Driver’s little helper.

Alan’s been auto editor for more than a year now, and one perk of the job is, he gets to take a car home from time to time. By “time to time,” I mean maybe twice a month, and he usually chooses Wednesdays. That’s his day to pick up Kate at her weekly jazz practice, and they like to listen to satellite radio together; the new cars all have it. The models the companies send to the automotive press tend to have, as we like to say, “alllll the shit on it,” expensive and loaded, the kind we’d never buy. The Buick Enclave we had over the weekend cost close to what I make in a year, at least with allll the shit on it.

But it was a luxurious ride, and if nothing else, cars like this tell me what is coming in my next one, once the technology trickles down to the lower price points.

The dashboards on some of these rides are more daunting than a 747’s, with baffling switches that control things like heated steering wheels and other crap. But we’ve become fond of a couple of doo-dads, specifically the backup camera and the blind-spot indicator.

You don’t have those on your car? The former not only shows you what’s behind you, but also draws a little lane with green/yellow/red zones — sometimes with audio cues when you get too close to cars and walls and pedestrians. And the blind-spot indicator is pure genius, a yellow lamp that lights in your outside rear-view mirror when you’re not in a safe lane-changing zone.

The jury is out on a Cadillac option Alan sampled a while back — a rumble thing that shakes under your ass when you drift from your lane. He thought it was silly, but I pointed out that on my Lansing commutes, it’s not unusual for — I swear — half the passing cars to be piloted by someone who is staring at a phone. I’ve seen so many motorists drifting out of their lanes at 80 miles per hour that I’d be in favor of making the rumble-ass feature standard equipment on everything from zillion-dollar Cadillacs down to Kia subcompacts.

Actually, it would be nice to get an ass-rumble whenever we drift astray, don’t you think? I’ll let you think on that for a while.

So, bloggage?

“Mad Men” starts Sunday with some new evidence on how far we’ve fallen since the 1960s:

We see Don reading “The Inferno” from Dante while he and Megan lie on the beach in Hawaii. As the camera lingers on Megan’s bikini bottom, Jon Hamm’s voice over thoughtfully recites, “I went astray from the straight road (pause) and woke to find myself alone (pause) in a dark wood.”

When was the last time you saw anyone reading Dante on a beach? I ask you.

Happy Wednesday, all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' |

64 responses to “Driver’s little helper.”

  1. Dexter said on April 3, 2013 at 2:45 am

    Click and Clack The Tappet Brothers, aka Tom and Ray Magliozzi, always said that the cheapest, least options-equipped car of today is 100 times safer than the safest car from the 1960’s and back.

    That Enclave is sweet; I have looked at them, as I live just 150 yards from the GM dealer here. And I drove the most-unsafe vehicle on the road from 1973 to 2010; off and on I had a series of VW Microbuses, officially called Transporters. I even drove one to Narragansett Beach near Boston. The last one I drove quite a few times to Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Cleveland for ball games, football and baseball.
    I no longer own any Volkswagens; my last one was a 1985 Jetta. I junked that one also when it wouldn’t go anymore.
    When I rent cars, I never have any trouble assimilating…but I never even use half the options, I suppose.

    I almost had an accident Monday. I was awaiting oncoming cars to go by so I could make a left turn. The young woman coming from the opposite way was texting and realized she had to make a left also so she hammered the brakes and momentarily lost control of her Pontiac Aztek . I just drove out of that scene as quickly as possible. Jerks.

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  2. Sherri said on April 3, 2013 at 3:29 am

    My favorite piece of automotive technology has been heated seats. That’s what I call living in the lap of luxury, pardon the pun. I do enjoy a warm tush. And I like to splurge for the leather seats, because they’ll look nicer for the life of the care, which I plan to keep for a minimum of 10 years. I’ve been driving my current Acura MDX for 9.5, and haven’t really gotten the new car itch yet. Those leather seats still look great.

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  3. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 3, 2013 at 6:51 am

    Why doesn’t anyone get on into the Purgatorio, let alone Paradisio? Beatific Vision and all that! But no, we’re into the horror (see my late link from yesterday) more than the redemption. You’d think Don would be ready for a little renewal and hope by now.

    What would have been truly awesome: Don on the beach reading from “The Seven-Storey Mountain”: “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”

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  4. Deborah said on April 3, 2013 at 7:22 am

    On our recent road trip we thankfully only encountered one person texting while driving, and she was totally engrossed in it while doing at least 70. I passed her as fast as I could.

    The Jeep we recently bought to keep in New Mexico is the most stripped down car we’ve ever owned. We did finally decide to get air-conditioning with it, the only extra. It has hand cranked windows and it’s a stick which was actually hard to find.

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  5. Deborah said on April 3, 2013 at 7:29 am

    Roger Ebert has cancer reoccurrence,0,4281746.story

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  6. Deborah said on April 3, 2013 at 7:35 am

    Can you believe this?

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  7. David C. said on April 3, 2013 at 7:37 am

    I didn’t know anyone still made a car with crank down windows. My wife hates power windows. I’ve been looking for anything without them and it seemed that even the lowest of the low had power windows. Good old Jeep, I’ll have to look into that.

    Ebert is such a fighter. I think I would have given up long ago.

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  8. Suzanne said on April 3, 2013 at 7:52 am

    My husband has a car with crank windows and no power locks. I hate driving it, but he got it cheap.

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  9. coozledad said on April 3, 2013 at 8:26 am

    I’ve never seen it, but You wonder if the story line of Mad Men is going to track with Paola and Francesca and the whole whirlwind of lovers thing.

    Dore’s illustrations get straight to the porn at the heart of the late medieval concept of hell. Say what you want about heaven, it ain’t got tits.

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  10. coozledad said on April 3, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Sorry. I busted the link:

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  11. BigHank53 said on April 3, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Totally de-optioned cars (no power windows, locks, seats, etc) are available in two ways. Some are strippers (all the options stripped out) that dealers get in order to have some low-priced lures to advertise in the Sunday paper. Our Focus was one of those, we bought it second-hand for $7200 (!) ten years ago. We’ve put a hundred and forty-five thousand miles on it and the damn thing is still worth a couple grand, which has given this car the lowest depreciation ratio of any vehicle I’ve ever owned.

    The other way to get a car without all the glitzy doodads is to look around the dealership for the guy who handles fleet sales. Construction companies and suchlike all know it’s only a matter of time before coffee or a Big Gulp gets spilled on the driver’s door, and they’re not paying $650 to have the fancy switch panel for the windows and adjustable mirrors replaced. Deleting all the leather and powered junk can knock $15,000 off the price of a big pickup truck.

    The little rumble things in the Cadillac seat, by the way, are called tactors.

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  12. Mark P said on April 3, 2013 at 8:45 am

    The last time I saw anyone reading Dante on the beach? That would be never. Of course I can count the number of times I have been to the beach on two hands. Maybe a foot.

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  13. Peter said on April 3, 2013 at 8:46 am

    I think those rear view cameras and lane warning dots are the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it’s a generational thing. At the auto show my son and I saw a Volvo with those features and he said they should have called it The Floridian.

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  14. alex said on April 3, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Someone reading Dante on the beach in the 1960s suggests people were more erudite then, which people of a certain class certainly were, but it rings hollow. They’d have been more likely to be reading C. Northcote Parkinson.

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  15. Dorothy said on April 3, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Last May I got a Chevy Equinox and we ordered exactly what we wanted on it – the first time we’ve indulged ourselves like this. Leather seats (heated! heaven!), sun roof, rear view camera (I can clean the wee thing off with a little spit on a Kleenex when necessary), fancy radio, USB ports. I feel quite spoiled, even after 10 months of driving it. I have been wondering if a heated steering wheel is an option so I nearly applauded when I read the Enclave had one, Nancy. I know it’s “crap” but it would be handy crap when you leave for work, and discover you left your gloves on the table inside the front door after walking the dogs. And it’s only 20 degrees outside.

    We talked about doctor visits recently and in Sunday’s Dispatch I saw this (I’m always behind reading the paper. Is it really Wednesday today?!?!) This sounded sorta cool to me:

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  16. nancy said on April 3, 2013 at 9:26 am

    The heated steering wheel was on a Jeep Grand Cherokee, but I’m sure GM has it, or will, when you’re ready to upgrade. The thing I liked about the Enclave was that the seat heating also extended into the lumbar spine area.

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  17. alex said on April 3, 2013 at 9:27 am

    My first experience with heated seats was many years ago as a passenger in a Lexus newly acquired by an old college classmate. A man who, incidentally, used to joke about ass queef coming alive whenever it’s near a heat source. He must have enjoyed smelling his own. I found the seats comfortable initially but unpleasant after a few minutes. I imagine most people use them when starting a car that has been out in the cold but not constantly.

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  18. Dorothy said on April 3, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Yes Alex, I have to shut mine off fairly soon. Eventually you decide you are comfortable enough and the warmth lingers, so you shut it off. I only drive about 5 miles to my office and that is plenty of time to warm up my tushie. I always shut it off before I get to work.

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  19. Julie Robinson said on April 3, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Not only have I never seen anyone on the beach reading Dante, I’ve also never seen anyone on the beach reading Merton. It was a more erudite time, wasn’t it?

    Roger Ebert has long held my admiration, especially as he has continued to do wonderful work despite his physical circumstances. His memoir is inspiring, and not in a treacly, Mitch Albom way. He speaks very honestly about his many years as an alcoholic, and his intelligence shines through on every page.

    Yesterday I narrowly avoided two accidents, and both the drivers weren’t young things texting, but oldsters with their own set of issues. Playing Dodge-em is the downside of going to the grocery on senior discount day.

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  20. Dave said on April 3, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Oldsters driving is a concern, I wonder at what age you quit? Most people don’t know and think they’re fine, I’m convinced of it. My weakening father, now under home hospice care, congestive heart failure, fussed at me last week because we won’t let him drive his practically new 2012 Chrysler. Never mind that he suffers from double vision most days and can’t hardly operate the TV remote or the cordless phone, things that break my heart.

    Oh, that Chrysler has heated seats and I find them not all that comfortable, I have to turn them off before I’ve gone more than a mile. I need to read the owner’s manual to learn how to change the setting so that it doesn’t automatically come on.

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  21. coozledad said on April 3, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Which religion is it gonna be, cousinfucking white rubbish? The feds need to move troops in and hang this trash before it goes all Jim Jones.

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  22. Bitter Scribe said on April 3, 2013 at 11:16 am

    My father and mother both had numerous accidents in their 80s before they stopped driving. It was tough because Dad was famously stubborn and had little common sense (a bad combination), and as for Mom, she had to drive because at the time she was living alone with my autistic brother.

    Once a cop pulled her over for passing a stopped school bus and was so alarmed at her mental condition that he had someone call my brother at home that evening. What a conversation that must have been.

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  23. Julie Robinson said on April 3, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Dave, my heart goes out to you; it’s a hard, hard thing. My dear mother-in-law had two or three accidents in quick succession, fortunately all at a very low speed and without anyone getting hurt. Her insurance company stepped in and made her be tested as a condition of further coverage. She failed, of course, but she was mad about it for a year. And she was giving all her friends rides, so they were mad too!

    My mom readily admits she isn’t a good driver anymore, and we’ve had lots of conversations about giving up the license and moving nearby. Every time I think I’ve talked her into it, she retreats. However, the decision will be out of our hands if she can’t pass the vision test at her next license renewal this summer, and I doubt she will.

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  24. Dorothy said on April 3, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Our little local newspaper had an insert over the weekend which profiled some local folks. I only read one of the articles, which was about a 90 year old lady who loves to crochet, and she went on and on about how many she’s made, who she gives them to, etc. etc. Then she talked about her eyesight not being what it used to be, and some years ago she was so worried she would hurt someone or herself that she gave up driving. When she told her doctor, he said to her “Oh Mrs. So-and-so, I wish more drivers were as considerate as you!” It really is a rarity, I’d wager, when older drivers voluntarily give up driving. Sometimes I think about how mad it would make me if I had do that, and I can certainly understand how frustrating it would be. But more critical than my own frustration would be the guilt I’d feel if I hurt or killed someone. I should print out this comment and tape it to my bathroom mirror or something, assuming I’ll be in the same house 20-25 years from now.

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  25. Judybusy said on April 3, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Totally off-topic, but it’s a Civil War thing, so should be all right: I am assuming that someone here recommended The Fall of the House of Dixie, which I just finished this morning. It’s an enlightening way to look at the war, using many personal letters to demonstrate just how attached southern whites were to slavery and white supremacy.It is really heart-breaking to read a times, especially near the end, when people were kept in bondage even though the 13th Amendment had been passed. The jerk masters just told them Lincoln had died, and so no freedom. No news to anyone, but it was also quite chilling how the former planter class came together to ensure the share-cropping system to keep black people as close to slavery as possible. Someone here recently read The Warmth of Other Suns, and I kept thinking how so many black people finally chose to leave beginning in the late teens. What stunned me were the efforts by whites to keep them in the south, as a source of cheap labor. People often had to be very secretive or risk lynching if they were planning to move.

    So, all a long way of saying thank you to whomever recommended it!

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  26. Charlotte said on April 3, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I love my Subaru heated seats (lumbar region too) — particularly great for that backache that ladies tend to experience on a semi-regular basis. But every man I know has been *horrified* by them — they think it makes them feel like they’ve peed their pants. I’d sign on for the heated steering wheel too — even once the car has gotten warm, if it’s near zero, the steering wheel stays really cold all the way into town (about 30 miles).

    I’m in the market for a new vehicle, but since I just got my tax bill, and Chuck is starting to build my greenhouse room, it won’t be until fall. Nancy — you bought the Fiat 500, right? I have to go to Seattle for one of those … but I”m looking at the Fit, the Mazda 3, the Prius (“the Pious”) and there’s a new Subaru that they claim gets 28/35 — which might be what I wind up with since it has a roof rack and AWD. I wish Subaru would go back to 4WD that you could turn on and off — I only need it about 10% of the time and it kills your mileage. But Chuck would rather drive my Outback than the 2000 Ford Taurus wagon he bought from his folks, and he’s offered to match whatever trade-in they offer me — and I want something smaller. Most of my driving isn’t camping, or hauling, it’s just driving, and it seems wrong to be dragging that much car with me all the time.

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    • nancy said on April 3, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      Noooo, we didn’t buy the Fiat 500. That was a loaner, same as the others. Alan brought it home on our anniversary, and we took the long way up the lake shore for ice cream.

      Our daughter plays an enormous instrument. We each have a station wagon — VW for me, Subaru for Alan.

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  27. LAMary said on April 3, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    This car looks interesting. If I had any money I might consider it.

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  28. Julie Robinson said on April 3, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    I drive a soccer-mom minivan, and it sure came in handy driving carpool, family vacations, and schlepping kids to college and grad school. But I don’t need the space anymore and I can tell you much it costs to drive to any of my usual haunts–half a gallon down to work and back, etc. It’s only a 2006, though, so I’m likely to have it another five years or so. Meanwhile I’m lusting for a hybrid, but when we do the math, the cost of a few repairs every year doesn’t come close to a new, or new to us, vehicle. Darn logical reasoning!

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  29. Bob (not Greene) said on April 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Well, my wife and I did buy the Fiat 500. Red. With a manual five-speed transmission. It replaces the crappiest vehicle I have ever owned, a minivan with power nothing. Don’t transport five kids around much these days. Fits in small parking spaces, gets great gas mileage and is fun to drive.

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  30. MarkH said on April 3, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Charlotte, save yourself 200 miles and 3 hours driving time; there is a Fiat dealer in Boise.

    Also you can rest assured the days of manual 4WD in all but the heavier trucks is long gone. Subaru abandoned it in 1996 when they went AWD in their full lineup (only the new BRZ sports car is different with rear wheel drive). And for good reason, as they are the leaders in full-time AWD technology (ok, along with Audi). These systems are way more sophistcated and practical, especially in areas like yours and mine, helping you maintain traction/stability in all conditions with minimal effort. I find the mileage difference against, say a similar Toyota FWD vehicle, minimal, making Subaru the best value out there, in my view. And, yes I used to sell Subies, my favorite of all the brands I sold. Minimal problems, no-friction warranty claims (if ever), happy (repeat) customers.

    But I covet a Fiat 500 as well. A buddy here bought the Abarth version last year. What a blast.

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  31. Dexter said on April 3, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Well well well…my wife just told me her 22 year old granddaughter in Las Vegas got a speeding ticket last week and yesterday she rear-ended a car. She is a notorious texter. I am not even going to ask her, but one and one makes two.

    When you drive a 22 year old van like I do, all you want is an engine that will start most of the time. I have been cut-off for the rest of 2013 for any more tows, as I really have been towed SIX times since last August. I do not blame my insurance man…he said the average is one tow every 4.5 years, and here’s me, driving hoopdees and calling wreckers nearly once a month. Not my fault…the Blazer, given to me to “drive until the engine quits” lasted five months and died, and it’s not my fault my van’s fuel pump quit and my mechanics could not fix it. It’s fixed now…they finally found a perfectly good fuel pump and installed it correctly. Sheesh.
    Oh, and satellite radio isn’t just for cars. I have a boombox set-up in the house. It’s only about sixty cents a day for all the programming you can stand. I find myself listening to a lot of the Pearl Jam station, lots of talk radio, lots of jazz, lots of deep tracks vinyl stations…it’s really “the shit”. I would sink into deep depression if someone took my radio away. And since Current TV went bye-bye, I can listen to the Stephanie Miller Show on the Politics Left channel.
    It’s time. It’s cold, but it’s time. It’s time to give the best bicycle a once-over, fill the tires, and take off. I shall ride twelve miles by 6:00 PM or fall off dead trying. Here we go!

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  32. Dorothy said on April 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    My daughter’s boyfriend has a Honda Fit. When we zipped around town in it when we visited them last Thanksgiving, I wasn’t wild about riding in the back seat. But if you’re alone and just need to get to and from work or grocery shopping, I think it’s ideal. He loves it.

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    • nancy said on April 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm

      I think I was at the auto show when they rolled out the Fit. They loaded and reloaded it several times to demonstrate it had far more cargo space than you’d think, and it was amazing — it held a Sousaphone, a full drum set, etc. Maybe they should have included a few women.

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  33. Charlotte said on April 3, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Mark H — Seattle works better for me than Boise because my office and my beloved stepmother are both there — fly out, put a day or two in the office in (write off the ticket), stay with the Beloved Stepmother (she and Dad divorced decades ago, but we kept her), buy a car and drive back. Of course, we don’t have sales tax here … and I’m actually leaning toward the new little Impreza. Good mileage, and the AWD bugs me when I don’t need it, but when I do, I’m really glad to have it. Plus a roof rack. I’ve had my Outback for 100,000 miles and it’s really quite bombproof … although that teal blue and white Mini Cooper I saw last week was pretty swell. If it had been a manual I might have been tempted to do something financially foolish …

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  34. Catherine said on April 3, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    My husband’s 2004 Forrester is fun to drive and the heated seats are nice. It also gets worse gas mileage than my minivan, doesn’t hold nearly has much/many, needs high-test gas for the turbo, has required repair after repair including a blown head gasket recently, and has the worst highway noise of any car I’ve ever driven, including my 1976 Chevette. I am not a fan.

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  35. Heather said on April 3, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    I’ve got an ’08 Fit and I love it! It is a bit of a bumpy ride but I kinda like it that way. And you can indeed fit a ton o’stuff in it–no need to strap that six-foot Christmas tree to the top. I had a mid-size something or other when it was in the shop for a few days (after I got rear-ended) and I was amazed at how much gas it used in comparison. I drive 40-50 miles to work every day, so that’s a big deal.

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  36. Heather said on April 3, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    EDIT: 40-50 miles total each day, that is. My commute’s bad enough as it is.

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  37. jwfromnj said on April 3, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Ditto on the Fiat 500. We rented one for an impromtu trip from Florida to the Jersey Shore in February. $30 filled the tank. It’s a blast to drive, speedy, and a looker. It was also very stable. It handled semi trucks whooshing by, only one gust of wind while crossing a bridge in Virgina spooked us.

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  38. Dorothy said on April 3, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    I fit just fine in the Fit – however it seemed very bumpy to me – and Lord knows I have enough of a cushion that I sit on which should have absorbed the bumpiness! The love birds drove it up to Killington, Vermont on Monday from Norfolk and got lots of ski equipment packed in it (I don’t think they own skis, but he did get boots for Christmas). My daughter texted this to her brother after seeing Killington for the first time: Vermont is so f***ing quaint I can’t stand it.

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  39. Sherri said on April 3, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    My Acura MDX doesn’t get good gas mileage, but it’s done the soccer mom thing well while also being a good snow vehicle for trips to the mountains (and for trips up and down the hill I live on when we get snow here.) I’ve had it 8 and a half years, but only put 70K miles on it, and it’s a very comfortable vehicle to drive. My husband has a Prius, which obviously gets great gas mileage, but is a stiff, bumpy car to ride in compared to my MDX.

    I do occasionally lust after a manual transmission Mini though. Maybe after I’m done doing the college schlepping thing.

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  40. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 3, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Wait, wait – Cooze @ #9, did you say heaven doesn’t have everything necessary to human happiness? (Okay, male happiness.)

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  41. Jeff Borden said on April 3, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    I’ll vouch for the longevity of leather seats. My 1999 Acura TL seats still look great and the back seat cleans up pretty well despite being assaulted on a regular basis by a 70-pound dog caked with snow, mud or sand. The front seat warmers are essential in the winter, when that %$$#@ leather is like a sheet of ice.I wish we had seat coolers. When I take Cosmo to the beach in the summer wearing my swimming trunks, I fear I’m going to get second-degree burns when I slide onto that shiny black leather.

    My accountant and tax preparer became apoplectic when I told him I might be opting for a Fiat 500 Abarth not because I need it, but because I want it. My mentor at Oakton, an amazing man who has twin 23-year-old sons including one who was born with cystic fibrosis, tells me, “Never postpone joy.” I’ll be 62 next month. I’ve never really owned a performance car and I figure that the sands of time are running against me.

    But the combination of my deeply ingrained Catholic guilt (which remains even though I don’t consider myself a member of the One True) and my deeply ingrained Protestant work ethic (via my Depression hardened dad) may yet prevent me from following through on my dream of plunking down about $25K for a fire-engine red Abarth.

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  42. BethB said on April 3, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Sold my 2002 Honda Accord last August and replaced it with a 2013 Honda CRV. The reason: I needed the space in the back to install a now-needed lift to enable me to more easily get my scooter into the car. (Having MS is the pits.) I love the Hands-Free Phone function, the back-up camera, dual AC/heat controls. The heated seats/back are lost on me because I only want the back portion; my butt and legs are already burning all of the time. I’d love to have a lumbar-only heat function. I’d run it all of the time to bake my aching back. We get about 22.4 city driving. We tried bunches of cars–the deciding factor besides the space for the scooter lift, was the “feel” of the seats. Sports-style seats that “hug” the butt and hips too much really hurt me. Weird. My husband says I have “the princess who slept on a pea” complex.

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  43. nancy said on April 3, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Don’t give me that sands-of-time bullshit, Borden. I know what you really want:

    Or is this what you want?

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  44. Bob (not Greene) said on April 3, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    That second one is definitely what stouder wants.

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  45. Sherri said on April 3, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    BethB, I think Honda/Acura makes the most comfortable seats around. We used to have a Honda Civic back when I was pregnant, and sometimes when my back was aching I’d just get in the car and drive, because the Civic seat was the most comfortable place to be.

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  46. Jeff Borden said on April 3, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    I’m slated to test drive a convertible Abarth when one arrives, but likely will not get it. I think Fiat is adding, like $4K to the price, which would take it beyond an expensive toy. As noted, my stupid hangups will probably short-circuit the whole idea.

    The commercial with the Romanian supermodel does rock, however. One of my colleagues at Oakton who teaches Italian immediately marked her as a Romanian. I have no idea how. I don’t care where she is from. I’m just grateful she is.

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  47. Jeff Borden said on April 3, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Hey Cooz,

    You live in North Carolina, right? What in billy hell is going on down there? Are the Republican goobers in Raleigh really looking to set up a state religion? I thought all those right-wing teabaggers worship the Constitution. And they want to monkey around with this kind of insanity? When did you guys decide to compete with South Carolina?

    And do any of these boneheads understand what this looks like to companies that might be considering relocating to the Research Triangle or Charlotte or whatever? The crazy dumb grows ever stronger.

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  48. JWfromNJ said on April 3, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Jeff Borden – A well optioned non Abarth with the multi-air engine would be just as fun, and you can order one to your specs including some amazing colors. I don’t want to burst anyone’s dreams of Italia but they are built in Mexico.

    I had a slew of Fiats as a younger guy – a Strada (terrible attempt to copy the VW Rabbit, a 124, and a 126 TC special. I always did like the boxy ones that the Soviets based the Lada on. I think the real hot Italian ride in the US now is the Dodge Dart which is essentially a re-skinned Alfa Romeo Giulietta. You could opt for one of those two, and forget the “guilt.” You’re buying safety, reliability, fun, and good warranties.

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  49. Danny said on April 3, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Wow. I am glad that she is too.

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  50. Joe Kobiela said on April 3, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    Love my 2013 ford focus. 35-40 MPG. Satellite radio hands. free phone. Bought the hatchback. Both daughters have new ford fiestas and love them. My focus was built in michigan.
    Pilot Joe

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  51. John C said on April 3, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    We have a 2008 Buick Enclave, soon to pass 140K on the odometer. It’s the best vehicle I’ve ever owned. Pleasure to drive. Cool looking. Full third row. pretty much maintenance free. My only complaint was that it was so expensive, but we got a discount. I loved that I could plug my ipod into the sound system, which was rare in 2008. It also has a regular electrical plug, also rare back then. But my fave-fave-favorite option is the remote start (also pretty common now, I know.) When it is 5 below zero, I feel actual physical pleasure as I stand at my back window, coffee cup in hand, and push a little button. I watch the tail lights come on, then, though the window, I hear it start. I walk back to the table to keep reading the paper, knowing that, in five minutes or so, I’ll step into a warm car. (It automatically adjusts the heater/air conditioner, based on the external temperature.) Wonderful.

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  52. coozledad said on April 3, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Borden: It’s pretty much like Atrios said- the rubes were just supposed to be the suckers. Now they’re in control of the party. Software, biotech,and drug companies will relocate out of state to accommodate the people of different faiths and countries of origin who do things that shit-stick baptist crackers can’t do because it doesn’t involve putting their cock in a sister, or a gun to the head of a clerk in a liquor store.
    Art Pope runs the state now, and the only job he’s held down his entire life was to make sure Jesse Helms had a mouth holster for his dick.

    The Republicans are pissed off that urban areas in the state prosper because they’re not protestant and stupid as fucking bricks, and this is their revenge. They’re restricting voting rights to lock themselves in, too.

    The only good thing that might come of it is the holy rollers might just start killing each other off first, to see who gets the mandate of heaven. Sadass mentally handicapped Baptist fuckers down here were blaming the Methodists for 9-11. Yeeee-haw. Apparently there’s nothing their Jesus likes better than a big heap of rotten-ass dead Christians.
    It’ll be fun to watch them trying to entice businesses back by offering to whore their daughters out, like the old days.

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  53. Danny said on April 3, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    A sad day for many science fiction fans.

    Iain Banks is a fine writer by any standard, regardless of genre. His novels based in the “Culture” universe have been some of my favorite reads over the years. Such an imagination. His thought provoking exploration into what the future of artificial intelligence might be in the form of space ships who are their own, self-aware super intelligences called “Minds” is extremely entertaining. Also his philosophizing on eternal life and what unknown bridges one must cross and difficulties one might face are incredibly interesting. I don’t have the quote in front of me, but he wrote at length in one novel about how some only certain species could handle eternal life or extremely prolonged life. Not everyone is cut out for it. Many species eventually settle into unrelenting boredom or sadness that is so severe that they either no longer wish to live and opt for suicide or they go completely stark, raving mad.

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  54. basset said on April 3, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    144K-mile Subaru Outback here, made in Indiana. Reasonably capable for what I do with it once I fold the back seats down and spread out a tarp; keeps most of the mud, fish slime, and deer blood off the carpet.

    I don’t much care for the new Subies though, they just seem too generic and lacking Subaru-nature.

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  55. Scout said on April 3, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Still driving the ’98 Golf with 187K miles. It’s a beat up looking ride, but it still has zip. I’m shopping soon, though, and should have something new by summer. I’m torn between wanting something high mpg and something good for off road adventures. If anyone knows of anything that fits both bills, I’d love to hear about it.

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  56. alex said on April 3, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Still driving a 150K Toyota Tundra that’s good as new except for a driver’s side seatbelt that needs help retracting and a blemish on the rear quarter panel caused by a too-tight turn near a concrete post at a car wash that I don’t think is worth the $4K they say it costs to fix. I remember a vain suitor once telling me that if I couldn’t afford to fix it then I couldn’t afford to own it. I responded that if that’s the case I couldn’t afford an old beater with a dent in it because it would cost the same to fix and I have other priorities, and impressing him wasn’t one of them.

    My previous daily driver was a Jetta GLX with a V6 and a stick and it was a delightful drive, but at 120K I was feeling kinda meh. It had lots of things going wrong like the GM cars of old. Failing power windows, cup holders breaking loose, yada yada. And a very expensive local dealership that once did such an incompetent job of replacing the shocks that I vowed never to go back. The front shocks had been installed upside down. I had driven to Chicago and the handling was so bizarre that I had it looked at and they told me that was the problem. The Fort Wayne dealer told me to take it to a dealer there, so I went to the Auto Barn in Evanston, who rectified the front shocks and whose staff was bewildered that there could be anyone so incompetent working on cars. When I learned that they hadn’t checked the rear shocks I asked why and they said it hadn’t been authorized by the Fort Wayne dealership paying for it. So I called the Fort Wayne dealer and got a shitty earful about how I’d already cost them blah blah blah. So I said fine, I will pay for it myself for my own peace of mind but if there’s anything wrong I won’t. Sure enough, not only were the shocks upside down, they weren’t even attached at the proximal end. That manager from Fort Wayne took on a much very different tone the next time he was on the phone with me. All in all that was a sucky experience, enough to make me not want to own a VW in Fort Wayne.

    Best car ever was a Honda that I drove for 209K and even when it started looking hagged out I was resistant to letting it go. My brother had one that he drove to 240K with the trunk smashed in to the rear windshield and held together with a bungee cord but it was such a best friend, if you can consider your car your friend, that he couldn’t bear to part with it. My mom had an Accord that she drove for 19 years until it started stalling a bunch. She could hardly let it go either. We have it now. The problem was squirrels had built a nest inside the air filter system. It’s my partner’s daily driver and he can’t bear to part with it even though the body is disintegrating.

    I’m a complete Honda and Toyota enthusiast, although the Subaru owners that I know are equally passionate about their product and I would be inclined to trust it.

    As for Mini Coopers, I’ve heard horrible reports about reliability as well as the cost of repairs. As for Fiat 500 Abarths, a friend in DC bought one and he’s a total motorhead and the only thing I’ve heard him say about it is that it’s “quirky,” but I’m not sure what he means by that.

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  57. BethB said on April 3, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Thanks, Sherri. I agree–too bad they don’t have a big enough trunk to hold the scooter lift. I also sat in a 2013 Nissan Altima that felt wonderful; again, a sedan, however. Too bad those comfortable sedan seats aren’t being placed in CRVs or SUVs that are in my price range.

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  58. brian stouder said on April 3, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Bob (nG) – Roger!

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  59. Deborah said on April 3, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    I’ve enjoyed reading all of the car talk today. I forgot to mention that our Jeep also doesn’t have power locks which doesn’t bother me one bit. It cost half as much as our Beemer that we bought almost 15 years ago (and still have in excellent condition). The Jeep was the cheapest vehicle we could find that had the best gas milage compared to the other cars in its class. We’ve been told by a car enthusiast friend that we’ll be sorry in a few years, but it works for us now.

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  60. Rana said on April 3, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    I have to say I’ve never understood the appeal of reading on the beach, period. It’s too bright, and the wind ruffles the pages, and the book gets all sandy. (But then, I’m not a beach person; I’m a coast or shore person, meaning that I like it best when it’s a little bit foggy and I can hunt for shells.)

    One nice thing about having always driven entry-level and/or used cars is that when you buy a new one, it feels like a huge leap forward. I remember when I bought my current car – a 1996 Honda Civic – I was beyond thrilled to discover that one of the features it had was a buzzer to let you know if you’d left your lights on. The next car, I’m hoping for a CD player.

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  61. alex said on April 3, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    Yay! Rana’s back!

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  62. Rana said on April 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Aw. 🙂

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