By on November 30, 2017

2004 Mazda MX5 Miata covered, Image: Tim Cain

The year was 1992. Your mullet was uncomfortably shaggy, your jeans unfortunately baggy, your personality unbecomingly braggy.

And Admiral Stockdale famously asked a vice presidential debate audience, “Who am I? Why am I here?”

Midst massive life transitions over the last 10 months — a website sale, a house sale, a much bigger TTAC role, a move to another province, a real job, a smaller TTAC role — I have more than once asked the very same questions, though often to myself, with nothing more than the sound of a Spalding clanging off the rim as I practice free throws in the driveway. These are not easy questions to answer, but I have discovered that jumping into a car and driving into the darkness is a great way of sourcing internal feedback.

I learn by asking questions. I often find answers tucked away somewhere between a perfectly timed downshift in a 2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata and a jaw-dropping upshift in a 2018 Honda Civic Type R.

2018 Nissan 370Z, Image: Tim Cain

November saw the virtual disappearance of that Miata, however, a car that clocked 3,100 miles since I purchased it as a post-GoodCarBadCar-sale reward last spring. Parked sideways and covered up in the back of our garage, the Miata’s battery is hooked up to a tender, its tires are overinflated, its interior is spotless, its exterior is waxed, its critter entry points are blocked by steel wool, and its roof is closed but unlatched. I was able to get roughly one more month of Prince Edward Island driving in the Miata than I expected thanks to a blissfully mild fall.

I also took one late night excursion with the top down, the temperature below freezing, and flurries falling.

A Kensington police officer stopped to ask me if I was alright. Wearing a toque and a winter jacket and a scarf, with the Miata’s heater not even on full blast, I was in top-down glory.

Alright? Constable, I am most definitely more than alright.

2018 Kia Soul 2015 Honda Odyssey, Image: Tim Cain

The Miata’s move to the back of the garage coincided with the purchase of new winter tires for our 2015 Honda Odyssey. Long a believer in Michelin X-Ice and Bridgestone Blizzak rubber, I was tempted into a set of Yokohama IceGuards by an array of service managers and service advisors with whom I now work closely. Reviews at the Tire Rack were largely positive, lending credence to the claims of my colleagues.

Cheaper by $60 per corner than the Michelins, the Yokohamas aren’t so noisy that you notice their winter nature, although there’s a noted loss of sharpness upon turn-in compared with the all-season Michelin Primacys, not surprisingly.

In the meantime, handling a new gig in product training at a number of new vehicle dealerships has granted me access to an array of vehicles. The Nissan 370Z I initially took home manifested a high level of authenticity. Thoroughly modern? Perhaps we should be thankful the Z is not. Instead, it’s a Japanese muscle car with the heritage to match.

The Kia Soul I drove for a few days proved just why I once named it the most easily recommended vehicle on sale today. Meeting such a wide variety of needs, the Soul is quiet, sufficiently powerful, very spacious, and exceptionally well equipped at a bargain price. Even a few years into second-gen form, the Soul still merits success despite the lack of an all-wheel-drive system that many believe to be so necessary.

2018 Honda Civic Type R, Image: Tim Cain

A brief excursion in the 2018 Honda Civic Type R rearranged my expectations in more than one way. Sure, it’s a sight to behold. But the Type R provides more performance than I anticipated along with more day-to-day liveability than I thought possible.

The 2018 Honda Accord, meanwhile, is the car in which I’ve spent the most time over the last few weeks. I won’t suggest that the continuously variable transmission would be my choice, particularly not with manual availability in Sport and Sport 2.0T iterations, but the degree to which Honda made a CVT a non-factor is noteworthy. The Accord Sport’s Sport mode livens up the 1.5-liter turbo, the chassis is a willing partner on traffic-free country roads, and the 19-inch wheels don’t disrupt the proceedings as they did in the departed ninth-gen Accord.

2018 Honda Accord, Image: Tim Cain

The new Accord is better in virtually every way than the old car, which will be more than enough to quickly grow the Accord’s market share as the Honda and Toyota Camry make headway in a segment the duo already dominates.

Up next is the Nissan Qashqai. Then a 2018 Mazda CX-5, perhaps? The Kia Forte will sneak in there, and probably another Honda.

By May, I’ll be back in my own Miata, hopefully cognizant once again of who I am and why I am here.

[Images: © 2017 Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars]

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20 Comments on “When the Open Road Soothes Your Existential Angst...”

  • avatar

    “The year was 1992.”


    Just kidding, hi Tim.

  • avatar

    US 19/129 from Dahlonega to Blairsville, GA is my favorite stretch of road to remind myself of the joys of the open road. Many fun cars and trucks have accompanied me on that journey – Most challenging was a Chevy C20 high top conversion van. Lots of leaning and tire protest with that beast, but was an excellent selection for the Swann Drive-Inn in Blue Ridge that made it a favorite

  • avatar

    I’ve long considered the 370Z to be the Japanese Camaro.
    I’ve meant that as a compliment but few take it that way!

    For me, a blast down to the south end of Seneca Lake, to the quaint village of Watkins Glen, has been a yearly ritual. This year I added P-Zero Neros and Bilstein HDs and the drive is sublime. (the ride quality, notsomuch, heh).

  • avatar

    Living in FL I just laugh at people who have to winterize various vehicles and swap over to snow tires. I drive a RWD vehicle on summer ultra performance tires every day and use my boat almost every weekend.

    • 0 avatar

      Not living in FL gives everyone else the ability to laugh at those that do live in FL. Plus, 1 constant season gets old. Yes, I’ve been there and lived in the gulf coast. Now, I live in mountains of majesty and do a variety of kickass stuff all year long.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a lot more fun driving in winter than summer, and I’d rather put up with a cold winter than a hot, humid summer. I’ve also always preferred hockey and snowboarding to sitting in a boat. There’s plenty of time for that anyway, in our pristine lakes on long summer evenings.

      But do laugh at us for putting up with months of disgusting grime and corrosion followed by a dusty, gritty spring; just so incompetent drivers can function without winter tires for a few days until it snows again. The beautiful white scenery and the most enjoyable road conditions only last a day or two at a time.

  • avatar

    If you have the battery on a battery tender it should not be in a vehicle with the hood closed and a cover on it. It will out-gas and you don’t want that trapped under the hood and cover. Yes it out-gasses in normal every day use but in every day use there is air flow.

    Also making it dark is an invitation to those pesky rodents, hood open and a light on in the garage makes it less likely that they will build nests under the hood.

    • 0 avatar

      Why is it necessary to open the hood when charging a battery that’s in the trunk??

      • 0 avatar

        You are correct, I just did the knee jerk response w/o thinking about the actual vehicle in question. Though if there is a rodent concern the hood open and a light on will discourage them taking up residence in the engine compartment.

    • 0 avatar

      That is incorrect. Any good battery charger/maintainer will maintain a float voltage of 13.5 – 13.8VDC, which is safely below the gassing voltage of 14.4V (+/- depending upon ambient temperature).

      If a maintainer boiled the battery, there would be no electrolyte left in the spring.

  • avatar

    I’ve been to PEI in the summer quite a few times when I lived much closer to there. I would imagine, for a few days around the holidays, PEI must be magical.

    After attending the local car show this past weekend, I was a bit disappointed after seeing the 2018 Accord. I like the outside but I am not a big fan of what Honda did with the inside. I hate the “I-pad like” screen sticking out of the dash the way they have it, and I hate that they lowered the seats that much compared to the 2017. Not easy getting in or out. It seems that Honda wants to move everyone 50 and older into the CRV and Pilot. I think they are trying too much to be like the Japanese brand VW CC.
    One of the display cars was a Touring edition, white pearl color. It looked beautiful but when I saw the 35,000 MSRP and the 1.5L engine, I was a bit disappointed.

  • avatar

    Ive heard alot of good things about the IceGaurds also. Please keep us informed.

  • avatar

    I spent many a fall (and even winter) evening tossing my Miata along country roads. My wife referred to the car as: “Four wheeled therapy.”

    I’ve since decided (after the car was hit while parked three times in a year by big tall SUV’s, and totaled on #3), that any future Miata will have a whippy stalk like one of those three-wheeled bicycles, with a flashing strobe light, a la school bus. At least when parked.

  • avatar

    Every time I see the ’18 Accord’s snout, I think the designers were ordered to drop their pens in mid-stroke. It looks unfinished to me, or there’s something missing.

  • avatar

    Nice article, Tim. I cannot count the number of times a good drive has straightened my head out.

    Hope the new gig is working out.

  • avatar

    I look forward to hearing about the Yokohama IceGuards. I’ve got 4 season on the Accord’s X-Ice 2 tires. I think I can get one more, but a $300+ savings would be appreciated.

    I went with Advan Sport A/S tires this spring and have been pleased so far on the Accord.

    I really really like the new Accord, especially considering how effortless owning our 2012 has been. The 2.0 and manual would make it even better.

  • avatar

    Having a manual transmission again has put me more in touch with driving. I’m an attentive and conscientious driver, but that has been heightened by having to think about shifting again and conserving energy so I don’t have to stop on a hill if I don’t have to. I mean, I usually drive efficiently, but even with a hill holder, starting on a steep hill has never been fun.

    I put Goodyear Ultra Grip Winter tires on the Sienna and I have them for the VW too from the departed Mazda. They seem to be a decent change from the Blizzak and Dunlop Graspics I’ve been using for years, but those Xi Ice from Michelin are great.

    With light traffic and the shuffle function on the phone or pandora hitting a decent mix, I can drive for long periods and enjoy it.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the update, Timothy. Good to hear your thoughts on all these vehicles even if we can’t get full reviews.

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