Saturday, December 31, 2016

An orange tennis shoe

It's winter here in Pennsylvania, and the scooter is not getting as much use as it had been since the heater in the Jag was fixed a few weeks back. Scooters are great for driving on dry or wet pavement, but ice and snow tend to make the ride far too interesting for my taste.

Owning an older Jaguar is one of those things that has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it is just such a beautiful place to sit. The leather and wood work together to soothe the senses and when one sits in the driver's seat, the cares of the world just drain away. This is so, even if it's not running, which is often. And that is the other hand. Over the time I owned the Jag, I had to put almost $5,000 of work into her. This past year alone, it's been $2,000+.

So, about a month ago, I started looking at replacement options. Unfortunately, there was a problem. I didn't really want to get rid of the Jag. In my mind, I had planned to keep her as my "classic," and while that was a good idea on paper, the practicalities didn't really work out. Add to that the feeling I get when I sit in that space filled with leather and wood and it made the decision that much more difficult. The Jag spoiled me.

So, I went looking for something that would give me a similar feeling. The first thing I looked at was a Fiat 500 Abarth. Sitting in the driver's seat, looking at all that stitched leather and enjoying the feel of the leather seats was very nice, but the price was not really where I needed to be. And then there was the salesman at the Dodge dealer who was very rude to one of his co-workers. The Fiat was out of the running.

I went looking some more and ended up at the BMW dealer. Of course, that was just me being fanciful and none of the vehicles there had the honor of being a seat for my derriere. I even looked at the Mercedes dealer since, well why not, I was only looking.

Then there was the Mazda Miata (or MX5), which has always held a special place in my heart. It's the middle aged man's simple pleasure, which I discovered this middle aged man can't get out of once he has sat in it. I gave the Miata a chance, I really did. I tried three different examples, but the seats didn't feel right and they were too low to reasonably get in and out of. This turns out to be a good thing, since the Miata is far too impractical.

A couple days ago, I had an appointment to test drive a Scion FR-S. The FR-S is an exciting little sports car, but I had my doubts since it really is no more practical than the MX5. It all worked out, because when I arrived at the dealer, they informed me it had just been driven off the lot by its new owner.

(Interesting point of order here: my wife and I prayed together the night before for guidance and wisdom, and it seems the Almighty had a plan in this the whole time as He always seems to.)

This turn of events led me to the Ford dealer across the way. What really pulled me in was the blinding glare from an orange chunk of metal sitting in their lot, though I tried very hard not to be interested in that one. I looked at the Focus STs, which were out of my price range, and the Fusions, which were too large (I didn't want another big car), and kept going back to look at the Orange tennis shoe.

It is a 2013 Dodge Dart RallyE in blaze orange, and while I know it is not perfect, I test drove it and found it to be very near as comfortable as the Jag, and it even corners as well if not a touch better, despite being front wheel drive. The fuel economy is double that of the Jag on regular gas. Granted, it's still more thirsty than either scooter, but let's be fair; it's a car. Since I purchased it used with 57,000 miles on the clock, I get to enjoy all the bells and whistles and it has almost every option equipped.

Understad that there's a bit of a family connection. My dad, rest his soul, had two Darts back in the 60's. It is not the same car, by any means since it's a Fiat underneath, but there is still that nostalgic feeling when I sit in it, which is nice.

And it drives, boy does it drive. The handling is surprising. It's actually just a touch better than the Jag. Steering, in my most humble opinion, should always be responsive to just a touch and this is precise and then some. Cornering in a front wheel drive car can produce understeer and despite my best efforts on a deserted rotary near my house, the little Dodge just went around and around and around at speeds at which it should have deposited me in the nearby cornfields.

The engine is a naturally aspirated 2.0 which needs a little urging to put me back in my seat like the Jag's used to, but it does get up and go. On paper the 0-60 time is around 9 seconds, but that's ok with me since it does all that I need.

Then there are the benefits of buying a used car (especially at the end of the year when the dealers are working against the clock to meet their sales goals). The price was reduced well below blue book, and it has more bells and whistles than a steam locomotive. Automatic windows, remote starting, bluetooth, back-up camera (which I don't use because that's cheating and I know how to park a car), auto-dimming mirrors, tinted windows, premium wheels, the list goes on.  When one buys a used car, the gizmos that the original owner paid so much for come along with it and you don't really pay that much more than you would for the base model since the depreciation has eaten most of that overhead away.

So now Penelope awaits an uncertain fate, and the Dodge sits in front of my house, waiting for me to drive it to work. It's going to take me a while to get used to the color, but I don't find myself worrying about whether I'm going to get to work, or wherever, and I've still got a fun and interesting car to drive from place to place when it's too cold or sloppy to ride the scoot.

Thank you to all my friends for reading, and a happy new year to you!

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