KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 ― I love cars. Everyone who knows me, knows that I’m insanely passionate about all things on wheels. Four on the floor, that is ― for the two-wheeled variety barely registers on my radar.
Unless it’s a particularly rainy day. Wherein I take notice and amuse myself at the sight of motorcycle enthusiasts seeking shelter under overhead bridges while I whizz by in dry, climate-controlled comfort, safe from the harrowing weather bearing down on the poor souls.
But there are things about certain cars that grate on me. And they’re often related to the value proposition. That “bang-for-your-buck” quotient that every motoring hack seeks.
I was asked by a friend of mine, fairly recently, to list down three things that offend me in the motoring world. The topic of conversation was, rather expectedly, his decision to trade in his old Proton for a new set of wheels, and thought it might be a good idea to pick my brain about what he should be considering ― in terms of traits, rather than specific models.
Off the top of my head, over a cup of steaming hot Starbucks, I gave him a short list of my pet peeves of the automotive world. The existence of one, or all, or a combination thereof is almost certainly to result in me giving a resolute thumbs-down to the offending vehicle, even if the rest of the machine warrants some degree of attention.
Great brand, shame about the car
It’s always good to have a desirable nameplate on a car, but all too often, manufacturers get away with selling a nameplate than an actual vehicle that warrants a gold star on its forehead. I once stepped into a Thai-assembled Japanese executive car with a desirable brand on its snout and wondered, for a moment, how this car warranted a 20,000-plus premium over its Korean competition.
Certainly from where I sat, the cabin wasn’t exactly screaming quality at the top of its lungs. Where the Koreans had soft-touch plastics and brushed metal highlights, the Japanese bunged in awkward, orange-tinged fake wood and hard, beige plastics. At some point, I reckon, one simply has to draw the line at how much premium one should attach to a brand and judge a car purely on its own merits.
Yesterday’s technology at today’s prices
You’d be surprised how many cars out there today disguise old technology under present-day clothes. And then have the gall to charge you inflation-adjusted prices for the privilege of driving it.
The moment I spot “4-speed auto” on the spec sheet, I roll my eyes, throw my hands up in the air in protest, and promptly walk away. In today’s day and age, there is simply NO excuse for ANY car to potter along on a 4-speed automatic, two airbags and no form of stability or traction control to speak of ― whilst expecting the better part of RM150,000 in exchange for the privilege.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not averse to sports cars. I reckon the automotive thoroughbreds all have a place in this world. A brisk Sunday drive in a Porsche 911 is a surefire way to blow one’s blues clear into the middle of next week.
What I absolutely detest, however, are everyday cars parading themselves as something “sporty” when they’re clearly anything but. I frown at the sight of bodykits on family sedans. I have the urge to rip off whale-tail spoilers on anything short of a Lamborghini.
And I absolutely hate, with a passion, oversized exhaust pipes. Especially when they’re connected to engines better suited to run lawn mowers than cars. Being “sporty” is more than just expensively tacked on bibs & bobs.
I can name more than a few cars out there that fit the bill on one or all of the above accounts. And when I see one of these being driven, I generally look at their owners with the same look I reserve for the aforesaid motorcyclists seeking shelter from the bucketing rain.
I guess the lesson to be had here is this: You get what you pay for. But at least make sure you’re paying for the RIGHT thing in the first place.