photo credit: via google image search - This is how I imagine myself driving most of the time

A bit of context: I am the primary dropoff/pickup person for both of my kids, who are 1 and 3 currently. On Thursday between the two pickups (of course they go to different schools across town from each other), my car was struggling to make it up hills. It would idle fine, and rev in neutral, but in gear it was having a really hard time. I suspected fuel pump or fuel filter, but again, with both kids I don’t exactly have a lot of leeway for limping my car around. So I called up my parents who live close by and dropped off my car (a manual 2003 BMW 325xi wagon) at a trusted local shop. My parents loaned me their 2006 Volvo XC70, so it was pretty seamless.

The first thing is, I was right, it was the fuel pump. Which is really frustrating because they didn’t have time to look at it until yesterday, and they will fix it today. But the fuel pump is like, a 10 minute job. If I had had 5 minutes to spend diagnosing it properly, probably could have fixed the car on Friday myself. Instead, I’ve been driving a brown 2-ton Swedish tank for 5 days.

pictured: the actual XC70 in question, with my father’s hand-built canoe on the roof. Fact: he cares waaaaaay more about the canoe than the car. Possibly more than his own children.

Which brings me to my next point. I like the Volvo. A lot. Sure, I’ve driven it before and found it to be very... agreeable. But living with the car for 5 days and doing kid duty... it’s perfect. It’s like, 30% bigger than my 3-wagon but it doesn’t really feel like it. Both kids can climb in and out by themselves, like in my car. They can’t both do that in my wife’s X3. It’s not super tall or wide, but damn that trunk area is huge. I’m sure it’s bigger than my wife’s X3 cargo area; no contest versus my 3-er. The interior is nice, the doors make a great sound when you shut them, the controls are easy to reach, logical, and driver-centered. Visibility is good, acceleration is adequate, braking is adequate, handling is... mediocre.

The real problem for me is the transmission. Except I haven’t found it to be a problem! And I am a DIE HARD manual person, like, I’m that guy in the video who is judging others for their inability to drive manual, or even their choice to just get an auto because that’s what was on the dealer lot. But hmm, you know? Driving one every day? Yeah I miss my third pedal, and my left foot twitches like a nervous raccoon every time I come to a stop... but it’s not that bad. I could totally live with this. Even getting on the highway, where I find that it upshifts too early, I started just popping it over to the “manual mode” just to hold it in 4th a bit longer. Then when I’m up to speed I just move it back. While my wife is dying for one of the new XC90s, I think we could save about 90% of the cost and get 80% of the car with a nice, used XC70.

Although I will always prefer a manual, my car choices my be a bit cornered for the next few years with kids, dogs, and all the associated cargo. It’s nice having the extra space, and I think I could learn to love the brown Swedish tank, despite its insistence on shifting my gears for me. The fact that it’s not remotely “sporting” even relaxes me behind the wheel a little, which isn’t a bad thing with two small kiddos chatting in the back. It also helps that there are a billion of these around, so finding a nice used one isn’t hard. I’ll probably still keep the 325 for as long as possible, but if something happened to it tomorrow, I think I know what I’d be looking at.

photo credit: via google image search

If I can wait long enough, maybe I can get a V90.

image credit: via google image search (yeah, wait. why bmwblog?)

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