QOTD: Highway to the Comfort Zone?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd highway to the comfort zone

Yesterday’s long-term update of Jack’s 2014 Honda Accord coupe struck a chord with me. Maybe it was his admission of fortysomething acceptance, his willingness to look on the bright side of average, that did it. After all, owning a car — any car — that you enjoy driving and feel good about buying is something to desire, especially if it doesn’t break the bank.

The car I’m about to talk about has zero sporting pretensions, nor is it lusted after by savvy people in the know. The interior aesthetics leaves much to be desired. The powertrain could stand an added dose of modernity. Its aim in the marketplace? To lure Middle Americans into purchasing a vehicle that’s inherently useful in form while feeling strangely familiar in function. A right-sized vehicle for legions of cash-waving buyers who aren’t in the business of shopping around.

Yes, it’s a crossover.

Due to an ongoing dealer situation, I recently found myself behind the wheel of a loaner. And, given the stratospheric heights to which gasoline prices have soared in my neck of the woods, it wasn’t a vehicle I hoped to have in my driveway for any length of time. It’s now been there three weeks.

I’m a single man who hates possessions. From the get-go, I knew there’d be no hauling with this vehicle, no need to access the second row for anything except groceries, let alone the third. No cries of “are we there yet?” would ever emanate from the aft quarters while my ass occupied the driver’s seat. No, it was just a lot of V6-powered real estate for me to drive until I returned to a compact, stick-shift economy car.

Crossovers sometimes feel good, though few ever feel right. It’s a class of vehicle I find stupefyingly dull and often quite pointless, regardless of what automakers do to spice things up. Frankly, I think parents today allow their kids to bully them into taking on too much cargo for every family trip, and their non-hardened hearts are a boon to automakers selling car-based behemoths for inflated MSRPs. Junior needs to be entertained 24/7, so you’d best sign for a crossover even though a sedan would suffice.

But back to this one.

“Look at that atrocious phoney woodgrain!” I thought after settling behind the wheel. “The ’90s are (unfortunately) over! I’d pay money to strip it out and have it replaced with black plastic.”

Hours passed, then days, and a curious feeling crept into me. I didn’t feel coddled in this vehicle, nor was I displaying anything other than a resting heart rate. I didn’t feel proud or boastful. All I felt, every time I slipped behind the wheel, was the realization that this was one of the most comfortable vehicles I’ve ever driven. In the driver’s seat, it’s as if my body levitated a millimeter from the unremarkable fabric below it, leaving my achy, lanky frame free of the slightest twinge of discomfort.

There’s just the right amount of power up front. The steering feel can only be described as natural. Not engaging, just natural. Daydreams of chasing storms across the Great Plains, putting thousands of effortless miles behind me in the process, danced in my brain. This is the one, I said to myself. This is the vehicle I’d buy for going the distance. There’s room for plenty of stuff, especially with those two rear rows folded — hell, there’s probably enough space to lie down back there, take a nap. And all-wheel drive would probably get me out of any situation a level head got me into.

Somewhere between acceptable mediocrity and aspirational sensibility, I found a degree of comfort that left me surprised. I’ll hold off on mentioning the make and model for now — there’s a review coming at a later date — but I’ll leave you with this question: Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever felt jarred by just how much you enjoy an unlikely and seemingly unsuitable vehicle?

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3 of 73 comments
  • Sam Hall Sam Hall on Jun 08, 2018

    A c.2015 Ford Transit 150. Having driven several old-school full size vans, it was a revelation--solid, quiet, and sedan-like handling with or without a load, and actual thought into the load space features like tie-downs, doors that open completely out of the way etc. I'd have shortlisted it for our next family hauler if not for the fact that our 2010 Town & Country could nearly fit inside it. We just don't need that big a vehicle.

  • Aajax Aajax on Jun 11, 2018

    Several years ago. A rental Camry. After an hour and a half trip, i felt refreshed and my back felt better than when I had got in, which had never happened before. Should have bought one and driven it into the ground.

    • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Jun 11, 2018

      How tall are you? I'm only a bit under 5'11" but I have yet to find a Toyota seat cushion that is long enough to make my thighs feel well supported.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?