In other news, I've been car-shopping. I'm working up the courage to do something I've never done before... buy a new car. I feel woefully unprepared to test-drive new cars. Before now, my checklist for test-driving used cars was to make sure that nothing fell off while I was driving it.
I really wanted to have an American car on my list. But after sifting through the data, the last 'American' car to get crossed off my list turned out to be manufactured in Mexico anyway.
In order of testing:
Hyundai Genesis Coupe - I went in thinking I wasn't going to like it much, but it was actually pretty fun to drive. The controls look like a 747 cockpit and I didn't know what anything did, which is something of a minus. I drove the 2.0L engine version, but I think it may be worth trying out the V6, though that's around at my price limit on paper (and -- who are we kidding? -- once all is said and done we'll no doubt be over my 'limit'. Surely, nothing can go wrong if people spend money beyond their means!) Audio system seemed a little weak, but specs suggest it should be better. Probably if properly fiddled with it would be better.
Nissan Altima Coupe - This was sort of the front-runner going into this, based on specs and also my feeble brand loyalty, since my previous cars have both been Nissan Sentras. They didn't have the V6 version available, so I tried the 4. It was fine, and very familiar feeling, unlike the Hyundai. I wondered if the continuously variable transmission would feel weird, but apart from feeling a little cheated that there weren't any jerks throwing you into the realm of fast, it wasn't weird at all, just a really smooth ride. It was a little boring, and the trunk is really tiny, but I'm willing to drive further from home to test out the genuine V6 version. Audio sounded great; Nissan really seems to have audio figured out, even for base models.
Honda Accord - Again, not quite the car I wanted to test. This time, I got the V6, but the 4-door instead of the 2-door. [As an aside, the tsunami has definitely impacted availability for some Japanese imports, particularly Honda, it seems. The 2012 Accord is expected in the states in May 2012. The '12 Nissan Altima is already here.] The V6 made a pleasing roar, but the actual feeling of acceleration was not as peppy as one would hope. Maybe with the smaller coupe it would feel better, but it didn't sell me. The Accord is definitely worthy of being a super top-selling car. Lots of features and nth-generation improvements, but I didn't click with its soul.
Mazda Miata - Damn, but this car is cute. Yes, it is really fun to drive. The engine isn't huge, but neither is the car, so it's very nimble. Sadly, I am just too large for the Miata. With the top up, I nominally fit inside the car. But worse, the level of my eyes is exactly at the same height as the rear-view, which effectively blocks half the windshield from my view. Seriously. With the top down, the visibility is fine, since I can see to the sides and over the top of the windshield, but with the top up, it's not really acceptable. If I could have an extra car, just for zipping up to Santa Barbara for winetastings, it would be grand, but for me it is not an everyday car.
Test V6 Genesis Coupe
Test V6 Altima Coupe
(As a total aside, Dr. Pookie reminded me that while we were in our hotel in Cuzco, we dimly heard someone playing Shirley Bassey belting out "Goldfinger"... but not the film version... the most excellent Propellerheads remix.)