By on June 16, 2012

The Interior Of A True Carver Cruiser. Only $240,000!

Atlanta traffic is an absolute bear.

Bumper to bumper… to endless bumpers. For much of my commuting and scooting through the ATL, I have to deal with an endless assortment of highway construction projects, rubberneckers and the esteemed species of driver that doesn’t use their turn signal.

It’s easy to get annoyed in this type of environment. Yet I still chug along in a small first generation Honda Insight.

Maybe I have become a glutton for punishment in my middle age. But I do like the handling and don’t get too bothered by the noise. When I do find a winding one lane road, it’s a surprisingly decent ‘carver’. A cruiser? Not so much.

So what about you? Do you prefer a car that can find its prime in the twisties… even if your road is usually straight? Or do you prefer the sound of silence and the ambience of luxurious detachment?

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56 Comments on “Cruiser or Carver? What would you prefer for your commute?...”

  • avatar

    Cruiser, definitely. I occasionally envy little people in their little jitterbugs, but I’m tall, wide, thick and arthritic… plus my first car was a ’72 Plymouth Grand Fury ex-Highway Patrol car, so I learned early to value ride, comfort, and power.

    • 0 avatar

      BMW 3 Series — both a cruiser and a carver in one vehicle.

      • 0 avatar

        I have to disagree. My dad has a 328xi and whenever we go visit family in NY from PA (luckily I live close to him so we can take one car), the backseat might as well be a park bench. The seat is stiff and the ride is harsh (and this is coming from someone who drives a Wrangler)

  • avatar
    Aaron Whiteman

    In December, I look at the green paint of my convertible and wonder how I can justify the extra maintenance, the extra insurance, and the extra registration fees. Then the first warm sunny day of spring arrives, I fire her up, head out on a drive, and remember. I’ll take the twisties and a car that loves them every time.

  • avatar

    Car? This is motorcycle season. Nothing is more maneuverable and entertaining than a sport bike as it goes where no car can go. But with most of the upcoming week in the 90’s, even the highway riding can cause me to sweat in the helmut.

    Too hot for the convertible even well into darkness with daytime in the 90’s. So it’s back to the cage with AC and 40 mpg Saab 9-5.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      I’ve found the heat and humidity makes the convertible not so enjoyable when stopped. As long as you’re moving, it’s not bad.

    • 0 avatar

      Not sure I have much of a choice.

      It’s the GSX-R 600 or the WRX STi. What cruiser?

      With that being said I pretty much like april/may -> november as bike weather. Even the other day it was 57 when I left the house at 5am and 93 when coming back at 3pm. Gotta love Chicago.

      • 0 avatar

        Keep in mind that all jurisdictions allow bikes in the HOV lane. You can cut your commute time in half. And you will be awake when you get to work, between the fresh air and the head swiveling to keep the cagers at bay, less coffee to get going….

  • avatar

    I guess I”m fortunate to live in a country town for once! Everything I have to leave town for is surrounded by back roads, so definitely a carver for me. The only time I ever want comfort is in extreme hot or cold temps.

    • 0 avatar

      Likewise. So long as I have a working heater, good seats, and windows that go down, I’ll take charm over comfort. Putting my Volvo 244 back together now – it’s admittedly not so handling-oriented, but nor is it exactly luxurious, and I don’t mind.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    Both. I’m fortunate to live in the sticks with a pretty country road commute (the first 75%of it anyway). When the weather’s nice and I know I won’t have to make side trips and/or errands into urban traffic, the Miata comes out of the garage. Otherwise, it’s all about the 1998 LS 400. In a typical year I put 7k miles on the Miata and 17k on the LS400. (when my wife and I go somewhere together, it’s almost always in the LS400, her arthritic knees make the miata not so enjoyable)

    • 0 avatar

      Ditto. My 08 Malibu LTZ for cruising, My 07 C6 6 speed for carving. One has the comfort, the other the power. If I get bored with one I switch to the other, and that keeps me appreciative of both my cars’ attributes.

  • avatar

    I take your question literally. I’m nowhere near the financial stage of my life where this is in the cards, but my dream has always been a Miata for non-commuting and an aquatic commute in one of these:

    Someday, Barnaby.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh god yes that would be great. But in the mean time…

      Cruiser. I had a carver first, before realizing that 90% of my driving is just fairly straight highways and all I really cared about was an absorptive ride, fairly quiet interior, and lowish highway revs.

      The Outback 3.0R that I currently have serves this well. The suspension does a good job with bumps and potholes, it is fairly quiet and refined with the bigger engine, it feels heavy and stable (thanks to good steering weight), and has just a bit of athleticism, due to its power, AWD, and car roots. I do miss a stickshift though. I want a cruise+stick, ideally.

  • avatar

    Something in between. I would love a challenger r/t or charger r/t, but after much comparison, have decided my next car will likely be a 2005-2006 gto. For a commute/daily driver, I would go with the automatic, blasphemy, I know, if it were a garage queen, definitely the manual.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      With a big old V8 car, you should be able to leave it in 3rd and loaf through traffic at your leisure.

    • 0 avatar

      I just did exactly that, replaced my stickshift 2010 Golf GTI with a 2005 GTO automatic.

      Oh the lovely torque, the sound engineering, and the ability to unleash by stomping on the loud pedal. Do. It.

  • avatar

    My summer commute – pant, pant Batavus heavy Dutch bike. Downhill roll into work but hard & slow slog back home.

  • avatar

    The two are not always as mutually exclusive as many think. 4 summers ago I drove the family to St. Louis, a 9 hour drive, in our big 99 Buick LeSabre. Thought the roomy American “luxury” ride would be perfect for the trip, but when we got to St. Louis I could barely stand and walk. Last summer, drove a near-identical distance to Atlanta in the wife’s little ’07 MB C280. This may be a ‘luxury’ compact, but a compact it is – very tight compared to the expansive Buick. But the quality of the seating made all the difference, and I walked from that car into the Atlanta sun like I’d been kicked back in a La-Z-Boy the whole time.

    • 0 avatar

      As a current buick lesabre owner who has driven it across the country, I feel your pain–In my lower back.

    • 0 avatar

      But neither the Buick nor the Mercedes are exactly ‘carvers’, so all you’re really saying is that the compact luxury car is the better cruiser?

      I actually agree with your statement though, that they are not mutually exclusive – just that a BMW M5 or an Audi S4 would be a better example of vehicle that performs both roles well.

      • 0 avatar

        Sadly, performs both roles well at prices that are unobtainable for many. I think Acura’s TL might be good. They have been fairly aggressive on improving ride quality and noise, yet the TL is still a tight handler. I find Infinitis have rides that are too harsh to really fit though.

      • 0 avatar

        Exactly. And you don’t really need to spend all the way into M5 territory: For example, a 328i or A4/A5 with the right set of options (or aftermarket upgrades) can perform both functions quite well. Cruise in comfort and relative quiet, and still enjoy driving through the twisties. Just don’t expect it to drive like an Elise in the latter environment.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s all relative, I guess. For the OP, a Honda Insight is a carver. For me, compared to that LeSabre and the F150 I drive now, my wife’s C-class is definitely a carver. It might always lose in car mag comparisons against other luxury sport compacts, but that doesn’t mean it’s a slouch when compared against everything else on the road.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Personally I’d love both. But I think the best compromise is an isolated lux cruiser and a motorcycle. Take one or the other as the mood strikes you.

  • avatar

    The commute gets the cruiser with some “carve” built in. The fun time gets the carver. If I had to only have one, I’d opt for the carver, just with an automatic.

  • avatar

    A couple of years ago I moved to a big city and had to completely reevaluate my transportation requirements. I went from small town life–where for years I drove Volvos and Toyota 4X4s–to a daily one-hour commute (each way) in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I considered dozens of models, then bought an Audi A3 … hoping it would be a comfy place to spend the commuting hours, yet still be reasonably frisky when I get the rare chance to play on some twisty rural roads.

    The seats are great–thick but firm–nearly as good as a Volvo; the direct-injected turbo allows rapid lane changes, while still getting decent economy; the DSG transmission lets me relax in traffic or get more involved when the mood strikes, and it’s got enough toys to keep me from getting bored. I chose well for my needs and couldn’t be happier.

  • avatar

    I remember long ago John Phillips wrote a column in C/D where he found that only two cars remained in the press fleet: a Porsche Boxter and a Toyota Avalon, and he took the Avalon as if he was going to be sitting in traffic he might as well have a nice stereo.

    For commuting I’d definitely have the carver, no question. A commute is enough of a pain; at least I get a car that’s engaging.

  • avatar

    Since I can only afford one, I aim for a happy medium of pretty good cornering with some degree of comfort. Mazda Protege. It does have more noise than I would really like for conversation with the daughter in the back seat while cruising at 70, but it’s a reasonable compromise.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure what’s more frustrating about driving an engaging car on public roads, brake lights to the horizon or the open road with a speed limit set for loaded trucks driven by old women.

    • 0 avatar

      I must agree, having an overly capable car, be it engine or suspension wise, and using it on public roads is profoundly frustrating. Generally though, I think having a good handling car is better than a powerful car. You can always take advantage of a better suspension, and it even ads to safety by improve emergency maneuvers. Power beyond what a typical 4 cylinder produces can’t be used legally on the road.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree that on public roads it is harder to use a power surplus than a nice suspension, but I don’t think anything past a 4 cylinder is a waste.

        Extra power is helpful for passing on two lane roads or in highway traffic that actually moves. Take the Mustang GT that has been so popular around TTAC lately – you obviously don’t get to accelerate well into triple digits from a stop, but it will make short work of the hypermiling Prius blocking the passing lane. Your typical 4-cylinder will accomplish this with far more planning, but the extra power makes it easy.

  • avatar

    Cruiser; definitely. Listen to music or something on the radio; arrive home and at work more relaxed.

    Drive a 1995 Taurus that was paid for years ago; if someone hits it; it would be sad, but no note to pay off. Still gets 27.5 MPG.

    The V-6 is much quieter than the four in the other commuter car.

  • avatar

    I also live in Atlanta, and my daily driver is a 2000 Toyota MR2 Spyder. The trick is to avoid the interstates at all costs. I hate traveling on the interstate except when taking a roadtrip to another state… you know, the purpose they were designed for. I seem to be the minority because everyone else will get on it to go four exits down even though it is obviously a parking lot. If there is an accident chances are you will be locked in until it is cleared, or you somehow make it to the next exit and take the local road you should have been using in the first place. Local roads move and if there is a problem you can re-route very easily.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      That’s not my experience. When the interstate clogs up, people bail at the first exit and quickly gridlock the local roads, which don’t have nearly the same capacity to carry traffic. Unless the interstate is closed, it never pays to use the parallel local roads, IME.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        It’s a crying shame that Atlanta and it’s suburbs never got a decent mass transit system like most large metropolitan areas. The history of it not building one is long and contorted. MARTA is OK within the city but to venture outside you need a car or cab.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Both, which I imagine is why people put up with the foibles of BMW and VW/Audi ownership. Failing that, pretty much any Asian-sourced manual subcompact with a decent tire/spring package will do.

  • avatar

    Its amazing what you can get used to. Before, I used to commute in a Jaguar XJR with -1 size tires for better comfort. For me, it was the ultimate GT car. Quite, powerful, smooooooooth (i really can’t over emphasis that) and surprisingly economical as long as you stayed on the highway. I went on a 1800 mile road trip to Canada and achieved a trip average of 29mpg without even trying. Impressive for a supercharged V8.

    Now I commute in a 6 spd manual Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works suspension upgrades and +1 tires and wheels. The NVH meter reads off the scale with this car. Going down the road, you feel bumps you can’t even see. the engine is loud. Highway expansion joints feel like you just hit a curb, and don’t even get me started on mid corner bumps. At 80ish mph, the RPM are on the near side of 4000. Its a fidgety, twitchy, mess… and I LOVE IT! Just like I loved the Jaguar.

    My point is, variety is the spice of life. Life is too short to just drive one kind of car. that’s like going through life with only one flavor of ice cream… BO-RING!

  • avatar

    Although it’s not my daily driver, I do spoil myself and drive my Jeep to work on occasion with the soft top windows either out, or the top completely off. It’s loud, sits up high and puts a big smile on my face. What a way to start out a work day…

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I’m gonna burn in B&B hell for this. DC commuting? An SUV or a truck with an automatic for a daily driver. Ride height and the ability to do grocery store, Home Depot, and IKEA runs. A pretty Sunday morning? top down on a Miata for well, just the hell of it

  • avatar

    Cruisers any day. The majority of my driving life is purely travelling, not driving for fun. Thus logic dictates that comfort and convenience should take priority in my reckoning.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Thanks Dan and base stickers for commissary runs and cheap hooch at the class 6. Also, how many of you get bumper scrapes, bad door dings, etc in an urban environment?

  • avatar

    I pick both.

    If the weather’s not awful then I’m on a bicycle or my motorcycle, both of which slip through/besides/between traffic easily and provide (different sorts) of enjoyment.

    If the weather’s nasty or if I’m traveling anywhere with my wife then we take her ’06 Prius. It’s the top of the line one (leather, HIDs, JBL CD changer, Bluetooth, navi, backup camera, etc.) and makes for a great, relaxing cruiser with its compliance and its powertrain’s magical ability to compel drivers to drive slowly, smoothly, and efficiently to avoid invoking the comparatively raucous gas engine’s high RPM range.

    When driven at a relaxed pace the 2nd gen Prius is in its cruising element: very quiet, smooth, decent stereo, good outward visibility, bright HID headlights. That it gets great fuel economy on regular unleaded while at it (and has clean Tier 2 Bin 3 emissions) are merely bonuses.

  • avatar

    Cruiser, but I guess I’m lucky. I have a 13 mile commute, almost all freeway. Going to work, I run with the flow for the first 2 or 3 miles. Then it’s clear sailing with the cruise on.

    But back when my job required me to be in my car half the day, I had a smaller, more nimble car. With all the crazies out there, defensive driving was the key. I’d often need a moment to destress when I got back to the office.

  • avatar

    It seems that most folks in the B&B would like a cruiser for everyday commute life. Why do we bash the Camry so badly then? My dad owns a ’05 Camry and it seems to fit the ‘Cruiser’ bill quite well.
    Mind you, I personally don’t like the Camry, and much prefer my ’98 Maxima.

  • avatar

    My commute? About 100 miles R/T, mostly highway. My Impala is pretty sweet, but as soon as my right hamstring heals, I’ll be driving the MX5 on occasion. Right now, though, my leg and me demands comfort. Regardless which car I take, I keep my sanity level high by keeping my speed between 62 and 66 mph, in the curb lane, of course!

    Heat and humidity? In a convertible? Turn on the A/C like we do – it makes life much more pleasant.

  • avatar

    My Q7 is both. It is an awesome place to spend time and also can handle almost as well as an A6.

  • avatar

    Honestly? For daily traffic in a major city? I’ll take a nice quiet isolated cruiser. I don’t want to hear all the noise around me if I can help it.

    I’d prefer to be driving a carver of some sort but they just usually end up with me frustrated or disappointed with all the idiot drivers.

    In a cruiser I can just sort of float along and not let anything bother me. In a carver I tend to get my adrenaline going every time some idiot does something wrong; cut people off, doesn’t use turn signal, ride on the shoulder, slam on their brakes, spend more time texting than watching the road, etc etc.

    So a cruiser gets me to work more relaxed from the intrusions of the outside idiots. IF people actually drove well and sanely, a carver would make me happier everyday but unfortunately that isn’t the world we live in.

    So a cruiser for the daily commute.

  • avatar


    It’s amazing how a few quick maneuvers can turn 50 minutes into 40.

    It’s also amazing how much work you can get done in the first hour of work when you arrive already woken up and active.

    You don’t have to take the easy Google Maps route to work down the straight roads…

  • avatar

    There’s no right answer to this question. It depends on your circumstances, where you live, and what kind of roads do you go through for your commute.

    I think it’s akin to “would you prefer a room with air conditioner or a heater?” That depends, isn’t it? If the room is in a hot climate, definitely an air conditioner, vs a winter cabin in a blizzard.

    • 0 avatar


      Lots of the B&B seem to associate the commute with gridlocked traffic. It seems counter-intuitive, but I would take a carver in that situation. More agile to squirt through the gaps, and you aren’t going fast enough for the lack of isolation from wind/engine/tire noise to matter.

      Spending time at actual highway speeds – that’s when I would want a quiet cruiser.

      You can have both – luxury cars (particularly the Germans) do this well. Obviously that isn’t a solution for everyone, as not everyone can afford to or wants to put up with those running costs. At more mainstream price points, something like a VW GLI might fit the bill. Cheaper still, the Focus is supposed to have a nice ride while retaining competent handling. Fuel economy and durability questions aside, the RX-8 is allegedly a fantastic daily.

      There are lots of choices out there. It isn’t just a matter of MX-5/370Z vs Town Car/Lexus LS4xx. If you can only pick one car, there are plenty that split the difference between carver and cruiser reasonably well.

  • avatar

    thb, I’m in the ‘both’ crowd on this, but it has to be put into perspective. Two of the greatest ‘sporty cruisers’ I have owned are a 1989 Ford Scorpio, and a 1990 Accord, none of which is thought of as cruisers today. Both are ridiculously lightweight and powerless by todays standards too. But that’s what made them great for me :P

  • avatar

    For me, a car can be both, but there is a catch, it’ll probably not carve as well as some true carvers, nor will it be the ultimate isolated, numb cruiser either.

    I say this as they don’t have to be mutually exclusive, they can be both, as long as you are realistic about your expectations.

    Personally, I don’t want an isolating boat, not do I want a car that wallows along with numb, vague steering and a V8 as it feels too relaxed and thus boring to drive/ride in. Nor do I want a car that’s so harsh that it’s no fun to drive on anything remotely rough and devoid of even the basic semblance of comfort.

    A car’s motor will affect how a car behaves and thus like smaller cars with smaller motors as they come of more alive generally than a big land barge IMO.

    And since I can only afford one car, I went with a used Mazda Protege5, it’s not quiet by any means but certainly not the loudest either, it’s not giving me a smooth ride, nor is it an overly harsh/hard rive, it’s firm, yes, rides and corners quite flat and handles like it’s on rails and has NVH that would bother many people (not the smoothest 4 pot motor) but it has 130hp, therefore plenty of zip, a ride that does NOT shake my fillings loose, but I DO feel the undulations and such on any given road, the steering is precise and provides plenty of feedback – and it’s a hatchback for hauling stuff should I need it to and is reasonably economical.

    I just did over 300 miles last weekend on a day trip. Drove up I-5, though I could’ve taken old highway 99 instead up to Sedro-Woolley, a 1.5 hour trip of roughly 60 miles from Seattle, then took a side trip across State Route 20, a rural 2 lane blacktop highway to the small town of Concrete that is literally at the base of the N. Cascades to see the town briefly before having to head back (a 30 minute drive from Sedro-Woolley) as I had to be on the road back south to my Mom’s, who lives in Tacoma and that was a 3 hour drive – again, via I-5. Yes, on the trip to Tacoma, I was dealing with the early stages of rush hour by the time I hit Seattle at 3:30 though the drive from about Marysville south was sluggish before it picked up again once past Seattle until I hit Federal Way roughly and traffic came to a near crawl all the way into Tacoma.

    I have plans to take it up a mountainous 2 lane highway, SR 410 across Chinook Pass and another twisty state highway, highway 7 through the Cascade foothills that follows the Nisqually River for part of the way, both twisty highways and want to do Chuckanut Drive and take SR 20 over Washington Pass this fall to see the fall colors before it closes in the mountains for the winter.

    However, my daily commute is across I-90 to work, not too bad in the mornings, but often can be awful going home though.

    I do think if you love getting into your car and just going somewhere, just because, then the car is the right choice for you. I had equal fun with my ’83 Honda Civic hatchback when I had it in the 90’s and it was just as fun as the Mazda, though not quite as precise, nor as taut but it was still a fun car and did the mountainous roads just fine for the most part, though I think the Mazda may shine there though. BTW, the Civic did just fine on an 8-9 hour trip from Tacoma to Medford Oregon and I did it, not only once, but twice in 1995.

    For me, it’s what the Mazda offers that I prefer and when I got to Mom’s, I wasn’t beat up or anything like that. BTW, I’d prefer that my car have a decent stereo to help reduce the droning and have decent and working heat AND AC. :-)

  • avatar

    Big V-8 cruiser please. Not too squishy though, I like a little road feel. I can’t imagine much I’d like to do less than take a cross-country road trip in Mazda Miata.

  • avatar

    How many of you have had your tastes change as you got older? Wanting a slushbox where you wanted a manual trans before? Power windows in place of crank windows? Auto HVAC vs a knob?

    For me the only real shift in my tastes have taken is a desire for more reliability.

    I love working on cars and am restoring one right now but I don’t like working on a commuter car that has to be ready to go Monday morn. I really want a lift and a high ceiling shop to make use of one.

    Fortunately our daily driver CUV has been nearly flawless for 240K miles but it’s due for another set of front rotors (second replacement set) b/c the current set are warping when they get hot on mtn roads and/or towing. No big deal but I’m not enthusiastic about the work like I was at 21 years old. Too many other responsibilities. It’s not going to take very long I know. I’ve done it many times before over the years with other cars and once before one this vehicle.

    I also know that some failure will eventually come my way – likely the 240K old clutch wearing out and the thought of doing the work myself in the driveway is not appealing. ;) Meanwhile I need to get our second car ready for winter in case it becomes our daily driver while the first car is down for a clutch. The second car has been used for less than 150 miles over the past summer. My wife and I have a carpool routing worked out which we really like. Less fuel, no real convenience penalty, etc. I only keep car #2 now as a back up.

    My tastes in cars have shifted a little. Along with reliability I want more interior sound proofing. That’s a weak spot in our CUV. It’s noisy on certain coarse pavements at interstate speeds. Still happy with the engine and manual transmission and the ride. Fuel economy is okay, not great but far from a deal breaker considering how few miles we drive each year now.

    Carver vs cruiser? I don’t want a cruiser. I just don’t like the numb ride, numb controls and numb driveline. If I was on the highway for hundreds of miles each day maybe I’d have a different opinion. My commute is less than 10 miles each way and I could do it in a 1929 Ford Model A. I’d rather drive something with some utility and versatility and compact size like waht we have now. It’s still big enough to haul us and our things and has a hitch for times when I need to haul dirty stuff. I’d LOVE to have an EV for local trips and something diesel powered for out of town stuff like the “mythical” VW TDI 6MT Jetta wagon.

    Drove to a BSA reservation for a Jamboree this weekend. Rough twisty mtn roads, dirt and gravel and mud. Our little CRV was great again. Hauled kids and gear. Pulled our Brenderup 1205S. The AWD came in handy twice on slick mud at the camp. Transmission was geared just right for the mtn roads (5MT). If our troop ever does a cross country trip I’d drive our ‘V and drag that trailer along but due to the low gearing I’d want to run 65 mph rather than 75 mph like one of the adults who often drives on trips. I usually let them run off down the interstate and then we catch them stopped somewhere for gas and a bathroom visit. ;)

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