Monday, May 30, 2011

Planes, Time Zones, and Automobiles

I'm writing this from my trusty Hampton Inn-Olathe, Kansas. This marks the third time zone I'll be sleeping in in as many days -- I think Mountain Time is the only one thus far avoided. My body has absolutely no idea what the actual time is right now. Actual time is inconsequential...I think as soon as I finish typing this I'm hitting the sack. Maybe before I finish writing this.

This afternoon between packing and a violin lesson and before heading to the airport I visited Motorcars Honda -- they had found the Honda Accord Coupe in Belize Blue I wanted to test drive at a Columbus-area dealer and had it delivered while I was in California and today was the first day they were open while I was in Ohio. In short I -- and my ladyfriend who was along for the test drive -- loved the car. It felt comfortable, it looked great (I thought the color looked good in the showroom--even better in natural light), handled well.

When I got back to the dealer since the price had already been set it was a matter of getting the paperwork done. I'm a little peeved that they hung a 0.9% APR in front of me and then changed it to 2.9% due to a limited credit history (well, I have one credit card--no balance--and a mortgage, and that's it, so I can't really say I'm surprised, but I wish they would have mentioned that when they pulled my mid-800s credit score last week.*)... more paperwork... Wrote the biggest check of my life to date (my house down payment was a wire transfer), and...I am a new car owner, though I'm not actually taking delivery until I get back to Cleveland on Saturday.

On the flight from Cleveland to Kansas City -- a bit bumpy but otherwise uneventful -- read through the owners manual, warranty booklets, etc... and started to doubt myself slightly: While the Civic was a strong contender early on I pretty much stopped considering it but I can't really articulate a reason why as I can with every other contender that fell by the wayside. Did I make a mistake? Was the price difference between the Accord and Civic worth it?

I rationalized it by saying that the slightly larger engine and additional creature comforts of the Accord pushed it ahead -- my one complaint from Day 1 with my Mercury Tracer was that it did 0-60 in about 20 minutes, and I was determined not to repeat that with my next car. But still -- should I have at least test driven a Civic?

That train of thought was interruped by the horrendous sound of an Embraer ERJ-145 with well-worn brakes touching down and then applying maximum breaking force: If I thought my car's breaks sounded bad...

Landing in Kansas City, that question was unexpectedly answered: After collecting my bags from baggage claim and hopping aboard the rental car shuttle I wound up at the Hertz counter. The first car I was offered was... drumroll, please... a 2011 Honda Civic.

The interiors of the two models are completely different, but a lot of the adjustments are the same. In the 45-minute drive from MCI to Olathe I came to the conclusion that the Civic would not have been the car for me. The cockpit design just feels weird and I couldn't come up with a configuration that was comfortable (my attempts at adjusting the headrest have so far failed and I have a crick in my neck worse than any airline flight has given me). It does handle well and is pretty responsive -- though there was some hesitation with rapid acceleration, and uphill climbs seemed to take some effort.

The dashboard design is interesting -- I like the speedometer placement and size but I don't know that I could get used to the rest of it. And ultimately I just don't care for the cockpit geometry -- it's not horrible (see: Toyota Yaris) or even bad... it's just a tad too compact for my driving style.

At least I can put that one to rest.

Speaking of the Mercury... my salesman suggested (and I'm not supprised) that I'm probably better off donating the car to charity and taking a tax writeoff than trying to do a trade in where at best their offer would be in the low 3-digits. Hmmm...


*- I'm going to formally request a clarification of the reasons for the adverse action, but since it only amounts to a few hundred dollars over the life of the loan, and 2.9% still beats the best rate I could find on the open market...)

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