For our first few days in So-Cal, we found ourselves, lamentably, in a PT Cruiser. A rental, obviously, but not the most ideal mule for vast concrete expanses beginning with “The,” as in “The 405” or “The 110.” It had plenty of cupholders but the trunk space was limited, much like it’s ability to accelerate. Turning radius? More like turning orbit. Quite a handicap when getting lost on unfamiliar streets and making lots of U’s. Our rental Chevy HHR for last year’s SEMA had better fit-n-finish and, in our opinion, a much better execution of the retro two-box motif.
After three days of such nonsense, we went back and up-downgraded for a 2006 Toyota Corolla. The color? Cactus Mica, duh! When this generation first debuted, much hubbub was made of the fact that Toyota now built the lowly Corolla to the same tolerances used on the original Lexus LS. Excessive, perhaps, but the difference shows. Nary a rattle could be detected, despite the fact that LA radio doesn’t really give dead silence much competition.
Snazzily upscale Lexus-like illuminated gauges were fine and dandy, but what we really enjoyed was discovering that even in one of the cheapest, lowest grade cars in the Toyota lineup we could reach speeds of 90 mph without even realizing it. Likewise, we could actually make swift illegal U-turns without throwing it into reverse, and the trunk could devour enough luggage to please a yakuza hit man. Maybe the mob should start using Corollas, especially if they need to cruise incognito on the way to the landfill. And despite hauling around our gear and our butts in spirited driving with A/C on full blast, we got about 29 mpg compared to the Chrysler’s 21. Neato!
Photo courtesy of Shige Suganuma.