When you join the CCCManhattan, or are in the process of joining, one of the required steps is an "induction." Aka the "scare you a little bit" speech and the "can you drive stick shift?" test.
During the first part, Jbh gave me the rundown of how to treat the cars, how to drive them, and to have some mechanical sympathy while driving. This is the "Classic" car club after all, and the cars that are over 20 years old do demand some sympathy in your foot.
This is followed by the tales of the damned, crashed club cars because of driver error, usually because of over-hoonage. Among the dead are an F-355 spyder which passed due to understeer, and burned to the ground after hitting a tree; and a couple of Ford GT's, one of which died as a result of no traction control in the rain, and too much zeal - all of them completely totaled.
Once you are properly frightened, they then say, "Ok, let's take a spin around the block." Fearful for a moment that I will have to prove my manual abilities in the CAV GT40 or the Shelby Cobra, we walk over to the Scion and I breathe a sigh of relief. I'm not worried about hurting the car. It's a normal car. It's a toyota. Things don't cost five million dollars if I break them, not that I'm intending to.
Jbh says he's just looking for smoothness, and to treat the drive as if you were trying to make the ride as comfortable as possible for the passenger. As we set off I notice the clutch is ridiculously light. I learned on a c5 corvette which has a fairly heavy clutch so this was odd to me. The test proceeds to go pretty well until I stall twice in a row going over the cobbles on vestry... and run a stop sign. But, luckily I've caught Jbh in a good mood and he considers my infractions minor.
At the end of the test I'm so glad I tested on the scion. It was easy to drive and there was no fear of damaging anything due to other drivers or my incompetence in a brand new car.
It's a few months later and I've already taken out several cars. Charger, Cayman S, BMW M5. I then went on the GM Autogasm and learned that my stick skills were greatly inadequate. I've never owned a manual car, and only learned on my Dad's vette, and until you get that base of driving manual every day, you can't master it. We would change cars every 30 minutes and my clutch action the whole time was horrible. Bumping and jerking my poor passenger around, who was a great sport about it the whole day. The Camaro SS was a shit show, with the most freakish clutch I'd ever driven. I'm used to having more time in a car getting to learn it before going all out, and that did not suit the day well. All we were doing was switching cars constantly and driving the hell out of them. I felt like I needed to work on my stick shift skills, so I decided to take out the scion.
I go to the club, hop in the scion, and start it up. The burble is awesome as the exhaust has been changed to something quite rambunctious. It sounds exactly like an STI. The interior is affordable but still a nice place to be - comfortable and everything in the right place. I go to pick up my co pilot in BK, and stall the car several times in traffic due to lack of gas on take off, which figures since I'm used to corvette torque. Good thing is that the scion starts up quite easily after a stall, and I'm sure nobody notices.
After getting used to the start-stop feel and pickup up my friend, as we head out to my normal route north of the city. On the highway the car isn't too hard on the bumps, and is pretty comfortable. A little more power might be nice, but it's fun winding the four banger all the way out.
In the turns I've never felt a more responsive and better interface in my life. You feel everything through the wheel, and the car wants to oversteer, but the traction does a great job of keeping it in line. Everything feels harmonious. It's fast enough, makes a great noise, loves being revved, and is nothing but a joy.
The whole day in this car was great, and I'd say maybe the most fun just from driving, although the Subaru WRX STI (review to come) was comparable. But there is a main point I'd like to make: The great thing about this car is that I don't have to worry about rubbing a wheel, or hitting a pothole, or some asshole t-boning me. It's a normal car. It's not some supercar monster that can rip my head off in the right circumstances, or that will chuck me unforgivingly into a tree for not respecting it; it's a car that says "come on, hop in, have some fun, and stop thinking for a while." And I like that. Is driving an Jag F-type or Merc SLS fun? Of course it is, but you are always thinking, always aware of the value of what you are driving, and are tense when people get too close, or start to veer into your lane, or tailgate too closely, and are afraid that if you do make some huge mistake, the cost will most likely be significant. Not only that, the thought of having to ever call the club, and tell Zac or Mike that you've sent one of their beloved cars to the grave, like the ferrari or mclaren or god forbid one of their personal cars, like Mike's Brumos Porsche, my fault or not, would sincerely break my heart. I'm not saying that I don't have proper respect for the scion as a car, because I do, it's just nice to be able to take out a car from the club every once in a while, that doesn't scare you half to death, or make you feel like your driving Fort Knox with a steering wheel. It's nice to just... drive.