Ask Jack: A Young Man Traveling Without Commitment?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
ask jack a young man traveling without commitment

“It should not be denied… that being footloose has always exhilarated us. It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations, with absolute freedom, and the road has always led West.” —Wallace Stegner

Got an unusual question via email the other day. It comes from a young man who will be familiar to you but whom we will not explicitly identify. He was once a writer, once an editor, and now a financier, having achieved escape velocity from this ragged, scuttling business into the security and prestige of grown men’s endeavors. There was a time that he worked for me, and a time that I worked for him. It seems difficult to believe that we met eight full years ago.

Anyway, in the course of our various conversations, this Canadian fellow (we’ll call him “Bo”) happened to mention his upcoming travel plans and his need for some companionship along the way, preferably of the short-term, transaction-oriented variety.

I’m considering a road trip from Buffalo or Detroit to somewhere on the west coast. Will likely rent a car to do it. Any suggestions? Thinking Impala or Charger or some American full size that will be comfortable, good on the highway but won’t be a gas guzzler.

Bo is no longer imprisoned by the surly bonds of financial grounding that entwine most of us, so my first response to this was: “Rent yourself a Benz C63S from Hertz Dream Cars and floss in style from Windsor to Wilshire.” Unfortunately, that particular automobile, and most of the cars in the Hertz collection, have a mileage limit of 100 (or less) per day, with an excess charge of between 50 cents and three bucks per mile. Assuming Bo can drive 500 miles a day with no trouble and 800 miles in a pinch, that could add up to a couple thousand dollars extra. That’s real money for most people, even your Sherman McCoy types.

So I’m afraid I’ll have to make a slightly more prosaic recommendation. What’s required here is something that is absolutely at ease on the American freeway, a car that can cruise at 80 mph while maintaining a quiet interior and keeping fuel consumption to a reasonable trickle. The Impala would be fine for this. The Charger would be a bit noisier but a bit more characterful, even in its five-speed form that’s no longer available today. There’s also something to be said for driving a Charger in the United States nowadays as far as obtaining a slightly elevated level of highway courtesy from residents of certain states.

It’s currently possible to rent an Avalon or its generic-label equivalent, the Azera, from certain agencies. In either case, you get a bit more refinement and interior quality at the cost of slightly inferior over-the-road handling and behavior. I suppose one could also make the case for a Highlander or even a Tahoe, although wind noise goes up and fuel economy goes wayyyyy down in those cases.

When all is said and done, however, I believe the best choice for this all-American road trip is the all-American car straight-outta-Brampton-Ontario: the inimitable Chrysler 300C. It’s a true sweetheart: handsome, solid, quiet on the road, powerful enough to sprint ahead of traffic, comfortable enough to run a thousand miles a day. The stereo is brilliant, the seats are remarkable. It’s one of my favorite automobiles, although my personal preferences for configuration run in the direction of the no-longer-available-in-the-states 300C SRT-8.

Somehow I doubt that most of the B&B feels the same way, so have at it. What would you rent? And, just to vary up the responses a bit: what route would you take from Buffalo to Los Angeles?

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  • Chaparral Chaparral on Mar 09, 2017

    From personal experience on a long road trip: Camaro V6. Connection to the road beats all, and 35 mpg on the freeway rocks. For the route, go to Pittsburgh, Morgantown, Charleston, Bristol, Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, Dallas, El Paso, Tucson, Yuma, San Diego. That has you driving through the broadest variety of American landscapes.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Mar 10, 2017

    CHALLENGER all day every day for a long road trip. Comfort, power, presence, space, MPG, and vastly better visibility than a Camaro or Mustang, plus Uconnect works a treat and even the base stereo sounds good. Other pony cars? Nope. The 'Stang has a blind spot the size of Massachusetts, and the Camaro has gun slits instead of windows. Other options from FCA's menu of tank-like full-sizers? Nah. The 300's light steering is appalling, and the Charger in a rental-aisle dark color is a) butt-ugly and b) liable to make the car in front of you slam on the brakes, thinking you're Johnny Law. (I'd totally take a Charger in eye-searing bright frog green with a white perforated leather interior though...that's a combination you can order, too!)

  • Jeffrey An all electric entry level vehicle is needed and as a second car I'm interested. Though I will wait for it to be manufactured in the states with US components eligible for the EV credit.
  • Bob65688581 Small by American standards, this car is just right for Europe, and probably China, although I don't really know, there. Upscale small cars don't exist in the US because Americans associate size and luxury, so it will have a tough time in the States... but again Europe is used to such cars. Audi has been making "small, upscale" since forever. As usual, Americans will miss an opportunity. I'll buy one, though!Contrary to your text, the EX30 has nothing whatsoever to do with the XC40 or C40, being built on a dedicated chassis.
  • Tassos Chinese owned Vollvo-Geely must have the best PR department of all automakers. A TINY maker with only 0.5-0.8% market share in the US, it is in the news every day.I have lost count how many different models Volvo has, and it is shocking how FEW of each miserable one it sells in the US market.Approximately, it sells as many units (TOTAL) as is the total number of loser models it offers.
  • ToolGuy Seems pretty reasonable to me. (Sorry)
  • Luke42 When I moved from Virginia to Illinois, the lack of vehicle safety inspections was a big deal to me. I thought it would be a big change.However, nobody drives around in an unsafe car when they have the money to get their car fixed and driving safely.Also, Virginia's inspection regimine only meant that a car was safe to drive one day a year.Having lived with and without automotive safety inspections, my confusion is that they don't really matter that much.What does matter is preventing poverty in your state, and Illinois' generally pro-union political climate does more for automotive safety (by ensuring fair wages for tradespeople) than ticketing poor people for not having enough money to maintain their cars.