Dyer Consequences: What car should you buy?

What car should you buy? That’s a great question.

If you’re reading this magazine, presumably you’re informed on the subject of cars, such that your friends or family might seek you out for advice. (Either that, or you’re reading this because you’re in a dentist’s office and your other option is the Journal of Gingivitis.) Whatever the case, heed my warning: never, ever, give anyone car-buying advice.

If someone prompts you for an opinion about a specific car, 90 percent of the time that means they already own it. Say you’re at a party and someone asks, “What do you think of the Pontiac G6?” You should not reply, “It was a low point not only for General Motors, but for Western civilization as a whole. I once drove one, and it caused me to have an existential crisis. If aliens landed on earth and the first thing they saw was a G6, they’d conclude that there was no intelligent life on our planet.”

Because as soon as you say that, the questioner will reply, “I have a G6, and I love it. I’m president of the G6 Owners’ Club. I had my name legally changed to Gee Six. And my dad designed it. And he just died. And he was buried in his G6. And we made it into a mausoleum, and it’s in the basement.” See, now you’ve got an awkward social situation.

If you must give an opinion, make it as vague as possible. For example, when a former boss said he was looking for a late-model sedan that’s overpowered and understated, I should have mumbled “XJRPhaetonS55STS-V” while running away down the street.

Instead, I got specific and said, “What you want is a Volkswagen Phaeton W12.” He bought a lightly used one, and shortly thereafter, he sent me an e-mail telling me how he liked it. Which turned out to be about as much as you might enjoy jock itch. Let’s just say that the Phaeton’s frequent nagging, its insistent warning chimes and fretful idiot lights, were not endearing. Little did I realize that I’d told someone to buy C3PO. Luke, check tire pressure!

My parents have spared me the tension that arises when car-buying advice goes awry. Not because they’ve liked every car I’ve ever recommended, but because they’ve never bought any car that I recommended. I guess they haven’t taken me seriously since I told them they should buy a Subaru XT coupe. In fairness, I was six at the time, and according to contemporary commercials, the XT was a cross between a spaceship, the General Lee, and an Atari 2600. Now that I mention it, I kind of want a Subaru XT coupe.

My in-laws, on the other hand, have now purchased two cars that I brought to their attention. First, my father-in-law bought a Saturn Sky Red Line. Then my mother-in-law wanted a used SUV to replace her Chrysler Sebring convertible. Since the only dealer in their town handles Chevrolet and Cadillac, I pointed her toward the used Caddy SRXs on the lot. She bought an ’05. And so far, so good.

But I’m much less confident of a used Cadillac than I am of a new Saturn. A Caddy has lots of gizmos. And when the StabiliStarLink automatic in-dash doughnut-maker malfunctions, it’s gonna be my fault. I guess I should just count myself lucky that her vehicular expectations are calibrated to the 1996 Sebring – as long as the SRX doesn’t spontaneously combust or blast Legionnaire’s disease out of the ventilation system, it’s going to look like a paragon of luxury and refinement. So I’m probably safe. But don’t make me look bad, SRX.

Now, it might seem like a contradiction that someone who reviews cars also disdains offering car-selection advice. But a review is different from a personal recommendation. A review should tell you how a car succeeds or fails at its mission. But a recommendation would deign to predict how it will succeed or fail for you, Ted Snooterton. And I really don’t know what your priorities are, Ted. Maybe you have a rash on your bum, so you find firm Audi seats uncomfortable. Maybe you have a habit of drumming on the steering wheel while listening to Whitesnake, so you need well-padded spokes and kicking midrange bass response. Maybe you’re ugly, so you hate cars with vanity mirrors. How can I know all this, Ted? Honestly, you know you weren’t going to tell me about the rash.

From now on, the Ferrari 458 Italia is going to be my answer to every query. Near as I can tell, you can’t go too far wrong with one of those. Ford F-150 or Chevy Silverado? I’d go with the 458 Italia. And if you’re at the dentist, go with the nitrous.

Written by: Ezra Dyer
Illustration by: Tim Marrs