Friday, February 15, 2013


So you might have heard through the grapevine - I bought a new car. If you know my history, you might be thinking, "Didn't he just buy a new car like two years ago or something?" Just over two, yes. So here's what happened.

In November 2010, I decided to get a car more suited to an 80km (both ways) commute every day. We selected a hybrid Civic that had sat on the dealer lot for almost a full year. We got a great deal on the car, as the dealership was desperately trying to get rid of it to make room for new inventory. I wasn't sure if the hybrid Civic was the exact right choice, but it sure was the right price.

First, the positives. Like most Hondas, this car was ultra reliable. In the 27 months I had the car, it cost $3000 in total, which includes 2 complete sets of high priced tires and rims. The gas mileage was beyond reproach. I averaged 5.2L/100km in summer and 5.8L/100km in winter. That basically means I was able to squeeze 800 km out of $40 of gas on a good day. The efficiency of the car was inspiring. I wish all cars had the energy re-generative abilities of a hybrid. The car indeed changed the way I drove. On one memorable short trip from Crowfoot to my house, I managed to hyper-mile my way to a 2.5L/100km mileage result. I could never maintain that, but it felt good.

The negatives. Gutless. I have never driven a car with such anemic power. Especially when the hybrid system has no extra power to offer as a boost (when the hybrid battery is low). So the fun factor is almost completely removed from the experience. The trunk is far too small to be practical when it's your only car. I barely had enough room for a stroller and a box of emergency road-side goodies. Groceries often had to go in the back seat. A back seat that doesn't fold down because that's where the hybrid battery is stored. Seriously Honda, you guys need to figure out how to move the battery elsewhere. This is not an IKEA-friendly car. Oh well, live and learn. The hybrid experiment is over and while the hybrid concept is sound in this car, the implementation is lacking.

So. What to get as a replacement? I had to revisit my original wish list of characteristics for a car. Fun to drive. Economical on gas. Luxury trimmings. Cargo friendly. Comfortable for Darlene's neuropathy. I went through an exhaustive search for candidates and narrowed it down to 3 based on countless reviews, both written and video, plus visits to online user forums. Here was the list:

1. Mercedes Benz B250
2. BMW X1
3. Acura RDX.

In the beginning, I was favouring the BMW. I mean, who doesn't want to experience the 'ultimate driving machine'? The reviews were very favourable. The Germans have had their hand forced and they have begun to build very modern, very efficient engines in anticipation of a German law requiring more efficient cars by 2016. Mate that engine with an 8 speed transmission stolen from a 7 series and you have a recipe for a very fun, yet efficient car. It's a wagon, let's be serious. But BMW won't call it that because wagons are no longer cool. On paper, I should like the BMW best but I was expecting Darlene to pick the reliable Acura, especially due to its larger size. The Acura was the most boring of the 3 candidates in terms of options, but not too boring. I threw the Mercedes in the ring because it had a similar German pedigree of efficiency and was a completely redesigned car from the outgoing B200 with an added $7000 worth of options thrown in for free as standard equipment. The Mercedes was also the only offering that isn't all-wheel drive. I kind of wanted to try all-wheel drive this time, but it wasn't a deal breaker.

When we went testing, the BMW did not pass muster for comfort. Darlene's fibromyalgia dictates a comfortable seat with adjustability so that the front edge doesn't dig into her thighs. The BMW seat failed miserably. I thought I would be crushed by the news, but after sitting in the driver's seat, I was reminded why I was never truly impressed with BMW at any car show I ever went to - the cockpit felt claustrophobic to me. Could I sit comfortably in this seat for 9 hours on a road trip? Maybe not. Strike one.

The Acura didn't fare much better. I had no problem with it, but this seat was not comfortable for Darlene either. This surprised me. In fact, Darlene showed me how something was protruding into the passenger foot well, preventing her from being able to spread her feet apart much. I don't know what that big bump on the side of the foot well was, but it was definitely not passenger-friendly. Strike two. Uh oh....

The Mercedes surprised both of us. For starters, the seats are very comfortable and fully adjustable, even the angle of the seat forward and back. It has a great, bi-turbo 4 cylinder engine. Plenty of power. Very torque-y. 7 speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Beautiful luxury trim. Panoramic sun roof, which really lends a feel of roominess and brightness. Parks itself. Lane keep assist. Blind spot assist. Rear camera. Plenty of other toys too. Classic Calcite White paint. Darlene said she would never own a white car, but this colour looks very classy on the Mercedes, so she was sold. Chestnut brown leather reminiscent of the classic Mercedes sedans of the 1960s. We found a car that had most of the options I wanted and none of the ones I didn't. We put a deposit down on it so it wouldn't get sold to anyone else.

All the reviews of the B250 said the same thing. Owners of the old B200 made a list of things they didn't like and Mercedes listened. They redesigned the B series and gave it a dash of fun while making it even more efficient and luxurious. Finally, a car that checks off every item on my list.

So, we welcome a cultured young German into our family. Which makes me feel all "Ich bin stolz auf mein Erbe". I'm looking for good German female name for the car. The post title is Gord's suggestion.

Bring on the first road trip....


Gord Fehr said...

Smart choice, have fun with it!

Karl Plesz said...

Brunhilde is in the lead

Anonymous said...

I have a friend from Germany, named Verena. She has many options, but none mentioned above, she is white and not from personal experience have you, but I'm sure her seat is quite comfortable. that's my vote...congrats!