Tuesday, March 08, 2016

March 8, 2016--Snowbirding: Porsche Panamera (Concluded)

"What do you think about that one,"Rona said excitedly. She was pointed toward a deep blue BMW.

"It does look nice," I acknowledged. "It . . ."

"Yikes," she said, peering at the sticker label affixed to the rear window.

"Yikes what?"

"It's $138,000. That calls for a yikes."

"Again, I thought we wouldn't approach this search for a new car by thinking initially about price."

"I know what you'll say--'We're very fortunate and we can get any car we want, especially,'" she added, "'if it turns out to be one of the last ones we'll ever buy.'"

"I don't remember saying that."

"Which part, Rona asked, "about being able to buy pretty much any car we want--forget Bentleys--or what I said about the last car business?"

Ignoring that, I said, "I guess I mean that $138,000 is a little much for a car. Particularly a BMW, which is not my idea of a Ferrari-kind-of-car."

"I don't think you have any idea what one of those would cost. It's enough to make one think seriously about becoming a socialist and voting for Bernie Sanders. And to tell the truth, I would have no part in spending even $100,000 for a car. A car is a car. It's not like buying a house or paying for college tuition.

"For the price of a Ferrari--whatever that is--I assume one could buy a really nice house and pay for tuition all the way through med school."

"Shouldn't we try to have fun with this rather than making all kinds of political allusions? I get enough of those every day on MSNBC."

"As long as you stop looking at $138,000 cars."

"From what I read in Consumers we should check out the BMW 2-Series. It gets off the chart ratings."

So we did. Even took one out for a test drive and it was a lot of fun. Not exactly the "Ultimate Driving Machine," but very responsive and for us just the right level of luxury. But for Rona who has back issues and for me who has late-in-life issues, the getting in and out could have one of both of us needing the ER. So we eliminated it from consideration and turned our attention to the 328i's. It's a bit stogy with its four doors but after taking it for a spin it wound up on our short list.

"I'm not sure," Rona said as we were driving home, "that we could be comfortable with a BMW in Maine. There everyone drives Subarus and Volvos. It's a reverse kind of status, not making too much of a big deal about one's wheels."

"Wheels? I love it when you talk car slang." I struggled against my seat belt to give her a kiss. "But you're right. We probably should get out of the BMW or, for that matter, Audi mode."

"I think I agree about the BMW but let's keep the Audi alive. I read that there's a new A4 about to arrive in America. The 2017 model that's supposed to be something special."

"It will probably be too high-tech for me. We don't need bluetooth or compatibility with smart phones much less all the sensing devices that take over your car in an emergency situation."

"Good point."

"We still have flip phones and . . ."

"Like Rhiana and Anna Wintour."

"Not exactly, but I prefer a car that a driver drives. Not a computer."

"I do as well. Maybe we should keep . . ."

"No let's keep talk. We need a new car. Ours is becoming unreliable. Above all, I want us to have one we can depend upon. Up in Maine we live on a dirt road that a tow truck would have a hard time negotiating so. And then if we're there during a late fall blizzard, I want a car we can depend upon to start."

"So maybe we should forget about BMWs and Audis and get right to Subarus and Volvos."

"Down Vicente's food chain."

So the next day we tried the Subaru Legacy and found it to the perfect Maine car. Totally practical with all sorts of safety things, including, we learned, that if we were in a head-on collision, rather than the engine crashing into the passenger cabin and crushing us to death, it drops out of the engine compartment and falls on the road, winding up under the car. Amazing! But we found it to be sensible and boring.

"If this is going to be my last . . ."

"Stop right there," Rona said. "Let's get beyond mortality issues and head over to Volvo. I have good feelings about the S60 model. Road and Track says . . ."

"You're reading Road and Track?"

"On line."

"That means soon your computer cookies will generate pop-up ads for assault weapons. Donald Trump says he reads Road and Track. And I didn't raise mortality issues. That Subaru salesman did with all his talk about side-impact air bags and engines winding up under the car after head-on . . ."

"I agree--enough. Pull in there. Let's check out the Volvo. One thing I know, our Maine friends will not make fun of us if we buy one."

"Half of them would prefer it if we bought a Ford pickup."

"Maybe we should check them out too."

"We're now about to look at Volvos. Let's try to concentrate on them and actually try to enjoy ourselves."

And we very much did, with the sensitive help of Donna H, the sales associate, and the manager. Sympathetic, even empathetic as they quickly picked up on our ambivalences--needing a car that worked in New York, Florida, and of course Maine. Preferring it to be luxurious but not too much so. Wanting to fit in in these diverse places, but also not make too much of a concession to what others might think. Minor torments of that kind.

After driving a sleek S30 all over Delray and then up to 80 miles per hour on I-95--where plenty of cars still whizzed by us--we placed it on our very short list. With BMWs probably no longer in play, the Volvo was likely the only car at the moment on the list. Short indeed.

Driving home again, Rona feeling weary and overloaded with too much to think about and juggle, referring to Vicente again, she said that maybe the next day we should go over to Toyota and Chevy and get down to the most practical of bottom lines.

"I'm not sure I want to do that. We started out fantasizing about Porsche Panameras and Mercedes--and I get taking them off even our Maybe List--but I think I'm OK with Toyota but Chevy? I don't think so. The Malibu is probably great, but I still have images of Dinah Shore on TV throwing kisses to the audience after singing about Chevy--'See the USA in your Chevrolet. America is asking you to call . . .'"

"Spare me. I get the point."

So just yesterday we drove over to the local Toyota dealer.

The showroom was in a massive new building right down Federal Highway. Dozens of cars on shiny display on the selling floor surrounded by bass-walled offices and comfortable waiting areas.

We checked out the Camry after deciding that the Avalon, if we were going downscale, even if "only" a Toyota was a bit too fancy looking. "Let's see the bead-and-butter model," Rona said.

It drove well, was fairly peppy, cornered almost as well as the BMW, and was a bit more than basic in the cabin. Fit-and-finish too was impressive--a concept I had "discovered" in my due-deligence research. "I think we have to give it serious consideration," Rona whispered, not wanting to show too much interest to the hovering salesman.

I nodded in agreement, to tell the truth feeling a bit deflated.

We started out at the very high end of the food-chain and here we were giving serious thought to a Camry. We'd be fine in Maine with one, OK in Florida, and who cared about New York as the car will just sit in the garage.

"I don't think I want a Toyota," I finally said to the solicitous salesmen.

As we were leaving, I said to Rona, "Look over there in the main waiting room. Who are all those people? There are about twenty of them, all with canes and walkers. Are they here on a field trip from their assisted living home? Again, I don't want to dwell on you-know-what, but do I really want to buy a car from a place that's on the senior citizen circuit? I mean, it's nice of the Toyota people to make them feel welcome, but . . ."

"They're not here as an activity," Rona said. "Notice where they're sitting. They're waiting for their Toyotas to be serviced."

"That does it," I said, "I hate myself for feeling this way and probably half of them are younger than I am. But . . ."

Back home, with the Volvo still the only car for the moment on our short list, looking out at the ocean to connect with something elemental--it's spinner shark season--I noticed a two-story ladder leaning on the side of our neighbor's house.

"What's that?" I asked Rona. "Is someone fixing her window or something?"

"I think it's the window washer. See the pail with a sponge and squeegee in it?"

"You're right," I said. "And look at that," I added. "Notice the car he's driving?"

"I've had it with cars. Can we not talk about them until tomorrow? I'm all relaxed and checking out the sharks."

"But you need to take a look."

Rona reluctantly hauled herself up out of her recliner chair and walked over to where I was standing.

"My God, you're right. He's driving a Mercedes. One just like our old E-450."

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