Print Story My new car buying process goes like this:
Diary
By technician (Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 09:04:03 AM EST) (all tags)
  1. Exhaustive car geekery
  2. Is there a used version? If so, buy it
  3. If not, order the stupid thing.


You European types may be somewhat surprised to hear that we American types...here in the land of the free and home of The Braves...don't have diesel car options from Ford or GM or Dodge / whoever it is that owns Chrysler now. Where you lot have the Ford Kuga (really? really?) and the Chevy Cruz (man these guys have run out of ideas for names) and, well, just about every single Asian, Eurpean, UKian, and American car offered to you have a diesel option, we have the following:
  1. Mercedes has a small SUV with their BluTec urine-scrubbed diesel motor, and an E class that no one can afford.
  2. Volkswagen has the Jetta TDI, the minutes old 2010 Golf TDI, and some small SUV that no one buys.
  3. Audi has the same as VW, but they're all Audi-fied, so the Jetta Sportwagon TDI becomes the A3 TDI, which adds $12k to the sticker.
  4. BMW has a 3 series diesel that the dealerships in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico haven't heard of, though it apparently costs $50k.
  5. I think Jeep still has a crappy 3.something lire diesel option on their crossover Liberty but for fuck's sake who wants a goddamn Jeep?
Now, why would I care about the lack of a diesel? After all, even premium 93 octane fuel (curretly used by my high compression Acura RSX S) is less than $3 a gallon, so the extra economy isn't a huge deal. And the if the Lord wanted me to buy a diesel, He'd guide me to the various incarnations of diesel pickup trucks that range in size from the Ford F-250 Superduty Manly Heavy Duty Extra Duty Ranch Edition Blah Blah to the GM Silverado S4500 with a 23 litre Cummins eighteen cylinder locomotive generator and roughly twelve thousand metric tonnes of torque per square inch. I park under one of those here at work. Me and four other cars.

The thing is, I sort of want a car that doesn't take a lot of resources...not for cash savings, but for karma. Plus I do want to be able to have more than one passenger. I'd kind of like a more grown-up car that still has some of the fun Fast and Furious elements that my RSX has, like a decent suspension and some extra kick from a decent motor. I don't like hybrids; I've driven the Honda / Toyota type and the Ford type, and while the Ford Fusion drives like a real car and has real brakes and makes car noises, it costs $35k before they tack on the "every one of these sells instantly,so let's add $4k to the price" Dealer Greed Fee(tm).

The VW diesel motor has been around since nineteen dickety two, uses a new high pressure common fuel rail and direct injection to make the combustion more thorough (which, in combination with a "re-burn" of the exhaust, removes the need for urea injection to reduce particulate pollution). It is a stout little motor, and has come a long way from its 1.6l 48hp roots. The latest 2l incarnation is offered in EU with up to 170hp, but in the US we get one option: the 140hp 2.0l turbo version. It was the easiest motor to make 50 state emissions legal. In this base form, it makes as much torque as the base Ford F-150 pickup truck.

And that's the kicker for me. The torque on these motors makes them feel more powerful than they are. The power is available in places you need it: starting off and overtaking. Actually, torque is what makes a hybrid at all interesting, since electric motors make all of their torque from 0 rpm. The diesel isn't quite that crazy but the available powerband is wide and flat. Unlike my current car, you can't rev a diesel to 9200rpm. Unlike my current car, you don't need to.

In this and every other TDI, the fuel economy and emissions are stellar. The car is EPA rated at 30 city, 42 highway. The EPA ratings for gasoline cars are normally optimistic and unlikely. Apparently for diesels the numbers are pessimistic and highly likely; in Canada and Germany, this car gets the equivalent of 38mpg for the city cycle, and up to 53 on the highway. That's pretty decent for a car that uses million year old technology and runs on dead dino goo.

That motor plus the latest Mark 6 Golf chassis (which is, from what I've read, a serious improvement over the Mk V) sounds ideal. And, after tax title license and etc, the cost is $28k.

The problems: VW has had a reputation for dodgy quality in the last ten years, though for the last few they've been improving. My co-worker's 04 Passat has more problems than any modern car not made in the UK or Russia. It scares me a bit to go from Japanese precision to German process improvements.

Also, this is a low-priority car for the US market. I have to order one, and the way VW does orders is screwey. You don't order the car from the factory. They allocate a certain amount of cars to each dealer in a year...say, 10 Golf TDIs for the dealer that I'm using. The dealer submits a work order requesting the base car (plus any factory-only options, like the xeon headlamps and the sunroof) in the color I want. The factory doesn't go out of their way to make the car, the order just sits, queued. At some point in their factory cycle, VW will make one (or more) of this color and factory option combination. They will pull one for my dealer and ship it over. If he's over his allocation, they will ship it to another dealer to receive, who will then sell it to my dealer or trade for any outstanding cars that they may need. Crazy. I'm used to the more traditional approach of: you order the car, the factory finds a line making damn near that car, they add a rider with your options. They make the car, ship it to the dealer, he adds dealer options, and voila, a new Acura or Mazda or Ford.

Ultimately this means that when I put my money down today, the car may or may not show up in six to ten weeks. That instant gratification thing is not an available option. Unless I want a gasoline-fueled GTI that gets the same gas mileage as a 1976 Malibu.

The whole process, though, of narrowing down what I wanted vs, the hard requirements was a pain. My wife requirements: at least 30mpg city, under $30k, and it would be nice if it were at least a sedan. She expressed no opinion at all about any other aspect of the car, which drove me slightly crazy. There at the end of my process I asked her, hey, is this the car you want?  "I don't care," she said, emphatically.  "I really don't."  So I proposed that, since she didn't care, I should just get a Honda S2000 and call it a day. That stinging response failed since she had no idea what I was talking about.

It is supremely annoying, though, when you know that at the back end of this major purchase, the person who has no opinion or interest is going to scrutinize every aspect of the thing, and blame you for every possible wrong. That's the bitch of it, and why I am reluctant to buy a car at all.

But then I look at the pros and cons for my current car. Pros: quick, handles like it is on rails, makes fantastic noises, scares kids and old people, becomes an empathic part of my person when the conditions are right, and recently had $620 worth of work to add to the $3k worth of suspension brakes and tires in the last 24 months.

Cons: see above in re: work. I drive it hard. It will eventually get me killed. It holds only 2 adults with room in the back for the dogs. It gets 22mpg at best unless I'm on a steady highway run, where I get 32mpg. The worst I've seen is 16mpg (this week, due to high speed Batmobile-style craziness and the need for a new air filter). It is noisy, and it is not the car for someone with a bad back. I think I've outgrown it. It is a kid's car.

So, the new family truckster: a 4 door hatchback 2010 VW Golf TDI. Has just enough suspension, brakes, and floppy paddle shifters to trick me into thinking it is a real car, yet enough blandness and economy to satisfy my wife's lack of care. NICE. At least it'll have an iPod jack.

< Network design fail | Middle aged man dealing with mid life crisis >
My new car buying process goes like this: | 38 comments (38 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
did you order it by StackyMcRacky (4.00 / 1) #1 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 09:22:43 AM EST
or can you just get one?  instead of ordering, i can point you to a dealer that might already have one.

re: VW kwality - do not confuse the gassers with the diesels.  while the gas engines have literally been falling apart, the diesels don't have that problem (historically). 

and finally, check out Fred's TDI Club and find out who they recommend as a mechanic.  you DO NOT want the dealer working on your car.  surprisingly, they don't know how to work on their own diesels.

Replying since I can't top post by barooo (4.00 / 1) #4 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 09:41:00 AM EST
The VW TDI engine is awesome.  Much like the BMW K75 motorcycle engine, it's carved from a single pure flawless block of WIN.

The A4 platform, that my '03 Jetta is built on not quite as much, but it's pretty good.  I don't like the looks of the newer gen (either jetta or golf), but I've heard nothing but praise for the mechanicals, and they've grown on me somewhat.  Still think they look like a corolla got it on with a late model BMW.  When I got mine, I wanted a golf, but you couldn't get a golf with diesel and leather seats.  I require leather seats and a standard shift.

I would pay whatever they're asking for another one, when that time comes, assuming you can still get a standard transmission, or if I absolutely must some sort of DSG.  I'm hoping that time doesn't come for a long time, I'm at 108,000 miles on mine and plan to drive it until it's worth less than a full tank of fuel.  Best car I've ever owned, hands down, nothing else is even in the same ballpark.  If I made enough money to afford a $50,000 car I'd get the BMW 335D.

+1 on the TDI club recommendation, it's a great site.



man, i need a beefy taco now.
-gzt
[ Parent ]
So far by technician (2.00 / 0) #7 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 10:00:48 AM EST
they seem to have a 6 speed manual option, but the dealers I've spoken with (about ten so far) all say they'd have to order it special, even once they start to stock them. That being said, the latest DSG firmware is pretty awesome; I drove a gasoline-powered 2010 Golf with the DSG and it read my mind.

Also I forgot to mention the interior...the whole reason we didn't get the Jetta TDI was that it only offers a Plether / plastic / rubber interior. Here in central Tx, a plastic seat is a killer. The Golf TDI has cloth only, and that fits the resource requirement: no animals had to die to make the interior of the car. I don't think I'll miss leather for now.

[ Parent ]
The 2010 Golf TDI by technician (2.00 / 0) #6 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 09:57:56 AM EST
just came out minutes ago. So the dealerships in Texas, NM, and Oklahoma (I tried Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, El Paso, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Oklahoma City, and a few small towns) don't have them.  Well, I take that back: the Austin dealer had one, but it had zero options.  I'm OK ordering one to get what I want.

But yeah, the motors are bulletproof. Thanks for the TDI Club lead!

[ Parent ]
there's a place in PA by StackyMcRacky (4.00 / 1) #16 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 01:16:44 PM EST
that gets all the best TDIs.  it's the #1 TDI dealer in the country.  so, they might have what you want, but it's in PA.

[ Parent ]
Dammit. by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #2 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 09:29:02 AM EST
Now I want one. Unfortunately, there's absolutely no justification for us to get a new car. We put less than 10K miles a year on our two cars combined, and mine is just four years old. I'd love to have something really fun to drive again, but then again, around here, where would I have room to really open it up? Maybe some day...
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
When are you buying the bike? by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #8 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 10:05:49 AM EST
The Bonnie, that is.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
*sigh* by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #19 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 01:36:14 PM EST
I think I'm going to use the Bonnie money to redo my kitchen. And possibly buy a road bike. I still have the Bonnie's picture on my bulletin board at work, though, as motivation. Or something.
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
But the old kitchen is perfectly fine! by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #20 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 01:37:24 PM EST


Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
No, not so much by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #21 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 03:10:55 PM EST
If only for the esthetic value of having the interior walls covered with several types of exterior surfaces. Really. The shingled wall has to be seen to be believed.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
iGrrrl's partly right. by toxicfur (4.00 / 2) #23 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 04:16:20 PM EST
But I could live with the interior if the appliances and the layout were better. My stove only has 3 burners that work, and of those really only one can be adjusted properly for those low-temp kinds of things. The fridge is probably 30 years old, and so it's a power hog, and I'd like something with a bit more freezer space (we also need to get a chest freezer, but that's another story). The countertops are fine (if dated), but the way they're laid out, there's basically no way that ana and I can work together in the kitchen without stumbling over one another. We had a small kitchen fire a while back, and that took out the exhaust fan over the stove as well as the light in the oven. Oh, and I'd like an oven that doesn't have the broiler separate from the rest of the oven (actually, I'd prefer to have two ovens, stacked.

So while I hate the linoleum, and I'd like to brighten up the room with paint (and no shingles), and investigate the possibility of making a pass-through to the dining room if the wall isn't part of the structural support.

Regardless of how much we end up doing, it's going to be a big job, and I honestly think I'd use and enjoy the kitchen far more than the Bonnie.
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
what I learned recently about linoleum by infinitera (4.00 / 1) #27 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 06:50:19 PM EST
It can be partly asbestos. And then nobody except abatement companies will touch your floor. We're redoing our kitchen (it's the original that was in this house built in 1950, and had almost no counter or cabinet space), and we thought it would be done this week. Now we're waiting for state approval for the abatement company to begin work on the 18th to remove the 30% asbestos linoleum.

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
Jesus Christ. by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #33 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 08:20:12 PM EST
I don't think our linoleum is old enough to be asbestos-filled, but I'll keep that in mind... I strongly suspect we have hardwood floors underneath the linoleum, and if so, I'll pull it up myself and hire somebody to redo the floors (all of them through our house need to be refinished).

Good luck! It sounds rough....
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
I helped a friend do that a few years ago. by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #38 Sat Nov 07, 2009 at 04:44:15 PM EST
We put on the suits and goggles and face masks (good ones, with removable filters) to pull up the asbestos laden flooring, wrapped it in plastic, and dropped it in the landfill. If we'd gotten caught we might have gone to jail, or at least had serious fines. But we saved several weeks and several thousand dollars.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
if you don't care by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #3 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 09:35:29 AM EST
and offer no or only limited input, you forfeit the right to criticize in any way.

This applies to what to eat/where to go for dinner,  plans to make for vacation/weekend/getaways, where to live, what to drive, etc. It's a life lesson.

repeat ad nauseum. Maybe it'll sink in.

(that being said, her requirements were well stated: price, fuel economy are my two biggest. Next is comfort for long drives. Now once we started test-driving, I freely gave my feedback on things I never thought about etc..)

True, by technician (2.00 / 0) #9 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 10:08:07 AM EST
her requirements were right up front, but to not have any opinion outside of that is pretty annoying.

But I think she'll like the car. She'll also probably be the first to put gasoline in it instead of diesel, since she's already nearly put diesel in her truck....

[ Parent ]
been driving TDIs since '00 by clock (4.00 / 1) #5 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 09:44:02 AM EST
love 'em.  up north, where they can gel if you don't know your chemistry, they can be a bite in the arse but i wouldn't want anything else.  i get 49-51 mpg but i'm all highway all the time.  stacky, who is all surface all the time, gets closer to 45.

and what she said.  the gassers have huge quality issues.  the TDIs haven't been anywhere close.  and you'll love the hatchback if you ever have to haul something.  i'm shocked by what i can do with it.


I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

They had a demo by technician (4.00 / 1) #10 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 10:09:38 AM EST
recently in...I forget where. But VW took a TDI and froze it in a block of ice, then started it.

The cold weather package includes a pre-heater for the fuel rail. This means that their 10 percent biodiesel limit may be artificial, but anything more than 10 percent voids the ol' warranty, apparently.

[ Parent ]
nice feature! by clock (4.00 / 1) #11 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 10:38:15 AM EST
biodiesel eats seals according to our mechanic (a pro-bio guy).  so far that's the only knock i've heard for BD.

you'll be please, methinks.


I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
Better than clubbing them. by ambrosen (4.00 / 3) #12 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 10:54:18 AM EST
No, wait, I mean, it only eats natural rubber ones.

[ Parent ]
i was gonna say by clock (4.00 / 2) #13 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 10:57:48 AM EST
nothing beats clubbing them.  you need that visceral feedback and...wait.  cars?  huh?


I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
Not the biodiesel itself by Vulch (4.00 / 1) #15 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 12:06:10 PM EST
Or not exactly, it's the residual methanol from processing that chomps down seals like an Orca near drift ice. Replacement seal kits made from more resistant materials are available.


[ Parent ]
as i found out by StackyMcRacky (4.00 / 1) #17 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 01:18:13 PM EST
more than 10% biodiesel trashes the seals.  tis why my fuel lines took on so much air it wouldn't start.

[ Parent ]
what about the non-engine bits? by infinitera (4.00 / 1) #14 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 11:52:32 AM EST
Electrical and so forth. Previously VW used to be pretty unreliable there and need a lot of upkeep. Not the case anymore?

(I only ask because I have 150k on my 2000 Accord, and it doesn't need anything non-routine done)

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
some parts have issues by StackyMcRacky (4.00 / 2) #18 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 01:19:44 PM EST
others do not.  our cars have been totally solid, as long as we keep up with the routine maint, only a few issues (like door locks dying int eh jetta).

[ Parent ]
That's what I'm curious about. by technician (4.00 / 1) #25 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 04:30:18 PM EST
This car that I just ordered has a hell of a lot of electrically controlled things. Steering, throttle, DSG tranny, touch screen stereo....

My RSX is a motor, four wheels, and the truth.

So this should be pretty...interesting. But I have a warranty on this one. I got my RSX used, and had a warranty for 12 months, but that doesn't cover new suspension, tires, brakes, and two complete sets of motor and transmission mounts over two years....

[ Parent ]
I'm disappointed.. by infinitera (4.00 / 1) #28 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 07:22:08 PM EST
That the TSX diesel (JDM/Euro Accord) never made it over here - something like 45 city/60 highway mpg.

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
Yes. by technician (4.00 / 1) #29 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 07:56:39 PM EST
That was the car I was waiting for. When they scrapped it, I was mildly upset. I'd reprint the letter I wrote to Acura here, but it just makes me sound like a brand slave douchebag.

[ Parent ]
I endorse your letter, sight unseen by infinitera (4.00 / 1) #31 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 08:09:31 PM EST

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
*cough*hybrid*cough by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #22 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 03:12:48 PM EST
We have two, and I love them. The SUV gets 35 city. The sedan can get 50 if you drive for it.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

Hybrids by technician (4.00 / 1) #24 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 04:16:49 PM EST
don't drive like a car. The Prius has bizarre brake feel and strange wind-up. It feels like a remote control car being driven by satellite.

Stepping directly from my car to a Prius was a very, very strange thing. Doing the same from my car into a TDI was like an upgrade: tons more torque, rev-macting downshifts, and amazing brakes.

[ Parent ]
Awesome. by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #26 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 04:36:29 PM EST
It feels like a remote control car being driven by satellite.

To me (as a rider - I've never driven one), it feels like something from a SF B-movie (or show, like, say Babylon 5). It's very retro-futuristic, somehow.
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
What I hope for by technician (4.00 / 1) #30 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 08:00:05 PM EST
at some point is this:

You climb into your electric car (which is a low coefficient of drag high torque 80 mile charge 300 horsepower capable thing) and slide into the recycled cloth seat.

You insert your smartkey.

It contains a nice little software profile that says:

This user wants this car to behave like a 2009 Ferrari F430 Scuderia.

Since every major control surface and feedback mechanism (sound of motor, throttle, brakes, steering, acceleration curve, etc etc) is controlled by software, the car hunkers down...

....digs in.....

and tries to kill you.

[ Parent ]
That sounds absolutely perfect. by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #32 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 08:12:32 PM EST
You're a smart guy -- why don't you get on that project? ;)
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
They drive like a go-cart by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #35 Sat Nov 07, 2009 at 07:30:06 AM EST
A very fast go-cart. The hardest thing for me to get used to was the CVT. There is no shifting, I don't find the brakes to be strange, but then, to me a car is transportation, and I'm much more interested in efficiency and reliability than rev-macting downshits.

Don't get me wrong. I miss driving a manual transmission, and I loved my diesel Rabbit, back in the day...

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
CVT is cool, and not limited to hybrids only.. by infinitera (4.00 / 1) #36 Sat Nov 07, 2009 at 07:56:39 AM EST
It was just more capable of dealing with less oomph.

The newer CVTs in Subaru, Mitsubishi, and Nissan models seem to narrowing that gap for larger engines.

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
Who wants a <redacted> Jeep? by riceowlguy (4.00 / 1) #34 Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 09:55:07 PM EST
I do.  I think an old used Jeep Cherokee Laredo like one of the baristas at my favorite local Whorebucks has might be the perfect solution for my desire for a second vehicle appropriate for fishing, camping, and, since July, hauling something like a Melges 17 around.  I'm open to suggestions though; talk me out of it.

Well the biggest thing is by technician (4.00 / 1) #37 Sat Nov 07, 2009 at 10:41:30 AM EST
they're built poorly. The parts they're built from are poor quality.

Every Jeep I've known of has had major issues, and not necessarily related to the way they are driven. I had a roommate once with a Cherokee, and all I did was drive him to and from work for the better part of a year.

Find an old Land Cruiser, like an FJ40. Or an old Bronco. Or an old International Harvester Scout. Or a new-ish Ford F150. Or any Mazda or small Ford pickup. Or any Toyota pickup. Toss a camper shell on it, and voila. Or an older 4Runner, like a 1990s model. Or or or

[ Parent ]
My new car buying process goes like this: | 38 comments (38 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback