Those gripping ads they run on TV boast that today's sport/utility vehicles are built to tame the Himalayas, but in truth the typical SUV enjoys a cushier life than Marlon Brando's exercise bike.

Sport/utilities have become the four-wheeled equivalent of Patagonia adventure clothing--which, as you probably know, is sold primarily to ensure that its wearers can trek to the Coffee Bean for a latte while being well-protected from avalanches and tsetse flies. Similarly, modern SUVs are way overqualified for the work they usually do.

Just look at the hardware you'll often find on one of these rigs: engine churning out enough power to light Times Square, four-wheel-drive system astutely apportioning just the right amount of torque to each massive all-terrain tire, stability-control computers furiously calculating slip angles and yaw rates and life-insurance actuarial statistics, body big and tough enough to deflect a hundred hard knocks from Arianna Huffington.

Of course, drivers in suburbia need all that stuff because, well, you just never know when you might run into a vat of quicksand or maybe a charging white rhino while transporting Scooter and his clarinet to band practice.

The proof that most SUVs lead manicured-fingernails existences is at its most indisputable in the ultra-luxury sport/utility class. Not only are these pricey chariots frequently festooned with exotic brush bars (useful in normal driving for, what, ensuring that plodding pedestrians don't gum up your grille?), they often wear chrome wheels. Chrome wheels? Seeing these spit-polished discs on a rough-and-ready sport/utility is like spying Dirty Harry sipping an umbrella drink.