I just bought a new car. I was going to go buy another Prius, which I've been quite happy with over the past eight years, but they...moved the armrest! In its place now is a metal cup holder. I had visions of hitting my elbow (the not-so-funny bone) over and over again and deeply regretting my choice. And so I test-drove as many cars as I could handle during my summer vacation when I was off from work.
About five cars in, I started to get depressed. I'd used all the right tools to search for safety and reliability, but the only way to get a feel for a car is to drive it. And I was determined to get another hybrid. (After getting 45 miles per gallon on a regular basis, looking at a sticker that says 15 MPG or even 20 is just sickening -- so unnecessary.) And here is the thing: I like to drive. I drive a lot. Utility isn't the only thing I want in a car. I want to enjoy the drive and be comfortable five hours into a road trip. All the cars my teenage daughter's boyfriend (who's a car nut) told me to buy reeked of "boy fantasy," not girl fantasy. I test-drove a BMW just for him. It was OK; I could see why he liked it -- the "pickup" was amazing. But I felt claustrophobic! And 0 to 60, I don't want to be James Bond. Although I do enjoy a good sexy ride and the romance of cars.
My favorite car of all time was a manual Sorrento Green Peugeot 405 mi16. It had the most comfortable seats you can ever imagine and was so freaking fun to drive. I still regret selling it.
In the end, I settled. I gave up a little piece of my soul. Or maybe a better way of putting it is that I bought a grown-up car, and with it, I let go of everything that goes with "fantasy" cars -- the dreams of youth, a sense of fun and adventure. (Well, I didn't give them up, just set them aside for a bit.)
Sure, I could have gotten a Tesla. But honestly, with the type of driving I do and all my kids, it's too risky. I cannot add finding a charging station and waiting for a charge to my list of things to do at this point in my life. And that leads me to the title of this blog post.
If women designed cars, I believe we would combine a lot more practicality with heaps more romance and sex. The idea that women aren't like men in our love of cars is just plain outdated and old-fashioned. In fact, I probably could use another garage, because right now I'm storing my daughter's black 1973 Volkswagen Beetle convertible.
After I bought my new grown-up Toyota Avalon Hybrid (40 mpg), my daughter and I were discussing how we would design a car if we could. So if there are any car designers reading this, please pay attention and let me know because I will buy it if you create it.
My new Avalon is super comfortable and has a "floaty" ride, and I will keep it for now. And maybe I will learn to love it. But here is my daughter and my dream automobile list:
1. Design a car that passes the "purse" test. Every single car I drove failed this one. I carry a big purse, a backpack, or, on weekends, a basket. It has to stay close to the front seat because with keyless ignitions that's where the KEY to the car is these days. Invariably, whoever is in the front seat gets stuck with it at their feet -- so freaking annoying.
2. Armrests. These are key! Comfortable, moveable, and made for short-armed people.
3. A small car with four-wheel drive. I live on a mountain. I worry about the Avalon in snow, which is why I still have a truck. I don't want to get an SUV. Is it possible to get safety and strength without size (just like a woman)?
4. Trash receptacles! In the front for moms and in the back for kids. Seriously, the trash that builds up in cars is disgusting... and I have never seen any carmaker truly acknowledge this in their designs.
5. A refrigerator section in the trunk or back. Or even a built-in cooler. The most "hauling" we do on a regular basis is food shopping. But we have to manage our day around getting home to put the groceries away. Can't make that extra stop because if we do, the popsicles will melt! I know, this is the big dream, but I don't know why someone hasn't figured it out already.
6. Make it BEAUTIFUL. Seriously, every car made these days looks...generic. Dare to be different and FUN. Cars that I enjoy the look of: an old Citroen, a vintage Chevy truck, the old Ford Falcon. Peugeot, please come back to America!
At the end of the day, we do all our research and want the safety and reliability, but what really sells cars is emotion. Love. Desire. Great design. For women, too.
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com