Project Hyper-Miler Part 1: Introduction
By Steve Rockwood
Let's face it: the days of cheap fuel are over. Whether you want to blame Wall Street, the government, democratic demonstrations in the Middle East, OPEC, hippies, China, or the soccer mom next door; the fact remains that if your buddy tosses you a five spot for gas money, you're more likely to punch him in the face than thank him. And everyone understands a punch in the face.
To compound the problem, those of us in the automotive enthusiast's world seem to be driving farther and farther to work. The average automotive enthusiast's habits generally don't agree with city condo living on a number of levels. Living in the suburbs or the sticks, especially HOA-free suburbs or sticks, gets the enthusiast more parking room, bigger garages, larger lots to reduce noise complaints, and more understanding redneck neighbors; all for less or similar money than the city folk pay for their yardless and garageless condos. Your distance from population centers also has a positive effect on your all-important zombie survivability index.
So, what's the automotive enthusiast to drive to work? Your soul-crushing commute and ding-inducing-microscopic parking spots at work make driving your overpowered garage queen – all of us have them, otherwise please return to your cake decorating site – painful. Driving a pickup to work, while giving your Home Depot/Tow Vehicle something to do during the week, will not only alarmingly reduce your car budget at the pump, but the frustration of parking a 20' vehicle will accelerate your hairline's already hasty retreat. Plus, the only joy to be had during your commute – onramps – is pointless in a long bed, crew cab, diesel 1-ton Dodge (your humble author's Tow Vehicle of choice).
So, that leaves us with getting a commuter. You see them on the way to work every day, and we can split them into three categories: hybrids, econoboxes, and diesels. Smart cars might be included in the list, but the irony of them elicits a chuckle every time one is seen on the road. Writing a whole paragraph on them would cause an aneurism.
Hybrids give us something we can appreciate: more power. Unfortunately, every hybrid that at least makes marginal fiscal sense (who cares about fuel prices if you're shopping for a new Porsche 918?) is usually atrocious to drive. Higher curb weights, fun-killing CVT transmissions, gutless gasoline engines, overburdened pizza cutter tires, and wonky brake feel all conspire to constantly ask you WTF you were thinking when you bought this thing. The only reasonably fun hybrid, the first-gen Honda Civic Hybrid, has had enough battery problems (type “HCH battery problems” into a search engine) to make it pointless. A Civic Hybrid without a battery charge is just a slower and heavier Civic DX. No thanks.