There are two reasons why you have to get a loaner vehicle: Either you're far away from your own car, or something's happened to said car and it's in the shop. Chances are, if something's happened to your car, you aren't in good shape, either. Thus, an ouch loaner is in order.
Recently, I smacked into another vehicle quite hard. Official diagnosis: a stretched-out tendon in my right wrist, a combination of neck and back injuries that fit under the all-encompassing term "whiplash" and a very mild sprain in my right ankle.
Obviously, different injuries have different needs, but for my specific set of mostly-right-side ouchies and boo-boos, a Porsche would have made a perfect ouch loaner.
The worst injury of mine is the wrist. Because one of my tendons isn't holding a couple of the bones in my wrist together very well, the whole thing's been immobilized in a hard cast so I can't bend my wrist at all. Also, the tendon that's sprained really, really hurts if I have to pull or grab onto things.
The combination of those two problems is enough to make simple driving-related tasks incredibly difficult when you can't angle your arm into its usual positions or squeeze things for an extended period of time.
Solution? Get a 997.1 GT3 RS.
Now, I haven't driven one while I've been injured, but I have in the past and my impressions of the cars I've driven have convinced me that I'd really much rather be in a GT3 RS.
(See? It's totally extra safe.)
Two different ouch loaners I got — a Camry and a Jetta — were both so numb in steering and braking that they were honestly a bit scary to drive. I'm paranoid about these things because the brakes I installed to take a 3,100-lb FWD Lancer down from triple-digit speeds so that it would actually turn into a ninety-degree left-hander weren't enough to defy physics and keep me from hitting a car that surprise!!!-turned in front of me during my lunch break.
Perhaps the paranoia is a bit unfounded, but I like to feel what's going on with my own car. I shouldn't have to pound on the brake pedal to get the only feedback I can via the weight of the vehicle shifting forward into a nose dive. I like my brakes to have an immediate bite when I'm on the pedal, and I like my steering to have some weight and feeling to it so that I can actually recognize what I'm driving over, what kind of surface I'm on and how fast I'm going.
Given that one arm is hurt and incapable of gripping things very well for long periods of time, the best kind of steering for my injured wrist would have to be both light as well as on a relatively short rack. Enter: a Lotus.
"Can you help me move my Exige?" is not an question I would ever say no to, so that's another car I got to drive while injured.
The ride would have been a bit too rough for me to handle immediately after my accident, but the steering was a total dream. It was light and quick enough to move easily without a lot of arm input, which was perfect since my dominant hand is the one that's injured and my non-dominant left hand is tired from picking up the slack of my right arm being a bit useless. The little Lotus's steering wheel communicates a ton of feedback about what the front wheels are doing while the lack of weight over the front wheels keeps it from ever feeling heavy or hard to move.
The manual transmission was even surprisingly easy to drive with a cast. I was able to shift the knob with little effort (and most importantly, little grabbing) using the pit between the edge of my cast and my right fingers. The clutch was on my non-injured foot, so that was a non-issue.
Due to the pain I was experiencing using a mouse with my computer, I can't say that I would have had as easy a time squeezing a dual-clutch transmission's set of paddle shifters. Chalk up one more reason to get a manual, fanboys: if you bork your wrist, it'll hurt less.
A true automatic or CVT may seem ideal in this situation, but the simple task of getting those into gear usually requires more effort than shifting a manual into first. You often have to press a button to unlock it or guide it through a complicated series of openings. Again, squeezing and pressing anything is a little painful until my wrist heals. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
I'd driven a car with fairly light but communicative steering before, but with a stable, comfortable ride that would be easily tolerated by an aggravated back — and that was a GT3 RS.
Think about it: there's no engine in the nose, so the steering is lighter than you'd expect, but still has ample feedback so that you still feel like you're in control. Its brakes, too, are firm and communicative, and they even shake the rump of the car a bit under really hard braking. The ride quality is surprisingly forgiving for what the car is, as the suspension does a marvelous job of soaking up bumps that would be a nuisance in other cars.
Even the bucket seats are comfortably shaped and just padded enough to be supportive, but not so much as to be a lumpy couch. The lack of an overly forward leaning headrest is a huge plus. Far too many modern cars have a headrest that leans sharply forward, forcing me into a Mr. Burns-style slouching posture - -but not the GT3. They must have assumed that track nerds in helmets and/or writers with back and neck injuries would be riding in this vehicle.
The 997 GT3 RS's clutch is quite heavy, but that's not the foot I injured, so who cares? As far as my right foot goes, the injured ankle actually felt better stretched out than it did curled up. This would actually fit the last-gen GT3s quite well, as lifting mid-turn will spin you around backwards and kill you.
Perhaps the most irritating part of having an injury to my right wrist is that I can't really turn on my own car when the ignition is on the right side. I've had to awkwardly reach over with my left hand just to be able to grab and twist the key when it's mounted on the right side of the steering wheel.
This is why a Porsche is a must: with the exception of cast-offs from Audi's parts bin, they tend to put the ignition on the left — on the side of my good hand. It's a holdover from Le Mans starts, but it's perfect for my little problem.
Why, specifically, the 997.1 generation, then? Because they come in a combination of fabulously easy to see colors.
One thing I got a little jumpy about after my accident was the thought that other cars might not see me and hit me again. Aaarrrghhh. So, of course, the standard grey loaner color doesn't help. I need a car so radioactive in hue that it would make Dusty Ventures blush.
Between Ninja Turtle snot green and "we paint things this color so you won't hit them" orange, the 997.1 OEM color palette offers plenty of choices for colors that are less likely to camouflage themselves into the roadway.
So, there you have it: if you're hurt, you should find a car that works around your injuries. If those injuries are primarily on your right side in left-hand-drive-land, get a Porsche — a really, really bright one.
Photo credits: Nugget (black/orange RS)