By on September 2, 2020

We walk through life full of our own biases, veritable containers brimming with grudges and bad feelings and memories of being burned. You’ll never hurt me again, we think of certain corporations and companies and products. And countries of origin. And people. Like cold honey, these lingering resentments harden over time.

Sometimes we realize too late that our feelings were outdated, unwarranted, or misplaced.

It can happen with cars and automotive brands. I’ll never buy Plymouth again, I said back in 2000. That boycott didn’t last long, but not because I got right back on the horse.

For many, experience with a lackluster, poorly built product sends them running into the arms of a competing manufacturer. It’s what led to Detroit’s downfall in the ’70s and ’80s, and the feelings created in the wake of that era keeps customers coming back for their 7th Corolla. Stigma is also what keeps some people from considering a new Hyundai or Kia or Genesis, and it shouldn’t. Times change, and quality improves.

Like voting, no one entity should take your mark of approval for granted, nor should you hand over your loyalty for life.

A Twitter convo yesterday brought us to this point. In a back-and-forth about what else (an early ’80s Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight), one commenter described General Motors as an automaker that builds for the lowest common denominator; however, with a little prodding, this person did admit to being somewhat surprised by some products. The first-generation Cruze apparently served their family better than mine did. Also, this: Last year, while visiting L.A., they signed up for a full-size rental, hoping to get a Maxima or Charger. Instead, a Chevy Impala filled the role.

Disappointment soon turned to something else.

“After a week with the Impala, I thought GM just did not do enough to promote such a competent car,” this commenter said, adding, “GM is famous for perfecting models then discontinuing them.”

Indeed, the Impala nameplate was marching to the gallows at the time of this rental, soon to be vanished from this earth. Say what you will about the viability of large sedans in today’s market, but that realization that a product was not what it seemed is what we’re going for today. Sometimes we only learn how unsuspectingly good something is when it’s too late to capitalize on the knowledge.

Does this describe any vehicle you’ve come across?

 

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50 Comments on “QOTD: Too Late for a First Impression?...”


  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I rented an Impala LTZ when I was in Napa Valley 5 years ago and it changed my mind. A very competent car with very good fuel economy. One of the only rental cars that I hated to return. So impressed with it that I bought a Buick Lacrosse its sister car.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      Similar story – rented an Impala driving from San Francisco to the Grand Canyon on a family vacation a few years back. I knew it had gotten a rave review from Consumer Reports, but was still surprised when I got in. Drove it through a lot of harrowing mountain-y roads and it had such fantastic handling. And when I got back to the highways, it was powerful and quiet. Having a car that’s both nimble and a plush cruiser is so rare.

      Only problem (which plagues a lot of cars now) was the abysmal visibility. And the fact that somehow a backup camera wasn’t standard even on an Impala in 2016. It also just looked like a big, dorky car at the time.

      I’m sure part of what killed it was that it was a lot more expensive than the god-awful previous gen (which I got saddled with twice as rentals). “Who would pay that for an Impala?” most people likely assumed about the final generation.

    • 0 avatar
      TimK

      And how is the Buick after five years? Be honest.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    My father has an Impala, it’s a good, competent, well built car. It’s a bit boring, but at 93 so is my dad ;-)

    This article echos what I’ve always said, GM knows how to build a good car, they just choose not to :(

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      GM DOES build good cars, or at least the engineers design good cars. The problem is the bean counters take a solid design and strip it. The features that make it a good car become optional or are not available on the base model.

      They did that to the last generation Pontiac Grand Prix, until it was just a few dollars more than the smaller models. People got the GP as more car for the same money and were turned off.

      As the tooling is paid off, and people become disgusted, the optional equipment becomes standard along with some performance equipment, and the car as originally designed is pretty good.

      Unfortunately even then, luxury appointments that cost little are added, and a much higher price is tacked on, to make up for the smaller options list.

      GM then puts cash on the hood to move the overpriced model, still making money, but the bean counters find “savings” in eliminating the cash on the hood by discontinuing the model.

      GM builds good cars at a reasonable price – that they make money on – only in the last year of a model’s production, when they put cash on the hood. The next-to-last year is also a good deal, bought as a late model used car. Everything else is overpriced and under-equipped, and doesn’t sell as well as the model would have sold – at a profit – as originally engineered.

      But it keeps lots of bean counters and other useless executives employed.

  • avatar
    kkop

    Having immigrated from a part of the world where V-8 vehicles are only attainable by the rich, I had promised myself after arriving in the US that one day I’d own a V-8 with a manual transmission.

    Still, it was with great hesitation we bought our 2012 Dodge Challenger. Their reputation was not very good, and at that time they were still pretty thin on the ground.

    Our Header Orange R/T served us well for 105,000 miles. A daily driver for most of its time with us, it never really missed a beat, other than a sticky steering rack that was fixed under warranty.

    So, though I did not wait until it was too late, we are Challenger-less right now, and I miss that car. I don’t think the current generation is long for this world so I hope to buy another one before it’s discontinued. Preferably one of the crazy editions.

    I’ll make sure I will not be too late for that.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      kkop
      Charger Challeger 300 are outstanding cars for the money. They are not long for this world

      Impala- good car BUT. High Belt line. Super high out the backlight. Very poor controls/complicated. I ll pass.

      PS- Impala gets only 10% better MPG over the FCA trio in my car rentals. Well worth every gallon for the vastly superior rear wheel drive driving dynamic..

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I don’t know that I can point to a situation where any single vehicle left a bad taste in my mouth and caused me to swear off a brand. At 32 I’m in that demo that has only experienced generally competent machines, and I’ve plunked enough of my money on various examples of the years (Honda, Ford, Kia, GM, Chrysler, Mazda, Toyota). I’ve only bought new from Kia, Chrysler, Mazda, and Ford.

    The one example I can think of that probably should have sworn me off a brand was my Kia. I commented numerous times here about a weird shifting issue with 4th gear that the dealer could never truly replicate. Still, I’m not averse to the brand and would give them another shot if one were to come up on my list of things to try. The Chrysler had a persistent issue of loud buzzing from the infotainment system that was not properly fixed, but I think that was more a dealer issue than an issue with the meat and potatoes. I still lust for a Challenger.

  • avatar
    ajla

    ” ‘After a week with the Impala, I thought GM just did not do enough to promote such a competent car,’ this commenter said, adding, ‘GM is famous for perfecting models then discontinuing them.’ ”

    I disagree with this fellow. The Impala, LaCrosse, XTS, and several other recently killed cars from many brands were good enough products to continue on but nature selected them for extinction. GM could have put 100% of its marketing dollars behind the Impala and it wouldn’t have mattered.

    When I’ve recommended a car to someone, here’s the response:
    0. It’s not a truck.
    1. It’s not a CUV.
    2. It’s too big.
    3. It’s too small.
    4. The roof is too low.
    5. The ground clearance is too low.

    Ride height and all-weather capability is king. Cars are pretty much a niche for hotshoes and skinflints.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Can’t say I have.

    I remember being pretty impressed the first Fusion I ever drove, which happened to be a hybrid. That was probably 5 years ago and to this day I still am very impressed with the Fusion Hybrid.

    Impala seems solid but I didn’t get the shock it seems so many others have. Though I wanna guess the ones I drove were 4 cylinders? Seemed like probably a good car for a solid value. But nothing really wowed me.

    Oh…I know one. 1-2 years ago I had reserved a Fusion at Avis. Didn’t have any so they gave me a Charger R/T with the HEMI. I’d never driven any of the LX cars before. Holy crap was I giggling like the first time I’d driven a Miata or a Porsche as a kid. It was an excellent driving car. Great ride/handling combination. Interior materials good enough. Nice and roomy up front. And I couldn’t help every single stop light to just let it rip and laugh and laugh. Fantastic cars. My only real complaint besides MPG is when it runs in 4cyl mode the slight change in vibration and exhaust tone. Didn’t care for that.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Recent things that impressed me above expectations:
    – 2020 VW GLI
    – 2019 Lacrosse Avenir
    – 2018 Mazda CX-9 Signature
    – 2017 Genesis G80

    Cars that reinforced my opinions:
    – Every Subaru ever
    – Every pickup truck ever

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I have a tendency to carry grudges a long time. I still don’t buy Exxon gas unless the car is shuddering to a stop and it’s the only station in the vicinity. I’m that way about the domestics; I or folks close to me have been burned by their lack of quality control, whether in assembly or subcontracted parts. Conversely, my Japanese branded vehicles have been pretty stellar.

    On occasion I will get a domestic as a rental and it seems competent enough, even impressive sometimes. But I work too hard for my money to bother giving something/someone a second chance when I have experience of stellar performance from the get-go.

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      Remember back in the 1990’s when Fords slogan was “Quality in Job 1”? They were trying to say that they had a new emphasis on quality because of their poor reputation. Except those were some pretty terrible cars! I test drive a 94 Mustang GT, and I liked driving it, but the interior was garbage. I bought a Miata instead. I still own the Miata.

    • 0 avatar
      MeJ

      @Dave
      I agree with you. I always say why give a second chance to a brand -any brand- when there are so many viable options from competitors.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Dave M. – you from Valdez Alaska? ;)

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I have had the opposite happen. We had thought about a Fusion for our next sedan but after renting one that was out. Same with a Focus as a commuter 8 years ago. They were decent inside and then got worse. I understand they have gotten better now though.

  • avatar
    redgolf

    I’m watching Bitchin Rides on the Motor Trend channel, they are displaying a 1965 Pontiac GTO, oh if I could only go back in time!I had a 63 Catalina in 67 ( age 18 ) loved that car paid $1000 from a used car lot. BTW, I’m still driving my 97 Grand Prix as I have stated on this site before and loving it, no collection value there, just a very dependable 3.8 v6!

  • avatar
    mikey

    A year ago I traded my 15 EB Mustang on a new 19 Impala Premier package (very similar to the photo). I was looking for an Oshawa built model. However the deal was too good to pass. The build quality out of the Hamtramck plant is top notch.

    Yes ,I’m painfully aware of the lousy resale value. Right now the Impala serves my purposes quite well. I’ll worry about resale when the time comes.

  • avatar
    amwhalbi

    Recent example of a good car vanishing : my son just bought an Elantra GT. He absolutely loves it, and I think it’s a pretty darn good car for the money. Great daily driver, practical design, comfortable. So, of course, with the country in the grips of SUV fever, Hyundai drops it for 2021.

    Regarding biases, I had a ’95 Town & Country that was a problem from day one, even though my wife loved it. Replaced the transmission, brakes wore out quickly, and other assorted maladies. Not at all like my ’85 Caravan, which was a bulletproof winner. But I swore off Chryslers after the ’95, and haven’t bought one since. However, I rented a Pacifica this year and it was an excellent minivan that I would strongly consider if I was in the minivan market. It reminded me that, as you suggest, vehicles/brands (and opinions on them) can change. Most brands fall somewhat in or out of favor from time to time. Even Honda’s legendary reliability rating has fallen to near mid pack, according to Consumer Reports’ most recent ratings.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      A buddy of mine had an Elantra GT as an insurance loaner after he was backed-into in a parking lot, and I was impressed. Decent ride, could get out of its own way, reasonable handler. The only real demerit was that the top cog in the transmission was geared so high that the car had to downshift into fifth in order to keep the set cruise speed going up the slightest of inclines, and did so rather loudly.

      After twenty-six years, I’m not going to dump Honda unless they REALLY screw up! But I can see where HyundKia has improved, though not enough for me to sign my name on a loan contract for one. (Hell, my friend’s Kia Rio is ten years old, hasn’t skipped a beat, and I’ve been impressed by the ride and lack of egregious interior flaws the last time I rode in it; her husband traded his 2000 Civic for a Kia Soul a few years ago which was an absolute cherry lease return, and it hasn’t given him so much as a hiccup.)

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I keep my vehicles at least 10 years so resale value doesn’t matter to me.

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    I once was given a 2017 Jeep Patriot as a rental while in Utah. The Patriot greatly exceeded my expectations because based on the reviews at the time the Patriot was supposed to be loud and dangerously slow deathtrap. Maybe it was because I had a Latitude with the 2.4/6sp auto combination which made it a loud and painfully slow deathtrap only when traveling uphill.

    Otherwise it was comfortable, practical enough, and had a quirky Jeep appeal which would’ve been just enough for me to consider snagging one on a great deal and avoid hills.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      My experience with the same powertrain in an Enterprise Compass only confirmed how blech that 2.4 was! The worst vehicle I’ve ever driven was a 2014 Dodge Avenger with the 2.4/* 4 *-speed combo! Absolutely awful! Slow. Herky-jerky shifts. Moaning and groaning motor!

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    “Chevy Impala. It Doesn’t Suck As Much As You Think It Does.:.”

    A slogan like that might have kept it alive.

  • avatar
    JMII

    After my experience with my wife’s Cavalier and my father’s Trail Blazer I swore to never own a GM product. Yet I now drive a C7. I got rid of a Ranger two decades ago and was glad to see it go, but now I’m looking to buy a new one. I’ve owned an SUV in the past but see zero reasons to own another one.

    However never say never… you need to keep an open mind and do all your research. For example my father told me to never buy a Dodge, but my current Dakota is one of the more reliable vehicles I’ve owned.

    • 0 avatar
      sayahh

      The Cavalier: Toyota’s least reliable model ever.

      (Sold in Japan as a Toyota while Geo sold the Corolla in the States as a Prizm as part of the NUMMI collaboration.)

      A Chevy Chevic (or Chivyc?) would be the most reliable Chevy model since the Chevy Prizm IMO. Honda discontinued the Civic sedan in the JDM and the Civic coupe in the USDM; perhaps they could be sold as Chevys, but alas, their dealership and sales teams would probably piss off buyers and be unenthusiastic about selling them like they did the Prizm.

  • avatar
    17andCounting

    First car – 72 Pontiac Bonneville 2dr 455 CID. Stranded me on I-95 in CT during rush hour. But that was the fault of a spark booster the previous owner had installed to try and get mileage into the mid teens.
    Second car – 1981 Plymouth Horizon. Burned a quart of oil (bad valve seals) every 3 tanks of gas. VW engine by the way. Wiring harness self destructed. Repair took 4 weeks and $800.
    Drove me primarily towards Japanese cars for decades.
    Went back to Mopar in 1998 – Dodge RAM truck. I r stoopid. POS despite meticulous care. In less than 100k miles stranded me repeatedly, two engine intake manifold gaskets (needed a third) and rusted horribly. Bought a Ridgeline.
    Hoping the Domestics quality has improved we now have a Jeep (2019 Wrangler) and one Chevy (2019 C7) in the fleet. We’ll see how they fare.
    Like the current Impala styling at least compared to competition. Guess that makes me old….oh wait I am.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Funny you mention the Horizon.

      I bought a ’79, utterly stripped. My first new car. It developed various ridiculous llttle problems: The shifter pin broke, leaving the shifter flopping limply in the shifter boot. The door latches froze, making the door bounce off the door opening rather than latch closed. Paint started to peel in sheets off the wheelwell where they hadn’t bothered to prime it.

      Still, it drove decently until 30k, when the engine literally fell out. The autopsy revealed a latent defective motor mount weld at the time of assembly. I wrote two letters to Chysler, who resolutely told me the 12-month/12,000 mile new car warranty in effect at the time had expired, so I could go to hell. I’ve never bought American again.

      • 0 avatar
        17andCounting

        Wow and I thought I had problems! Chrysler’s loss.

        The other weird failure with this Horizon – wiper fluid. Trip from CT to Pittsburgh PA one night in a pretty good snowstorm the windshield washer fluid would not dispense. Stopped and refilled tank. Still no juice. Could hear the pump working.
        So I resorted to the really stupid technique of tailgating and close passing of semi’s and using wheel spray to clean the windshield. As you can imagine truck drivers were not pleased with this behaviour.
        Inspection the next day revealed engine vibration had worn a hole in the rubber washer feed line. Inside front fender wall was really clean! Only upside – an easy fix.

  • avatar
    07NodnarB

    Back in December I rented an SUV to drive back n forth from Detroit to Grand Rapids MI while visiting for holiday. At Avis, I had a choice of rogue, rogue sport, outlander sport and what I choose, jeep cherokee. it wasn’t the base model so I expected it to be a good choice over the others. I was wrong. on an hour long drive on michigan roads, I got out the car feeling sick to my stomach and had a headache, the ride was so harsh and I didn’t know modern cars could ride so crappy… shoulda took one of the rogues…

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    There is something to be said for GM’s unique ability to create great cars, or iterations of them, right before discontinuing them. The interesting thing about the Super Epsilon Impala’s case was that the car did last quite a while (MY2014 to MY2020), and that its demise was due to a decline in the full-size sedan segment as a whole. I’m sure that even the Avalon–which commands the highest transaction prices and is the most valuable nameplate in its segment–is in danger of not surviving beyond the current generation.

    The *really* sad thing about the Impala is that its void leaves solely the Malibu for Chevrolet’s sedan presence. I’ve found the current Malibu to be a thoroughly competent appliance, as a rental car in 1.5T LT spec, but it is arguably the least stylish thing in its class (including, yes, the Altima). Whereas the Impala was striking and upscale. The only part of the Impala I couldn’t get past was the steering wheel, which looked like a knockoff of that in the W221 (2007-2013) S-Class.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Kyree, the whole interior of the Impala is the deal-breaker for me. I actually dig the exterior on the high-zoot version, and it drives very nicely. But the interior “aesthetic” looks like a combination of a parts-bin raid from 5 other GM cars, and the divisional identity manual dictating that if the interior trim looks good and less than 15 years old, the car must be badged as a Cadillac or Buick. They need to retire that teal gauge lighting in a medieval font, and you could gash your eyeballs on the hard plastic. It’s a mess in there.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I try very diligently to be fair and open minded in all aspects of my life.

    That said, I have been entirely unable to purge my mind, and heart, of the hateful and violent impulses I have toward GM….thanks, mostly, to an awful lease experience with a 1997 Astro van. The vehicle had several un-resolveable issues from day one, and the dealer service department treated me as if I was a criminal. Since life is all too short, I decided that day in 2000, when my lease was up, that I would NEVER, EVER, subject myself to another GM vehicle or dealer. Eff them!!!!!

    …okay, feeling better now…….but just remembering the flaming heap of garbage raises my blood pressure 20 points….

  • avatar
    BunkerMan

    In 2006, I swore off of Chrysler. I haven’t bought one since.

    A family friend owned a small Chrysler dealership and always gave us good deals on cars. My first Chrysler was a 1997 Cirrus purchased in 1999. It was a nice car to drive, but had its share of issues, mostly electrical and brake related. Then it started to rust. After 2+ years of ownership (by 2002) it had to go.

    Its replacement was a 1999 Caravan. This was by far the worst vehicle I have ever owned. By the time it was written off in an accident in 2006, it was in the shop every couple of weeks with something else going wrong. In the end, it would quit randomly on the road. Four years was too long to have owned that POS, but with 2 young children, a new vehicle was not in the cards. After it was written off (no injuries) the insurance company paid me more for it than it was worth. I replaced it with a Mazda MPV and never considered a Chrysler again.

    We did rent a Caravan on a trip to Florida in 2012. I thought it drove great and actually liked it. Of course that was only a week’s worth of driving, so it didn’t sway me.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      I’ve driven nothing but Mopar since 2003 and had very few problems. I bought my Ram in 2003 after wrecking a GMC Sierra 1500. The Ram was better in every way, especially braking on uneven payment. When I got hurt in 2007, the Ram had to go, I couldn’t safely get into it anymore. It had one issue, fixed under warranty at 5 months in. I replaced it with a Charger R/T. I didn’t like it’s looks, but I loved the way it drove. I had ZERO issues with it for the 3 years I had it. I only bought the Charger because a Challenger I could afford wasn’t available yet. In 2010, I traded the Charger for a Challenger R/T, and almost 8 years later, traded the R/T for a Challenger Scat Pack, which is just over 2 years old without a single issue. I love it, and I plan on keeping it at least until the redesigned Challenger appears. But if FCA, or whatever it’s called screws it up, I’m going to buy one of the last of the current ones, another Scat Pack.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    VW showed me how much they really cared by delivering a new 1980 Jetta 1.6 and A/C with front springs meant for a 1.1 l Euro cheapie Golf. It had perhaps a maximum two inches of suspension travel left and bottomed out over poor pavement patching. Looked cool all hunkered down at the front and that was about it. The vacuum “bottle” for the pneumatically-operated HVAC controls was cunningly attached to the hood underside by two flat green bungee cords with hooks onto existing stamping holes. They liked to vibrate loose and let the whole thing get tangled up in the alternator belt drive. Boing, clang, scrape, chuka chikka chukka. So, you know, very “professional”. The gearshift failed on a trip to Boston from Nova Scotia and it was vise-grips to the rescue. Very cool. I enjoyed that so much. 18 months with that t*rd was enough.

    I looked at a Jetta GLI last year, observing the “swank” plastic interior, noted the same tired sales pitch as 40 years ago that Germany rules the world, and did the right thing. Ran away.

    For the same money my Mazda6 turbo is less sporty perhaps, but it’s built properly in Hiroshima, has a far superior interior, doesn’t feel like a cheap car and friends with Mazdas built since 2013 have essentially had zero problems. Besides, I love it and I’ll take on any GLI in the 10 to 50 mph stakes. Hell, starting in second from rest, it chirps the tires on road irregularities up to 25 mph. Using low just invokes TC.

    VW’s recent Budack horror 2.0t “eco” engine in Tiguans and Audi Q3, all raging 174 hp of it, reinforced my view of the brand’s BS haughtiness, not to even mention dieselgate where Piech gave the world the finger. Budack is a BS technology exactly the opposite of what everyone else does to implement an “Atkinson” cycle in the variable cam operating range. Won’t rev, sounds unhappy if you try, while the Honda 1.5t in the CR-V/Civic/Accord leaves it for dead in power and economy.

    VW is dead for me. Why even bother tempting fate?

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      I had a very, very similar experience with my two new VWs in the ’80s. I get that was a long time ago and the reliability is much less terrible now, but from what I hear out of current VW owners, the attitude is unchanged.

      I think the Mazda6 is a knockout. Fine choice, for my money. I just might hit one of those someday.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “Sometimes we only learn how unsuspectingly good something is when it’s too late to capitalize on the knowledge.”

    If I could live my life over, I would have a very different dream vehicle poster on the wall of my college dorm in the late 80’s. And I would set aside $30 a week for those 1700 weeks so that in 2019 I could own and drive a 2020 Kia Telluride.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    Many, many years I rented a mid-1990s Toyota Corolla. I didn’t really have any expectations for the car, other than it getting good gas mileage and being reliable. I had previously driven bare-bones Tercels and was surprised at what a step up the Corolla was.

    Although not a performance car, it really felt sold and all of one piece. The handling was very predictable and you could safely push it to fairly high limits. I think it handled better than comparable Civic sedans which seemed “tippy” in comparison. In the late 1990s, though, Toyota started cheapening their sedans and I feel like later models weren’t quite as good as the mid-1990s ones.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    There hasn’t been many vehicles that exceeded my expectations, but one sure did, a Chevy Cruze I rented when my 2010 Challenger was in the body shop after a fender bender. The same exact car with over 50,000 miles on it was mentioned in an article right after I returned it. I can’t find it, but I think it was here is TTAC. It was too small for me, I’m built like a gorilla, but other than that, it wasn’t bad. The seat was OK, it had no rattles or buzzes, the stereo was meh, but as long as the revs/boost were kept up, it was fairly quick and fun to drive. I had it almost 2 weeks and other than me getting in and out of it, I liked it a lot.

    In general though, I’ve never been impressed with any FWD car/SUV/CUV. I haven’t had one since 1988.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I have had a number of cars not just pickups over 10 years–18 years, 17 years, and 13 years. Resale value is more important to those who keep a vehicle 5 or less years. Cars and trucks depreciate for the most part and to buy one as investment is foolish, I buy a vehicle for use. Trucks do depreciate less but they still depreciate.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    I suppose one big surprise is how much of a difference the powertrain and environment make to whether you enjoy a car. I rented a Fiat 500X turbodiesel with a 6-speed manual in the Spanish mountains and found it to be a barrel of monkeys: torquey, playful, cheap to run, and a far better handler than any compact CUV has a right to be.

    I rented a 500X 2.4 gas with a 9-speed automatic in the US and hated it: the same seats that hugged me around turns in the mountains were uncomfortably hard and narrow in city traffic, the same suspension that was entertaining when pushed hard was stiff over potholes…and even though I’m certain the 2.4 had way more horsepower, the sullen automatic transmission wanted to share none of it.

    There is, though, a screaming-orange used 500x (ace-of-base model complete with plastic wheel covers) with the 1.4 turbo gas engine and a 6-speed manual for sale near me at a rock-bottom price. I’m curious to try it, but also pretty sure I’ll buy the goddamn thing instead of the sensible EV I was planning on, and bitterly regret it within 30 days. Still…I’ve tried that engine in a different model and found it to be fun in the way that driving a slow car fast is fun: you’re either in the powerband or in the doghouse, and the manual transmission means that’s solely your responsibility…and there’s an addictive Abarth-with-a-muffler exhaust note that makes slogs to the grocery store weirdly amusing. Basically I’m pretty sure it’s the bastard child of a Miata and a RAV4, and I’d have a creepy bipolar relationship with it.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    2019 Tahoe, I was shocked how good the steering and brakes were. And a tighter turning circle than my 2003 Maxima. Plenty powerful engine, no problems passing.

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