Lara-Croft-Tomb-Raider-lara-croft-tomb-raider-the-movies-31975751-450-300And I do think I’m having one. I definitely need a new car — in fact a whole new category of car — for all the reasons outlined here. But I’m realizing my decision-making is not about the car. My decision is being informed by the vision of myself that I suddenly want to be. It’s just getting expressed through the car. Let me backtrack. For all of my driving life, I’ve had safe cars — economical, good gas mileage, not flashy. It started with a Honda Civic and progressed through a series of Priuses. With only a brief period when I drove a company car that was a Lexus SUV, hardly an exciting ride. Then there were the many years when I took public transportation to work. My husband, Andy, has no need for a mid-life crisis, at least as expressed through cars. He’s had a stready stream of muscle and performance vehicles from a Camaro to Jaguars, an Aston Martin, and a series of Range Rovers. Basically, for all our married life, I’ve been off-setting his carbon footprint.

Not any more. Now that I need to get a car that is the antithesis of a Prius, I’m going completely off the rails. Or off the road, as it were. I’m insisting on four wheel drive for what I think are solid reasons. I travel on a variety of roads and increasingly, in more rural places. It doesn’t take more than pulling onto the shoulder of a two lane blacktop to be in what could be termed an “off road situation”. So much for practicalities. There are plenty of safe 4WD choices. The Subaru, for example, has been suggested to me by more than one friend. NEVER. Somehow, in my mind, it’s a Suburban Mom car. And besides, nobody ever had a mid-life crisis and bought a Subaru.

No, I want a car for the Me of my imagination. the Me who takes off at a moment’s notice to scale Half Dome, or mountain bike over Moab or tackle a few of Colorado’s Fourteeners. Not that I have ever done anything remotely approaching those things. Well, I did hike ten miles up and down Black Mountain, which, as the highest peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains, tops out at a lofty 2,812 feet. So who’s to say I couldn’t do those other things. I mean, if I had the right vehicle to get me there.

Which is what has me in love with the JEEP Wrangler Unlimited, specifically the Sahara Edition.

Which is what has me in love with the JEEP Wrangler Unlimited, specifically the Sahara Edition.

This isn’t just a car. This is the vehicle that could take me to that mountain-climbing, slick-rock traversing, all-terrain ME I always wanted to be. Gas mileage and practicality be damned! I want to be the Me I would be if Angelina Jolie were playing me in a movie of my life. Part of me says all I need is the right car. Hell, with this baby, I could even storm Normandy beachhead and liberate Europe if the need arises.

But practicality is my middle name. So I’m still considering options — vehicles that are safer, more appropriate and with better gas mileage. Those of you who don’t live in sprawling California cities like LA or San Diego may not be familiar with the “auto strip” or “auto mall”. Out here, it consists of several miles of multi-lane road that are lined with dozens of automobile dealerships of every kind. Here in San Jose, we have two: Steven’s Creek Boulevard and Capitol Expressway Automall. For the last week or so, I’ve cruised up and down both making dozens of stops into various dealerships to kick tires, check specs and test drive vehicles. These are my deal-breakers: 1) 4WD or all-wheel drive, 2) back seats that fold down flat for lots of cargo space, 3) high profile that puts me visible above traffic, but a relatively compact body that doesn’t make me feel there is a whole theater aisle between the drivers’ seat and the passenger seat. I’m taking criteria 2 very seriously. I’ve had nearly every dealer on both boulevards fold down various seats and load in two terrier crates. Because, terrier transport is paramount. I think I may have to find another auto mall, because I can sense, when they see my Prius pull in, that dealers are running the other way screaming, “That crazy terrier lady is back again!”

Anyway, so far, based on test drives and recommendations of friends, the Audi Q5, the Ford Escape and the Mazda CX-5 are the contenders.

I also sat in one of those Range Rover Evokes. Which I would be nervous about buying given their notoriously expensive cost of maintenance. But damn, Range Rover really does LUXURY.

I also sat in one of those Range Rover Evokes. Which I would be nervous about buying given their notoriously expensive cost of maintenance. But damn, Range Rover really does LUXURY.

Yes, I’ll probably go with something more practical. Certainly, everything I’m looking at gets over 30 MPG which will be less of a shock to my system coming from PriusLand. But the myth of my JEEP driving, Moab-c0nquering dream self dies hard. I still can’t get that Wrangler Sahara out of my system.

Then I stumbled across this little number on the Web. It's the new JEEP Renegade, sort of a Toon Town version of that JEEP I love.

Then I stumbled across this little number on the Web. It’s the new JEEP Renegade, sort of a Toon Town version of that JEEP I love.

Seems the JEEP Renegade has some cool JEEP styling, in a Pixar Cars sort of way, with all those practicality notes — 30+ MPG, safety features, and comfortable ride. It can, apparently, handle much of the off-roading capabilities of its big brothers, except maybe not climbing up Tahoe’s Rubicon Trail or fording more than a few inches of stream. But still, enough for my purposes. Here’s the rub. Although it’s out and a success on the European market, even JEEP dealers or JEEP USA Headquarters can’t tell me when it will be released in the U.S. And can I really make a car purchase decision with this off-roading baby still unroad-tested by me? Luckily, there’s a major auto show coming to San Francisco in the next week or so. JEEP is an exhibitor. I hope this little Renegade is one of the show cars.

My inner Lara Croft can hardly wait.

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