The big trend in the automotive world recently is the sports-utility vehicle: customers are buying them in droves, so much so that even purest of the pure sports car makers like Lamborghini has come out with one, and their crosstown rivals Ferrari is widely believed to be developing one as well. Few buys the traditional sedans anymore; everyone wants an SUV.
This may sound antithetical to a car enthusiast's ears, and perhaps it's because I'm properly #adulting these days: I absolutely get the allure of the SUV. These hopped-up station-wagons are more compact than the equivalent car so therefore easier to park (have you seen the latest Camry class of sedans? They're longer than minivans now). They've got plenty of suspension travel/tire sidewall so speed bumps and potholes are of no issue (some days are more tiresome than others in the Miata). Armed with all-wheel drive SUVs can practically go anywhere in most weather conditions - with a proper set of tires, of course.
Modern engineering have enabled SUVs to achieve roughly the same gas mileage and driving dynamics as the typical sedan, so with none of the old drawbacks it's no wonder they've become leading sellers. Honda sells more CR-Vs per year in America than the entire BMW brand.
I've been looking at SUVs recently, though naturally the models that catches my fancy have more of a sporting bent, however oxymoronic that may be. But there's a problem: SUVs with above average power and driving fun all costs at least $50,000; the offerings below that threshold are more of the mundane grocery-getting variety. In particular a BMW X3 M40i would fit my bill nicely with its 3-Series based chassis and a 355 horsepower motor, but it's starts in the mid $50,000s.
Though I bet it leases tremendously as do most BMWs.
I think - and hope - it's only a matter of time before automakers produce sporting SUVs for more plebeian budgets. If Subaru puts the 2.0-liter WRX motor into its compact Crosstrek SUV, I'd be first in the line at a dealership tomorrow. The general motoring public is buying SUVs by the shipload, but to attract enthusiasts like me to the party we've got to have some mainstream performance offerings. Not all of us have 55 grand to spend on an Audi SQ5.
If indeed people are buying less and less sports-cars and sedans, then why not put those exciting ingredients and engineering effort into the SUVs that are selling well? A Chevy sports-utility with the chassis character of the alpha platform would be tremendous, wouldn't it? Or what about the brilliance Ford Performance has done with the Fiesta ST and Focus ST but in a Ford Escape?
What I am saying is: a sports-utility is high on the list of vehicles for my next car (I'm still shocked this is the case), but said SUV will need to have a proper level of move and agility to satiate the sports-car driver in me, and at a palatable price. Sports-utility vehicle with a capital S: an Ariel Nomad with the body trappings of a typical car. Isn't too much to ask, is it?