front corner of the vehicle. By the time we did stop to invest $0.75 in a slug of air, the Expedition's right-front tire had grown a nasty goiter.
I elected not to change the failed tire for two reasons: it was still holding air and we were less than five miles from home.
When the tire turned square and the Expedition became a rolling vibratory massage machine, we stopped for a second dose of air. Now there were several goiters growing out of the sidewall. By traveling at low speed on back roads, we made it home with no wheel damage and no fingers frost-bitten by a roadside tire change. Somehow, goiters and all, the tire was holding air when we rolled in the driveway.
What did I learn from these experiences? That large SUVs are sometimes indispensable. What makes them great in winter is their ability to keep rolling - and helping others in distress - against tall odds. So, thanks GW for sending that check so Detroit can keep Expeditions and their ilk rolling.
Don Sherman, Technical Editor