The Truth About Cars » avis The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 26 Jul 2014 01:30:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » avis Ur-Turn: Congratulations, You’ve Been Upgraded Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:00:01 +0000 IMG_20140405_144902

Friend of TTAC Anand Ram writes about getting more than he bargained for at the Avis counter.

There’s an explosive truth I want to share: We writers don’t make a lot of money. While you gather yourself from the recoil of that bullet, here’s another: It doesn’t really stop us from wanting nice things.

Perhaps, then, the choice for this young writer’s first ever rental car makes little sense: Luxury.

Well, “luxury.” I’m not a car guy. I can name several pricey models, but I’ve driven around in my dad’s Toyota Corolla for most of my life. I know how a BMW 328i differs from a 335i in literal terms, but not on the road.

So my latest vacation to Florida was an opportunity to try something a little fancier. After a few clicks around rental sites, I decided on Avis. I reserved a “Lincoln MKS or similar” for 5 days, amounting to $459 with a discount. My wife, to her credit, only called my purchase ridiculous and unnecessary. Most husbands would call that a victory.

One turbulent plane ride later, we landed in Orlando fairly late at night. Tired and cranky, we made our way down to the Avis booth. There, the cheerful, young woman behind the counter chatted us up. Eventually I realized it was an upsell.

“You like convertibles?”

I don’t fault her–hustling is a valuable skill, but I was not in the mood. To be frank, I’m also not a convertible guy. I prefer, as I said, luxury. Quiet, smooth, comfortable. Politely–as Canadian as I could be at 11:30 PM–I told her as much. She left and came back with some keys.

“Okay, you’re in a Lincoln Navigator and–” I looked at my wife with wide eyes and turned.
“Sorry, the SUV?” I interjected. “I thought I rented a car?”
“We don’t have that model right now.”

That wouldn’t do. Alongside my father’s Corolla, I had also driven his Toyota Sienna for a number of years. That heavy beast turned me off the concept of big SUVs and vans. Also, driving on unknown roads in a monster like a Navigator didn’t interest me – never mind the gas bills I’d be facing. So our friendly Avis associate went off to see what she could do. She came back with more unexpected news.

“Okay, so you’re in a BMW.”

Did I mention I have the lousiest poker face in the wold?

“Sorry, what…uh…what model was that?” A question you’d call nonchalant, because of how obvious it was.
“5 series.”

The only thing that made this Indian writer happier was that the upgrade came at no extra charge. You can reserve a BMW 528i from Avis, but it costs twice what I paid–as does the Navigator. But there it was: A freshly washed white example.


A thousand thoughts through my head, but what really stood out was how it excited me. I was smiling as I got in. Coming from a Corolla, the 528i may as well have been a space shuttle.

Of course, it only took a minute to shake all that off and actually get to driving the thing. I couldn’t tell you what that 2.0 liter engine was doing or how it did it (I may not know a lot about cars, but I remember when the letters on the back represented the size of the engine), but the end result was a very enjoyable ride.

The leather-wrapped wheel didn’t have the heavy German feel that I was expecting. Neither the brakes nor the throttle were overly sensitive. The trunk was more than adequate for our suitcases and carry-ons. The seats had more adjustment positions than I knew what to do with. I was finding reasons to call this the car my wife and I should buy–even going so far as to say it was the practical choice.

Although I my flight ended in Orlando, I still had to make my way to Tampa. Normally, any drives longer than 45 minutes make me sleepy. In the BMW, a two hour drive felt like nothing. Quiet, smooth and comfortable. The world rarely gives you what you ask for.

Florida’s roads, seemingly wider than what we see here in Toronto, were perfect. Even the Sunshine State’s states of no sunshine–the occasional torrential downpours–didn’t feel as scary. The car held its own in 30 to 40 minutes of zero visibility rain, never a lost sense of control.

The only strange part was the Start-Stop system, something I had never experienced before. Every time the car stopped, the entire engine cut out, in an effort to save fuel. A strange feature, considering I rarely stopped for that long, and even if I was down for a little bit, the engine would come back to life to power the A/C. Eventually, I chose to disable that function and enjoyed the experience a lot more.

Now, if I gush about how the car felt to drive, it’s because I, admittedly, know very little about good cars. But when it comes to good consumer technology, I’m in my wheelhouse.

Which is why I found the navigation system a mixed bag. The screen was quite large and easy to read, with a useful split-screen function. It wasn’t a touchscreen, though, and that’s just something that a tech guy like me expects –  especially since so many affordable cars now have them.


It was controlled by a dial next to the gear shifter, with buttons to directly switch between radio, phone, navigation and menus. Depress the dial in to select, move to the left to go to a previous menu, turn it to scrub up and down options. This was the spaceship part–but the tedium in plotting a course made me realize how few cars get navigation right.

The actual route guidance was fantastic, with flawless turn-by-turn directions. Another helpful element was a distance and direction display next to the speedometer, in case my eyes wandered. The voice input, however, was garbage. Trying to speak out an address in Orlando gave me a suggestion in California.

But as nice as the 5-Series was, I couldn’t make heads or tails of the secondary controls. In that rainstorm, I was constantly frustrated with trying to figure out the wiper speed controls or how to turn them off. The handbrake pushed up, down and also had an auto function. And the most frustrating of all: the bloody indicators.

Push up to turn right, push down to turn left. Actually, push slightly up to flash to the right twice. Push harder up to keep them flashing, then pull down slightly to cancel it. I was lucky I didn’t get pulled over for confusing traffic behind me. There are certain things that don’t need improving.


Despite the minor gripes, I loved driving that car. It made me feel like a big shot. I told my mother to pretend I was the doctor she thought I’d be at one point. Of course, being Florida, there are Jags and Lamborghinis around to really remind you of the small fish you are. That didn’t change how I felt. I was still smiling.

But starting at $51,000, it will never be more than a vacation for me.

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Enterprise Rent-A-Car Buys Canadian Car Sharing Service Fri, 28 Mar 2014 22:13:10 +0000 autoshare_kevin__868561gm-a

Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s Canadian subsidiary is buying AutoShare, a Toronto-based car sharing company that has established itself as a successful competitor to Zipcar.

While terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, it follows last year’s takeover of ZipCar by Avis Budget Group. For now, AutoShare will be managed from Toronto, and operate under the AutoShare brand. According to The Globe and MailAutoShare started in 1998, and has now grown to 12,000 members, with its membership focused in Toronto alone.

But with the backing of Enterprise, that could change. With high gas prices, a largely urban population centered in dense downtown areas and a culture more receptive to eco-friendly measures like public transit, Canada is a country that would be willing to embrace car sharing services. Don’t be surprised if AutoShare starts expanding – and a move south of the 49th parallel could be in the cards as well.


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Capsule Review: 2011 Hyundai Getz Wed, 01 Aug 2012 13:00:59 +0000

Please welcome Jeff Jablansky, our newest guest writer and resident messhugeneh

Attempting to carve into the curves of the Ramon Crater with a machine as dull as a Hyundai Getz is like trying to slice sashimi with a plastic knife. Or performing surgery with knitting needles.

If you had walked around the right side of the Getz, you would have seen the word “FUN” cut out of a vinyl sticker and emblazoned above the right-side turn-signal repeater. If you had spent any appreciable amount of time behind the wheel, you would know that there was little truth in advertising.

I ended up behind the wheel of Hyundai’s lowliest hatchback as the result of a three a.m. decision to drive from Israel’s desert metropolis of Tel Aviv, where I lived, to the desert oasis of Eilat, to get a cup of espresso — a round-trip journey of 500 miles. A new branch of the popular Aroma Espresso Bar chain had just opened at the country’s southern border, overlooking Egypt. As soon as I heard the news, I was already out the door.

It’s not that the beaux-arts, gentrified city of Tel Aviv isn’t bursting with cafes and their associated, inherited socialites and latte-sipping proletariat. On the contrary. But when the opportunity strikes for the enthusiast, rational argument gives way to raw instinct. Six hours later, I found myself at Avis signing the papers for a 24-hour rental of a dusty, late-model Hyundai Getz with 45,000 miles on the odometer.

Five hundred miles seemed like a long drive to find the same cup of coffee as offered four blocks down the street. A true enthusiast, however, would realize the route was a chance to blast through the relatively trafficless desert on some of the best roads east of Europe. Historically, the port of Eilat was linked with the rest of the country via the Arava Road, which enabled the British to move imported wares with relative ease. As the country’s infrastructure developed, a second dual carriageway, Route 40, was designed to weave through the Ramon Crater as a parallel path to the south.

Route 40 is a road constructed of driving fantasies. It sweeps through the desert and fits to its contours as if plotted by ibex. Double-yellow lines are rare; high-speed passing maneuvers of all levels of bravery are, therefore, encouraged. Distraction-free driving, with the exception of good company and background noise, is the key.

With that in mind, the Getz was not the ideal road companion. Although lightweight, it was powered by an engine that must possess, on a good day, 100 horsepower, with an engine note as coarse as the surrounding sands. The suspension was sloppy, our tester suffered from botched alignment, and the steering suffered from being too wooden and disconnected. At speed, a strange clicking noise seemed to emanate from underneath the car. In some countries, the Getz is known as the Click. Coincidence?

The interior exemplified “no-frills” in an era in which Hyundai leads most of its competition in feature content. No power anything, no anti-lock brakes, no defrosters. Avis cheered up the interior by installing a radio, as opposed to the standard sound system: the pleasure of lowering the windows and listening to the whining of an overrevved engine.

The rental agent gave us the Getz on the lot with a blue interior accent color, which worked to spice up the dour, black interior. It also drew attention to the execrable fit and finish, and hard plastics that dotted the interior. The seats, which were almost definitely lawn chairs covered in the thinnest velour available, offered the impression of comfort and the reality of late-onset thrombosis.

For all the faults of a cheaply built, underpowered, questionably maintained hatchback, there is still an argument in driving a slow car on potentially fast roads: the chance to wring out every available horsepower.

The road from Tel Aviv begins as a supermodern, six-lane highway, but transitions into a four-lane highway after about 100 miles. The road split near the Be’er Sheva junction, offering a continued four-lane or a more challenging two-lane, and I naturally opted for the two-lane. With the destination just 150 miles away — in relative terms, nearly half the country’s entire north-south span — the road started to open up.

I overtook everyone. I did the equivalent of 85 mph (135 km/h) and watched the tachometer’s needle wail into the 3000 range, just to keep up. I played cat-and-mouse with a late-‘90s Pontiac Grand Prix (unlike other Middle Eastern countries, Israel’s American cars are similar to ours) for almost 50 miles before he pulled over to let me go. Not that I could actually go much faster on the Getz’s small, thin tires.

Then, almost out of nowhere, the road looked as if it’s about to drop off a cliff. The highway suddenly dips dramatically to follow the curves of the Ramon Crater, which rivals the Grand Canyon in size and the Stelvio Pass in sinuous surfaces. The Google Earth view of the road, showing its adherence to nature’s intended path, makes the mind reel. For a moment, I wondered if there was automotive karma. Then the Getz started clicking again.

The path is worth descending slowly, before moving on to the next segment of road, when Highway 40 reaches a junction with Highway 12. I took the fork eastward with some hesitation, but was rewarded in spades. Just before reaching Eilat, with the faded, salty air of the Red Sea in the distance, Route 12 wound its way down another set of cliffs.

In the end, reaching Eilat was the most anticlimactic part of the entire trip. I should have known the cappuccino wasn’t going to be anything special. and it only took about ten minutes to realize I had driven a long way from home to find myself with little to do in Eilat.

Five hours after leaving the city, though, the mission was fulfilled. Foam dripping off my lips, I stared at the Getz, which had managed to inject just the right amount of excitement into the trip, and smiled.

Then I realized I had forgotten about the all-uphill return trip. I gulped, accompanied by the Getz’s continued, incessant clicking.

Sometimes, the advertised fun is in the journey, not how you get there.

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