Our Cars are Getting Fatter!

The original 1986 Ford Taurus next to its modern descendent.

A delicious photoessay from TTAC’s Sajeev Mehta.

The heat wave back in July convinced me that I couldn’t keep driving an impossible-to-air-condition 1997 Jeep Wrangler. Also, I’d long ago torn out the back seat to make more room for camping gear, and eventually — like, after the second child — it also becomes impossible to justify having a two-seater as dad’s only car.


Well, I always did enjoy driving old Mercedes, so I looked around for a good deal on a Mercedes ML 350, or maybe the 500. Problem? The truck is just too damn big. I know the Wrangler is tiny, but I do intend on taking the thing off-road. Also? Mercedes seems to have gotten rid of the Low Range gearing on the newer versions (the W164 and W166) of their light SUV.

So I found a 1998 old-school W163 version, for less money than I paid six years ago for the ’97 Wrangler — and with fewer miles on it, too.

It’s still bigger than I’d like, but it’s not nearly the behemoth that the W166 is. I mean, that thing rivals a Soviet T-72, only with a slightly more-bulbous top.

I took the new-old ML camping last month, and it had plenty of room for me, the boy, all our gear, plenty of food, with lots of room left over. And that was without putting anything on the roof rack. Next summer, I’ll bring both boys and the 75-pound Golden, and all four of us will still enjoy plenty of lebensraum.


And believe me when I tell you: I don’t pack light. I used to fill every nook and cranny of the Wrangler, passenger seat included, going camping all by myself. But in the ML, even a cargo hog like me has more than enough truck, driving one of the smaller SUVs on the road.

So tell me: Why are our cars getting so much fatter, especially with gas prices ramping up and CAFE standards clamping down?

Because I don’t get it.


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