Why I don’t drive a Miata – or What should a Tall Guy Drive?

Yep, I did try one.  A Miata.  You see, it was in my eyes, one of the most beautiful cars out on the market at the time I was shopping back in the mid 90s.

It’s Just Small.

And I’m Just Tall.

So as my old Chevy Nova/Toyota Corolla was 10 years old and beginning to annoy me, it was time to shop and look around.  I mean REALLY look around.  I was looking at all sorts of things trying to be creative and the first one I was going to look at was the Miata.  I wanted a convertible so I could go topless on a long drive and I was doing a lot of long drives at that point in my life.  It got good gas mileage, and as such didn’t pollute much.

I went to the dealership in Pennsylvania at the time, and all eyes were on me.  What is this guy doing?  No, it’s going to be a fail isn’t it?  Yes, Godzilla is stomping all over Tokyo again in his rubber suit as he opens the door of the little car.

Sitting in the car, I whack my knee on the steering wheel and sound the horn.  In fact, I whacked my knee hard enough that I was limping for three days and felt pain in the spot for more than a month.

If I didn’t have their attention before, I certainly did then.

So leaving the place and hearing comforting comments like “It’s ok, it’s not for everyone”, I went back to the drawing board.

My 19 year relationship began anew with a comment from a friend saying “Did you know they redesigned the Wrangler again?  No more Square Headlights!  It’s actually comfortable!”. 

I sat behind the wheel of a 1997 forest green Jeep Wrangler Sport and it was like putting on a pair of comfortable sneakers.  It Just Fit.

While it’s healthy to step out of your comfort zone once in a while, when you’re 6’4″ and 220-ish pounds like I am, there’s a reason why you drive a certain car.  In fact, I liked that one so much that I traded that one and got a second one when Chrysler offered 0.0% financing a few years later.  That’s the one that sits in the carport today.

It’s not a question of whether its big, I could easily drive any large American Land Yacht, but more of the line of the roof and how close the driver’s door is placed in respect to the seat.

I recently sat in a Mercedes Benz C class and I can honestly say that by the time we drove across the county line into Aventura Florida for a trip to the mall for lunch, I hated that car with a passion.  Mercedes had placed everything in just the right places – to stick in my left kidney, my left shoulder, and allow me never to find a comfortable place to sit. 

Oh and there are no Diesel C Class.   Forget that.  Gasoline is not efficient in comparison.  Diesel gets between 1/3 and 1/2 better Miles Per Gallon (KM Per Litre) for the same size motor.  I won’t even consider a gasoline motor if there is a Diesel available.  TDI Perhaps, but never on the first year.

Well that and I’m not ready to retire my Jeep yet.

Every time I get to a car show, I’m drawn to the little things that would be a speed bump for a big truck like they like to drive here in Florida.  I don’t understand why someone needs a Hummer, let alone any other SUV, just to get groceries.  But that’s me.

I was happy to see that the Fiat 500 actually fits.  In fact, the one I sat in with the sun roof had so much room that I had to sit with the front seat not all the way back.  That’s something I don’t have in my Jeep.

Now if they’d just get a proper sized turbo diesel in the US it would be a winner. 

Well that and once I finally get tired of driving around in a Wrangler with the roof off and on special days the doors sitting back home being sniffed by the dog.  After all, it’s 10 years old and only has 44,000 miles on it.

Just make sure if you do end up with a small car and you’re big, you have the right bumper sticker:

Caution, Capacity 14 Clowns.

Sorry folks, I saw that one over the weekend and didn’t take the picture.

A Diesel Powered Earwig And the Chevy Volt

This morning when I was going through all the mail from all the various accounts I had, and deleting out all those spam from Canadian Pharmacies that seem to exist only as a scam, I stumbled across a comment on one of my earlier posts. 

I had written here about a picture of a Chevrolet Volt being charged up in Fort Lauderdale at a wall socket.  There was a comment at the bottom about Chevy releasing an SUV in India based on the same technology. 

Good idea but does everyone need an SUV?  Sure, they’re roomy and all, but everyone does not need one.  If we did, we’d all be driving one.

I do think it is an interesting application of technology but I am left with two problems with it from a “functional” view.

First, the biggest problem that it has is that big battery pack.  It’s big, it’s expensive, and you are carrying along a giant pile of batteries resembling the sale bin just before the Xmas shopping binge.  You need a lot of D cells to power your toys and many of those packs are similar – a lot of commodity rechargeable batteries wired together.  Get into an accident, they will burn if the pack is broken in the right way.  The other problem with that battery pack is that they wear out.  Cells will wear out after a couple hundred to a couple thousand charges.  The packs are typically not built to be repaired.  Where do the packs go after they’ve been worn out?  Recycle what you can and landfill the rest.  Not great, but better than the pollution of all of that gasoline.

Second the Volt has a gasoline motor to run the generator to top off the battery pack.  It isn’t a large motor, only a 1.6 Liter.  It isn’t used to drive the car until it gets into conditions of high speeds or heavy load.  Since it is a generator, you want to have the smallest motor that is available to do the job.  The higher the efficiency of the motor, the lower your fuel consumption would be.

That raises the question:  Why a 1.6 Liter Gasoline Motor? 

Why not Diesel?

Volkswagen has an effective comparison in their offerings.  Using the US Government’s numbers, you can ask why is it that we’re using a Gasoline engine at all?  Typically, and those figures bear out the rule of thumb, for the same size motor, a given Diesel motor will be 1/3 more efficient than a given Gasoline model.  Bearing in mind that the power output of a Diesel is slightly different (More Torque vs Horsepower), they are effectively interchangeable, especially when you have a turbocharger on them. 

So if you have a 95MPG Equivalent Volt, would that mean that dropping in a Diesel motor will you get 130 MPG?  Perhaps.  The EPA is notoriously inaccurate in measuring the MPG of a Diesel car.  That Jetta that is rated at 30MPG regularly gets 40MPG in real world numbers.  It is a “Clean Diesel”, which means if you were standing behind it, you may notice a slightly different smell but it wouldn’t coat you with soot like the older cars may have. 

If you drive it gently, a Jetta TDI has been seen to give 50MPG on the highway.  In the Hypermiler communities, it raises the question of whether you need a hybrid at all.  The real world numbers of a Jetta TDI tend to be almost as good as and in some cases better than that of the darling of the Green World, the Toyota Prius. 

So press releases aside, because that comment in my older posting reads like one, I still am confused as to why we don’t have more Diesel in this country.   The memories of the old Oldsmobile 98 Diesel are still out there, but fading.  It’s time we bury that, and move on.  With $4 a gallon gas and the prediction of gas hitting $5 a gallon before the end of this year, this country needs every extra MPG it can get.