To some folks buying a new car probably means going to the dealer and selecting a color and options. But I’m nearly 60 and we had never bought a new car, so the experience was a real lesson for us.
I had wanted a sedan but imagine my surprise when Barbara announced she was leaning toward an SUV (or sports utility vehicle). In fact, we had just test-driven a Toyota Avalon and I was ready to sign on the dotted line, when the announcement came out of the blue. Dejected, I lumbered over to the Ford lot to drive an Explorer.
Hey, after driving it around for a few minutes I had to admit you have quite a view up there in one of those things. You can drive with your nose in the air and look down on all those poor saps in their mere automobiles. But then we hit some potholes and I almost jarred loose a couple of fillings.
“This things rides like a truck,” I mumbled.
“It is a truck,” the salesman said from the back seat. “It’s built on a truck bed.”
“Do you have any that are built on a car bed?”
“Yeah, they’re called cars.”
Well, trucks are really popular right now so I was excited by the idea of doing something fashionable.
So I did some reading and learned that the SUV that most rides like a car is the Nissan Pathfinder, so off we went to the Nissan dealership. The Pathfinder rode a lot smoother than the Explorer, but it also cost a lot more. Even so I was to the point where my pen finger was getting itchy again to do some signing, when I noticed the gas mileage on the window sticker: 14 town, 18 highway.
“More like 14 period,” said the customer next to me. “I’ve been driving one of these for several years and you won’t get 18 miles to the gallon unless you tow it.”
“Hey, 14 miles to the gallon is great,” said another guy in the lobby. “My son drives a Dodge Durango and that thing only gets 12 miles.”
I left, wondering what ever happened to the federally-mandated mileage requirements for new car manufacturers.
But I was still hot on the SUV trail, so we went to the Honda dealer to look at a Passport (a.k.a. Izuzu Rodeo). “Don’t mind me, I’ve only been working here a week,” said the saleslady, who was recovering from an all-nighter at Foxwoods, as she tried to open the trunk. Neither she nor I could figure out how to get it open so we gave up.
The thing was so big that we decided I would back it out of the parking spot while the two ladies waited. As I tried to back it out, though, I realized I couldn’t see what was behind me because the spare tire juts up into the bottom of the rear window. Of all things. That was it for the Passport right there.
Next ,we tried a (Honda) CR-V. It rode like a car, but once we got out on Route 195 (at this point the sales lady had fallen asleep in the back seat) the CR-V’s started to get nervous. Fact is, it didn’t seem to like high speeds. “I guess this is one of those off-roaders,” I said to Barbara, “because it’s sure not an open-roader.”
After test-driving some 15 cars, we ended up getting a station wagon. But the two-week process was anything but a waste. Now, when one of those Jeeps or Explorers noses me out on County Road as if they know they can afford to have a collision with me, I sit back and smile. And sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly devilish, I’ll honk as I drive by the Shell station and see one of those monsters filling up again while I hum along at 30 miles to the highway gallon.