work and life both conspired over last weekend to provide me with the opportunity to rent two cars back to back for somewhat extended driving periods. friday saw me getting into a qx30 and taking a one way drive across my lovely home state of tennessee and then saturday was a rental of a premium ecoboost mustang convertible for a weekend roundtrip drive to chicago.

while i’m not necessarily a competitive dude, where every situation calls for a winner and a loser, i thought i’d share my thoughts comparing them anyways.

the german/japanese ‘axis of hatchback’

pros:

  • color me surprised but the qx30 was pretty damned fun to drive. it had a really nicely weighted steering (if a bit dead feeling) and packed quite an immediate punch when you dropped the hammer down.
  • even with 208hp/258tq in the lil hatch, it didn’t seem like it would naturally be a ton of fun on the road. but lo and behold the car felt light, lithe and ready to dance.
  • the seating was extremely comfortable and the hatch had a decent amount of room.
  • the mercedes bits including perhaps my favorite solution to a cruise control stalk and the mercedes door mounted seat adjusters were not just there, but also appreciated.

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cons:

  • the center display looked like something out of my atari 2600. pixelate much?
  • no navigation on whatever model this was that the rental company bought. that’s right - no nav. on a ‘luxury’ marque.
  • the backseat of this four door car would have absolutely not fit anyone of adult stature behind me, and i’m only 5'10" - with a propensity to sit a bit closer to the wheel and more upright than most.
  • and finally the styling... well. it has lines. and those lines swoop a lot. and... i’m glad that we seem to be heading out of this ‘kodo’ design era for japanese cars. though, if honda has anything to say about that we might not be headed in much better of a place, but i digress.

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‘murica’ with a droptop

pros:

  • while i would never want to own a convertible, man if it isnt nice to drive one with the top down when the weather is just right.
  • the drivers seat is very adjustable and the front cabin is dang spacious.
  • when you catch it in the right conditions, its hauls a lot of ass.
  • she’s pretty good looking.

cons: whoo boy, where to i start?

  • first off the biggest disappointment with the whole car is that awful 10 speed transmission. in ‘comfort’, it tries to play a wonderful game of lets get you into the gear closest to your shoe size before you get to 25MPH. in ‘sport +’ it hesitated at launch the way that sarah sanders does when someone asks her if she enjoys her job. it constantly hunted and picked out what gear it wanted to occupy in the most noticeable manner that it possibly could. frankly i’m surprised that a major car manufacturer teamed with another major car manufacturer, poured a metric ton of money into developing a transmission, put it into one of their halo products and allowed this to be the result. shocking, really.
  • the simulated engine noise was pretty annoying until you dropped the top down and had outside noises to drown it out.
  • related to the transmission, i’m sure - but it wasn’t that there was turbo lag, per se, but rather everything just took an extra long time to actually happen, from pushing down on the go pedal to the car thinking about what gear to drop to, to the enging revving and spooling the turbo, and then.... finally... you get... GOING! having recently owned the pariah of the MOAR POWER NEEDED fanboi club (subaru brz), at least that had immediacy in delivering what it had even though it didn’t have a lot to give. this was a very opposite problem of knowing that there’s a bunch there, but having to really work pretty hard to get at it at all.
  • speaking of my old brz, spotting 2 feet in length to the ‘stang you’d think that the rear seats would be more useful in said ‘stang. and you’d almost be right, except not in any appreciable way to make a real tangible difference. just like in the twin, you shouldnt sit there unless the drive is less than 2 miles long or you have no legs. or arent over the age of 5.
  • it. feels. like. you. are. driving. a. boat. a big one at that.

the verdict?

i REALLY expected to enjoy driving the ‘stang more than the qx30. not only because i’ve owned a mustang in the past and have a soft spot for detroit muscle but also because MOAR HORSEPOWERS. but to be honest, if i were to pick out the one that i’d consider the better driver’s car id pick the front wheel drive crossover/hatch over the rear wheel drive bastion of american muscle. it felt all of 80% of the speed with 200% of the connectedness to the road and 50% of the perceived size and heft. honestly, i wouldn’t throw either one out of my driveway if really forced one way or another but that’s the surprising result.

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till next time...