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Life’s Too Short For Boring Cars. No It’s Not

Life’s Too Short For Boring Cars. No It’s Not!

Someone I know has L2S4BC (Short for; “Life’s Too Short For Boring Cars”) as a number plate. But he’s wrong. Life’s not too short for boring cars.  Boring cars are what makes up 80-90 percent of the cars available.  As a matter of fact, boring cars are now so good, and mostly, peppy, that “some say” they are not boring at all.

With AM, FM, DAB, CD stackers, USB, SD Card, Bluetooth, Apple and Android play music options, Sat Nav, Bluetooth mobile phone support and DVD players for the kids, it seems that there are more entertainment options in a car than at home.

But I don’t think he’s talking about the in car entertainment.  He’s more talking about the performance of the vehicle.  Whether it be a sports car that handles well or a 4×4 that can climb trees. But even here many cars perform and handle very well.  Sure they are not sports cars but they are so much better than the cars of twenty years ago it’s not funny.

Have you ever actually paid attention to the speed that cars accelerate from the lights?  It’s like the beginning of a Formula One race with Vettel and Alonso racing each other to the first corner. It’s crazy how fast even boring cars accelerate now. I would argue that they are not boring any more but very functional. But the number plate L2S4VFC just doesn’t ring as well.

Now I’ve had a few boring cars. In the mid ’90s I moved from NZ (yes I’m a kiwi bludger) to Aussie.  A mate of mine was the CEO of a company here and wanted me to fill a position in the Melbourne office.  Over the period of a year we met for lunch a few times when he was in Melbourne and he would offer me the job and I would say no.

It was in the IT industry, which I had been working in for 15 years already, and I wanted to do something else. So come the end of the year we are at lunch and he offers me a rather large chunk of money and throws in a company car. So I say yes.

Day one the operations manager calls me and asks me what car I want.  A Saab 900 of some description or a Honda Accord.  I told him I didn’t know much about either and could he give me a day to research both.  “Sure”, he says.  The next day he rings me and tells me a new starter in Sydney just grabbed the Saab.  So I would be getting the Honda.  It was shipped down.

I get in the Honda Accord a few days later and something is wrong.  I don’t know what it is but it just doesn’t feel right. I’m driving off to a customer meeting the next week with the salesman I am supporting, I‘m the technical guy, and I ask him what he thinks of the car. He looks over the car, he drives a Saab, and says “it’s boring”.

Boring interior, boring exterior, boring performance. Just boring. But I think he is wrong.  It takes me about another week to figure it out but I finally do.

It’s not Boring.  It’s “Bloody Depressing”. 

Even the 1972 1300 two-door Ford Escort GL I owned in 1979 was not as depressing as the Honda.  Everything about it was depressing.  The look, the interior, the dash layout, the seats, the driving position and the performance. It wasn’t even peppy. It was so fricking slow it was depressing.

When I got into the car in the morning it was like a Dementor from a Harry Potter movie had surrounded you and was slowly sucking the life out of your soul. Even opening the incredibly slow electric windows to allow fresh air in didn’t help.

I remember one evening I was at work late reviewing a quote I had prepared, and submitted, when I realised I made an error. And not a small one.  I rang my boss and told him. He simply said “We’ll talk about it in the morning”. Now I knew I was going to get a bollicking, and that he would rant and rave about quality and proof reading etc, so I was prepared for it to happen.

Those Dementors pestered me all the way home that night.

Driving in the next day the Dementors nearly got me. As I drove in they whispered things in my ears and had me doubting myself. All my arguments about how I could save the day were sucked out of my brain and spat out on to the floor of the Accord to rot in front of me.  By the time I got to work I was wondering if I would get fired.  Not even my mate the CEO would be able to save me.

As I got out of the Accord the weight on my shoulders lifted slightly.  As I rode the lift to the office I felt even better. By the time I was in my boss’s office my genius plan to save the day was back. I presented it to my boss and simply said “Go for it.  No biggie. Don’t screw up again”.

I managed to ditch that car to another new starter and get something else about six months later.  A Saab I think. And so haven’t felt that level of depression in a car for years.  Until about six months ago.

My wife has a company car.  She’s had a few. As a manager she takes what’s available as staff rotate around a little.  About 6 months ago she came home in a Toyota Camry. It was about a 2012-13 base model. A huge car. Inside it was more like a Tardis.  Bucket loads of space in the front and back. A huge boot and wide as a truck.  But there was just something wrong. When I rode in it I could feel the Dementors circling. I would look around the acres of space and wonder what was wrong. 

The car is just depressing. You can get in feeling happy and come out feeling depressed.  It just does that.

A friend of mine recently got a later model for his temporary company car and he agrees. Now he is six foot five inches tall so he does have some other issues with it but to quote him; “It’s like driving a wet blanket around”.

Toyota make some great vehicles.  But that Camry is just a mood killer.  It performs OK.  It looks OK. Well with that big body, those 16 inch wheels look too small, so maybe that doesn’t help.   It drives OK. More like an aircraft carrier but it does drive OK. Kind of.

But it’s just depressing. It’s the second dullest most depressing car I have been in. And it’s so big in there, even if you knew there was a Dementor hiding inside, it would be like searching Hogwarts castle trying to find it. Even a 1965 VW Beetle up on blocks is more fun.

I drive a 2010 Honda VTi-S Jazz as a daily driver.  It’s boring and it’s functional. But it’s not depressing.  It’s kind of fun in second gear around corners.  Its dashboard is kind of cute. Fake carbon fibre abounds. It even has a tachometer so you can watch the engine sit at 3100 RPM at 100km/h. But it’s not fricking depressing.

So “Life’s Too Short For Boring Cars” is not correct.  I will take boring over depressing any day.

I think there is a real art to creating a depressing car.  Auto makers must just push their designers too far. They burn them out designing great cars and then say “build a car that will appeal to everyone”.  But the only people they appeal to are fleet companies.

Germany did this and they gave us the VW Beetle.  England did this and they gave us the Mini.  Russia did this and they gave us the Skoda.  Ok well the old Skodas were crap, but they weren’t depressing until you got the repair bill.

I realise this is all subjective but since driving that Honda Accord I now have a few rules about choosing cars. So how do you avoid depressing cars?

  1. Do not buy the most common model / series / badge of any brand of car.
  2. When you look at it, you should enjoy the view.
  3. More importantly, when you sit in the car, if there is nothing you can actually say you really like about it. Don’t buy it.
  4. And even more importantly. If driving it sends you to sleep, then ditch it.

“Life’s Too Short For Boring Cars”. Wrong.

“Life’s Too Short For Depressing Cars”. Correct.

Fortunately, there’s not too many of them around. 

But if you see a 2012 Toyota Camry coming towards you.

Be Afraid.

  • Alan

    Hmm – on a boring truck?

    • Never a boring moment behind the wheel of that truck 🙂

      • Alan

        Yep, sure – just the thing to take the grandchildren to kindy in, then fit in the too small space at the mall (too small because there is a badly parked SUV and Twin-Cab either side), then drive through peak-hour traffic where visibility from the truck is poor. No thanks – Camry – well, better than the truck, but most people would be better served by a good WAGON. Or hatch. Or Camry – and as someone said, the Camry hybrid is a good overall drive – pity it doesn’t have RADAR Cruise down to 0km/hr like my PRIUS.

        A neighbour just bought a HILUX twin-cab – only ever himself in the truck, never carries a load other than a bit of stuff to the dump, which would have fitted into a hatch, never needs 4WD. And for what he paid for it, could have got a very nice small-medium Merc, AUDI or BMW, or a much nicer and better equipped AWD Outback or similar – or even an MX5 and have money left over.

        But it would be boring if we all bought red SV6 Commodores (or whatever).

  • Andrew Riles

    Have to agree Geoff…

    I did a bit of work for Avis a few years back moving cars around as required, so have driven quite a few typical fleet specials….the most entertaining one I drove was a 2006ish VVTi Corolla with a manual gearbox…..says it all really :)….

  • mixedfish

    No such thing as a car that’s ‘anything’. A depressing car taking a someone on a great road-trip is infinitely more characterful than a fun car being stuck in a garage and not being driven. Defining your life on a material object is what’s depressing.

    • Allen

      exactly. only boring driver (like this author) not boring car

    • What if your trip isn’t a “great road-trip” but just an errand?

    • Kenneth Smith

      If you want to depress someone, confine them in a room decorated in shades of grey or black, with nothing to brighten the outlook.
      Confine them in an even smaller space with no shades that may brighten things up, just a uniform greyness with touches of black.
      Put the grey/black confining space on wheels, and what have you got? – the interior decor of your average mass production car.

  • Arapiles

    Skoda’s not Russian. Skoda is Czech. Lada is Russian.

  • Hilldene

    The hybrid Camry is ok, good acceleration and can be powered through a corner. The most uninteresting car I have driven was a late seventies Lada , but it always started in cold weather.

    • Kenneth Smith

      We used to refer to Toyota mid sized passenger cars as “Whiteware on wheels”, as reliable as a good refridgerator and just as interesting.

  • Flauschie

    It is quite astounding that with so much flexibility at the production lines, few manufacturers just try something different. Of course a car is just a car, but I owned a Mini for a couple of years – and yes, it did really made me smile at times. Thereafter it had to be a SUV and boredom started. I really have to sell that Hyundai now. I think I will never forgive Toyota that they discontinued the FJ Cruiser in the meantime.

    • It’s more that car development costs are so high manufacturers are unwilling to take risks.

      • Flauschie

        Well, take the Tiguan as an example. It is based on an Gold AWD. Most of the parts are the same. Yes, they had to do some extra development, parts and tuning but it’s hard to imagine that this was really expensive for them.
        The Beetle is also just a reshuffled Golf. The Mini Countryman is based on the X1. The FJ Cruiser was a differently shaped Prado etc.

  • JessicaT

    I wonder if the number plate L2SFDC is available?

  • Jan

    Hey mate Skoda is not Russian it’s Czech! Look into the history of this and you’ll find very nice cars up to the sixties after that it went down the hill. What about Australian cars aren’t they boring?

Geoff Lines

Geoff Lines

AWDs and 4WDs. All good to me.