I have never quite understood the concept of the lifestyle vehicle. Clever advertising would have us believe that an elevated seating position is all that is required to open up a world of wilderness taming.
Not so long ago, a lifestyle vehicle would have meant a 4x4 SUV, not anymore. Market acceptance of the SUV body style has seen it become the largest new car segment in Australia. From a marketing perspective, mission accomplished.
Of course, most people who are now on the SUV bandwagon are unlikely to tame anything wilder than the Coles carpark.
Over the last three years, advertising gurus have been at it again, no driveway is now complete without a ute or pick-up (for those who insist on adopting the American terminology). The once humble ute is now the lifestyle vehicle of the day.
In a remarkable turn of events, the ute is now the hottest ticket in town. At the top end of the market, we are witnessing an arms race more competitive than anything the supercar makers could have thrown up. Forget the Ferrari vs Lamborghini vs McLaren, it’s now HSV, Ford, Mercedes, Volkswagen and Toyota in a struggle to be the best.
The free market generally sees prices fall, the market is in reverse with high-end utes, prices continue to climb.
Expensive utes are nothing new, the LandCruiser 70 Series is in no way cheap. It remains an aspirational purchase for many.
In this instance, we are talking about family friendly dual cab models. A new benchmark was set this week when the upcoming Ford Ranger Raptor was priced at $74,990 (plus on-roads), it’s a price that makes some premium SUVs look cheap.
HSV’s Colorado SportsCat+ can match the Raptor’s wallet-busting price if enough options are ticked. The price ceiling will be broken again when Mercedes-Benz releases its turbo diesel V6 X-Class. The Merc could potentially be priced at a level that competes against entry-level LandCruisers, I know what I would prefer to take bush.
Toyota is smashing it with the HiLux, it is on track to be Australia’s best-selling vehicle for the third straight year. Success hasn’t stopped Toyota from getting into the scrap, new HiLux variants are imminent to combat the threat to sales from Ford and co.
But why all the love for utes when an SUV will do the job? In most cases, the SUV equivalent is better to drive and can be purchased for significantly less than the ute.
Take the Toyota Fortuner, it uses the same engine and running gear as the HiLux, it has seven-seats, a boot and a much nicer interior. Best of all, it costs less to buy. Yet, the Fortuner doesn’t get anywhere near as much love as the HiLux.
The ‘ute with a boot’ SUV variant is far more usable every day. Believe it or not, a boot to store things is very handy. Using a ute for family duties makes simple things like the school run a little bit harder, especially in bad weather.
One of our favourite lifestyle cars is the underrated Land Rover Discovery Sport. The range kicks off at $56,595. It looks like increasingly good value when shopped against popular utes and it offers a ride and handling package no ute will get near.
People now buy utes for the looks, they are now a desirable commodity to own regardless of whether or not their capabilities will ever be utilised.
In most cases, the SUV is a much better choice to undertake a greater variety of tasks. These things are worth thinking about when the next ute advertisement presents itself.