I’ve test driven new cars during three periods in my life. The first of those periods, the year before I bought the Saturn in ’93, I went out every couple of weeks with a friend to do test drives. The second period was in ’96, when the same friend had me test drive the cars he was interested in while he sat shotgun, telling me that if I didn’t scare him, that would mean the car had passed the handling test. He rejected a Volvo 850 and several others, and bought an Audi A4. Then, in ’00, I helped a friend buy his Boxster, breaking my personal Vmax record on Rt. 128, Boston’s beltway in the process. My testing procedure didn’t call for 115 mph; but the car felt so firmly planted–like the Pentagon!–that I had no idea how fast I was going until I checked the speedo.
I went test driving again in the fall of ’04, under the the mistaken impression that I wanted a MINI. I didn’t. Way too much NVH—reminded me of my Saturn, and the “go-kart handling” just was underwhelming. I was impressed by the 3-series, and subsequently, even more so by the ‘03 Boxster. But I rejected the salesman’s offer in the low 30s. He called me back, inviting me in to deal, and I probably would have gone, except that the next day the election went to Bush, and I became too depressed to part with substantial money.
A week later, one of Steve Lang’s counterparts here in the Boston area—recommended by a friend—called me up, asking me if I wanted a 1999 Accord with a stick and 67k for $5,500. (He was very proud of himself for having found a car with a stick for me.) I got a cashiers check, not knowing whether I’d actually take the thing. But it passed the checklist I had, and when I drove it around the little corner of the parking lot, it was obvious that the engine was far more responsive than the MINI, and far more than either of the Saturn’s engines had ever been. Funny, Robyn, my friend who drove me to pick up the car, wondered why I had demurred at all. Her intuition had quite accurately pegged Greg Stuart as an absolutely honest, good guy. And besides, my research had shown that the car was worth north of 8 Gs. And now, at 181k, the car is still wonderfully responsive.
My modus operandi for test driving new cars is to push them. I make hard right turns off of main drags without slowing down. Repeatedly. I make hard U turns. I get going on the highway at 60-65 and jerk the car into the next lane, and then back. Brakes? EEEErrrrp! Etc. B&B: how do you conduct your car-buying test drives, and have you any good stories to tell?