Now, realize, I’m not like most drivers. What most people find as inconveniences, I find as quirks, or personality. I learned everything I needed to know about my car on a seven hour drive to San Francisco from Southern California.
It’s 2013. Cars nowadays are full of modern technology. Sync. Navigation. Auxiliary jacks. Satellite radio. And now, you can add Facebook, Twitter, and Pandora to your multimedia system. It’s too much. How do I compensate? I’ve got one auxiliary jack for the I-pod and a dual link 12v outlet. It’s all I need.
But that’s just the technological piece.
Then there’s the car. It’s a silver 2001 Toyota Mr2 Spyder. I’ve owned the car for two years now. I have located two rattles. One is from the glove box lock on the passenger side. The other, surprisingly, comes from the passenger visor. The visor. Yes, the visor. Of all the places, I would have never thought such annoying noise could emit from a visor connected at one point with just two screws. Toys rattle. Snakes rattle. Visors don’t rattle.
This one does.
My car may weigh 1030 kg, but it’s not a smooth ride. Small potholes in the road feel like craters. Vibrations resonate into the seat through hardened tires. The steering wheel feels hollow. The steering ratio, at least, is very quick. I’m ruined for life with quick steering.
The chassis? It flexes. The chassis ends up absorbing the bumps more than the struts do. My spine absorbs some of the bumps too. And before anyone asks, let me state that I did replace the struts with KYB ones recently. I can imagine this is what Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear says about the Alfa 8c. The ride is unusually loud, and yet in the curves, it wallows. At least I didn’t pay $275,000 for my Spyder.
Did I mention it’s completely uncomfortable to nap in?
I’ve packed for two days; a backpack of toiletries and a netbook, and a piece of luggage for three days of clothing. Unlike a Porsche Boxster, the front trunk, is full of spare wheel and tire. That leaves the floor, passenger seat, and cubbies for luggage space.
I ended up placing the luggage on the floor with my backpack on the seat. It covered the entire seat. This is definitely a trip for just one.
But, with these niggles, come other benefits of the car. The driver view makes for a comfortable cockpit. The radio and air condition units are functional and ergonomic. It’s economical, as I averaged 29.6mpg-32.17mpg driving spiritedly. The best feature though is using the convertible top. Thirteen miles of Big Sur with the top down on a curvy road exploited this car’s talent. This car thrives on curvy roads with quick transitions and adds the element of total scenery with the top down. Some may find that they’re not just driving a car, but moving along swiftly side to side with the world swaying with them. I had forgotten I was driving. I was being swiftly wafted along a beautiful shoreline.
Now, I’ve driven a few canyons in my life; Ortega Highway, Azuza Canyon Road, and the more popular Tail of the Dragon out in Tennessee, but this takes the cake. It’s difficult to combine perfect weather conditions, appropriate speeds, epic scenery, and car control all into a single element. I was fortunate to benefit from such an experience, and I’m glad I brought the Spyder with me.
Needless to say, the Mr2 is not exactly an ideal road trip car. It can be uncomfortable. What it can do, that most cars don’t, is take the best roads of the trip, and make them memorable. It’s easy to recall the scenery. It’s easy to recall how easy it is to move swiftly along. Most people think of a vacation with the destination being a highlight. With the flaws the car has, it is quite easy to think that way. For all of the quirks the car has over most of the road trip, it can make the driving experience of the road trip the highlight.
It doesn’t ride like a Jaguar. It’s not as quiet as a Bentley. It’s not as advanced as a Mercedes. But, it sure made the cruise across Santa Barbera and the drive to Laguna Seca the most vivid memories of this trip.
The best part is, it has me looking forward to the drive back.
Mike Garcia – Feature Writer / US Correspondent