Illustration by Derek BaconAutomobile and Driver
From the July/August 2022 challenge of Automobile and Driver.
It crept up on us slowly, nearly escaping discover, however all automobiles are vehicles now. Positive, there are just a few holdouts for the actual die-hards, your Camrys and Camaros, however even these will most likely find yourself with a two-inch raise and plastic fender flares earlier than the last decade is out. No car is immune from the everything-an-SUV aesthetic. Toyota makes a lifted minivan, the Sienna Woodland Particular Version. Porsche is supposedly engaged on a high-riding 911.
The Subaru WRX has a traditional trip top, however its plastic fender cladding tells me the Sport Utility Sedan model is barely a matter of time. Everyone desires a truck, and so every little thing is getting the truck remedy.
The 2022 Volvo V90 is a living proof, since the usual Volvo V90 as we knew it not exists. For just a few years, Volvo ran a noble experiment whereby it produced its stately wagon in each unadorned automobile kind and as a jacked-up, fender-flared Cross Nation model with an additional 2.3 inches of floor clearance. Everybody purchased the truckified mannequin, to the extent that Volvo gave up on the standard-height V90. To search out out what Volvo’s designers thought of this, I bothered Robin Web page, head of design, and T. Jon Mayer, head of exterior design, who have been in Sweden and doubtless doing vital design issues earlier than I interrupted to ask them why all automobiles are vehicles now.
First, they identified that within the case of the V90 CC, its lifted suspension and fender flares are greater than an affectation. “We do not do styling for styling’s sake,” Mayer says. “It is a extra succesful chassis, with extra wheel journey. Kind follows operate.” Which in flip follows a selected use case for a high-riding wagon, and it is an interesting tableau. The V90 CC “is a very talked-about automobile in sure areas,” Web page says. “Right here in Sweden, folks could be going to summer season homes the place there is a stony observe, and having some additional top is sweet. We have a look at it as a necessity for a barely taller automobile with that functionality, not about making it look a sure means.” What a picture! I might like to drive a V90 CC to my Swedish summer season cabin through a reasonably unkempt highway, scampering calmly over lichen-covered granite as mottled daylight beams down betwixt the interstices of tight-knit pines. However how many individuals are actually doing that? If a few additional inches of floor clearance impacts your life-style, you could have some very particular habits.
I counsel to Web page and Mayer that you just needn’t personal a distant forest getaway a lot as hope you would possibly. And thus vehicles and SUVs, and ever-so-slightly taller-than-normal automobiles and crossovers, are an expression of optimism: I’ll have an journey. I cannot let pavement constrain me. I’ll drive up an unplowed mountainside in Vermont in the midst of a blizzard after which make s’mores in my cozy, rugged cabin whereas feeling sorry for the much less rugged varieties stranded down under of their standard sedans. “Lots of it’s aspirational,” Mayer says. “You could by no means take it out of the suburbs, however you could possibly if you happen to wished to.”
After some additional noodling on the notion of functionality, we get round to what seems like an important reality: Individuals purchase tall automobiles as a result of folks purchase tall automobiles. It is a suggestions loop that goes just one means; you would possibly commerce your Honda Civic for a CR-V, however most likely not the opposite means round. “The excessive seating place, the commanding view—that may be arduous to surrender,” Mayer says. “When you go in that path, it is arduous to go backward.”
But when I am shopping for a wagon to get to my forested trip house, I am going for the standard 2021 V90, an R-Design mannequin with the decrease, stiffer suspension. As a result of the driveway to my imaginary cabin is lengthy and paved and has FIA-approved nook curbing. Positive, I will most likely by no means slay these corners. However it’s good to know I might.
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