Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Isn't this interesting???

According to this post on Autoblog, Toyota "has created a "Committee to create interesting cars" in response to grass roots criticism that recent Toyotas are uninteresting."

A committee to create interesting vehicles sounds to me like a bunch of clueless nerds forming a club whose goal is to make themselves cool. They're so clueless about what "interesting" means that they wouldn't know "interesting" if it ran them over in a parking lot. Interesting cars aren't designed by a committee, nor by following a corporate formula that has created millions of tan transportation blobs. I predict uninteresting, poor-driving (and poorly driven) cars in Toyota's foreseeable future.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Your car is a piece of JUNK and you're a bad driver!!

I always intended this blog as a place to show off all of the crappy, banged-up Toyotas I see every day driving around. As it turns out, I don't always have my camera handy when I'm driving around, and I pass most of the crap-mobiles without snapping a photo.
That being said, I've managed to take just a few, which, I've decided, it's time to share.

The first is this faded, rusty red Corolla. It's a bit tough to see in the photo, but the original driver-door mirror is broken off. It has been stylishly replaced by a truck mirror. Beautiful. At least it should help reduce blind spots. Notice that this fat guy is driving in the 2nd lane, even though the right lane is empty. I would expect nothing less.

Next is the following Yaris, which I was lucky enough to follow through Coeur d'Alene last week. Good job on the customized body work. All 5 people in the car (yes, 5) were smoking with the windows open in the 102 degree F heat. Seems like a great time.

That brings us to my across-the-street neighbor. I hate to air the neighborhood's dirty laundry here on my personal blog, but really. He doesn't really ever wash his 2 tan Toyotas. But when he does, he really washes them. Here he is, POWER WASHING the two banged up appliances. BTW, the Corolla has had a headlight out since winter, and the Camry is scraped on the front-right fender, with the scrape terminating in a missing passenger-door mirror cover. Awesome. He also told me that the Corolla's Check Engine light goes on when he runs the air conditioning... when he called the dealer to enquire, they told him that "the light shouldn't come on until after 100,000 miles." Hmm... He actually drove the Camry out to his wife in Chicago earlier this month... that would have been an interesting, scary sight to behold. I'm happy to have been safely here in Washington. I'd like to be able to say that the absense of the Camry reduced the Toyota count on our street, but that isn't the case. His next-door neighbor traded the family's Chrysler Town & Country for a new Prius last week. Another family falls for the hype. And we're down to just two Toyota-free houses on my street, though the other holdout's Buick Skylark sedan doesn't win him any prizes.

Finally, a bit of Zen provided by cars other than Toyota: we spied this awesome PT Cruiser limo near Scappose, Oregon on Saturday. There it is, poking along in the left lane of HWY 30. Nobody has ever accused the PT Cruiser of being overpowered, and adding the extra weight of the stretch certainly didn't help.

I thought people rented limos when they wanted to celebrate, or for a special occasion. What would anybody possibly want to celebrate by renting this car? Poor taste? Poor crash ratings? Or maybe just poor driving in general. Thanks, Mr. PT Chauffeur, for driving in the left lane in your bad idea. You've given us all something to laugh at this week.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Somebody- maybe me- needs to start a car rental company for people just like me. People who can't stand automotive automotive incompetence... or even automotive mediocrity. I'd rent out Volvos, Saabs, Volkswagens, Minis, maybe even BMWs and Smarts. . And Porsches. Nothing crappy.

My boss is long-winded. He can come into my office to answer what shoud be a 15 second question and sit there flapping his gums for two hours. During last week's marathon chat a co-worker had to send me a text message on my phone to see if I needed her to pull the fire alarm so I could get him out of my office, enabling me to get some work done. In any case, my big old long-winded boss told me that he'd had a new Ford Escape rental the previous week, and that it was horrible. It felt rollover-prone, had poor handling, and terrible dashboard materials. This from a guy who (a) rents a lot of cars, and (b) owns a Kia Spectra. I'm not making this up.

In any case, his portrayal of the Escape, plus a fairly underwhelming experience with one in snowy Anchorage several years ago, caused me to ask for another car today when Ms. Avis-Spokane handed me the keys to an Escape. The "only thing" she had available was a Mercury Grand Marquis. When she told me that, I stood there, thinking about it, for a while. Seriously it must have been at least a full minute of me standing there at the Avis counter, going "Hmm... mmm... you said an Escape or a Grand Marquis...hmm.."

I went with the Mercury, because I remember how tippy and horrible my recent Jeep Liberty experience was, and I know how underpowered the Escape can be. I chose poorly. I'd forgotten that the Grand Marquis platform dates back to like 1990, a time when the "classic" Saab 900 was still in current production. The car's hard points are very 1980s in their locations, as is the horrific driving position. Much like Saab kept adding more electronic subassebmlies to their 17 year old 900 platform, so has Ford added the electronics to the Grand Marquis. The idea, however, remains the same. All the slippery, low-grade leather/vinyl, door-mounted seat controls (a la Mercedes), dim-witted automatic climate control, and in-dash info displays in the world can't dress up the old pig underneath.

The car floats on the highway like I remember floating on a waterbed once as a child. Shift quickly left then right, and a wave will come back to get you, an unwanted chassis oscillation upsetting the car's intended path. Venture on to a gravel road, and the "extremely isolated" steering and brake feel leave you with no clue whether the car is braking or skidding; accellerating or spinning the tires; turning or about to plow right off the outside edge of the curve.

Chrysler has come out with newer full-size cars in the Magnum/Charger/300 series; GM has very nice large cars like the Buick Lucerne (OK, one very nice large car plus a couple of AWESOME Cadillacs... the current Impala doesn't qualify as nice)... but Ford has the Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis, and Lincoln Town Car. It's disgraceful. Ford is trying to come back and is doing OK with the Edge and the Fusion triplets, but their current large cars are dinosaurs. Yuck. I'm not looking forward to the next few days piloting that beast around Coeur d'Alene.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Idiot Corolla operator at the gas station!

I stopped by the local Costco gas today in my snooty Euro-Sportwagon and, fortunately, I was able to pull right up to begin fueling my thirsty car with premium gas.

In the next lane over, a car had pulled away from the front pump but a second car was still fueling at the rear pump. Typical etiquette is to pull around the car which is still fueling and back up to align yourself with the pump. However, the Fat Female in the filthy white Corolla was just sitting there waiting for the second car to leave. She had her windows open. The station attendant approached the car and told the lady she could pull around. Her response was something like "No, I'll just wait, I'm not that good at backing up." WTF??!!

Fortunately there was nobody behind her. If I had been behind her I would have had an anyeurism, or shouted obscenities at her, or pulled around her, effectively "cutting" in line. Or maybe all three.

This is just another example of why Corollas and Camrys (and probably all Toyotas) should come with mandatory driver training. If this female couldn't pull around the car in front of her and back up a few feet to fill up her car, she probably shouldn't even be on the road. Imagine how many fewer cars we'd have on the road if the new Toyotas had this mandatory Driver Training requirement... people would take the class, fail the exam, and their blandmobiles would just have to be parked at home or returned to the dealership.

Right. Well, we can dream, at least.

Monday, 2 July 2007

The Storyteller

Let’s just say that you were at a social gathering, and there was a guy telling the entire assembled group a story, about how people think the rules apply to everybody except for themselves. He began to tell some stories about examples of this behavior.

As an example, the storyteller mentions those traffic circles in neighborhood intersections, saying that for a “left turn”, you’re really supposed to go 270° around the circle rather than cutting the corner to the left, but that he figures that rule applies “to everybody else”, that it’s OK for him to cut the corner.

Then he gives another example, one about talking on the cell phone while driving. He says it can be distracting, but he feels that he’s a better driver than most people; it’s OK for him to talk on the phone while driving.

All the while, you’re thinking that this guy is your typical Camry driver. Not so much oblivious to the rules of the road as figuring that because he’s a “good” driver, the rules don’t’ really apply to him. Mister Unremarkable, who feels that it’s just fine to bend the rules a bit. Umm hmm. You might become more and more disenchanted with the story, while gaining insight into the average Camry driver’s mind.

When the story is over, people are mingling, and maybe you go ask Mr. Unremarkable if his stature as a great storyteller grants him the privilege to cut corners and yak while driving. He just laughs and says something like “Yep, perks of the job, I guess.”

After the gathering is over and you’ve eaten all of the host’s very good food, you head out to the parking lot, and as you’re pulling out in your sleek Euro ride, you see the grand storyteller getting into his car. What do you think he drives? As if the stars had foretold this moment, you witness the storyteller climb into his tan Camry with a dented rear bumper and drive away.

Move Over --->

This guy has the right idea. If I could figure out how to download the video, I'd put it directly into my blog. I'll work on that.

Move over

Ironic that I saw this piece while visiting Portland (both my mom and a friend emailed me the link), and then later that day I could have usted this guy's product to get this old bag out of my way: I finally passed her on the right after following her for about 20 minutes as she eased by right-lane cars at about 70.01 MPH.

It really was the Hondas tying up traffic on the trip home from Portland. The Toyotas were not out in force, for a change.