x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Abbi's Jeep a ruby cruiser

Abigail Thirion, a Dubai-based pet store manager, finds the space in her Jeep is very helpful

Abbi Thirion, from the UK, with her Jeep Cherokee.
Abbi Thirion, from the UK, with her Jeep Cherokee.

Abbi Thirion, a 33-year-old Dubai-based mother-to-be and manager of Animal World Pet Store, hopes that she will be able to hang on to her Jeep Cherokee Sport until at least baby number three arrives - an event she says is "a long way off".

When her first child, expected in March, arrives, she says the Jeep will provide "the best of both worlds" because it is a great town car as well as something she can take off-road.

She bought the car two years ago, and says that, at the time, the red colour was a rare sight among Jeeps on UAE roads.

"I love the colour - it was unique at the time I bought it but since I've seen a few other Rubys out there - still, not too many so we are still in our own little club," she says.

Thirion was hoping for a slightly plusher Jeep in green with a remote starting function - "how fab would that have been?" - but that one was sold before she could get her loan sorted out and Ruby the Cherokee ended up in her garage instead.

"I'd moved jobs; I no longer got my salary transferred and so had to get that set up again and running for three months before I could get the loan approved," she says. "Still, once all that was done, this one was available and had very few kilometres on the clock, so was a good deal."

The Cherokee is her second Jeep she previously owned a soft-top Wrangler, which she loved, but it became impractical for her job at the pet store.

"I had to sell it as it was not suitable for my job - having to race animals to the vet meant I needed the space on the back seat or in the boot, as well as having to keep the top on permanently. That kind of defeated the point of owning a soft top.

"Also, the windows had been damaged so I could no longer see out of them - not a good situation to be in with Dubai drivers."

Thirion says the hard roof makes the Cherokee much quieter than the Wrangler and the cargo space is another bonus. "Finally I could be confident that if I picked guests up from the airport I could fit them and their luggage in quite happily without a course in gymnastics having to be undertaken by all first," she says. 

Unlike many an SUV owner here, Thirion has taken Ruby off road. There have been plenty of trips to Dibba and Oman where Thirion and her husband have combined off-roading with scuba diving expeditions.

Her favourite trip off the tarmac was last New Year's Eve on the dunes near Al Ain. "We went with a bunch of friends on quite a ride where all cars cleared all four wheels off the ground a couple of times and much sliding sideways was experienced, although not always on purpose," she happily recalls. "It was great fun and a lovely remote location to welcome in the New Year under the pristine UAE sky.

When asked what she likes best about driving an SUV in the UAE, Thirion says: "With a 4x4, you can escape to all the most beautiful parts of the country if you want, nudge just that little bit closer to the beach or make a road trip with that little bit more of a sense of adventure - even if you don't head off-road at all."

If Thirion ever decides to trade in the Cherokee, she'd like another SUV, citing a down-to-earth 4x4 such as the Land Rover Defender as her dream car.

"There will always be a place in my heart for the classics like the Daimler and the Phantom because of their beautiful, sleek lines. But I see myself more on the plains of Africa trying to keep up with the stampede or making my way up and down the dunes of the Middle East or even weaving through temperate forests looking for new adventures - like Lara Croft without the physique nor the athleticism," she laughs. "Oh, and I guess I'd need to take a degree in motor mechanics, too."