Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Car with widgets

When Laura was on tour last week, she rented a car for the trip. This not only left me with the Jeep (thanks, babycakes!), it let her drive a new, cool car for the week. The rental: a 2008 Nissan Altima, and it was a cool car. It got decent mileage, it handled well, the brakes are great, and it had a great stereo. It's got an odd blind spot, but I suspect you get used to it in a hurry. And it's got a lot of features we don't have in the Jeep: power windows, automatic transmission, a trunk, doors that lock, windows that don't unzip....

It also had an RFID widget instead of a key. It has a starter button, which only works if you've got the key-fob widget in the car with you. So you can leave it in your pocket (once you get it out to unlock the doors), and never worry about locking your keys in the car. You can't lock your keys in; you need the widget to lock the doors. The lack of a key took a little time to get used to, but it's such a convenient feature, I suspect that when we get back to driving the Jeep full time, it'll seem so barbaric and anachronistic, that you have to insert a small metal tab into a slot on the steering column and rotate it to make the car start.

Our other deep observation on the Altima: it's a very grown-up car. We felt mature (in the middle-aged sense of the word) every time we got in it. My last car was a sporty red Saturn coupe, and my bike is extremely not an adult vehicle (though almost everyone I see riding bikes are adults). And Laura's Jeep is definitely not a grown-up vehicle. Grown-up vehicles don't have bumper stickers that say in upside-down text, "If you can read this, help flip me back over!" for sale at the dealership. The Altima is the polar opposite of a midlife-crisis car. It's the car you sell to put a down-payment on a Mustang, when your midlife crisis hits. But it's all the things a grown-up car should be: comfortable, safe, economical, packed with convenience-oriented features, and even fun to drive.

We tend to rent a car whenever we need to make a long trip out of town; the Jeep is getting old, and it's not great for long trips. I've got pals at Enterprise, so we tend to get great deals on our rentals. And it's always fun getting to, essentially, test drive a new car for a week. Our all time favorite is still probably the Toyota Rav4, followed closely by the Altima, a Ford Escape hybrid, and, at the far bottom of the list, a PT Cruiser.

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