It's time again to take advice from a man who you probably wouldn't trust to clean out your dryer lint trap (mostly because of fire risk and proximity to your underpants)! We didn't have quite as many questions for this week, but I think we have a solid one.
Last week on Check The Dipstick we had some good debate over the teaching of the exquisite art of stick-shiftery to a friend. This week we have a question from Travis, a family man/gearhead who's stumped trying to pick his next car:
This is one of those "what car solves my problem" questions. Just so you know where I'm coming from, my daily driver is a hard-top S2000 and the family car is a 2008 535xi wagon that we've had for about three years. The trouble I've got is that I want a capably performing RWD or AWD CAR but our three kids are getting bigger and they fight like cats tied together on our quarterly 600 mile treks from NC to the great flatness that is Iowa.
Everything I look at either has a back seat with a disqualifying middle hump like our current car or is suspended for the Geritol generation.
To illustrate the depths of my desperation, I test-drove a used funeral car last week. I've also considered throwing a couch in a U-Haul trailer but that's only legal in Indiana.
Travis, I feel ya. You're sort of trapped in a void that most automakers don't really know how to or care to serve well: three rapidly-growing kids, each hell-bent on the destruction of the other two, 600 mile trips, and a desire for something engaging to drive. You're in a tough spot.
But, Travis, buddy, ol' Jayjay Torch has an idea for you, if you're willing to keep an open mind. An idea that solves the issue of that kid-murdering back-seat hump, gets you that RWD you deserve, and, I think frees you from the tyranny of some taupe lump of boring with more yawn in its exhaust than CO2.
That idea? A Van.
Yes, a van. And I mean a real van, not some mommy-focus-group'd minivan. I mean a real, V8, RWD full-size van. Or possibly an awesome JDM van — we'll talk about both.
See, with your situation, room inside is key. 600 mile trips with three kids that go at each other like Montagues and McCoys is no fun for anyone — but a van gives enough room for independent territories, each one a pillar in a triumvirate of uneasy peace.
Most American vans have brawny V8s and RWD. Think of it as a muscle car shaped like a loaf of bread. You absolutely can have fun driving a van. There was a time when vans were actively cool and desirable, and it's up to cutting-edge go-getters such as yourself to bring it back. Think about a conversion van, even, with captains chairs and an interior that looks like the swanky living room of a 70s drug baron's yacht. They're out there.
It's not going to handle like your S2000, but I bet you could enjoy driving it as much as that 535xi, and the idea of driving a room where you can put some distance between you and your three beloved lunatics has got to be appealing.
If it were me, I'd seriously consider going Japanese — but not American market. See, the Japanese seem to get vans in a way we haven't for decades, and they have some seriously cool offerings. Maybe it's the name, but I've always liked the dramatically futuristic look of the Toyota Vellfire vans.
They're sleek, roomy, Toyota quality, and not the same boring thing everyone else has. Plus, each kid can get plenty of room in there, and you can have the joy of driving something that doesn't look like you just gave up.
Sure, they're RHD and a little pricey, but with all the driving you seem to do, it seems like getting something you like is worth it.
So that's what I'm thinking. A badass van.
How's that sound? So, keep sending in questions. Even creepy ones.. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and put DIPSTICK in the subject so I know what they are. Thanks!