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.
The Victory Red 2013 Camaro Super Sport that awaited me on the third floor of what I still think of as the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s “new” rental car facility was not my preferred choice. It was, instead, the vehicle that had appeared at that perfect intersection of my desire to drive something fun during my brief trip home and my own innate frugality. It was, I thought, a good-enough-for-who-it’s-for kind of car, a convenient compromise made possible by a friendly rental agent who had offered it to me for the low-low rate of just $100 per day. But now as I approached it and saw first-hand the car’s cartoonish silhouette, its low roof line, its impossibly high windowsills and its over accentuated, nee, bulging curves, – a modern, steroid-era rethink that has changed car design in the same way that the grotesquely overdeveloped bodies of professional wrestlers have usurped the rightful place of Michelangelo’s David as the embodiment of the perfect male form – I wondered if I shouldn’t have suppressed my frugality just long enough to drop the extra cash for a BMW 5 series. (Read More…)
Jewish custom dictates that at 13 years of age, males are called to read from the torah scroll as part of a Bar Mitzvah, a rite of passage signifying the transition to manhood. Having served at TTAC for nearly three years, under thee different EICs, I’d yet to partake in the TTAC equivalent of a Bar Mitzvah, which involves reviewing a rental car. This past October marked my 25th birthday, which in the rental car world signifies the transition into responsible adulthood in the eyes of their insurance underwriter, and the transition into an off-the-reservation degenerate in the eyes of PR people and fleet manager. With no press cars available during a last minute trip to Florida, Jack decided that it was time for me to be called to TTAC’s torah. I would be reading from the Book of Ecoboost, Chapter 1.6.
The W-Body Chevrolet Impala, a TTAC darling, made way for an all-new Epsilon II version this year, and TTAC was initially skeptical about the changeover. But being such fans of the outgoing Impala meant that we’d have to review the car. Twice.
I had dinner recently with TTAC’s enfant terrible, Doug Demuro, something we do every few weeks as our respective schedules permit. Predictably, our pre-, mid- and post-prandial conversation revolved around our shared passion for automobiles, as well as the people who read and write about them. At one point I made a hasty proclamation, which was in retrospect unwise given my audience: “Doug, I really don’t think any manufacturers are making objectively bad cars right now.” Doug paused and replied: “My friend, have you ever heard of Chrys-ler?,” enunciating the last pair of syllables as if speaking to an alien. He continued, “check out the 200 if you have a chance.”
My last Rental Review re-ignited one of TTAC’s “third rail” debates, that of compact pickups versus their full-size brethren. For the uninitiated, this topic is only slightly less contentious than discussing the merits of Roe v. Wade on a 1970′s college campus. User krhodes1 commented that when it comes to small trucks versus an equivalently priced full-sizer “Sometimes paying more for less is worth it.” I’m not entirely sure I agree with this sentiment across the board, but I know someone who does when it comes to minivans: my mother.
The compact pickup is an endangered species in North America, but the reasons for its demise depend on which camp you ask. Its proponents will tell you that CAFE, the chicken tax and marketing campaigns have all conspired to kill off small trucks. Detractors claim that the new generation of full-size trucks are just as fuel-efficient and affordable, while in many cases being more refined.
I really like pickups, but haven’t had a lot of seat time in them. Hell, it wasn’t that long ago that I mistakenly called the new Ram 1500 a “quarter ton” pickup, with some members of the B&B responding in a manner that made Kohmeni’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie look measured and calm. In keeping with our new mandate to expand TTAC’s rental review program, I decided to work out my Zipcar membership when I needed to haul two sets of R-Compound tires and wheels to the tire shop. And it just so happened that I ended up with what could actually be called a quarter-ton pickup.