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My new ride

For all but about 1 month of our 12.41-year marriage, Erin and I have maintained a one-car family. In Berkeley I rode the bus and Erin commuted to work. In Hawaii, I walked 0.8 miles to work in the beautiful Manoa Valley, while Erin drove Owen to day care, swim practice and to the beach. In Pasadena, I'm fortunate to live only about 2 miles from work, and for the first 2 years I rode my bike or walked to/from work.
Jeez, I never before noticed how much dust there was on my car!
However, Marcus now attends preschool near Caltech 3-4 times a week, and will soon go full-time. It's difficult for Erin to drive one direction to pick up Owen from school and then double back during dinner-prep time to pick up Marcus and me from Caltech. Sure, if I were a better person I'd ride my bike with Marcus in a Burley trailer. But that would add about 1 to 1.5 hours of commute time to my day, taking away time from work and/or basketball. Not to mention arriving to work all sweaty.

Okay, okay. This is all just a litany of excuses for me to get a new car. Not that these excuses aren't valid, but Erin and I also have that good ol' liberal guilt hanging over our decision: to buy a second car or not to buy a second car? In the end, we did the LA thing and I decided to buy a second car. And dammit, liberal ideals aside, I love cars. I always have. I know reliance on fossil fuels is bad for national security, and burning those fossils is bad for the environment. But that's not gonna make me give up my subscription to Car & Driver magazine, nor is it going to keep me from lusting after the latest high-revving sports coupe.

So I began my research into a new car last Fall. My goal was to maximize along several dimensions: price, practicality (useable space, four doors over two), build quality, fuel economy, and driving enjoyment. For the latter two criteria, a manual transmission is a must. Oh how I miss the slick-shifting five-speed in our old Acura Integra GS-R sedan! That car would just whisper "Red-line, red-line!" in my ear on every freeway onramp. And I would nearly always oblige, flooring it in second as the engine screamed its way up to 7900 rpm. What a rush.

An Acura Integra GS-R Sedan, just like the one we had in Berkeley. Oh Paddy, we miss you so.
For the price and quality factors, a Honda is a must in my opinion. Maybe Nissan or Toyota. But Toyotas tend to be pretty bland in the fun-to-drive department, and it's hard to argue for any Nissan model over the equivalent from Honda, except for the 350Z, for which Honda's S2000 is close, but no cigar. But I decide against the high insurance premiums, high costs, crappy fuel economy and limited passenger space of a sports car like the 350Z.

That led me to the Honda Accord Coupe V-6. Because new models run about $30K, I decided to hunt around for a used model (2008 or 2009). But finding a manual transmission is extremely difficult, even in the huge Los Angeles used car market. Or perhaps it is because of LA traffic concerns that getting a stick was especially difficult.
A 2009 Honda Accord Coupe, which I came *this* close to buying
After a month of searching, I finally located a model via in Glendale. So one Sunday the family packed up the Mazda 5 and headed over to check it out. Sadly, I found out that they sold it two days prior and hadn't taken it off of their listing. Cue sad trombone.

On our way off of the lot, Owen exclaimed "Daddy, what's that car?!" He was pointing to a cherry red two-door Honda Civic Si. I replied, "That, son, is a Civic Si. It's a pocket rocket." Owen giggled at the rhyme and ran up to take a closer look at the car. It looked like this:

The Honda Civic Si Coupe

It was definitely a sweet ride. But upon closer inspection, the back seat was a bit cramped, and the boys had a difficult time clambering over the front seats to get into the back. But it did remind me why I love the Si version of the normally humble Civic.

Then, the salesman pointed out a black Civic Si Sedan further back in the lot.

My 2013 Honda Civic Si Sedan
We all climbed in (easily through the four doors) and took it for a test drive. While the new Civic Si isn't as much of a screamer as the previous generation 8000-rpm model (redline is now at 7000 rpm), the large motor generates more low-end torque and slightly more power. I was able to get the tires loose during the first-to-second gear change. The dealer smiled knowingly, and Owen and Marcus exclaimed, "Daddy, this is a race car. You should get this one!"

So I did. That car pictured above is my new ride. Marcus loves riding in the Race Car from preschool, and Owen enjoys running errands with me. Last night on the way to get Thai take-out, Owen and I experimented with launches with the traction control turned off on the Raymond Ave. "Daddy, what's that smell?" he asked. "Son, that's tire smoke," I replied with a huge grin on my face.

Red-line whispers, in LED format
I absolutely love this car. In traffic I can just leave it in second gear and the 170 lb-ft of torque pull easily and smoothly at low revs (our Integra only had 124 lb-ft, way up at 5200 rpm). Around town, I can skip-shift from first to third to fifth and get 28-29 mpg. However, my 1000-mile average is only 24.5 mpg because I can't resist the red-line whispers. Merging onto the highway is exhilarating. This car is an absolute hooligan anywhere past 4000 rpm. The dash has a little line of four amber lights that march across as the revs rise. The manual transmission is like butter, with a positive snick-snick when changing gears (although I have to admit that I still haven't figured out how to go from fifth to sixth smoothly). And, oh! It corners like it's on rails. Off ramps are as much fun as on ramps!

So there you have it. Fun on four wheels. If you see me in your rear-view mirror, move on over to the right, would ya?


Enoch Ross said…
Wow, maintaining a single car for a long time requires you to be diligent, so I commend you for that! Sooner or later though, it is inevitable to get a second car especially if you have a family. Nice to know you got a spectacular car! Good going, John!

Enoch Ross

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