Tag Archives: Toyota

Wanna go for a ride?

22 Feb

So, I know it’s been a long year that you fine people have been waiting, no doubt with bated breath, to find out about how my whole car hunt thing turned out. I dithered on about it here , here and even here. It was about this same time last year that I was told my trusty Toyota, Suki (I name all of my cars), was knocking on death’s door and that she had only weeks to live. By the way, it was the dealership’s mechanic who broke the news to me while graciously offering to escort me to the dealership showroom to look at the “fantastic group of 2012” offerings, or sit tight while he replaced my rear axel for a couple thousand dollars, with more repairs to follow. It was my choice, he assured me. I opted for an automotive band-aid instead. Suspiciously, with only new front brakes, tires and an oil change, that SUV of mine managed to eek out another 13,000 miles of carpools, trips out of town and commutes to work.

To recap, my list of parameters was that I wanted a new SUV/Crossover/Wagon that has great fuel economy using cheap gas, optional third row seating, a black exterior with a tan interior, all the techy bells and whistles, free maintenance, oh, and I wanted it to come in under 40k, including my trade-in. I was giving myself a month or two to indulge in due-diligence. I tested just about everything: Subaru, Toyota, Honda, Audi, Cadillac, Buick, Acura, BMW, Volvo, Lexus…I couldn’t get all that excited. At a few dealerships, I drove several models. Some cars I drove several times. All told, I drove over twenty different makes/models. I made spreadsheets and charts. Took the family to visit certain cars. It boiled down to this: for the amount of money I was willing to barf up, if I were going to get the all of the fun stuff I wanted, I’d have to get a 5-seater. Given seat belt laws and our lifestyle, that just wasn’t going to work for us. I suffered from a debilitating case of analysis paralysis. The family was getting frustrated with my inability to make a move. I just couldn’t get comfortable enough to pull the trigger, but I came close twice. All the while, Suki’s health was in a downward spiral. Things quit working, the driver side air bag was bulging, the antennae just stopped, the rear hatch gave up, and finally she started grinding and refusing to go any higher than third gear. Even Snakebite and Hot Tub started seeing the white light when we were out on the road. It was time to send this car over the rainbow… or to a hard-up landscaping crew.

My last ride before I jumped ship to Toyota was a huge, pimp-style Mercedes. We kept that car until it was fifteen years old. She was unreliable as hell and cost us thousands of dollars a year in maintenance plus untold hours of inconvenience and frustration. But I had inherited it from my mother and it looked great and was pretty dreamy when it was actually moving. Of course, by the end, it wouldn’t go in reverse. After we got rid of it, I brushed my hands together and said “never again”. I even chucked my goofy “Mercedes Only Parking” sign that someone had given me for our garage. I meant business.

On a lark, I found myself at RBM of Atlanta, just to see. Just to look. Just to assure myself that I would never go back there again. And there they were: glossy German SUVs with voice activated systems, burled wood inlays and sexy new car smell. A salesman quickly came over and started to give me the stats. I put on my best dour “I’m not impressed face” as he had me sitting in the third row and folding seats with the touch of a button. While my body language tried to remain stoic, I was falling in love with a $75k car. Shit. “My” salesman, Steve Szczupak, assured me the he was going to become my new best friend. Then my best friend asked the magic question that was going to lead to a speedy break-up: “So, how much are you looking to spend?” I came clean and he gently redirected me to a 5-seater. I drove it while Steve was imploring me to “drive it like ya stole it” and “stomp on it”. It did not suck; it was everything I had hoped it would be, with the exception of those much-needed extra seats. Damn.

And then we started talking about “previously enjoyed, certified” cars. Say whaaa? All of the warranty love with none of the depreciation? Okay. Free car washes anytime I want? Roadside assistance for life? Good coffee in the waiting room? I was open. And then there was a deal. And I was smitten. And you know how when you’re in love a lot of the ideas you had before suddenly seem a little silly and trite? Your heart takes over and your mind can’t help you. I felt like Pepe Le Pew when he first sees the French pussycat.

Here she is in all of her silver exterior, black interior, premium unleaded, never-again-a-Benz glory. I named her Augusta:

As an aside…I believe in signs. We made the deal on what was Big Daddy and my sixteenth wedding anniversary. Other than it being poetic to be getting a new ride on my sweet sixteen, I literally bumped into Joan, who was a bride’s maid in our wedding. And then when we got in the car, Kiss’ “Christine Sixteen” was on the radio. It was meant to be. The planets were in alignment. And then the next night? The couple that we went out with for Augusta’s inaugural night on the town bought their car from my new best friend, Steve, too. Go figure.

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Car snob

18 Jan

Part pimp, part drag queen and all Mercedes. Now that's what I'm talkin' 'bout

So, it turns out that I may be a car snob.  I hate admitting this about myself, but it keeps smacking me in the face.  The situation is this: my Mom sled has just shy of 120k miles and it has begun sucking on my bank account.  It would be one thing if I were spending the dough on sweet spinners, a kick-ass sound system and a custom paint job that looks like a poop fly.  But no, I’m buying things like fuel sensor chips that I couldn’t pick out of a line up of two.  This pisses me off to no end.  And when I am this bothered by something, I cut it out like a cancer.

The Glamour Shot of my "car"

My current ride is a grey Toyota Sequoia, named Suki.  Yes, I have always named my cars.  This is my first non-German car.  I had a hard time transitioning to something Japanese, but at the time I pinned my feelings on having given up and joining the carpool line sheep herd and not on being an automobile elitist.  I smugly congratulated myself that at least it wasn’t a minivan.  What does that even mean?  Plus it was the second year of production, so this was still a cool and different kind of SUV.  Yeah, well, I don’t know how many times I have cussed trying to unlock someone else’s car in just about every parking lot in Atlanta.  Suki’s doppelgänger is all over the damn place now.  Definitely time to go.

My next car can’t really be a car yet.  I still need the cargo space.  And I want a trailer hitch.  And third row options.  I fantasize about fuel economy and regular unleaded.  Plus, Snakebite will be learning to back into retaining walls drive in less than two years and this next car will be what she learns to drive with.  I want nice, but not too nice.  Oh, and there is a magic money number that I’m going to stay under and that tosses in a huge monkey wrench.  Deciding to have a car budget eliminates pretty much anything that would be parked out front at an MTV Cribs shoot.  I am slowly making my peace that it will be several years until I have something that won’t immediately be parked next to the dumpster out back when I begrudgingly valet.

Here is my future car's BFF. They will always be parked next to each other

I have almost never cared what kind of beater someone else drives, or what brand it is so long as the muffler doesn’t drag on the street.  There are exceptions though.  Yugos in the 80s were always worthy of humiliating someone, or that Pontiac Aztec.  Mon Dieu!  Am I right, or what?  It’s just hard for me to back slide from the best of snooty German engineering to into something that has Japanese geek appeal, to possibly just taking a freeform dive into American steel.  In theory, I could spin it as being patriotic, and “buying local”, which could appease some of my more hippy friends.  Yes, I know.  But, but, but…I can’t put my finger on it.  Am I maturing and making decisions based on actual needs and realistic number crunching or just giving in because I’ve given up?

Stay tuned as the hunt begins in earnest in February.