“Sir, I apologize for your wait,” said the wrinkled, harried, middle-aged man at the rental counter. His face showed the wear of having spent every bit of fifty hours a week inside a 10′ x 10′ box at the airport garage for years. “As you can see, we’re extremely busy this morning. The moment we have a car available for you, we will get you one.”
As a frequent business traveler, I admit it-I am a travel snob. I hold the most elite status possible with three different hotel chains. I assume a First Class upgrade on all flights. Most importantly, I prowl rental cars lots with the efficiency and speed of a Great White Shark. I won’t take a car with over ten thousand miles on the clock, or without a USB port. And I never, EVER take a…
…2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport/Saturn Vue/Opel Antara/Daewoo Winstorm. The rental-only queen that has been showing up as an Enterprise car on used car lots all across America (warning-if you ever do a CarFax search on a late-model used car and “fleet sale” shows up, RUN). Yet, unfortunately, on this incredibly hot day in Salt Lake City, that was the “first car available” following my twenty-minute wait. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuudge. It was either take it or wait even longer-and whatever showed up next might be worse. I figuratively held my nose and sat down behind the wheel.
Your not-so-esteemed author was previously the proud owner of a 2011 Chevrolet Equinox 1LT four-cylinder. I drove it about fifteen thousand miles before seeing the light and chopping it in for a Flex. I know the faults and virtues of that model pretty well. As I pulled away from the rental car garage, therefore, it occurred to me that many TTAC readers might be wondering the following:
“Bark, I have about $22k to spend on a mid-size CUV. I’ve seen 2012 Captivas and 2011 Equinoxes in that range-if I can get a rip-roaring deal on a Captiva, should I get it and save the money over the Equinox?”
And the answer is: go read our own Alex Dykes’ excellent review of this car and make your own sensible decision.
If, on the other hand, you want to know how fast the Captiva is, stick around. Off to the Bonneville Salt Flats! Regular Bark’s Bites readers (Hi Mom!) will remember our sordid tale of rescuing a stuck rental driver from the flats. If you haven’t read that, click this link, read it, and come back.
Back? Ok, good. As you’ve just read, the official speedway part of the Salt Flats was completely flooded on this day, and I imagine many days before and since.
Luckily, the three and a half mile access road out to the flats were just fine. During August, when the flats are formally open, the speed limit on the service road is rigorously enforced. When the flats are flooded and nobody’s on the road, it’s possible to get away with a little more. Cue the GoPro (warning: do not try this on your own salt flats at home. Driver is a fully-insured autocrosser with low eyes and twitchy hands)!
One hundred ten electronically-limited miles per hour, and it didn’t take abnormally long to get there. And here’s the funny thing-it actually felt pretty good at that speed. Stability was good, ride was relatively quiet (considering that I had the windows down), and, most importantly, neither the brakes nor the engine overheated as I slowed the car to a halt. Although the ambient temperature out on the salt flats was hovering in the 105-degree range, engine temperature peaked at a reasonable 195 degrees during our flat-out and quickly cooled afterwards.
It’s amazing how a triple-digit jaunt can change your opinion of most cars. Unfortunately, the Captiva Sport isn’t one of them. It’s still ugly as your back-up prom date, still gets poor gas mileage for the segment, and still has electronics and displays that probably felt out of date the first day a Saturn Vue rolled off the assembly line. The stereo system was incapable of properly reproducing Jimmy Garrison’s work on “A Love Supreme,” thereby rendering it useless to anyone who appreciates real music. It’s simply not better at anything than an Equinox.
So… should you get the ex-rental ride Captiva over the still-in-showroom-demand Equinox? I’d have to say: no. The savings represented over a similar vintage Equinox only really amount to a grand or two, and the Equinox is a modern CUV that your neighbors will nod approvingly at in your driveway. The Captiva simply isn’t.
Not that we didn’t enjoy the Captiva while we had it. How often does even the most frequent of fliers get to drive a car on the famed Salt Flats or wind one out without fear of a massive speeding ticket? But that just goes to show: even lame cars, in the right situation, can be a whole lot of fun.