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Monday, 12 April 2010


A 50 HP car would be a hazard here, I think. You can't live here without doing freeway driving and slow cars are just as bad as speeders.

You must be joking right?

US speed limits are lower than European in general (75mph = 120km/h vs 130km/h in most countries) and quite a few people here tend to drive 10 or 20 km/h above that (which would be 90something mph). How is it that any standard 60-120hp European (city) car can easily handle it? I drive 300km almost every day in a midsize car with barely over 100hp and it's on a motorway that's nothing like the relatively flat Wisconsin roads. Guess what, I only wish it had cruise control.

Other than I70 going west from Denver I haven't seen that many roads in US where having more than 100hp is actually necessary to avoid constant gear shifting (crappy Mazda Protege/323 with an auto gearbox made that perfectly clear).

You have to admit, you guys have a skewed perception of what a car needs to be in its basic, sensible transportation role. What a car as a play toy/working tool can be/has to be, is perhaps outside of this discussion.

As far as I can discern, the lowest-power car sold in America is the Smart Fortwo Pure Coupe, which has a 1-liter, 3-cylinder, 70-HP engine. Don't take that as gospel, as I might have missed something.

Although I've seen more than one Smart Car here in town, it's still basically a curiosity, and I personally wouldn't like to contend with American traffic in one. And I'm a small-car guy. ("You like go-karty cars," my friend Gabi tells me.) "We" might not be very sensible where basic transportation is concerned, but it's not up to any one person--everyone has to contend with the traffic conditions and the vehicular customs that actually exist. I'll be happy to drive a 50-HP car...just as soon as everyone else does too.



I like the idea of the 2010 Fusion. It's a great car and don't just take my word for it: it won Motor Trend Car of the Year and North American Car of the Year. Vastly improved over the previous version, it's a great value and offers AWD, which along with snow tires really helps one navigate snowy / icy roads which you are no stranger to in Wisconsin. Don't forget to factor winter driving safety in along with crashworthiness -- avoiding an accident is always better.

My recommendation for the AWD Fusion does not come lightly. In fact, i am returning my RWD BMW 328 and getting a Fusion Sport AWD now that we have welcomed our first child into the world. I would not get it if i thought it were unsafe for my family.

BTW, to reiterate another poster's comment: newer cars are generally quite a bit safer than old cars. Crashworthiness (safety structure, crumple zones, torso and head airbags, side-impact beams) and crash avoidance systems (ABS, stability control, AWD) has improved by an order of magnitude over older vehicles. If you want Z to be safe, do not get him an old car!

There is something I do not understand.
Traffic is hell in Moscow, Madrid and Paris [have suffered it]. On those cities you need a zippy car, not a very powerful car.

It is usually a misconception that a powerful car means a more useful car. And the Smart is not really a good example, as it is too short on the wheelbase for long drives, and it does look as if being nervous, even if it is totally allright thanks to the Electronic Stability Programme.

There are quite some FifthGear videos showing how cars behave on accidents. Most of them are very eye-openers.

Do a search, please, for the Volvo 740 vs. Renault Modus frontal crashtest.

It will solve most of the doubts you can have on that regard that a big car means big safety compared to a more modern car.

I don´t understand the reasoning of horsepower, to be honest. The average european car sold is close to 140 bhp. However, you will just do fine over here with the 60 bhp of the current Fiat Panda 1.1 [which can be had as a very satisfactory SUV, eventually, that actually works on the woods]


(Feel free to edit)

If Zander will use your (new/used) vehicle to learn driving, I offer the following observations and suggestions:
1.Size, Safety, and cost:
How much are you willing to pay for safety? Everything else being equal, the physics of cars tell us that larger is safer than smaller; unfortunately, larger is more expensive than smaller; also the latest safety technology is expensive.
2.Experience and technology:
There is a compelling argument for experiencing (and learning to overcome) hydroplaning, skidding on ice, losing traction on turns, and all the other situations in which the driver loses control; but will Zander (or most other drivers) have the desire and opportunity to learn how to deal with those hazards. Perhaps for most of us, the airbags (front and side), ABS, the traction control systems, and other safety systems are useful, if not essential, systems.
3.Computer driving/racing programs are useful for building driving skill and reflexes; but there are still physical skills and habits (e.g. scanning rear view and side mirrors) that can not be learned on the computer. OTOH, the crashes are neither dangerous nor expensive.
4.Try to take the adrenaline out of driving (good luck on this!). Driving requires one's full attention, should be regarded as solely for transportation and uses the family's second most expensive asset (unless you shoot an S2 or mediium format digital). One can control the costs (both personal, social and global) and expenses by driving gently (easy on the accelerator and the brakes), thus maximizing fuel economy and minimizing maintenance expenses.
5.Developing the right attitudes for driving: The challenge to driving (unless you drive INDY cars) is not how fast you can drive, but do you have enough time and space to stop or to avoid an accident in front of you? can you drive so that there is time/space buffer around you so that the probability of an accident is minimized? can you get to your destination minimizing both your costs and your stress (and the stress induced in other drivers)? on the highway, can you predict your traffic situations 10 second ahead of time? can you successfully predict the behavior of other drivers (the followers, the tailgaters, the speedy weavers, the drunk or distracted drivers ) and minimize dangerous interactions with them?
6.Except during Wisconsin winters, can Zander take a bicycle to activities closer than X miles from home?
7.Can you/Zander afford more than $2.00 per day just for the insurance, not to mention the cost and maintenance of an additional vehicle?
(About me: yes I spent many miles/hours driving a daughter to school, lessons and sports In her first months of driving, she backed into our other car coming out of the driveway but in the last 10+ years has had no other accidents. ,For my first mid-life crisis, I got a 7 ft grand piano; for my current (early 60's) crisis, I have so far resisted a desire for a German or Japanese 'Leica' auto; a Tesla at Corolla prices would probably be irresistible!)

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