If you’ve seen the epic 1996 disaster film Twister, chances are you took note of the clever product placement by Dodge. Bill Paxton darted toward tornados in his brand new Dodge Ram pickup. Meanwhile, rival storm chasers were on his tail driving Dodge Caravans.
The main takeaway from this that the film got right is that when it comes to chasing storms, your vehicle of choice matters. A lot.
The Great Debate
A big debate among storm chasers is whether a four-wheel drive Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) or a minivan is more ideal. Considerations involved with choosing a vehicle include payload, creature comforts and ability to drive in hazardous conditions.
Sports Utility Vehicles
It’s exciting to step into a new vehicle for the first time. You take in the new car smell, the comfort of the seats, the control layout on the dashboard, and the view. When testing a new car, spend several minutes inside the cockpit to get a feel for it.
Ask yourself, does it feel too cramped and tight? This is a common drawback among SUVs. And if you will be mounting camera gear and radios, it will be a bigger issue. One plus side, however, is that in SUVs the controls tend to be laid out very nicely in an accessible way.
As far as ride characteristics, most SUVs typically trend similarly. The ride feels firm and sometimes rather rough. Noise levels are usually very tolerable, with most noise coming from the tires. Gas mileage is to be expected, hovering close to 15 miles per gallon.
Overall, chasers rate SUVs positively, adding that some customization can make them go along way. Replacing the shocks and removing one of the leaf springs from the rear suspension is recommended.
Like SUVs, new minivans are flush with features and options. The biggest advantage minivans have is the amount of space for mounting gadgets. Space is more abundant, allowing you to deck out your dashboard with camera equipment and a radio.
The ride feels smoother but, also noisier. Handling is firm and responsive, and gas mileage averages about 20 miles per gallon.
What SUVs and minivans share in common is that they are nice to drive, and both make for fine storm chasing vehicles. If the ability to go off-road is important to you, your best bet is an SUV. But if a smooth ride and ample storage space are integral to your ideal storm chasing vehicle, then perhaps a minivan would be the better choice.