Soul. It’s often overlooked by vehicle manufacturers. I’m not talking about James Brown pumping out the 4in splits, I’m talking about a vehicle’s characteristics that effect you on an emotional level. They put a smile on your face every time you get behind the wheel… it doesn’t matter if you’re heading down to the shops or out on a week-long adventure, a vehicle’s soul has a fair bit to do with the amount of enjoyment you get out of it.
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Take my old 40 Series LandCruiser for example. When compared to a modern vehicle, by anyone’s yardstick it could, quite fairly, be called a bucket of shit. Power nothing, slow, smoky and about as comfortable to drive as sharing a prison cell with a heavily tattooed bikie named Bowling Ball Bag Bob – it’s not what most folks would call a great time. But it still somehow makes me smile and enjoy the hell out of it (er, the ’Cruiser, not the prison cell). You need to have one hand on the wheel, the other holding the thing in gear, another up against the window to keep it from rattling out of the door and the last one on the handbrake in case the foot brake decides to stop playing along. But none of that matters because of the feeling it gives me. It tells me that I could be going absolutely anywhere with total reliability; and even if I don’t make it, it’s going to be massively fun.
It doesn’t come down to any one thing, either. It could be a powerful engine, a supple suspension system, a super-deep low-range gearset – it doesn’t matter. Price is irrelevant too.
Yes, the Range Rover Vogue SDV8 is one of the nicest vehicles I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving – but Ev’s clanky old Suzuki Sierra gives you that same buzz when you’re cruising along the beach with the top down. There’s just something about piloting certain vehicles around that warms the cockles of your cockles.
To me that is what’s missing from a lot of new vehicles on the market today. If it doesn’t make you crack that smile every time you fire it up or excite you on some level, then it stops being something fun and rewarding and simply becomes just a tool. Something with no intrinsic value beyond getting you from A to B.
Let’s be honest, there are a lot of new 4X4s masquerading as electric shavers that don’t even try to offer anything remotely exciting. Sure you get some pretty decent common-rail turbo diesels, and maybe some sort of halfway OK suspension or a diff-lock jammed in there, but there are very few contenders that genuinely try to deliver that smile-inducing feeling that makes you want to throw up a fist-pump whenever you hear the growl from your exhaust.
If you’re not getting that sensation from your 4X4, it may be time to reassess your ownership. I mean, what’s the point in driving something if it’s not fun? Life is too short for boring vehicles.