I travel a lot on business. How much? Most weeks. There is the occasional break here and there, but overall, I am a road warrior. People ask me where I am based and I tell them mostly on an American Airlines flight flying right over them, right now. I could go on for a long time about the joys of business travel and trust me, it is not even close to anything resembling glamorous. Frequently it completely sucks.
So as you can imagine that means I drive a lot of rental cars. I am a rental car aficionado. You probably think that means I get to choose great cars at the top of the rental car range. That a magic red carpet rolls out as I confidently stride up the my waiting ride, throw the bags in the boot, lick my finger and hold it up feeling which direction I should go based on being a master of the travel universe. That this captain of industry needs only to sink into the 34-way adjustable seat and my favorite driving position is automatically pre-programed. You may think that big BMW’s and Mercedes await my knowing hand guiding their wood and leather covered steering wheels over roads that have been spared with ravages of this terrible winter and of course you think I drive lots of Porsches. Not so much.
"So how lame am I when I recently got a brand new Toyota Corolla, but his one was HOT, the S version with…wait for it…paddle shifters."
Our corporate policy is an intermediate car. We can upgrade if we are carrying a lot of equipment (which is rare for me), so mostly it means that I have the privilege of renting unimaginative cars near the value end of the automakers line up. It other words – the bottom feeders. Oh the Porsches, BMWs and Mercedes are sitting right there, waiting on someone. But not me. Don’t feel sorry for me, I occasionally get upgraded. And as a matter of fact, I recently got upgraded to the brand new 2015 Mustang, GT version no less. But I also got this upgrade on a very rainy day. Hmmm. Maybe it was not so much of an upgrade. Still it was great to hear the rumble of a big V8 even if every time I stepped ever so slightly on the go-pedal, the tires squirming sideways for lack of traction.
oh, you mean I can upgrade to this 911? yeah...right.
So how lame am I when I recently got a brand new Toyota Corolla, but his one was HOT, the S version with…wait for it…paddle shifters. It only had six miles on the odo so it was brand new. I was the first person to actually rent it. And I know this is gonna sound like I am really a loser when I said to myself, hmmm, this is actually not too bad. As a matter of fact it is pretty nice.
Ok with the caveat – for a rental car, for a Toyota.
Would I buy one? No way. Would I recommend it to someone that needed very basic and reliable transportation? You bet. In a heartbeat.
So I pushed the Sport+ button (not really sure what it did, but I felt better pushing it), slapped the gear lever into Sport mode accessing the paddle shifters and threaded my way into LA’s worst afternoon traffic. Redlining it in first gear, then second, I hit a max speed of 35mph on The 405 heading north to Hollywood. Man I was really moving and the engine sounded….well it sounded really tinny, like a souped up sewing machine. I got tired in about fifteen seconds of rev’ing the crap out of this little motor in LA’s notorious stop and go traffic, so I put the gear selector back in Drive and left it there. For the rest of the rental.
Over the next three days, I put about 300 miles on the car and I must say, it really is a pretty decent little vehicle. And when I filled it up on the way to the airport, I only had to put about 5 gallons in. Not bad for an entry level, bottom feeder car. It’s nice to see that at least Toyota has sharpened the tip of their value based range. I just hope that every other manufacturer is watching. They set the bar pretty high.
And on that exhaust note, see you all next time.Robert Turner is the author of The Driver, a series of six novels your editor in chief finds intoxicatingly engaging and superbly written; Book I— Decision and Book II— Training are currently available here. He also has a blog entitled My Life with Porsches. Robert can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.