Don't get me wrong.
I love cars and I love reading about them, but all too often I find the car reviews about a million miles from useful, relevant, and meaningful to my life.
All too often the car companies roll out their cars for the herds of automotive journalist in far flung and exotic locations with dreamy roads, and police that seem to turn a blind eye toward inevitable tire screeching, double digit, "journalistic" rally style raiding on public roads.
Inevitable the automotive writer is smitten by the cars pavement twisting torque, or razor like handling prowess, or adrenaline pumping engine note as the car accelerates up at least 7 gears of speed.
That's all just grand, but what I want to know is how will the car do when I get Bugger Bob, my sons new found 11-year-old buddy, putting his dirty shoes on the rear seats, playing with the electric windows while flicking stale raisins at cyclist?
Or how will the car perform when I have to take it to the airport to pick up my mom who travels with more clothes than the queen of England on an extend state visit to Australia?
In other words, how does the car "perform" when you put it to the everyman car test?
That's what this series of reviews is all about. Instead of driving the test vehicle up and over the most delicious, curvy, and terror inducing Switzerland mountain pass, I drive it for 24 hours the way that most of us will drive it (on local roads, routes, highways, and streets).
In other words I drive the test car:
– to the store to get groceries
– to the dentist to get drilled
– to school to pick up the kids
– to the vet to get the dog fixed
– and so on and so and so on.
And since I strictly worship at the alter of the daily driver, I put all cars to this basic of basic tests. Sure it would be wonderful to have a pristine car that only gets used when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the police are all away at their annual policeman's ball, but you and I know that's not how most of us can afford to keep cars.
Third, fourth, fifth, and sixth cars are like expensive and very needy mistresses. Unless you happen to be Jay Leno and you can afford to employ a full time team of German and Italian auto mechanics, you probably can't afford to pamper a car just for that special weekend.
More importantly it does not take a lot to design or engineer a car to sit in the garage and look seductive.
If you want art go buy a bight red Ducati Monster and a loft in New York City with a garage for a front door. Park the bike on your polished hard wood floors, open a bottle of Opus One, sit down and loudly proclaim, "Life does not suck!"
The rest of us have kids to pick up at 3:30 so we can take them to soccer practice.
Our day goes something like this.
Friday, January 30th, 2009
7:46 P.M. MST
A day in the life with the current generation of Toyota's iconic Prius starts where all of these things usually do—in my garage. My son is enthralled by the cars back-up camera. It does not take him long to find the actually camera on the back of the trunk lid.
I snap this photo of the display with my cell phone, and almost run my son over because I forget that the camera only works when you are in reverse.
A note to Toyota: Why can't the driver of passenger turn on the camera with a switch?
It would seem like you could have hours of fun checking out the view from behind on long road trips. Think of it as an indrive entertainment system for the entire family, and pleeeeeeeze don't give me any of those silly legal reason that it would be unsafe. Of course it could be unsafe, and so is having a burning and smoking stick in your mouth when driving, yet you've put tens of millions of ashtrays and lighters into your cars for decades.
Friday, January 31st, 2009
I get up early to go for a run with a neighbor, a friend, and our dog Happy around the local running trails. Happy seems to like the Prius as much as she likes any car, and that would be not a very much. In fact, she looks like she's about to get car sick and that's because she's probably is about to get car sick.
This test vehicle has all of the bells and whistles including factory leather. Which makes me very happy because I can't image imagine cleaning up doggy puke from the base car's standard mouse fur interior.
This morning, indeed life does not suck. At least as long as Happy stays happy and we uneventfully drive the few miles to the trail head.
On the short drive over I notice the car has peppy acceleration and handling that goes well above my current "queasy" dog needs. However I don't think I would enjoy the Prius on the German autobahn, but than again the German Autobahn is thousand of miles away and this car will only get within an ocean distance from ever needing Autobahn performance.
Another interesting side note about the Prius:
About a year and a half ago Al Gore's Son (who's name is…wait for it…Al Gore III) was arrested on drug charges "the deputy smelled marijuana, a quantity of which he found in the vehicle" according to the news reports.
But the reason Gore the third was pulled over is that he was driving 101mph in his Prius. Until that moment I had no clue that the Prius could even go that fast. Chalk one up to Toyota's Hybrid Synergy drive.
And speaking about the Hybrid Synergy drive in the Prius the most noticeable thing about the electric/gas power plant is that it:
– makes really funky sounds (think of a flatulent robot walrus) after you shut down the car,
– kills time and provides you with endless talking and bragging points with your passengers when they notice the funky "what's powering the engine/battery" display.
– really sucks when you drain the battery, and the car has to make do with only the electric engine.
Luckily this is hard to do as the cars computer brain tries very hard to keep the battery charged, But if you live near the mountains like I do you'll eventually discover what it must have been like to own a two stroke Trabant in the former Eastern Block countries when you inevitably kill the battery up some steep mountain drive.
Please come back next time for Part 2 of "A day in the life with a Toyota Prius"