The SUV Experience

Our guest column contributor BBC TopGear India Magazine Editor Girish Karkera gives us some insight on his views and experience on SUVs.




AL: What is your take on the SUV segment? Do you personally prefer SUV’s over other segments?

GK: Personally, I am a small sedan guy. I like that classic car shape that most Indians my age have grown up on. Of course, there is no reason not to like SUVs. While they started life as utilitarian vehicles for the farm, these vehicles have now grown to uber luxury cars that give limos a run for their money. Lots of on-road comfort, equipment plus capability make them a good all-rounder to have especially if you live in a place with unpredictable roads or if you yourself are an unpredictable guy who fancies going on roads less travelled.




AL: With the rising fuel costs and concerns for global warming, the SUV market is now mostly dominated by more efficient crossover SUVs? So do you think that this means the gradual extinction of true blue purpose built off roaders?

GK: More than that, I think it is the basic needs of new age SUV owners that have led to crossovers dominating the segment. As these vehicles have become more capable with technology and in turn, expensive, most efficient off-roaders are within the reach of only those who can afford them. And all may not necessarily use these cars for off-roading. That in turn meant that there was not point building pure off-roaders for people who may mostly use it for the road. But like is the case with big bikes, I think pure off-roaders will survive even if in smaller numbers for those who really use it that way. So eventually, not all car makers will have off-roaders, but maybe only a few niche ones.


AL: In terms of sales, which do you think is the ideal SUV for manufacturers in this subcontinent? A crossover SUV or a full bred hardcore off roader?

GK: In terms of sales, without doubt it will be the crossover SUVs because they bring together on-road refinement and partial off-road capability that you may need when there is that pressing need to get off the road.


AL: Your most memorable on the edge experience with an SUV so far?

GK: Has to be Morocco when I drove through a river, in the new Range Rover. I thought we had to drive alongside the river but we actually drove upstream. The Range Rover is one of the rare SUV’s that is ultra comfortable and super capable off-road. I had water levels rising up to the bonnet. In fact, at one point I could even roll down the window and put my hand out to touch the water. When we emerged out of the river and drove higher up in the mountains and looked down, I couldn’t believe I actually did that.


AL: Which SUV do you think could take the Indian market by a storm if now manufactured in India and priced competitively?

GK: Small SUVs are the rage now here because everyone wants an SUV for less. But I think we are all waiting for SUVs like the Grand Cherokee, Wrangler, the soon-to-be-launched Terrano (which is Nissan’s version of the Duster) and the next Mercedes GLK.


AL: If you were to ever find yourself in the middle of nowhere in the worst of terrains, which SUV would be your ultimate choice to get out of the mess?

GK: There are many to choose, but most likely a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado.


AL: That one off-road drive you would like to experience in the future.

GK: Possibly, a Rover Mission to Mars!


AL: Your wild imagination/fantasy of an extreme off-roader.

GK: Something as capable as a Defender, that looks like a G-Wagon and as reliable as a Land Cruiser

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