Get off my lawn.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Test Drive! Chevy Malibu

I drove a rental car today, a Chevy Malibu. Being into cars and stuff, I couldn't help but notice some aspects of the car. Here's my impression:

It's been awhile since I've driven an GM car. I found it really puzzling. The Malibu is a pretty new model, no doubt released some time after GM realized they weren't selling many cars. So you would expect GM to at least try to make a car that had some kind of appeal to... someone. But I've never seen a car more anonymous, more devoid of personality, more joyless, or as boring at this one, except maybe a Yugo. If this car were ice cream, it wouldn't be vanilla. Vanilla at least has a flavor. If someone managed to make vanilla ice cream and left out the vanilla, that might be more like it.

The interior is fairly, I don't know... A place to sit. That's about the best thing I can say about it. The gear selector sticks up about 14 inches, and looks like it was made out of a recycled curtain rod. The dash appears to be made out of rubber. The seats are covered in some kind of magic fabric that makes you feel sad the instant you touch it. The seats themselves are kind of like some lawn chairs I've sat in. They're seemingly made of fabric suspended between two poles. Most seats have some kind of discernable shape in the back area, but not these. It's just cloth back there. It's not necessarily uncomfortable, but it does feel cheap, and different enough from a normal seat to create a bad impression.

Appearance-wise, this car is so anonymous that I actually walked right up to it, fully aware that I was in the exact spot where I had parked it, and then looked around for it, wondering where the heck it was.

One doesn't typically expect a car like this to be a speed demon, and the Malibu doesn't disappoint. It's not. Acceleration is one of those things you have to really want, in order to get it. A slight push on the gas pedal yields no effect at all. A little more urgency on the pedal causes a slight increase in noise, but no speed increase. You basically have to go to the carpet with it, which results in a slight increase in speed. Some seconds later, you glance at the speedometer, expecting to see something alarming. It says "40". Lame!

Interestingly, the only time you can hear the engine is when you're really punching it in an effort to keep up with, say, a pedestrian walking on the sidewalk beside you. Ordinarily, it makes no sound, which is good, because the sound it does make is unpleasant. Describing sounds in text is difficult, but you can produce the sound of this engine at home, using a few ordinary items and a simple technique. Take the following items:

1. One adult male human
2. A golf ball
3. Duct tape
4. A campfire
5. A metal rod
6. A length of rope

Lay the metal rod in the campfire. Hog-tie the man with the rope. Put the golf ball in his mouth, and tape his mouth shut. When the rod has gotten red-hot, poke the man in the forehead with it. The muffled grunting and pained wheezing you'll hear is similar to the sound of the Malibu's engine.

At some point, you'd think someone at GM would look around and say "Hey, other companies make cars, and people occasionally buy them. Let's buy one too, and see what makes it tick." The general idea is that they might take some of the features they find, and incorporate them into their own cars. Oddly, this car seems like a deliberate attempt to do the opposite. It's as if someone said "Toyota Camry? Let's make the 'UN-Camry'! Everything it is, let's be the opposite! Except the blandness. We should really play that up."

On the plus side, the brakes worked. The power windows were a nice touch. Best of all, the driver's door opened smoothly, and I was able to get out.


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