If you are in the UK you’ll be familiar with the term Mum Truck/Chelsea Tractor etc to refer to the school-run mum’s in vast 4×4’s, ostensibly bought to protect little Tarquin and Jocasta from all that dangerous traffic out there (which they singularly fail to see that they are directly perpetuating).
A little bit of reading on the psychology behind this makes for pretty simple understanding of why a 4×4, the bigger the better, is the natural choice. Driving comes with various risks so to mitigate them you’re higher up, the doors have a satisfyingly solid “thunk” when shut and they are four-wheel drive. OMG, a Four…..Wheel….. Drive.
The real off-road fanatics know that 4wd is only part of it. Tires, skill, clearance and the like make up the most part. However, the car manufacturers work very hard and spend lots of money working towards the right “thunk” sound and reassuring consumers that a 4×4 is the best choice for get-anywhere driving immortality.
It can make for astonishing exchanges when you try to drill into why a four-wheel drive is so superior. Remarking that they are often shod with very sport biased tires is met with puzzlement. Suggesting that a front-wheel drive Ford Fiesta with proper winter tyres will be safer and more efficacious in snow (the fear of every Brit mum that lives more than a mile from a city-centre) is dismissed as absurd. “But I have a four-wheel drive” is the refrain. Apparently four-wheel drive is a magic panacea for ill-suited tires and limited driving skills.
Presently there is much flooding round our parts in the UK. “Oh my God. Water is everywhere. Not to worry, at least I have a 4×4 and I know that that is a Good Thing, is the thought that the urban 4wd owners have. With all the off-road derived cars, in the manual, they list various clearances for going off-road, the natural home for these vehicles. Amongst these is a wading depth. E.g.: what is the maximum depth of water can I safely take this vehicle through? Simple enough. 700mm for a Landcruiser apparently.
Yesterday I followed a Toyota Landcruiser Colorado -a tarted up £40k+ Mum Truck but actually a workhorse with leather and sat-nav added – to a piece of flooded road that came 1/3 of the way up car wheels. The driver baulked at the water, drove experimentally into the first few feet it (of run-in not depth) and then promptly panicked and executed an 11 point turn to go around c. 10 miles. I guess that hubby has been lying about 70cm all this time.
Mum Trucks can wade:
It is often observed that the closest to off-road that these luxotanks get is when Mum mounts a curb on the Zig-Zags in front of the school to drop off T and J from the nearside door. After-all, who cares about anyone else or indeed the environment as long as the mantra of safety first is clarion? Personal safety that is, not anyone else’s safety. Screw ’em.