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|24th October 2007, 19:07||#1|
A tale of 7 cars
15 days of driving 7 different machines 4200 miles. So do I qualify as
a taxi wallah? Or it was the ultimate road runners dream drive on one
of the best roads in the world. Was it real or a dream! 7 cars, seven
different personalities, 34 F to 117F, 0 meters above MSL to 8000 feet
in the midst of clouds
1. The Executive
She has a very clean nose, twin headlamps which can light up the
darkest road, and a very very reassuring cockpit. Esp. for someone who
is driving on the "wrong" side of the road for the first time.
Automatic tranny makes it easier still. Some find her plain boring,
while others feel she is dignified, albeit aging. Competition has come
up with sharper, more aggressive designs, but she remains among the
favorite among the Desi IT guy. Many people find her cute looking too.
However nobody would find her scary looking, except one guy.
The guy who saw 4 halogens beaming on his face in the fast
lane of a SFO street. When he went for a driving test written or
otherwise, all he was told is, "Stop at stop sign, stop at red light,
watch out for pedestrians blah blah". He was never told that what to
do when you see 4 halogens facing you. With no driving manual or
handbook telling this, all he could do was shout words, which if
uttered on live TV can bring FCC regulators baying for the channels
blood. When he uttered those words, I wonder what the person on the
other side of the cell phone was thinking. "Why did I get abused all
of a sudden?" Maybe something else?
So here it is the Toyota Corolla for you. They say, familiarity
breeds contempt, but on the freeways when it feels that everybody is
going a little too fast and that too in the wrong direction,
familiarity is what you crave for.
First time driving in the USA? The corolla is a no brainer.
Excellent visibility, comfortable interiors, meek engine, and
For 400 miles she was our companion, and taught me how to drive in
the country of cars. Her odo was at 36,000 miles. Mind you, this is
36000 miles of abuse. Rarely rental cars are driven with a gentle
foot. But she still felt new, except for the potato chip crumbs under
As you cruise on the arrow straight road, the instrument cluster
cheerfully tells you that its 117 F outside. However with Pink Floyd
on the satellite radio, and the chiller of an AC, you would be sitting
on the Pier in SFO for all you care. There is no vehicle, no house, no
habitation for miles around, except for a small red dot in the front
which is growing bigger.
You blip the throttle a little more, and the speedo needle
nonchalantly climbs to 95 and the red dot turns out to be a Hyundai
Elantra, a pretty new one at that too, the flagship model, which is
supposed to be the corolla beater and Civic thrasher.
So what is a mere American car from a dying house worth? The
Elantra starts to get smaller again. The kid in you pushes a little
more and soon you are at an effortless 100mph, provided easily by 160
horses under the hood.
But soon sense and sensibility take over, and you release the
throttle and settle to a more sedate 80mph, with the red blob becoming
a dot and then disappearing over a gentle curve. A few minute later,
the BEL 940 starts chirping, indicating illumination by Ka band. You
slow down further to an even more sedate 75mph. Luck has been good
till now, and no use pushing it, eh? Soon you see the source of the
disturbance in the force. Its a highway cruiser, with lights on,
parked behind the stopped red dot(no longer a dot actually), with the
officer stepped out and writing a ticket.
A few hours later you realize that the poorly designed seat has
made your neck stiff and you are loosing sensation in your legs, in
the same way it happens in Cattle class up in the air. As you adjust
your bottom at 70mph, your knee hits the key(which is again at a very
silli location, esp for tall drivers), and the car turns off.
You fumble for hazard lights, and unlike India, you are not greeted
with a cacophony of horns, but with distance, as drivers behind you
drop back, allowing you to limp to the breakdown lane. You turn the
key on and even before you can juice up the starter motor, the car
starts, proving, that a automatic car can be push started.
So why is this car a wannabe. Well because its a dodge avenger.
And it tries to look aggressive, and its not even RWD like its bigger
cousin like the charger. When you have muscle car names like the
Avenger or Charger, you better have 250 horses too. 160 is good, but
still its no muscle car.
The whole design makes the car look more aggressive and powerful
than it actually is. Its agressive bordering on ugly. The engine is
good, esp since the car is pretty new, but then they say "If in a
dodge car check engine light comes after 50K miles, it actually is the
change engine light".
In other words, a good car to rent, esp if you can rent the
bigger brother with RWD. Thats why most dodge cars are rental cars.
Lot of style, little substance, but neverthless, companion for 1300 miles.
3. Liberation, American style
As you take a fast right hander on the gravel road, your tail swings
out, and the ESP lights on the center console flicker like a
christmas tree. Opposite lock, is the next option, with a computer
trying to prevent you from going off the cliff.
After much drama, jiggling rear, and sweaty palms you stabilize into a
straight line, and as you gently hug your own lane, a F150, with rear
wheels spinning madly is coming up towards you, with the driver
holding his thumb out in show of solidarity and camadrie.
What you just did, he will also do shortly. Why not. A wide gravel
track, a sunny day and rear wheel drive.
Who cares if the computer is telling you that its getting 16mpg, or
the pump numbers spin faster than the roulette at the Venetian.
Its a Jeep Liberty. Its Liberation from Tarmac.
225 horses are all yours. 400 miles on the Twisty highway one, as it
winds along the california coastline.
Pick up a mag, and you have celebrities answering the dream drive
question "To drive on coastal highway one".
Be it Tarmac, or the gravel of the old coast road, the jeep holds its
own. Thirsty yea, Entertaining? You bet!
Want to rent this baby without burning a hole in your pocket? Well
rent an economy car from the Dollar guys, and then make sweet faces at
The first think you notice is that there is no Key. There is a small
black fob, not unlike the random number generator hsbc gives you, but
Since there is no key, there is no key slot too. Very obvious. So you
sit inside the huge comfortable sofa like seat inside this beast,
which is more of a spaceship and less of a car.
Very soon you spot a big nice round button which says start. You press
it once, and the accessories power up, and a million lights on the
dashboard power up. The big orange display in the center tells you to
press the start button again, with a funny looking graphic. you do it,
and nothing happens. You look at the graphic again, and you figure out
that you need to have the brake pedal pressed while doing so.
You repeat, according to instructions.
Nothing happens, but apparently the car has started, since the million
lights reduce to a few thousand.
you gently depress the accelerator, and the car moves forward.
Silently. Not a sound. Very soon you may have weird sounds coming out
of OEM speakers mounted on the front bumper if the Britishers have
their way, but as of now, its silent. Eeerily so.
Every car you have driven has made a sound, vibrated, told you that a
heart is alive and beating, but this one is like a ghost.
As you drive out of the rental center, you press the pedal a tad more
aggressively, and soon there is thunder and a V6 starts with the power
needle swinging towards 90KW, 60KW still to go till the 150 limit.
150KW, yes thats the power of this beast. Its the Nissan Altima hybrid.
I would not call it a car. Its not a mere car its perfection. Did I
hear Honda/Toyota? Well they better be worried.
What a car. 800 miles done in a span of 36 hours. LA and back. Friday
we started, reached at night. Saw LA for one full day, and started
back at 11:30pm.
Sleep was there, so was drowsiness, but fatigue? No ways.
She wont let you feel fatigue.
Its the ultimate highway mile muncher. Worried about lack of power,
well 150KW is no lack of power. She will cruise silently in city, leap
forward to 100mph, and return you 32mpg for all your antics.
Stick to slower speeds or within the city, she will give you 35mpg
even. Move over Prius, if you have to have a hybrid than Altima it is.
Style substance and grace. No silly rear, no idiotic front just clean
smooth car with comfort as the objective and ample power too!
5. The Asian American
Is this car by an American manufacturer? Thats the first thing which
comes to mind.
It has 140+ horses under the hood, is smooth, comes with a Japanese
power steering, and is incredibly practical. The seat is comfortable,
the handling is taut, the FE is around 32mpg. This car for all
practical purposes is like a Toyhonhyun.
Infact its very boring too. So here it is the chevy cobalt, a totally
boring practical, uninspiring practical hulk of metal, which
companioned us all the way to mount rose with temp dropping to 34F and
also took us to SFO and whereabouts, with 850 miles in two trips over
Its close to midnight and the winding highway 120 is passing a little
too fast underneath. There are 210 horses pushing the rear wheels and
you are accelerating like a locomotive. A little too late you spot the
sign which says "Old Priest Grade" and you hit the brakes on the
lonely highway, and take the nightmare.
Its 1500+ feet down, in 2.7 miles. All the way you drop drop and drop.
Rear wheel drives are supposed to oversteer, but not on downhill free
runs. Here they oversteer, and as you grip the steering tight and
wrestle the convertible back to your side, you realize that being in
gear D is not going to be any good for your brakes which are already
you descent into low gear 2, and the engine howls in protest. 4 liter
V6 was never supposed to go from 1100rpm to 4000 in blink of an eye,
it was supposed to do it a tad more slowl
But even 2 is not enough, so you shift down to one, with every sharp turn making your hard beat faster, and your palms sweaty.
3 hours and 30 minutes is all it takes to go from yosemite valley to pavilion. Thats including fuel and food breaks. Google says it should take you 3:53, but if you obey google in a Mustang, then whats the point of a Mustang!
500 miles was the companionship this convertible gave us.
She did 22mpg too!
And entertained on the way too.
Parking lot drifting is sure fun in a mustang.
But its not all roses and wine. 4 liters V6 and 210 ten horses is a tad disappointing. To add to your misery, every idiot on the road wants to race with you, every second SUV driver sticks 2 inches from your tail egging you on. You can give in to the temptation, and let the V6 do the talking, or you can do what I did, move to the center lain, and enjoy the drive, and keep the fun for the winding roads, where it belongs!
7.The Boy racer who grew up
"I'm really impressed you did not cross the speed limit even once" said the driving invigilator, as she put the "Passed" score.
2 minor mistakes out of 15 allowed.
At that time I did not tell her that it was the digital speedo which enabled me to do this feat.
Add to that the precision sharp controls and great visiblity, and near perfect egronomics, this is the ideal car to take a driving test in.
Its the Honda Civic. The erstwhile famed steed of midnight illegal street racing. This is the car in which I "learnt driving" i.e. took a driving lesson.
Its no longer a street racers car, its grown up, with the wild days far behind.
She was not the companion on any long drives, but a mere teacher, and a good one too.
If you want to back up against the curb without touching it(you fail the test if you do), this is one of the best cars to do so. No wonder Honda and Toyota rule the roost in the country thats crazy about cars.
So there you have 4200 miles+ in 7 different cars.
From the Ocean, to the desert, to the peaks to the winding off road tracks.
Arrow straight highway 5 which is as boring as you can get, and the crazy descent of Old priest grade.
What next? To drive in the Alps, hopefully in this lifetime!
Last edited by tsk1979 : 24th October 2007 at 19:09.
|24th October 2007, 19:22||#2|
Join Date: Jul 2007
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Must have been a superb experience must say!
nice write up and specially real nice PICS there mate!!
|24th October 2007, 22:12||#5|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Houston, Texas
Thanked: 9 Times
Way to go,Tanveer!! Another thread with a mix of info & experience..
You've summed up each vehicle's details really well. Guess you need to be in the US,to be able to try out so many cars in such a short span of time.
|24th October 2007, 23:30||#8|
Join Date: Nov 2005
Thanked: 7 Times
wonderfully written post!
There's always something about driving a great car on a great driving road. I envy you :-)
|25th October 2007, 00:27||#9|
|25th October 2007, 11:57||#10|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Phoenix, Coorg
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Awesome writeup. Loved the mustang and also the nissan...wow...great looks and good power...must have been fun. Waiting fr your writeup after driving the hummer probably soon
|25th October 2007, 15:50||#12|
Distinguished - BHPian
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Mid West
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Superb Write up Tanveer & nice pics
What is the next car\s in your mind if you go there again ?
|25th October 2007, 16:18||#14|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Mar 2006
Thanked: 65 Times
Hi tsk, which magazine have you taken the write-up from? Do post the name and issue.
Kidding, splendid write-up.
|25th October 2007, 16:27||#15|
Distinguished - BHPian
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Mid West
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My Brother is in US & once rented a Pontiac V12(dont remeber exact details) & was going ga ga over it & next weeknd he & his friends hired a nissan & he was sad
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