06 December 2008

dirty diesel

i had a chat with my mechanic yesterday, upon taking in my VW for service.

i've been thinking a lot about a new car lately, but am continually disappointed by what i find in the US. honestly, my 10 year old car still seems the best of the lot given my parameters.

this past week, i'd been musing over doing the very-american-thing and having two cars. 1) my beetle and 2) something that tells people i'm middle-aged and having a crisis.

so i put to my mechanic (the 2nd car idea, plus just simply replacing my Beetle), who said the following things in his still-thick german accent:

  1. Lotus is like "having a girlfriend who isn't fun," referring to how much service they need

  2. porsches overheat often and need lots of service (apparently not a fan of the Boxster)

  3. ferraris and such: forget it (he brought up ferrari, not me)

  4. older toyota celicas are great

  5. the mini is a ton of fun (recommended the Cooper S over any other, including the D)

  6. given what i told him, the best car for me is the Jetta diesel

  7. otherwise, for something sportier, the Miata is about the best i can do

But the most interesting comment was reserved for why foreign manufacturers don't sell their ultra-high mileage diesels here: the quality of the fuel. even after recommending the Jetta, he did have some reservations about that engine being able to handle the low quality of the US diesel.

so where does that leave me? i can't stand the thought of buying a new car that gets worse mileage than mine, but not even the new Jetta can equal my mileage. i remain unconvinced about hybrids (for many reasons, including that their highway mileage is worse than city [i understand why, it just strikes me as wrong]). shockingly, the petrol cooper, even the S, gets better mileage than most US cars. more shockingly, the Lotus Elise and Porsche Cayman are about average!

maybe i'll just go test drive a Honda Fit. but if i bought one, i'd need someone in the UK to send me a "Jazz" badge so i can fit that on...


JustJoeP said...

we nearly bought a Fit when we moved here. Drove nicely, handled great, lots of "ready to go" under the hood, they had JUST started to offer them in the US in 2007 (after years of running really well in Japan & Europe), but they were too small, so we opted for the Mazda6 wagon - I've always loved wagons - maybe there's some Australian hidden in my lineage somewhere (40% or so of cars on Australian highways are wagons).

I know several Chicago-ians with Minis, 2 of them Ss, who love them. I agree with your mechanic on the Lotus & Italian cars. In addition to being FUN, the Cooper is Safe as well. Lots of steel packed in that small package - and ironically, even a large person like me if comfy in a Cooper.

10 years from now, when gas or diesel is $20 or $40 or $80 a gallon (with supply & demand as well as inflation with the US Treasury starting to print money like it's Zimbabwe) the Fit or the Cooper will still be giving you something that is 1) Fun to drive
2) "a classic" 3) appropriate for a man in his 50s having a crisis.

Traci says the Boxter is a 'perfect' car for a middle aged male having a crisis. You don't want to become stereotypical, do you? Infiniti G35s are nice as well. My 9 yr old I30 is still doing very well.

Final note: college kids now a days call the Fit "the hip mom car" (per my son)

zim said...

i don't care about the stereotype if the Boxster (or Cayman) is the right car. heck, i'd even get the BWM 135i if it were the right car (and i've got my own biases against BWM drivers).

i've always like Mazda -- i had a 323 for years -- but something about the newer Miatas put me off. they don't look English enough? who knows.

if gas or diesel really is going to be in the $20+/gallon range, then it makes me think i'd better get my petrol sportscar on sooner rather than later!

pyker said...

Interesting comment about the quality of diesel in the US.

Are the new Ford Fiestas going to be sold in the US? The Minis are basically BMWs, which is why they are so fun to drive. Everyone I know who has them loves them.

For ugly boy-racer urban rally car that would thrash most of the 911 line, check out this souped-up impreza. It's fast, fun, all-weather, decent value for money for the given performance, and would leave no doubt about your midlife crisis.

You should reconsider BMWs, too. The new M3s are supposed to be great. TG theory is that in the UK all the asshats have migrated from BMW to Audi, which is a shame since I like Audi so much (in fact I still love the RS4 from a couple years ago).

If you had 2 cars, what would you use the fast one for? Do they do track days in the US? Would you consider your second car something like an ariel atom? Short of a motorcycle, that's hitting the edge of price/performance I think.

pyker said...

Joe, I love wagons, too, but then, I've got stuff like children and skis. Our subaru legacy wagon was perfect in Chicago. Last winter we rented a bmw 5-series wagon to get us from ZRH to the Austrian alps -- it was unreasonably nice to drive.

As much as I like Subaru and think Toyota & Honda makes great practical cars (I would love an element but they are not sold in UK) and am intrigued by what Nissan and Mitsubishi sometimes come out with, I've never liked Lexus or Infinity.

zim said...

the 2nd car would be "for the summer". i.e. i could get the car i want, perhaps a ragtop, probably with RWD, without concern about how it handles in the snow. once the weather turned, i'd cover it up and break out the VW.

so, a BMW 135i would definitely qualify, as would a Boxster. i'm not looking to go the track, but to use it as an everyday car while the weather is nice.

now, if i stuck with one car, it would have to be 4 seasons. the Impreza or Evo would definitely work, as would an A4 quattro. hell, a Carrera 4 would work, as well, and i'd get to stop all this non-sense of "working my way up to" a 911 and just get the damn thing.

what a stupid bit of spending that would be, though :-)

BUT -- a new A4 would be in the $35-40k range, which would get me a used 911 from this century. so...

pyker said...

You won't be happy until you have a 911. Maybe not event then, of course. Just get a used 911.

zim said...

> Just get a used 911.

or a Skyhawk...

i suspect, then, that you support my plan to the 911 year round. i reckon i would receive flack in the states, as my impression is a lot of owners here like to baby them.

zim said...

to *drive* the 911 year-round, that is.

pyker said...

Or start cheaply with an early 80s targa convertible for summer use.

zim said...

it's kind of crazy, but many of the mid-80's 911's i see for sale are often more expensive than, say, 2003 Boxters. seems the ones that survive (or are Very Well Taken Care Of) hold their value extremely well.

by contrast, i searched for Carrera 4's w/in 100 miles of me for $30-$35k and found 3 of them (2001, 2002, 2003).

so we're talking a difference of $5-10k for a difference of 20 or so model years.

JustJoeP said...

Ron is correct about the WRX & EVO tuner thrashing ability. A buddy of mine in Reno has a WRX sans-giant fin, and it's formidable. I've ridden in them, and drove a one once in France as well... and they hold their value unexpectedly well... but so do 911s.

"There is no substitute" - or so I have been told.