A few months ago, my esteemed colleague Ronnie Schreiber found himself in possession of a McLaren 675LT for the week. Not having a tremendous amount of personal experience with supercars, and not in a position to kill $10,000 worth of consumables in a single day at Thunderhill, Ronnie decided not to write a conventional review of the 675LT. Instead, he wrote an “Appreciation” of the Macca, eschewing the world-weary, seen-it-all shtick of the print-rag supercar review for an honest description of what it’s like to be a regular fellow who just happens to be holding the keys to something truly outrageous. Check it out, if you haven’t already read it.
Last week, I had the occasion to put 515 miles on a rented close-to-base-model Chrysler 200 in about a ten-hour period. It’s safe to say that most of you don’t like Chrysler’s entry-luxury take on the Fiat Compact platform. As a matter of fact, the 200 is currently a strong contender for Mr. Stevenson’s reanimated TWAT awards.
I’d like to see if I can change your mind about that.
You’ll have to forgive me for having a bit of fun with you yesterday. Somewhat odd/disturbing was that some of you actually enjoyed it.
If you want a review that mostly talks about everything you can learn about a car from reading the manufacturer’s website, or one that just reprints the press materials, I’m afraid you won’t enjoy reading a typical Bark rental review. However, if you want a story about my experiences while driving an everyday car that can be selected from a rental agency, by all means, keep reading.
I rented a Dodge Journey last week.
Ever since I left the city, you, you, you
You and me we just don’t get along
You make me feel like I did you wrong
Going places where you don’t belong
—Drake, “Hotline Bling”
Biloxi, Mississippi is a place where dreams go to die. Sad imitations of Vegas casinos line the coast half-filled with retirees giving away their fixed income, one pull of the lever at a time. Nobody ever wants to be there. You go to Biloxi if you can’t afford to go to Vegas, or if you can’t make time to get down the coast to Tampa Bay. Biloxi was punched directly in the gut by Hurricane Katrina, but nobody ever talks about Biloxi the way they talk about New Orleans. If Biloxi recovered, nobody noticed.
So it was appropriate that when I arrived at the Gulfport/Biloxi airport rental counter, nobody could seem to find my reservation. In my six years of renting a different car every week, that has never happened. Maybe I should have taken it as a sign to just go home, but I didn’t. After I found my reservation number on my app, the frazzled woman behind the counter apologized profusely for the delay, and whispered to me, “I’m going to give you something really nice to make up for the inconvenience.
Dear Fiat (FIAT?),
I didn’t want to love your little 500X crossover. I frankly find the very notion of it ridiculous. In fact, the only reason why I selected it as my rental car last week was because the keys were strangely missing from the cabin of the Ford Edge SEL that I really wanted to borrow. If I hadn’t picked your bug-eyed cute monster, I would have had my choice of three different colors of four-cylinder Altimas. Not cool, Emerald Aisle. Not cool.
So, as fate had it, I picked the 500X. And like all the best romance stories, our inauspicious beginning led to a quirky, odd pairing that neither one of us wanted to end. Well, at least I didn’t. You probably didn’t give a fuck.
But this is our story.
“I love it,” the man once said, “when a plan comes together.” And this was the mother of all ad hoc, free-range, domino-effect plans.
Avant-garde pianist Hiromi Uehara, along with six-string bass monster Anthony Jackson and noted over-drummer Simon Phillips, had a 7:30 p.m. gig one evening in Fort Lauderdale. Southwest had a nonstop from Columbus that touched down in Fort Lauderdale at 6:35 p.m. Could I get off the plane, get a rental car, and make it to my fourth-row center-stage seat by 7:30 sharp? Google Maps said that the drive was 27 minutes. This was the kind of concert where they don’t take you to your seat if you show up late.
“My advice for aspiring writers is go to New York. And if you can’t go to New York, go to the place that represents New York to you, where the standards for writing are high, there are other people who share your dreams, and where you can talk, talk, talk about your interests.”
— Walter Kirn
I quote Mr. Kirn to begin this review not only because his novel, Up In The Air, may as well be an unauthorized Bark M. biography, but because he’s right. Writers need to go to New York. More specifically, autowriters need to go to the New York International Auto Show. Detroit is the biggest. Geneva gets all the supercars. But to see and be seen? To network with fellow writers? To get your finger on the pulse of what’s shaking in the car biz?
There’s only one show that matters, and that’s New York.
Sometimes, in the wasteland that is the rental car lot of the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, fate can smile upon you. Most of the time, however, it doesn’t. When I hopped off of the bus this past Monday, I was confronted by rows and rows of Altimas and Passats, each of them just as base and boring as the next.
I had just resigned myself to a week of paying the automotive price for whatever sins I had recently committed when I noticed a glistening, dripping wet 2016 Camaro being driven slowly into the Emerald Aisle by a lot attendant, practicing his best pimp lean and blasting XM Radio Hip-Hop from the pony car. I didn’t even wait for him to fully exit the car before positioning myself behind the rear bumper, ready to place my bags in the trunk. As I situated myself behind the wheel, I noticed that the Camaro had a whopping five miles on the clock. It looked like I’d be the one responsible for a gentle break-in period.
“Would you like a Ford Fusion or a Chevrolet Malibu?”
“Is it the new Malibu?”
“Absolutely. I’ll pull it around.”
“This isn’t the new Malibu.”
“It’s a 2016.”
“There’s a newer Malibu than this. Let’s take a look. Well, at least it’s an LTZ. And I just need it for a quick trip to Pittsburgh and back. What the hell. One last ride. As Thoreau once said, let’s try being the new man in the old clothes.”
There sure has been a lot of talk about crossovers around here lately, hasn’t there? Regardless of your opinion on owning a CUV, it’s hard to deny the functionality that a three-row CUV offers the business and/or pleasure rental customer. The ability to carry an entire sales team to a meeting, as well as some presentation materials and suitcases? Useful. The capability to take a family of five to the beach, including assorted coolers and pool toys? Valuable.
Therefore, gents, if you absolutely must have a crossover for your rental or personal needs, well, you might as well have the manliest damn crossover money can buy. That honor goes to the 2016 Dodge Durango. Ladies, I have a feeling that you’ll enjoy the big D, too. Allow me to share my thoughts with you from the week I spent in the ATL with FCA’s entry in the hotly-contested three-row segment.