Car Shopping

01.28.10

I need two new cars this springtime. Car shopping here is always a big deal. We have high standards, and our high standards do not necessarily overlap.

My husband demands performance from his cars. He wants his car to be fast, to handle well and to be safe. He’s on his second 5 series BMW, oh gosh, or maybe it’s his third.

About three years ago my name came up on “the list” and I had a 10am Monday appointment to pick up my spiffy new Prius. I was very excited to get my new car, until 8.10 am when my telephone rang.

“Honey, I need you to come get me. I’ve been in a car accident and I think my car is totaled.” It was my husband, and he did not sound okay.

Although he wasn’t hurt, he was visibly shaken. My husband had pulled into the intersection on a green to turn left and a woman had blown through a red light without even slowing down. Her Honda Civic hit our BMW 5 series sedan at more than 40 miles per an hour. The impact was mostly on our front left wheel, and the car did not look totaled to me, the outside observer. In fact, I thought my husband was being overly dramatic, until I saw her car. All the airbags had deployed, the rear floor mats were on the dashboard and the car was an absolute accordion. There was no doubt this was a big impact.

My husband was shaken, but didn’t have so much as a stiff neck.

I never did get the Prius. We went out and got two BMW’s because we feel so safe in them. They’re heavy cars ,and they are consistently well designed. Our neighbor is a firefighter, and just after the accident he told us, “I’ve never cut a dead body out of a Mercedes or a BMW.” Quite an endorsement, no? I know, it makes me shiver too.

After a month the car was written off as a total loss, and let me tell you why I’ve been so loyal to BMW and to GEICO. We got a check for $7,500 when all was said and done. Yes, we got a check. With other car companies you buy gap insurance, GEICO gave us money for a no injury accident because the car was valued at more than what remained on the lease. It’s the only time I’ve had a meaningful claim, and the level of service we got was amazing. I don’t’ shop my car insurance, and I’d really recommend you give GEICO a try too.

Now, back to the cars. We want good safe cars. We want airbags and support beams, but we also want speed and luxury.

Oh, and I demand good service. I don’t want to be called “honey” or “sweetheart” those days are over. I’m too old and too cranky to be treated poorly. I also won’t buy a car from anyone who thinks I should ask my husband. It’s a joint checking account.

Here’s what I’ve driven so far, and a few notes about what the car combo would be.

Porsche Panamera: stunning in performance and design. It’s a rocketship, and though it’s basically a quiet ride, you can still feel the engine growl. The purists don’t love the design, I do. If you can swing it, the yachting trim is exceptional with wood inlay that reminds me of the Bentleys of my childhood. As a Mom car the Panamera both fails and succeeds, the engine shuts off when you’re stuck in traffic, so carpool would be great, unfortunately it only seats four, so this would be a great car for my husband.

Honda Accord V6: I drove this car yesterday. It stunned me. If my husband wants the Porsche (let’s be frank, I want him to want the Porsche) I’ll happily drive the Accord. It’s sturdy enough, not particularly fast, not particularly slow. The back seat and the trunk are huge and the price tag is tiny. I have to investigate the safety ratings, and ask them why they have a six CD changer instead of an iPod dock… but other than being slightly archaic with technology it’s a good car at a good price.

Audi: I drove the A5 sport convertible. It was fast and nice, but again, seats only 4, so we’re limited to this as a choice for my husband. The car seems feminine to me, and I’m not sure why. I drove the A6, it’s nice, but it didn’t blow me away. I feel like our 3 year old BMW is faster than the brand new Audi. Maybe it’s just the styling, I’m not sure, I will drive it again.

BMW: I’ve driven the 2010 328 and it’s fine, it’s got more room in the backseat than last year’s model. It’s a good option for me, if I end up in that price point. Again, we’re having Mr. G choose his car first. We both drove the 650 convertible, and neither of us loved it. It’s very fast, but it’s not Porsche fast and it’s the same price as Porsche. They have a back seat, but my 8 year old can’t fit in it. It’s a weird car, we’re passing on it. I’m waiting to drive the 5’s and the 7’s (please gawd no 7’s they’re for old people).

Volkswagen: I drove the Passat around the block. There was no need for more of a test drive. It was unimpressive in every possible way.

Infiniti: I drove the M35S. I shouldn’t have bothered, when I opened the car door it felt light. I never felt secure in the car. It’s fine, it’s just not for me.

If I had to make a decision tomorrow… I’d rent a car. I’ve got a dozen more cars to test drive, and we’ll narrow it down soon. I’m excited to try some longer test drives. Remember when I drove the Lexus? I’ll have a few reviews coming up like they, where they are more than a 10 minute test drive.

My worst fear is that we get our 4th and 5th BMW’s in a row in new shades of grey. So. Boring.