A business trip sent me to Tampa last week. I had decided that I would rent a car for my own use while I was there. The plan was to visit family in Fort Myers and then drive back to Tampa for the meeting. After a particularly bad day at work prior to leaving for Florida, I decided on the plane that I would upgrade to a convertible. You know, as a gift to myself. From myself.
Me: What convertibles do you have available?
Rental Car Guy: (Looks at the computer, makes a phone call, and asks for something “sporty”) There’s a Chrysler 200 and a BMW Z4.
If he had said anything other than a 200 I would have picked the more reasonable choice. A Mustang? Right on. A Camaro? I’m there. I would rather drive anything other than a 200. Renting a BMW wasn’t something I had considered but it seemed like a really good idea.
Me: How much is the Z4? A million dollars?
Rental Car Guy: Not quite.
Twenty minutes later, I’m standing beside a 2012 BMW Z4 Sdrive28i watching two guys from Budget try to figure out how to put the top down. Twenty five minutes later, I’m trying to put the top back up so I can get my car charger out of my suitcase. Twenty eight minutes later, I’m trying to put the top down again. The men that took me to the car had left and there was a woman sitting at the key booth watching me get in and out of the car and futz with the persnickety trunk.
“Do you need help?”
“Erm…No?” There’s a tray in the trunk and anything being stored has to be underneath it and the tray has to be pulled down and locked before the top can go down. Eventually, I figured out that the tray may look like it’s locked in place but, according to my own personal, highly scientific study, 79% of the time it is not. That’s a lesson that I learned, and I learned it about four times.
With the top down, the trunk will hold a carry-on and not much else, but I didn’t get the Z4 for the trunk space.
I did however, get it because it is a convertible. It was cloudy when I left the airport but the purpose of me getting the Z4 was to see the sky, so I ignored the clouds and headed from TPA to Fort Myers. The trip is about 120 miles and it involves crossing the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Halfway across the bridge it started to rain. The shoulder was narrow and I didn’t think about pulling over. I did think about trying to slow down enough to put the top up, but considering the average speed of Florida drivers (roughly equaling infinity plus one), I decided to just drive faster. I was able to personally verify that driving fast will sort of prevent rain from coming into a convertible, but as soon as I slowed down at the end of the bridge, the inside of the car got damp and I had to wipe down everything.
I like buttons in cars. Buttons in general actually; they’re instant gratification — press a button and something happens. As soon as I got out of the rain and into the bulk of the trip, about seventy miles on 75 South, I started pressing buttons. iDrive has several different menus: media, radio, navigation, telephone, preferences, etcetera, that are accessible while driving. I had no problem driving and entering in my destination address at the same time. I wasn’t confident in BMW’s navigation system so I was using Google maps from my phone (the directional devil that you know is better than the one that you don’t). For a while I forced them to compete until I eventually turned off the BMW voice and just used its display maps.
After the dashboard buttons were conquered, I moved on to the seat adjustments. Without seeing the button that I was pressing, I hit what I thought to be the lumbar adjustment. It turned out to be the memory button for the seat. The seat went back until I couldn’t touch the gas, and the side view mirrors pointed downward. (I am going to assume the previous renter was an extremely tall, short-waisted man.) I’d done it; because of my awesome button pressing abilities, I’d managed to find the one button that should not be able to be pressed while the car is in motion. I spent several minutes afterwards fixing the position of the mirrors and was slowed down by the fact that the side view and rear view mirrors are auto dimming. They looked and acted like crappy window tint. I would much prefer being blinded to mumbling about not being able to see anything behind me.
The next day, after a completely pointless and infuriating meeting, I was able to drive the Z4 and get a better feel for it. I found a mostly empty park with lots of roads that had lots of speed bumps. It turned out that the Z4 could get from 10 MPH to 50 MPH to 10 MPH in between bumps. After the park, I drove around Clearwater. Traffic wasn’t conducive to flappy paddling, but I did my best to annoy everyone around me. I would slow down enough to get a good amount of room in between my front bumper and the car ahead, red line it, and then shift. I never was able to get it up to eighth but fifth gear was good enough for having fun purposes. Flappy paddles + traffic = plenty of fast stops. After the first fast stop, my purse with its eight Chapsticks/lip glosses and $15.94 worth of loose change ended up on the floor of the passenger seat. After that, it got tucked behind the passenger seat on a 4” shelf that’s good for little else. After subsequent fast stops, a cheese Danish slid out from under the seat. Apparently tall, short-waisted man had an affinity for prepackaged pastries. I took a picture of it and then put it back under the seat. A friend called me chicken later for not eating it, but I stand by my decision.
The rental ended up being $211.00 for the day or four times what the midsized would have cost and about three times more than the 200. It was more than I what was planning on spending (and sadly not able to be 100% expensed), but insofar as it was at least three times better than the Chrysler 200 would have been, I feel it was money well spent.