What’s The Perfect Car For A Teenager?

Well, everyone, it's Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday, and that means it's time for today's version of Letters to Doug, which is consistently Jalopnik's finest column each week, assuming you don't read any of the others.

This week, we received a record number of letters, including one from a reader in Nevada who purchased a 2003 Porsche 911 Turbo after reading my column entitled The 996 Turbo Is The Best Used Porsche You Can Buy. This proves that I have a dramatic effect on the automotive industry, and I am not just some pantsless weirdo ranting on the Internet about an old Nissan.


If you'd like to participate in Letters to Doug, just remember that you can e-mail me at Letters2Doug@gmail.com, or Tweet me at @DougDeMuro. Names will be changed to protect the letter-writer, in case you want to admit something embarrassing, like the fact that you're thinking about purchasing a Volkswagen Touareg.

Anyway: on to today's letter, which comes to us from a reader in Texas named Nicholas. Nicholas writes:

Dear Doug,

I was wondering what you think is currently the perfect "teenager" car. You know, something cool and somewhat sporty for the kid, but also makes the parents happy. So not expensive and safe. I need an opinion to convince my parents.


Sent from my iPhone

Well, Nicholas, you have sent me an excellent question from your iPhone, and I can think of nothing better to do than respond using my own iPhone. Unfortunately, my fingers are too fat to type properly, and I often end up sending inexplicable Emojis while I'm trying to sext with my girlfriend.

Anyway, on to the topic at hand, which is: what's the perfect car for a teenager? This is a brilliant question, and I'd like to begin by describing the vehicle that I owned as a teenager. It was a 1996 Volvo 850 Turbo; a brick-shaped midsize sedan, saddled with a four-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive, and a steering wheel the size of a cape buffalo. And yet I drove it like a seven-year-old who just consumed a half-liter of Mountain Dew.

Yes, that's right: my teenage car wasn't sporty, it wasn't fast, and it handled with the dexterity of a pregnant moose. And yet I still beat on it like a race car driver qualifying for Indy. You should've seen me, Mister Cool, speeding around Denver like I actually had somewhere important to be. When in reality, I was sixteen, and my greatest fear was probably staying out too late and losing my television privileges.


And this brings us to the problem with your thinking, Nicholas, because you assume that a teenager should have a car that is "somewhat sporty." I felt this way, too, when I was 16. I'm responsible, I thought to myself. I can handle a cool car! But as I look back on it now, I realize something: back then, I could barely be trusted with cool shoes. I was a huge liability, and in the end I realize I'm lucky I didn't kill myself, or someone else, although I think there was one night where I ran over a cat.

Here's the problem with putting a teenager behind the wheel of a sporty automobile: they have absolutely no experience driving a car. So when you give them a little power, and a little handling, and they get a little confidence, the next thing that happens is you get a call one night telling you that they picked up your son for hosting a drift competition in a public park.


As a result, I have thought long and hard about the finest car for a teenager, and after much internal discussion, and debate, and uncertainty, I am ready to reveal the answer. And it is: Toyota Land Cruiser.

Illustration for article titled What’s The Perfect Car For A Teenager?

Now, before, you rush down to the comments to give me your opinion, I should mention that I already know what you're thinking, and that is: This is the single stupidest answer I've ever heard. And I understand your line of thought: your parents got you a Volvo, or a Civic, or you mowed lawns for 24 years in order to save up for your first car, which was a Saturn SC2, and by God you aren't giving your kid some overpriced luxury SUV just so he can fold down the rear seats and father a child with some girl named Brianna.

But allow me to explain my reasoning.

Number one: the Toyota Land Cruiser – or at least the '80s and '90s Land Cruiser models I'm talking about here – is insanely slow. I'm not just saying it's sort of slow, like ice melt, or tree growth, or Cadillac ELR sales. I mean it's ridiculously, absurdly slow. When you drive a 1990s Land Cruiser today, you kind of wonder how the hell people put up with this crap. But then you remember it was the '90s, and back then everyone thought Xerox was cutting-edge.


Now, as you know, slow is good, because it means your kids won't be doing any stop light drag races. But there's another benefit to the Land Cruiser's powertrain: it's insanely reliable, which ensures that you'll never have to pick up your kid when he's stranded on the wrong side of town after a weed purchase. There are people driving around right now with '90s Land Cruiser that have three-hundred – no, four-hundred – thousand miles on the odometer. And these people go outside every day, and start it right up, and the only flaw is that the Bowdoin sticker on the back is starting to peel off.

And speaking of flaws, here's another problem the Land Cruiser doesn't have: safety. While your traditional teenager-spec Honda Civic likely features mismatched wheels, and mismatched seatbelts, and the occasional brake light, the Land Cruiser is a strong, sturdy, enormous automobile that should clearly be piloted by a 16-year-old whose primary knowledge of traffic laws comes from Grand Theft Auto.


Now, I admit that there are a few flaws to the Land Cruiser. For instance: yeah, OK, so maybe it can be rather expensive to fuel. And yeah, OK, maybe it can be a little pricey to insure. And yeah, OK, maybe it's not a good idea to give your kid a vessel for transporting six other screaming teenagers who believe "my father is a lawyer" is an adequate defense for underage drinking.

But these are minor problems, and they can be completely overcome with good, solid parenting. You just have to sit your child down and give him a stern lecture. Assuming, of course, that you can get him to stop looking at Brianna's Instagram.


@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.

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Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday

Don't ever do that again sir...

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