Car Review

Since beginning my heavy business travel in November, I’ve rented countless cars – all being from Hertz. On a typical week, I will rent three different cars (I’ve rented so often that I’m in the Hertz President’s Circle of customers) – almost like a continuous test drive, except my car doubles as my office and I have no intention of ever buying it. I wanted to put together a review of my favorites as well as the ones I didn’t enjoy.

2007 Chevy Impala LS – This is the car I get the most often. Hertz classifies it as an “intermediate” car, and I’m almost always happy with them. I’ve gotten so comfortable with these cars that I can behave like I would in a car I own; can program the radio without looking, can adjust the temperature easily, know how to pop the hood or trunk when necessary. The engine has always done the trick for me, it’s got enough power to respond when necessary, so no complaints there. Overall, I’m always happy to find the Impala in my spot – it gets a score of 89 points.

2008 Chevy Impala SS – This is the big brother of the LS, a much bigger, meaner, version. I loved driving it. I’ve only had it once, in Tennessee, and luckily, put about 350 miles on it over two days. It’s engine is strong, with over 300 horsepower – and it’s really fun to put it to the test. There was an on ramp just outside of Knoxville…I was going 30 mph or so, and decided to floor it. The horses kicked in, and the power actually made the tires spin (something that the LS can only really do when you’re at a stop). The interior is much like the LS except there are some nice “SS” logos throughout and the one I drove had leather seats which is always a good thing. The SS gets a score of 95 points.

2006 Mazda 3 – I hate getting this car. There’s nothing really BAD about it, but its engine feels weak and when I need to pass a car, it struggles to respond. The interior is supposed to be sporty, but I hate the red illuminated dashboard…I find it hard to see the speed, rev’s, etc. at night. If there was a way for me to never get this car I’d make sure that would happen. It gets a score of 71 points.

2006 Mazda 6 – Better than the Mazda 3, but still not like my Impala LS. Certainly larger, with a more robust engine, but I am just not a fan of the dashboard…until that changes, my irrational hatred of the Mazda cars will continue. Scores a 78.

2008 Volvo S80 – The car I rented had 13 miles on it; so I was most likely the first renter. Renting these cars on paper is such a great idea, but when you only have them for a day or so, you really don’t have enough time to actually figure out how to use some of its more complicated features…satellite radio, navigation system, etc. I shouldn’t complain though, this was an exciting car to drive. Very well appointed interior with an almost white leather throughout…very 1982. Stereo system was great too, as I drove around Philadelphia and Northern Jersey in it, I was able to pick up all my old radio stations in crisp HD radio…so that was cool. Scores a 93.

2008 Audi Q7 – When the attendant at the LAX Hertz asked if I wanted the new Audi SUV crossover, it didn’t take me long to answer, “yes”. The first thing that stands out about this car is the massive moon roof. Maybe it’s not even considered a moon roof…just the roof, but it’s all glass and driving on the PCH with the glass roof retracted and the windows down is something everyone should try. Engine is quite strong and the stereo system is obnoxiously robust. Scored a 96.

2007 Ford Windstar – I was in Ft. Smith, AR and I got a minivan. It wasn’t very fun to drive, the interior was nice enough, and luckily I only had it for roughly 18 hours. I did take a nice picture of it too, it’s what you see above. Scored a 79 pointer in my book

2007 Nissan Altima GLE – The attendant in Reno told me this car was “supercharged”, and while I knew she had no idea what she was talking about, I’ve always loved driving Nissan’s so I looked forward to getting it. This car had a pretty sweet interior, with a push-button ignition which I always find peculiar. The stereo was legit on this car too, and on my drive from Reno up to Lake Tahoe I played the music nice and loud. This is certainly a fun car to drive, and out of all the cars I’ve rented is probably the most realistic purchase option for me in the near future. Scored a 90 for me.

2008 Ford Freestyle - Not only was this the first time I’d driven the Freestyle, but it was the first time I’d ever heard of it. I was actually impressed. The interior was laid out very well, and everything was easy to use while driving. The satellite radio wasn’t working in the car, so that wasn’t good, but overall, a fun, sleek car by Ford that probably won’t catch on in the US car market. I give it 89 points.

2008 Ford Taurus – Wow. I hadn’t been in a Taurus for a number of years. A friend of mine had owned one in college that remember quite well, and it’s incredible to see where these cars have come. Now, this is no 1995 Ford Taurus SHO (my all-time favorite pure American sports car…BJ, I bet you’re laughing right now), but this wasn’t the same car I remembered from college. I cannot remember which model I was in, but I was impressed by the engine. The interior worked for me, and I thought the new body design was fresh too. Scored a 87 with me.

2008 Pontiac Grand Am – Along with the Chevy Impala LS, I enjoy when I get these cars. They kinda remind me of my father’s Chrysler Concorde from back in college – a pretty inconspicuous car that has a sneaky fast engine. I rented one of these the other day in Oakland, and when I wasn’t stuck in traffic enjoyed how it drives, really like the power of it, and the handling is probably only topped by the S80 and SS. This is certainly not a classic sports car like the Ford Taurus SHO, but they’re fun, and that’s good. It gets a score of 90 points.

2007 Chevy Malibu – I’m not going to write a lot about this car. It’s a classic example of how boring American cars can be these days. Typical interior, typical engine, typical handling….all I wanted to do was equip some nitrous tanks, put on some super-soft racing tires, lower the suspension to only a couple inches off the ground, throw a supercharger uner the hood (probably lifting the HP to 250 or 275), and put a massive fin on the back (to increase downforce so I can corner more effectively). Then we would have had a fun car. Oh well. The one I drove scored a 81.

So here’s the ranking of the cars I’ve driven.

Audi Q7 - 96
Chevy Impala SS – 95
Volvo S80 – 93
Nissan Altima – 90
Pontiac Grand Am – 90
Chevy Impala – 89
Ford Freestyle - 89
Ford Taurus – 87
Chevy Malibu – 81
Ford Windstar – 79
Mazda 6 – 78
Mazda 3 – 71

Some cars on my wishlist to drive include:
Audi A6
Hummer H2
Ford Shelby Mustang
Audi A4 Cabriolet
Chevy Corvette (there are rumors that Hertz will be acquiring some of the new Chevy Corvette Z06)


My L.A. Story

I haven’t been to too many places in LA yet, but I think the scariest part of town is the Hertz rental car lot at LAX. If you’ve been there, you’ll probably know what I mean. If not, here are the quick details. Most planes that land at LAX fly in from the East – directly over the Hertz lot. Usually the planes are only a couple hundred feet in the air at this point, and depending on what time of day you’re there you can have A LOT of larger, wide-bodied planes right overhead.

The sound of these planes is excruciating! Not to mention the exhaust that’s deposited directly onto you from above – but this isn’t a gently sprinkling of exhaust, nope. The wind that hits you, by my estimation, is usually approaching 50-70 mph, nearly hurricane force. So after a long flight to LAX, you get hit by these jet blasts as you struggle to find you car. Always a nice way to begin your trip!


Ultra Conservative Christian Radio

I think Ultra-Conservative Christian radio is the most entertaining type of media these days. I am neither Conservative nor Christian – so some might find this fact surprising. It’s become my #1 habit when driving around the country. - there’s always a station that’s within range whether I’m in Mobile, AL or San Francisco, CA. What really excites me is listening to people that are so elitist and single-minded that they don’t even realize how absurd they’re being.

I was listening to a broadcast today as I drove from Pleasanton, CA to the Oakland International Airport and it was probably the best Conservative Christrian station I’d heard yet. A woman was on the line that had written a book about Paganism in public schools. She talked for about 90 straight minutes about how public schools are leading children down a primrose path to hedonism, irresponsible sexual promiscuity, paganism (was she serious?), and ungodliness. It was a call-in show, and I was SO close to giving her a ring to just chat…like we at a slumber party. She also claimed that the number of “witches” (yes, she used that word) has increased considerably over the past decade – I think I was laughing out loud at this point.

I always find people like this fascinating. Their arrogance is the first trait that I always notice. They’re always 100% convinced that they are absolutely right and EVERYONE that doesn’t agree with them is absolutely wrong. It must be so boring to be that closed-minded! I mean, I’m a Philadelphia Eagles fan, and everyone that doesn’t like them is evil to me….oh wait….shit.

I may joke about these shows/people, but in all honesty, they fascinate me more than most people do. Since I disagree so strongly with just about everything they say, it’s almost like I’m a scientist examining a new species of centipede that was discovered in the Amazon…it’s such a peculiar type of ethos, that I just have to stop and stare…er, listen.


Plus or Minus

Things I Like:

California – Yeah, it’s crowded, expensive and wrought with natural disasters. But having spent the last couple weeks there I’ve become a fan. It’s without question, the most dynamic state in the country, with culture, unique food, exciting cities, and incredible scenery for days.

Having an Assistant – Having a “right-hand-man” is a great asset. Able to react to situations when I am on a plane or unable to be reached, it’s the ultimate piece-of-mind. I recommend everyone getting one.

Tuna – I am happy that all of this “tuna is bad for you because it has mercury in it” news has come out. Hopefully, it makes prices drop so that I can eat more. What’s the problem with mercury again?

First Class Seats – It’s just annoying sitting in the back of the plane. Why should I wait to board or deplane when I travel? All that is to me is a hassle. Plus, what’s the deal with paying for food in coach? I’m not really interested in doing that either.

Things I Don’t Like:

People who think Annie Hall is a romantic comedy: I heard someone say that on tv last week and I wasn’t happy. Annie Hall happens to be one of the most serious, important movies of the 20th century – calling it a romantic comedy makes me think of a two-bit movie that was shot on a $10 million dollar budget.

Airplanes that break: I’ve been sitting in the Oakland airport for 5 hours now because a plane wasn’t working properly. No reason for me to explain why this doesn’t excite me.

Brake Lights – People are so scared of brake lights…as soon as they see one ahead of them (on a car) they go bezerk and slam on their brakes…causing traffic. Ease off the gas, and if necessary use your brakes….what’s so hard to understand here?

People who stand on the left side of a moving walkway or escalator: Just recently I was in the Memphis International Airport and this couple was standing on the left side of the moving walkway…directly on the “walk on this side” sign that was painted on the walkway. Perhaps they were blind, didn’t understand English or cannot read.

People who are walking briskly in an airport terminal then decide to stop immediately to “look around”: I encounter this type of person FAR too often. It got so bad in O’Hare that I decided I’d ram into the next person that did it. When it happened, it was so funny – they guy was perplexed why I ran into him and I looked at him and asked, “why did you suddenly stop walking in the middle of the busiest walkway in the 2nd busiest airport in the country?” I didn’t stick around to hear his response, but I hope that it was his last time doing that (true story).