Ah, car shopping. That magical time of life where you get to hop around the area, sitting in other people’s vehicles, fondling their shifters and clutching at their pedals until you finally get hauled away for turning Top Gear into a porn show.
In between times, you get harassed by salespeople both fabulous and incompetent, pushed to spend more money than the Harvard students spend on pizza in a year, and–just occasionally–get to test drive a car that leaves you breathless. The weight balance is just short of perfect, the clutch is tighter than a smuggler’s sphincter at a customs checkpoint, the gearbox goes up to six, and the power band is as wide as a ten-lane highway.
You sit at the base of the entrance ramp on your test drive, having established through driving surface streets that it handles well in irritating city traffic and making sure the ergonomics are comfortable, the ride quality good. The light turns green and you punch it ever so slightly, just to see what it can do around the 45mph-rated cloverleaf to get on to the freeway. Then, when you’re about to come out of the leaf, you shift into sixth and glance down, and notice that you’re already doing over 90, and the car has a long, long way to go. You take the merge ramp at 110, then let the engine slow you down to a more socially acceptable 80mph in case any cops are waiting on the other side of the berm.
You put it through its shakes in the next twenty minutes. The thing seems to be glued to the ground. You can’t kick it out without trying like hell, you can’t make it lean out of a curve, you can’t make it stop trying to eat the road up like cotton candy–and yet when you’re cruising at 80 in 6th, the tach isn’t even at 3,000 and the on-board computer shows you making better than 32mpg.
You weren’t actually in the market for a sports car. It’s been a decade since you owned one, maybe more. You were looking for something small-but-fun. Maybe a slightly overpowered sedan, or a 2-door around-town coupe–something with a bit of cargo space and room for passengers. You just took the test drive because the thing was on the lot where you were already looking, and you just don’t let chances to drive cars that nice pass you by.
Except that now you wish you could get it–but thankfully, you’re too responsible to consider it.
Still, to cope, you remind yourself that the kind of cars you’re likely to fall in love with will be impossibly expensive to maintain, a bitch to insure, hell on fuel, and best left in the world of pipe dreams. You re-watch Gone in 60 Seconds to take the edge off. You try to remember that you’re an adult now, and driving is only supposed to be fun on special occasions.
Then you start researching the cars that are making your short list, and you sneak a couple of the cars that are making your inner performance driver sweat like a junkie three days into detox onto the list. What you find doesn’t help. Turns out the world has changed in the sixteen years since you went car shopping. Prices aren’t what you thought, and since you have a spotless record your insurance rates for the new supercar would be less than what you paid for your first VW Bug. Reliability profiles of all brands have changed–build philosophy has changed. After talking to several mechanics at length you’ve realized that maintaining them is well within your capabilities as a mechanic.
Then you find out that the cars you’ve been eyeing with “someday” envy are only one or two thousand out of your price range, and you’ve got some articles at hand that need selling. And your partner points out that there are no kids in the household, and there’s still one cargo car in the driveway. She misses having a fun car as much as you do, and all this one really needs to be able to do is road trips and commutes.
“Did you say road trips?” you think, “This six-speed wet dream was built for them.”
And ooh, boy–that’s when things really get interesting.