Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Growing Up (Wheels Dept.)

by Tom Bozzo

One thing I've never done before is soon to be crossed off my list: I'll soon have a four-door car for my daily driver. In 21-1/2 years of driving, I've always driven coupes or three-door hatchbacks. I even bought a coupe after child #1 was born. However, a freakish hatch glass failure that's put Suzanne's wagon out of service for a week has thrown into sharp relief the non-operability of having the other car be one that only I can drive. So, I get to join the workaday world of sedan-driving dads.

Unlike some other bloggers I won't name who've feigned an interest in reader feedback when the decision was made all along, I'll tell you that I've already made up my mind as to make, model, and color. I'm getting one of these in Matador Red with black leather (the build-your-own color simulation totally sucks, so don't bother). Olé!

It's interesting to see what formerly sybaritic luxuries can be found in the near-luxury car class these days — the new car will be a little cheaper than its predecessor in nominal terms. It has basically the only sensible implementation of the now-trendy engine start/stop button, which is that you don't actually need to extract the key from your pocket to be able to press the button to start the car. If you have to stick the key-like electronic device in the dash (as with the new 3-series and VW Passat, among others), you might as well turn the darn thing and dispense with the playing of Schumacher. It also has heated and cooled seats, so I can take my solar heat gain in the winter without roasting my backside on those hot days that I'd like to believe will come around again.

Oh, and it has an automatic so that my beloved sweetie can easily drive it. At least the paddle shifters are there for my Schumacher-playing pretensions.
Now wait a are buying an absurdly overpriced car like a lexus and you are too cheap to spring for cable based internet access?!!

Ah well, different strokes for different folks...
Robb, strictly speaking, I'm too cheap to spring for cable TV, without which cable internet isn't so much of a bargain. If my telco can't improve my DSL service enough, I can re-optimize.

I don't dispute that higher trims of the Accord and Camry are very well equipped for a lot less, but I've extensively shopped the upscale sedan segment and have a few nominees for more absurdly overpriced cars.
I would never call anything from a cable company a bargain, but I have had dialup, dsl and cable. The difference between cable and dsl was similar to the difference between dialup and dsl. Even though I pay far more for cable internet, I am far happier. DSL was a giant hassle.

As for the honda/camry, I guess I am just more of a cheapskate. I buy the middle/low range. My wife and I are on our third camry LE 4. (1993, 99, 04). They each cost about 18000 and I figure that I would have to spend a *lot* more to a significant increase in function or comfort.

Of course everyone has their own value on "intangibles"
I'm curious as to the fraction of 3Mbps advertised speed that our cable provider actually delivers (will have to ask someone around the office). Interestingly, I have more bandwidth up with DSL (600K) than with cable (Charter advertises 256K).

I'll be disappointed if the next internet service upgrade doesn't offer an order of magnitude improvement over either.

I think you're right on the Camry (and Accord) -- the content they provide thanks in part to being built in such enormous quantities does indeed require a big step up in price to the 'luxury' range. When my kids have longer legs, I'd actually expect to move in that direction rather than uprange. I'd otherwise have to cross one of my psychological price barriers, and even I'd have better things to spend the money on besides.
Funny you should mention speed. It seems like in Japan and Korea, they have no trouble delivering 10x the bandwidth that we get through dsl. My experience was that it wasn't the speed that was a problem with dsl. When I tested it at one of the speed test sites it was perfectly adequate. The problem was reliability. It took a year with probably 6-10 person hours from various Verizon techs before it work at all reliably and it still required a login at each attachment and was generally flaky. My cable connection required exactly one reboot in 3 years. It just worked. Now of course that is just anecdotal....but I take this kind of stuff personally. For example after owning a vw rabbit I wouldn't buy a volkswagon product if they were having a 1/2 price sale.
You're not doing too bad for yourself there!
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