This week I come to you from a stretcher on the wonderful white beaches of Clearwater in western Florida. Some well-deserved (if you ask me) vacation is finally here, and we’re certainly happy we chose to spend it here as it’s exactly as wonderful as we remember it from before that Chinese virus thing. That also goes for the cars – I’m sure we’ll see a lot of Priuses and other boring stuff when we fly up to New York in a few days but for now, it’s all about rumbling V8’s in XL format. I can’t think of a single place in Europe where my beloved Range Rover would look small, but here it’s more like a mid-sized SUV… And as far as EV’s go, in this part of Florida with many million-dollar vacation homes, I’m yet to see an EV charging station. I have seen a handful of Teslas though, but not more. It’s thus pretty clear that at least here, EV’s haven’t earned the status symbol badge just yet.
I’m also yet to see what you see innumerable times in any European day, namely the 500 hp+ “race SUV’s”. The general impression at least in this part of this vast country is that people buy and drive their pick-ups and SUV’s as I guess they were intended – namely to transport families and various type of stuff on long or short journeys. Because if there’s another thing our American friends know how to do, it’s how to drive in a civilized manner. It’s our fifth day here and I’ve so far heard one person honking. If someone wants to change lanes you let them in. If you catch up with someone, you don’t drive up to half a meter from their bumper and flash your lights. And so on. Again, I’m sure my many American readers have a thing or two to remark here, but please take this for what it is, i.e. the spontaneous observations of a simple European tourist.
So with SUV’s and pick-ups dominating the picture and are driven like they should, that obviously means quite a lot of sports cars on the roads as well, used for a bit more active driving. There are lots of Mustangs and Corvettes of various generations but including the new one, which looks sensational and very much like something from Maranello (at half the price). These and other sports cars like the Lamborghini below tend to have at least eight cylinders and preferably be naturally aspirated. Of course it’s not like people do wild burnouts on the beach strip, but the point is that the horsepower are where they belong, under the hood of the sports car rather than that of the SUV.
I came to think of this as I was reading about Aston’s updated DBX. Long-term readers will perhaps remember my post on the DBX from the summer of 2021, where I made the case that unless you’re really set on having an Aston Martin for family transport, there’s very few rational reasons to buy one. I’m sure it handles amazing for an SUV, but as I’ve tried to highlight above, that is pretty pointless in something that weighs 2.5 tons and is intended for transporting lots of stuff or people. Anyway, Aston has now introduced the DBX 707, a super-mega version that consists in giving it 157 hp more (out of its Mercedes bi-turbo V8) so that it now has 707 instead of the perfectly acceptable 550 hp in the standard version. Next to that there’s of course a bunch of skirts and spoilers as well, mostly in carbon, and tires so large that you shouldn’t even think of ever leaving the asphalt.
What Aston didn’t see a need to update in the new version, or quite simply didn’t have the money to, includes notably the hood latch which is still in the passenger footwell (something I haven’t seen since my old Triumph TR4 from 1965 but that Aston seems to think is charming as it’s the same on other models as well). The infotainment system is still from Mercedes pre-MBUX, i.e. with origins close to ten years old, and still without touchscreen. And whereas you can fold the back seats from the luggage compartment, you need to walk around to put them up again. These may seem like small details and I’m the first to say that the infotainment isn’t what you should focus on, but this is a car that costs USD 250′-300′ and that competes with the best in the business. For that money I think it’s reasonable to expect not having to walk around to the passenger side to open the hood and maybe, just maybe, the money would have been better spent remedying the above rather than giving it more than 700 hp? Aston haven’t sold that many DBX’s so far and my bet is they won’t sell the new version either, other than to the real Aston aficionados.
With Lamborghini updating the Urus very soon and Ferrari about to introduce its Purosangue, it doesn’t look like the 700 hp power SUV trend will abate anytime soon. Of course the new DBX is just as little about ultimate road handling than an Urus, a Cayenne GT Turbo or a G63 is. It’s called prestige, and it seems to be something we Europeans crave much more of than over here in the home of the SUV. Whereas it’s improbable that every European power-SUV buyer experiences the US driving culture, it may actually be the EV trend that brings a remedy. Of course you could say that the crazy power numbers that EV’s put out rather reinforce the trend, but EV’s don’t roar, and whereas it’s really fun to push the pedal to the metal and exploit the immediate power surge, you’ll most probably tire of it quite quickly, at least that’s what my Tesla-driving friends tell me. What is left at that point is quite an ordinary-looking car that in most cases looks quite anonymous.
Anonymity is of course no good for the prestige-factor, so does this mean we will all become more equal and less prestige-driven when EV’s take over? That would be the day. I rather think we’re heading in another direction, namely that of a fundamental reappraisal of what a car really is. The only reason EV’s look like they do is because we’re used to how a car should look. Had we not had cars when the first EV was developed, it would no doubt have looked very differently to what they do today, given an EV with its briefcase-sized engines give much more design freedom. As EV’s become more common-place, I therefore think the way we’re heading may be towards EV’s that look completely different and hereby also convey the sought after prestige factor.
Then again, all the above may come from me spending too much time under the Florida sun, and it’s anyway clear that it’s not going to happen next year, nor the year after. I guess time will tell. For now, my wish would be that we Europeans become a bit more American in how we think of our SUV’s. I also wish that I get the chance to drive the new Corvette soon. Those looks combined with a big rumbling V8 that for the first time is mid-mounted, can’t be wrong!
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