Saturday, March 08, 2008

Cross on Over

Place: Don Pablo's
Lunch: Cheese enchilada, beef enchilada, pork tamale, rice, beans, chips, salsa, tortilla soup, Coke

Sounds like a lot of food on paper, doesn't it. But if you think about it, it's just a regular Mexican restaurant meal with an appetizer.

It's Auto Show time again, and I'm off to wander the floor of the Minneapolis Convention Center checking out all that's new in the auto industry. As it happens, this is one of those years where I'm actually in the market, so things should be all that more interesting.

I'm thinking about getting an SUV, one of the smaller ones that's really a car pretending to be a truck. Or, as the industry likes to call them, "crossovers".

I'm quite familiar with a couple of them. I've rented more Ford Escapes over the years than you can count on your existing digits. And I had a Chevrolet Equinox for the annual Utah Holiday Lights trip a couple of years ago. The Escape tosses around nicely, but has ventilation controls with oddly limited options for air distribution. It has a small gas tank for its mileage too, so you end up stopping a lot more. The older ones didn't have very good headlights either, though newer ones have improved. And the "new" Ford Escape they're selling now is just hideous.

The Equinox, on the other hand answered every issue I had with the Escape. The ride to Utah and back was never smoother. It was very comfortable. It had a nicer interior (this one had leather seats), better headlights, and lots more room. It was bigger, it was quieter. And I got 26 mpg out of it on straightaway highway driving as well as around town (19 through the windy hills of Wyoming).

On the downside, it has electronic power steering that takes a full 2 1/2 revolutions to a hard turn. Parking it is an exercise in madness. On top of the the turning issues, seeing parking lines from the drivers vantage point is difficult.

The other problem with the Equinox is that it's a Chevy. And I hate Chevys.

Yet when I researched the potential vehicles out there, I kept coming back to the Equinox as being the overall best choice for me...until I came across Nissan's new Rogue.

The Rogue is odd-looking...kind of like a mini Murano. It has a lot of modern features the Equinox doesn't like Bluetooth phone sync and HID headlamps. It gets slightly better gas mileage. It looks to have some wicked interior lighting at night. It supposedly handles better. But it also sounds like it's's a 4-cylinder with a CVT transmission.

Still, might have to test drive one.

So will Auto Show 2008 change my mind? Will something else come up that I have not yet considered?

Admission to the show: $9. Parking across the street in the garage that connects to the skywalk: $10. Headache I'm nursing from staying on the same floor as some high school hockey team at my motel: High (it's also state hockey weekend, you know.)

DODGE JOURNEY: This is a new new that I couldn't research gas mileage for the thing online. It's on the lower end of the mileage range for what I'm looking at. And it's not that impressive. Very boring, actually. Some Guy looking at it with his wife said "Well, it's a station wagon."

HONDA CRV: Nice leather seat. Leg room isn't working for me, though.

HONDA ELEMENT: You know, I keep forgetting about these. The one on display here is nicer and more refined than one expects an Element to be. The price is right, and it gets decent mileage. Wonder how it handles. Should drive one. I'll probably forget, though. Can you imagine buying one and forgetting you had it? There you are in the supermarket parking lot looking for your old car and the Element is talking like it does in the commercials..."HELLO...I'M RIGHT HERE..." and you're totally ignoring it...

NISSAN ROGUE: There's two one the base model and one decked out with leather seats. The base model one is a complete waste of time. The other...Well, it feels a bit small initially. It's certainly smaller in the rear storage area, though it has a neat hidden storage bay. I'm not sure there's any place on the dash I could mount my (tall) GPS unit. But I can sit in it comfortably, and I like the leather seats. I think I am going to test drive one of these. And I came back to it THREE TIMES during the show after trying out others. I just kept coming back to it. Tragically, the "premium" sound system is from Bose.

FORD ESCAPE/MAZDA TRIBUTE/MERCURY MARINER: I still might consider a late-model Tribute of the pre-redux variety, but likely not the current version. Well, maybe at a fire-sale price...

MAZDA CX-7: This thing is kind of cool, but pricey and is more of a performance model than an economical one.

TOYOTA RAV4: It was this I was looking at online when I discovered the Rogue, because so many people were discussing how they chose the Rogue over the RAV4. I have to agree...I can't find a single redeeming factor for the RAV. It's just uninteresting.

SATURN VUE: Saturn's original Vue sat on the platform of the existing Equinox, Pontiac Trans-Sport (which dies next year in favor of a GMC version), and some Suzuki model. The new Vue is effectively a rebadged Opel, which sits on the platform the next Equinox will be built on. It has two problems that immediately rule it out...1. The amber yellow instrument lighting, and 2. No sunroof available.

I love a good sunroof. More than working brakes.

HYUNDAI SANTA FE: Something in my gut just says "No" to this vehicle. I still may look at them, but...I don't know.


KIA SPORTAGE: Two years ago, I might have said "Yes". That thing has NOT aged well.

MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER: Interesting looking...until I read the reviews on it.

CHEVROLET EQUINOX: GM has about 20 percent of the floor space in the building. There are Malibus everywhere. There's ONE Equinox, and it's the "Sport" model. It's like they're saying "We sell enough of these without trying, so screw you all."

Then the wrench that changed everything came into view...

Volkswagen brought a Tiguan to the show.

The Tiguan is VW's forthcoming crossover. I've seen pictures of the thing and it doesn't look very nice.

Pictures don't do it justice.

It's just beautiful.

It has a sunroof that takes up bloody well near the whole roof.

It has big, beautiful alloy rims with narrow 19-inch tires that probably cost a fortune to replace.

It just SCREAMS to come in metallic orange with a black leather interior and a personalized license place that says "THE TIG".

Tragically, it was roped off so you couldn't play with it.

The specs aren't out on it yet. It uses the 2.0 turbo from the Passat and gas mileage is expected to be in a similar range to what I'm looking for, but that engine requires premium gas, so there's a penalty there. A penalty I've been paying all along on all my VW's the past 20 years, but one I was hoping to get away from.

But MAN...That thing just blows everything else out of the water.

This thing could replace the Jetta as VW's volume seller.

It's scheduled to hit the market in May. I might have to wait until then to make my decision. Or at least until the specs and pricing are finally released.

In the meantime, where's the Nissan dealership?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

26 Minutes

Place: Whataburger
Lunch: Whataburger (no tomato, extra pickles), onion rings, chocolate malt

26 minutes

Twenty-six minutes.

It took them twenty-six minutes to fulfill this order.


I don't care if there's a room full of teenage girls (some sports team) here. There aren't enough of them to fill the place, and they'd all long since ordered when I got here, and most of them seemed to be eating.

You know how almost every fast food employee programatically says "Sorry about the wait" to you every time they give you your food?

This one didn't. She just handed me the tray and said "Need ketchup?"

And then some idiot passing by spilled ranch sauce on me. I didn't even notice...another patron alerted me to the drip on my shirt.

I love a long cold winter, but even I was ready for a thaw by this weekend. And I'm in 70 degree weather with the sun roof open today. I even had the air conditioning on for awhile. And I stumbled on a really cool convenience store that claims to have over 500 different sodas, mostly in glass bottles. They had Moxie. MOXIE! I NOW OWN A BOTTLE OF MOXIE!

I'm almost scared to try it.