Evan Kessler Dot Com

The Home of the Brave

I Test Drove A Car

Posted by evankessler on May 15, 2009

Behind The Wheel Not Under The Influence

Behind The Wheel Not Under The Influence

File this under the short column of “very few things I forgot to tell you,” but last week I test drove a car.  No, I’m not planning on buying a new vehicle (unless I were buying a new vehicle to live in down by the river once all of my funds run out) I was merely invited to test drive the vehicle by the kind folks at smart USA.  So why would I, Evan Kessler, be invited by a car company to test drive their ever-so  environmentally friendly tiny smartfortwo vehicle?  Well, let’s just say that writing for a website that many consider to be “ahead of the curve” in it’s championing of not only technological trends, but also environmental and style trends, has it’s privileges.  No, I’m not referring to EvanKessler.com, rather it’s my gig writing for JoshSpear.com that occasionally affords me such interesting opportuniites.

So with the sun peaking through a cloudy sky threatening of precipitation but looking a tad hesitant to unleash moist fury, I headed out to midtown west to the BMW/smart USA dealership to an informal blogger get together with the President of the company himself.  Having left my apartment in haste after trouble locating important items such as my notebook and other miscellaneous tools, I looked rather on the unkempt side; not neccesarily unkempt for me, but I hadn’t taken a great deal of time to consider my dress and that I was meeting the head of a company.   To be fair, I didn’t think the event would be as personal as it was.  I pictured a sort of conference room with 30 people viewing a presentation.

Blonference= Bloggers + Conference

Blonference= Bloggers + Conference

It ended up being between 5 and 10 people in a small conference room with mostly people who worked for the car company and a few bloggers for a very personal presentation.  We even got press kits and smartfortwo figurines, which were very cool.  Anyway, I think I was the least car savvy of the entire crew.  That probably has something to do with the fact that I don’t regularly drive a car unless I’m going on a road trip of sorts ,which really only happens every 6 months if that.  I don’t take time to ponder Miles Per Gallon rates or the carbon footprint of the vehicles that take me from point A to point B since I’m so dependent on public transport.  Furthermore, when I hear about buying a car that cuts down on urban congestion the only word that comes to mind is “oxymoron.”

However, here I was in an intimate conference room setting with the head of a car company, me, a guy who couldn’t tell you the first thing about the engine of any car he’s ever driven.  I have however driven stick and burnt out a few clutches, so I know that I’m not necessarily a great stick driver and that’s about all I know.

In any case, despite my general automotive unawareness, I was enrapt by this presentation.  Many astounding facts were presented about the marketing of this tiny vehicle which cut across all age and income barriers.  It appealed not only to baby boomers, but to first time drivers.  While it was no ferrari for the amateur cocksman in need of an ego boost, it seemed to suit most other demographics.  Still, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be moved to ever own a car so small using my own savings to purchase it, despite the dynamite safety rating and passenger limit (I hate driving with other people in the car.)

After the presentation ended, the lot of bloggers including myself took a stroll around the showroom to get a first hand look at the vehicle that more than 30,000 drivers had already taken to the US streets in, with their swappable panels and ability to perpendicular park.  I spent the majority of my time in the showroom staring at the gearshift wondering how in the heck their manual shift/sans clutch worked.  As previously alluded to, the clutch was no friend of mine in my days of manual transmission driving, so it seemed like a good thing that it had been removed from the equation, but I was pretty sure that it still allowed for me to mess up something within the car’s internal mechanism were I to step on the gas wrong.

By the time we had made it upstairs the rain had begun to come down in torrents.  It was not a pretty site.  The city was drenched and it felt like a bad situation to be in for a test drive.  However, if I had just left the dealership at that point, not only  would I’ve been drenched during my 3 avenue stroll to the subway, but I would’ve not had the experiences of  driving this nifty little vehicle…and what is life about if it’s not about having such experiences and being able to talk about them in more than 140 characters (I’m looking at you Twitter). Several of the bloggers on hand did decide to leave the premises without their golden opportunity…and I briefly considered following their lead.

Based On What These Cars Were Wearing They Were Just Asking To Be Test Driven

Based On What These Cars Were Wearing They Were Just Asking To Be Test Driven

Now, I’m no fan of city driving, and I certainly do not enjoy hitting the streets in a car I’m not used to driving with rain cascading down the front of my windshield during rush hour, but when the opportunity was finally offered to hop in a smartfortwo I threw caution into the wind…very gingerly. It helped that the rain was starting to subside.

First I jumped in the car and received a quick primer about the manual option vs. the automatic option.  Then I was recommended a route which I quickly abandoned once I realized the chaos being hurled at me as I attempted to enter the West Side Highway in a vehicle I was none too familiar with.  I managed to squirt into traffic, but quickly turned off the highway to the next block  and got stuck in bumper to bumper congestion.  There was a little movement and eventually I made it to the light where cars seemed to be scattered about attempting to move in all directions.

I sat at the light waiting for an opening large enough to fit through.  It was at this time that I realized I was driving like I was in my substantially bigger Honda Civic.  I was not in a Honda Civic though.  I was in the tiniest of Smartfortwo vehicles.  I could probably fit through any nook in my tiny two-door.  So this is what they had meant by combating urban congestion.  I think they might have something there.  Once I got broke through slight hole through automotive offensive line to paydirt, I decided to turn onto 9th avenue and go a few more blocks before turning back.

I was met though with much congestion  that was completely unable to be maneuvered around.  Eventually I made it to a street where I decided to make a right.  However, a car seemed to be blocking my path to a right hand turn.  Again, the size of my car capsule came in handy.  I realized that the distance between myself and the sidewalk could most likely be navigated by my wee wonder of a vehicle.  And with that I was back on track to the dealership though I definitely had a bit of a hiccup as I almost got sucked into Lincoln tunnel traffic.  However, I was able to somehow cautiously zip across two lanes of gas guzzlers eager to hit that particular road.

I was relieved to get back to the dealership in one piece and while I was impressed with the car’s maneuverability, I’d probably need more time in more of a highway situation to appreciate driving the smartfortwo, frankly because I feel so unnatural and uncomfortable in city driving that I try to avoid it all costs.  It doesn’t help a driver get an honest opinion of his new wheels when all he can think of is, “I hate this! I hate this!”


One Response to “I Test Drove A Car”

  1. […] Thailand and Paris, France (amongst other places); I’ve been to summer camp and driven a Smart Car– but up until today I’d never held a […]

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