Monday, March 07, 2016

March 7, 2016--Snowbirding: Porsche Panamera (Part One)

"What do you think about the Panamera?"

"Not one of my favorites, but the coffee, I suppose, is OK."


"Yes, you know, Vicente's favorite place. Panera."

"You're talking coffee?" Rona said, quickly growing impatient with me, "And I'm talking cars. The Porsche Panamera. The one we both like. At least to look at."

"You don't have to shout. I can hear you."

"Our car is getting to be six years old and has well over 100,000 miles. Shopping for cars here is so easy. It seems that every few streets there's one dealer or another. Maybe we should look around to see what we like. Perhaps even find something to buy."

"I don't know anything about cars. And neither do you and so . . ."

"And so if we don't get started," Rona said, "and see what we can learn, does that mean we'll keep our VW forever?"

"That's not the worst idea I ever heard. But I get your point. We should look around. Ours is starting to have problems. Fortunately, still minor ones. But maybe before we get started we should see if Vicente's at Panamera and get some coffee. He knows a lot about cars."

Under her breath Rona said, "Panera," but I could hear her. I didn't tell her I was trying to be playful.

Vicente was at his regular table, hooked up to wifi and working on an article about his legendary New Mexico ancestor, Padre Martinez.

"You're crazy," he said, "The Porsche you're interested in costs at least $100,000 and . . ."

"And," I said, "we thought we would ignore prices at first and zero in on what we like. I'm seeing this as maybe the last car I'll ever buy and so, what the heck, you only live once."

"Or twice," Rona said, rolling he eyes.

"I hear you," Vicente said, "So maybe you should start with the Mercedes and work your way down the food-chain."

"Food-chain?" I asked, "You're losing me. I thought we were talking cars."

"You know, start with luxury cars and then work you're way down to a Chevy or something. That way you'll find the one that will make you happy, if in fact this turns out to be your last car. But with your mother living to 107, it's possible you'll be needing to buy three or four more."

"So I can drive when I'm 100? I don't think so. Half the drivers down here look like they're 100, and you know what that's like. But, thanks for the encouragement. I get your point."

There's a Mercedes dealer in Delray so after finishing our coffee, we drove right over.

On route, it was only two miles from Panera, we saw more Mercedes than any other car. "I guess around here, the Benz is sort of like the Toyota or Chevy. The go-to car."

"Benz?" I was impressed that Rona was already getting into auto lingo.

"I usually think of the Benz as being distinctive, but down here it's everywhere. I'm not that much of a snob, I mean, but . . ."

"But, you are," I said," And I am too I suppose. But I think they're pretty good cars and think we should check them out."

"But what about the one we had? Fifteen years ago."

 "An E-450 I think it was. It turned out to be a lemon. So we sold it right back to the dealer. Lost at least $25,000 doing that."

"I hated that car," Rona remembered. "In two years we had to replace the battery three times."

"I also hated it. It was so clunky. Maybe this time let's see if we can find something sportier. How about a two-door? Or even a convertible? If I'm running out of time, why not . . . ?"

"We already went through our convertible phase. It was fun. But because of the way we live now, we make long drives to and from Maine and back and forth to Delray, I want something that runs smoothly and is quiet. Maybe then you'll be able to hear me when we're driving."

"My hearing again. But I agree--we should look for something luxurious."

In 25 minutes we decided that a Benz was not for us. The sporty one or two models we sort of liked weren't that comfortable and the back seats were almost nonexistent. So we moved on. Next, to the Lexus dealer.

That stop took even less time. We looked at the front grill, thought we were staring into the jaws of a great white shark, and took off even before a salesman could pounce on us.

Two showrooms were enough for one day and we decided to drive around again the next day to check out BMWs and Audis.

I said, "My instinct tells me we'll like the Audis. I know they used to go in reverse when you'd shift into drive, but I think they fixed that defect. At least I hope so."

"Now you're talking about having instincts about cars? You who would have trouble distinguishing between a BMW and an Audi. Or, for that matter, a Toyota and a Chevy."

To show that though I haven't had that much interest in cars for decades, I still had my macho pride and as we drove slowly up A1A I pointed out, "There's an E-Class Benz and . . . a BMW of some sort. At least I think it is. . . . And another Mercedes. That one looks pretty slick. I think it's a . . . "

"A convertible. That's what it is. A ragtop. I thought we decided that . . ."

"Listen to you--a ragtop! I haven't heard that expression since we had our Toyota Celica convertible. Ragtop."

"Remember how we made a big mistake taking it to an automatic car wash? In East Hampton. And how the water from the power washing nozzles flooded the car with us trapped inside. The canvas roof wasn't sealed very well." Rona began to laugh at that memory.

"And how we couldn't figure out how to stop the wash cycle. What a mess. And scary. We got all coated with liquid soap."

"So let's agree--no ragtops."

"Agreed. And there's an Audi," I pointed, "And another Mercedes. I wish I liked them better. That one, whatever model it is, looks pretty cool."

"How about keeping your eye on the road. There are all sorts of crazy drivers here."

The next day we went first to the BMW-Volkswagen dealer in Pompano Beach. As we pulled our Passat into a parking space in the middle of a dozen others, we were swept by a wave of nostalgia about our sad Passat, which we seemed so willing to trade in. After driving more than 100,000 miles, almost all of it side-by-side, we thought maybe we should hold onto it. Or, Rona suggested, maybe check out a new one. For the moment, ignore Vicente's food chain analogy.

"Let's check out the new VWs and then, since it's right next door, we can look at the BMWs. From the little Internet research I did last night, I think the 2-Series could be for us. It gets a very good review in Edmunds."

"My, you're progressing fast," I said with authentic admiration. "Yesterday Benz and ragtop, today Edmunds. I've heard of them but don't really know anything about what they do."

"It's an amazing Website where you can learn everything about every car. Including how much to expect to pay for one after you've made your decision. So you can bargain about price successfully."

"I thought we weren't going to talk about price so we could keep the Pan, the Panarea, the whatever on our list. You know the one I mean."

"The Porsche Panamera. Edmunds doesn't love it," she shrugged. "And it could set us back 100 grand. Or more."

"What do you think Panamera means? I mean, is it Spanish for something?"

"I researched that too," Rona said, puffing herself up. "It's not a real word but the name is derived, like the Porsche Carrera line, from the Carrera Panamericana race."

"The Carrera line? I have no idea what you're talking about, but I'm impressed." This was starting to feel more like fun than an expensive chore. "Let's check out the VWs. I like change, but not that much."

Since we want a car that's shorter than our current one--getting around in Maine, especially where our house is, would be a lot easier if our new car were a few inches shorter. A foot would be ideal, but every inch helps.

"How about that one?" This time Rona was pointing. "I don't recognize it at all."

"I can't even distinguish between the new version of ours--the Passat--and the Jetta. To tell you the truth, they look the same to me."

"And to tell you the truth," Rona admitted, "To me, pretty much all cars look alike. I mean what's so different about the Mercedes we see all over the place and the Bentleys and Infinities?"

"Or even the Teslas?'

"Teslas? It looks as if you too've been doing some Web surfing."

I simply smiled, "It's something called the CC. The Volkswagon-CC. Never heard of it."

"I like the look. It's pretty sleek. Let's go inside and see how it feels and maybe even how it drives."

Which we did. On close inspection we both thought it was attractively designed. Four doors, but with the feel of something smaller and hopefully peppier. "Let's take'er our for a spin," I said to the very solicitous salesman who was applying no pressure.

"My pleasure," he said. "If you like your old Passat, I think you'll find this one familiar but different."

"Perfect," I said, impressed he had me so well figured out.

It turned out to be quite familiar, which Rona and I both liked, but different enough for us to ask him if he could put his hands on the V6 version since I felt it could use a little more pep, or oomph than the four-cylinder version.

"Listen to you," Rona said, enjoying my enthusiasm, "Pep. Oomph. How old are you again?" She gave me a quick kiss.

As it turned out Vista Motors didn't have a V6 in stock, but the salesman promised to search around to see if any other dealer in South Florida had one that we could check out. We told him we were feeling serious about the CC but wanted to look at other models and would let him know if we were interested in perhaps going to the next step. We also didn't want to appear too eager and thought that by playing a little hard-to-get we might be able to negotiate a better price. Maybe even when trading in our trusty Passat.

"And did you see how much it cost?" I asked as we walked toward the adjacent BMW showroom.

"Though we promised not to look at any price stickers, I couldn't resist. It goes for maybe half of what we were thinking we might wind up spending. Nothing wrong with that," I said.

Rona agreed.

Porsche Panamera

To be concluded tomorrow . . .

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