A.C. Snow

Some cars are just too smart for me – Snow

I should trade for a new car. The Buick LeSabre I drive is 12 years old, although it has traveled only 45,000 miles.

I don’t want a new car. As Professor Higgins in “My Fair Lady” said of Liza Dolittle: “I’ve grown accustomed to her face.”

Well, I’ve grown accustomed to the Buick’s personality and feel.

The Buick is our “second” car. We never drive it out of town. I’ve become attached to its dependability, its feel. It’s like a tried-and-true friend of long standing.

It’s true, it has a dent in the left fender, anonymously inflicted in a Crabtree Valley Mall parking lot. And there is a front-to-rear scratch administered by a 14-wheeler barreling past as I sat at a Glenwood Avenue stoplight recently.

Also, the car’s ceiling cover sags and has to be tacked up from time to time. Sometimes the cooling and heating fan squeaks a bit. And it’s not particularly good on gas mileage.

I would never think of trading cars without consulting longtime friend Glenn Keever, who knows more about cars than anyone I know. He’s as philosophical about cars as he is about people.

“I think you need to assess who you are and what image you intend to convey before you buy a new car,” he advised.

“Oh, posh!” I thought. “I know who I am: a modest, unassuming lowbrow who treats a car like a car, not like a mistress.”

“Your car buying has ranged over the years from Fords and Chevrolets to Oldsmobiles and Buicks,” Keever continued. “Mine has been Fords and Chevrolets to Buicks until I arrived at the Lexus and Audi.

“If you and I had total control of our egos and didn’t care what others thought, we would be driving a Ford or Chevrolet and saving ourselves from $10,000 to $20,000 per car.

“The Honda Accord or the Toyota Camry are fine cars. Both are mid-sized, mid-ego cars. Both are easier to park. Both get better mileage. Both make a lot of sense.

“But they are not big Buicks. And as much as you protest that you are not trying to impress other people, the fact remains that you have bought $35,000 Buicks when there were $27,000 Fords and Chevrolets available with larger engines, more space inside and better gas mileage.

“So do some soul searching. What do you want your car to say about you?”

I argued that I don’t care what it says about me. But he insists that if that were true, I should buy a Ford Focus, which gets 34 mpg in town and 38 on the highway.

I remember once mentioning trading cars in my doctor’s presence. He said that he had recently traded his pickup truck.

“I decided it’s time to go for mileage economy, good performance, low maintenance, looks and respectability,” he said.

“So you bought a Lexus,” I conjectured.

“A Lexus? Are you kidding? I’m a doctor, not a surgeon! I bought a Jetta.”

A part of my aversion to trading cars is coping with all the bells and whistles that come with some of the new models. They’re almost intimidating.

My friend points out that today’s best cars have a navigation system that will not only plot your destination for you, but will also show you a picture of the house or business you are trying to reach.

It will warn you of traffic conditions ahead, suggest an alternate route and show you the nearby restaurants when you get hungry. If the car in front of you slows, your car will slow and then speed up when the leading car speeds up.

You can program the navigation system by voice or by hand. Telephone calls to you are played through the radio, so you never have to take your hands off the wheel to answer. Some warn the driver when his or her cell phone battery is low. If a tire is low, the car will indicate which tire.

I just don’t think I’d feel comfortable driving a vehicle with an I.Q. so much higher than mine. Also, I can’t decide between the $234,000 Mercedes Benz or the $263,555 Ferrari Spider.

Snow: 919-836-5636; asnow@newsobserver.com