Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) seemed to come out of nowhere. When we were growing up if you were adventurous you got a 4x4 bakkie and if you had a big family, you got a station wagon.
The Jeep Cherokee (R500,990)
We mentioned above that some of these SUVs are funky, offering the driver a standout ride, something that sets them apart on the road. The new Jeep Cherokee is one such vehicle. When we told people which car we were testing, most replied with the same remark; “oh, that’s the one with the funny front and strange headlights.” Jeep has a very distinct brand and their front grill is famous, it is an iconic symbol that has its lineage dating back to the early years of World War Two. The new Cherokee has kept the essence of the symbolic front end and thrown in a whole bunch of craziness. The design of this particular Jeep lends itself well to the Cherokee’s rather unique offering. The exterior is where the crazy ends though, and once you open the doors, the Jeep is all business. The finishings are first class as everything inside the Cherokee is laid out with a great deal of purpose. A lot of thought went into the details to insure the driver’s environment is both comfortable and luxurious. Everything is either available at your finger tips or is located conveniently within reach. The onboard entertainment system has a brilliant set of features, which include the UConnect™ functions such as Bluetooth and SatNav. Aside from all the comfort and trimmings of an executive’s sedan, the Cherokee also drives extremely well on the open road. Because of its size and weight, the version we tested was rather sluggish off the line, but buyers have the option of a bigger 3.2 litre V6 brother to choose from if speed is your game. The engine we got to play with delivered 130kW of power with a respectable 229Nm of torque pulling it along. Some have voted The Cherokee as the best-in-class 4x4 available and though we did not have a chance to really push it past what is easily available in and around Johannesburg, we can attest to the fact that it most certainly can hold its own on loose gravel roads, sandy hills and wet grassy velds. The adjustable drive functionality makes switching between road, sand and snow as simple as twisting a knob and we can be certain that owners of the new Cherokee would not be afraid of an adventure or two, although this wouldn’t be something we would tackle the Okavango in.
Some are funky, some are pretty and some are actually built to take you off road and onto rougher terrain, however, most manufacturers would admit that the majority of SUV drivers do not purchase them with the intent of taking them to the bush to blaze trails into the unknown.
The Infiniti QX70 S (R701,200)
Infiniti is the luxury arm of Nissan and they have been a surprise discovery for us over the last year or so because we as South Africans weren’t exposed to Infiniti outside a few movies. As a brand, they are singing all the right tunes at the moment. The QX70 S is a large SUV that is undoubtedly built for a fashion runway first, city streets second and even a racetrack third. Of the three SUVs we tested for this article, this is by far the one we would least like to take off road. That’s not to say it cannot go off road, it does have 4x4 capabilities, but you wouldn’t play with lions wearing a meat necklace, you’ll only get scratched and mauled. The Infiniti QX70 is a little too pretty for the bush and you wouldn’t want to wreck it by taking it there. It has elegant lines, curves that accentuate its design and the model we tested was a stealthy black colour with 20” five spoke black rims to match. The powerful 3.0 litre diesel engine pumps out 175kW of power coupled with a whiplash-included 550Nm of torque making your journey adrenalin filled. The QX70 S looks like it means business and the interior delivers business class style. The all leather, plush interior is elegant and equipped to deal with just about anything. There is space aplenty for five grown adults and although the boot’s shape isn’t conducive to heavy packing, it is large enough to accommodate everything you may want to carry; you just need to be creative with your loading. The QX70 S did a lot to impress us on our time behind the wheel and they have promised the world big things this year and the next, so we can’t wait to see what they give us next.
The Range Rover Vogue (R1,439,600)
The grand master, the big daddy, the Godfather! The Range Rover Vogue is at the top of the pile when it comes to SUVs. It is the benchmark others try to follow and it is the car of choice for many a celebrity and successful businessman. It is also astronomically expensive, but when we put the Vogue through its paces, we could understand why the bill is so high. As we sat behind the wheel inside this spaceship-esque mega-SUV we did all we could to find something that was missing? We searched for fault and looked for something we could add to this article to make it seem like there was at least something wrong with the Range Rover and the only conclusion we could come up with is that the designers of the Range Rover Vogue must have done exactly the same thing with every other SUV on the market, and then just made sure there was nothing amiss in thier creation. A motoring and engineering marvel, the Range Rover Vogue could be one of the best cars we have tested for The Afropolitan. The driver has everything from electronically adjustable seats with heating and air-conditioning to individual zone climate control. And those luxuries, along with the multitude of others are pretty much standard for almost every passenger in the Vogue. When you take a run up to get into this monolith of a vehicle you can’t help but think how a 3.0 litre diesel engine could move something of this size with any grace or speed, but with 600Nm of punch coming from under the bonnet, it is no wonder the driver would feel in control of the world behind the wheel. And when we say world, we mean the whole world. The Vogue is actually better off the tarmac than it is on it. We were lucky enough to have some time to test it’s off road abilities at the Land Rover Experience in Lonehill. Not only did it wade through half a meter of water like a hot knife through butter, but it also climbed up sandy hills and down rocky passes like a kid on a jungle gym. It was completely capable and it gave the driver ultimate confidence in the car’s and their own abilities.