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And Then There Were Two

Car shopping has taken more time than I hoped. Rather than having nothing to blog about, I thought I'd share what I've been up to.

My first test drive was a Monte Carlo SS. It wasn't on my list because it's a coupe. I drove it because the dealership didn't have an Impala SS, but the handling characteristics of the two cars are very similar. They had Impalas, so I could evaluate the interior, but they didn't have an Impala SS so we substituted the Monte Carlo for the test drive.

I enjoyed that test drive a lot. The vehicle was great, a joy to drive. I didn't notice anything wrong with the handling at all. Bumps, cornering, acceleration, all great! I even had fun talking to the salesman (Charlie Campbell, tell him Kyle Markley sent you.) The only trouble was that I wasn't driving the vehicle I wanted to buy. This test drive could only tell me not to buy an Impala, not that I should buy one.

A few days later, I heard that my mother had once avoided an accident on slippery roads because her vehicle had StabiliTrack. After some deep thinking I decided that was a must-have feature, but it's not offered on the Impala, so Impala's off my list. Charlie has the next couple days off; I'll try to think of some way to let him down gently.

My second test drive was a LaCrosse CXS. This test drive disappointed me. I noticed four things I didn't like:

  • The ceiling fabric in front of the sunroof was drooping. It wasn't being held in place by the sunroof rim.
  • The data port is above the accelerator, and I could feel wires with my shoe.
  • I briefly heard a rattle in the climate control system.
  • When I stomped on the accelerator, the car hesitated. And once, the downshift was jarring.

In its favor, it handles wonderfully. Not quite as good as the Monte Carlo, but I expected some Buick personality. The interior is nicely understated, with knobs and fake wood familiar to Buick drivers. I like the whole interior, and particularly the gearshift. Lots of reviews complain about the fake wood; I don't think they understand that that's part of the brand identity.

LaCrosse is advertised as a quiet sedan, and they are not kidding. I left the radio off to listen to the car, and there wasn't much to hear. The engine is quiet. There's almost no wind noise. The road noise on Hwy 26 (the loudest road in the area) was quiet enough that we could talk without raising our voices much, but I had hoped it would be quieter. The salesman said the tires are relatively hard, which likely accounts for much of that road noise.

I liked it. I didn't love it. I was turned off by the problems listed earlier. My emotional reaction to the Monte Carlo was "yay!" but my emotional reaction to the LaCrosse was "well…"

I haven't done a test drive of the Grand Prix GTP yet, but e-mailed to schedule one. Originally it seemed so similar to LaCrosse (they're built on the same platform) that I was unlikely to get one, assuming LaCrosse was superior. I still doubt I'd get one — it projects more "sports car" image than I want — but I'll have to drive one to be sure.

Next steps: Test drive a Grand Prix GTP. Test drive a different LaCrosse CXS to see if the issues I noticed are systemic or isolated.

Tiny Island