Soon, there'll be another highly visible target for the anti-four-wheel-drive lobby - in the shape of the new Audi Q7. This bluff-nosed behemoth is more than five metres long, nearly a metre and three-quarters tall and well over a metre and a half wide. This car is big. It's actually aimed at America, and here in Britain it's going to present something of a parking challenge, even with bumper radar and optional rear-view camera.
Yet despite its physical bulk and big price tag, the Q7 is selling well in both the UK and Europe. Audi's biggest problem is how to make 'em fast enough. So what is it about four-wheel-drives?
Regardless of the objections - size, thirst, the irrelevance of their off-road capabilities for most - people are still buying them, because they're useful, their owners feel safe in them and they look good. Certainly, they exude a more glamorous aura than people-carriers, which have all the sex-appeal of a shopping cart. This explains why so many well-heeled families buy SUVs: what else can accommodate all the other kid-friendly paraphernalia they need and still cut a dash on the school run? The looks of this Audi Q7 say that mums and dads can still have a life and a taste for good things.
That the Chancellor has increased road fund duty - Q7 buyers will pay £210 rather than £170 - will have little impact on sales when the increase is less than the price of a tankful. Besides its versatility and interior space - it can be had with seven seats - this car sells driving pleasure and luxury hardest. It has the permanent four-wheel drive you'd expect of an Audi Quattro, and height-adjustable air suspension as standard, but lacks the mud-plugging low ratio gears and the suspension articulation of hard-core off-roaders like Land Rover's Discovery.
Instead, the Q7 supplies a surprisingly sporty drive, cornering with startling alacrity. True, few drivers will stretch their Q7s like this, especially if they have the smooth and ecologically sounder 3.0 turbodiesel.
They're more likely to enjoy the Q7's cosseting refinement - enhanced by automatic transmission as standard - the lofty vantage point and the quality of its finish.
And this car is available with many extras. These include the excellent Lane Change Assistant, which warns of traffic lurking in your blind spots via lights in the door mirrors; an elaborate satellite navigation and infotainment system; Bose hi-fi; a vast panoramic sunroof; an assortment of interior finishes; that third row of seats; separate air conditioning for those in the back; and a motorised tailgate. It's all too easy to make a Q7 very expensive.
But if you can assuage your guilt at owning such a leviathan, it should give satisfaction for its space, versatility, verve, quality of finish - and its presence. You must be a good parker, though.
Price: £39,785 (Audi Q7 3.0 TDI SE)
Max power: 230 bhp
Max torque: 369 lb ft
Max speed: 135 mph
0-62 mph: 9.1 sec
Fuel consumption: 26.9 mpg
CO2 emissions: 282 g/km
BMW X5 3.0d Sport £38,515 - Even sportier, better looking and less bulky, but lacks third row of seats. To be replaced.
LAND ROVER DISCOVERY TDV6 SE £36,995
More capable off-road but less athletic on it. Excellent luxury family wheels, and cheaper.