Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Big Man Can't Fit: Finding a Fun Car for a Big and Tall Man

Meet Kris, one of the more stand-up and genuine men my wife and I have met during our four-year stint up here in Northern Virginia. With our high opinion of Kris, we here at The Torque Retort, all 2.2 of us, would like to help Kris, who is 6'7", find something for when his Pontiac Aztek expires. Don't comment here with all the jokes about that car, he's heard them before. It did come with a dash-integrated ice chest, you know. As Clarkson said once, "Not even a Maybach has that!" It also fits Kris' frame perfectly. A Maybach might be able to do that, but since there were none available at the Washington Auto Show, we had to try more pedestrian vehicles.

When it came time for Kris to get a car, he tried and tried until his tryer was all tried out, trying to find some information about a car with expansive headroom. He tried a Jeep. No. In fact, he tried all kinds of SUVs. No. Convertibles were out of the question, because his head stuck out above the roofline. So he tried the Aztek, and it worked better than anything else. He's at 60,000 miles now, and on an American car that age, it's wise to start considering the options for the inevitable.

First, we went to Ford, my current favorite American manufacturer. We tried the Edge, and while he had room to fit inside, that was all he did, fit. Like a size 10 foot fits in a size 10 shoe. The Fusion, though smaller, seemed to have a better cabin, but while his noggin wasn't in danger, his right kneecap was. The Taurus proved to be the best fit, but Kris still had to push the seat all the way back to enjoy the Taurus' unreasonably orgasmic interior.

Kris in the Fusion
Kris in the Edge

Finding nothing to write to Grandma about, we moved over to General Motors. The first thing my wife and I thought would definitely fit Kris' frame was the Big Papa of American Excess, The Rolling Pimp Cup, Goldtooth the Assassin - the Cadillac Escalade. That thing has to be amazingly roomy, right? The first time I saw an Escalade I thought you'd need a building and zoning permit to wash it. Turns out, not so much. It didn't fit Kris much better than the Ford Edge. The Escalade's less brash cousin, the Suburban, fit Kris the same way. And then, something happened. Kris stepped into a fully loaded Equinox, and with minimal fuss, Kris fit perfectly. The Equinox, in my opinion, provides a level of excitement comparable to that of a china hutch, but if Kris were to drive one and find he wanted to purchase it, I'd be happy for him.

A Winner
Not a Winner

I really wanted to find Kris something that would provide some sportier handling than some of the others cars we found that fit him decently. I sat him down in a sexy-ass Cadillac CTS Sportwagon. Or, I tried. I'm glad my paltry 6'2" body fit, because I'm dying to try one of these bad boys. Kris, on the other hand, may have to ride on the roof. He must have felt like soda escaping a shook-up can when he was free of the Caddy's grasp. And, to be fair, even I was beginning to get uncomfortable inside it. If the cockpit got any smaller, I'd cross it off my list altogether. As an aside, Cadillac should consider offering Recaros on this CTS model, too, not just the V. You shouldn't feel like you're sitting on a pile of rocks in a Cadillac.

On our way to the imports downstairs, Kris decided to try the new Buick Lacrosse. Generally, I think Buicks are eunuchs, but this Lacrosse could set the old marque back on the less-traveled-by path the '63 Riviera started down. Kris fit quite well inside the Lacrosse. So, two wins for GM. And great job, GM, on that Buick's interior, too. Too bad the rest of your product line's interior is garbage, save for the CTS. Let's see some consistency. If you want to run neck-and-neck with the Europeans and the Japanese, you have to build better than all of them. No excuses, no other options, period. Did any of you sit inside an HHR before you let the first one out the door? What the hell were you people thinking? Do I have a right to talk to you this way? Yes, because you took my tax dollars.

The first thing we saw when we got to Import Land were all the panty-waist electrics and rice-cake-and-tap-water hybrids. I could not wait to get Kris inside a Prius, though, because I remembered the few times I sat in Priuses, I found them quite roomy. Yes. Roomy for me. Pictures and video below.

Kris Evacuates the Prius
"No, you can't leave! Drive me more!
You need your sleep!"

While the Prius' reputation as a cavernous granola mobile was proved fallible, we did find Kris fit well inside the Honda Civic Hybrid, and surprisingly well inside the Wheego Whip.

The Civic Hybrid takes nearly 13 seconds to get to 60. Just thought I'd add that. The Wheego can't even hit 60 flat out. While I am thrilled there are cars out there guys like Kris can fit in, that should be only part of the equation when looking for a car. There were no truly exciting cars with ample interior room. Where is it written a sports car or a sporty sedan has to be cramped (the S63 and Alpina B7 being two notable exceptions)? Again, no, we didn't drive any of them, but I think it's safe to assume no one with white knuckles will be driving a Wheegobutnotsowell. But it isn't all about what one blogger thinks. Here's hoping whenever Kris finds a car that fits, it does everything he wants it to do.

Auto Show Surprises

So sorry it took me so long to get to my Washington Auto Show posts. I know there were throngs and throngs of you at your computers, each night, staring at The Torque Retort's home page, clicking the Refresh button furiously, praying to God the post would come soon so meaning would return to your life and you could get back to the finishing touches on your Torque Retort shrine that kicked your daughters out of their own bedrooms. Well, I appreciate it.

Anyway, I'm going to start with some crazy things I discovered at the show, and then I'll move on to the much-anticipated (I overheard some teenage girls on the Metro talking about it, like, ooooh my gaaaaaaawd I can't wwaaaaaaaaaaait to see what caaaarr he fits iiiiiin, and at least one older man telling his wife to bookmark it in Chrome) Big Man Can't Fit post!

Camaro Interior: Epic Fail

The first surprise is really a disappointment. General Motors, with billions of Americans' tax dollars, is continuing to build cheap cars. It's no secret the Cobalt is just Cavalier Part Deux, without Charlie Sheen, and the HHR is an abortion on wheels. Regardless, lots of people have been menstruating all about the 2010 Camaro, even me. But now I'm hyperventilating a little less.

Yes, from the outside, I would like to lick it. But sit inside, and you're surrounded by the same chintz GM has been forcing down our throats for years. Some cool gauges beneath the center stack are the only redeeming feature of this car's interior. The interior trim on the door flaps like a Caribbean shanty-town in a hurricane. Plus, there is no visibility. None. The latest gaggle of "The Biggest Loser" contestants could be crossing the street in front of you and you'd see none of them.

I sat in a 2SS equipped with the Transformers package, which means if the All Spark shocked this car, Bumblebee would not be an AutoBot; he'd be a box of Tupperware. The problem with these auto shows, though, is you can't drive the cars, so maybe the 400/426 horsepower (automatic/manual tranny, respectively) would change my tune. But 90% of the time you own a car, you're immersed in the interior. Actually, GM was offering auto show attendees an opportunity to drive the Camaro 2SS and other GM fare around the Washington Convention Center, but three inches of snow made the insurance weenies pee their pants, so that car was pulled from the test drive lineup.

Mercedes G550: I Can See Clearly Now

Would I buy one of these? No. It's hideous, boxier than a U-Haul franchise, and it sucks gas like Truman Capote swilled scotch. But here's this SUV's likely most redeeming feature. I have never experienced better visibility in any vehicle. Ever. Not even a Hummer H2. The seats were perfect, too, like Recaros. So, congratulations are in order for M-B making a true command center for daring off-roaders everywhere negotiating the junglish terrors of Malibu.

Chevrolet Corvette: Slightly Less Fail

435 horsepower and nearly 30 miles to the gallon on the highway could be why I'm still paying attention to Chevrolet (that, and I still want to see a truck as incredibly cool as the '72 K20 longbed 4x4). I can't think of any vehicle that does that. The Lexus LS600hL hybrid can't pull that off and it makes 438. Some little twit cars lauded for their fuel economy can't touch that figure. And my God, that manual tranny. Granted I only ran through the gears on a Z06 model sitting still, but the shifts were so fluid.

Unfortunately, the genius Corvette - around since 1953 - has one problem. You must be Calista Flockhart to drive one. I do need to lose some weight, but I didn't have this problem in the Camaro. There was nowhere for my legs to go other than into holy-crap-I'm-sitting-down-and-I-need-to-get-all-40daysand40nights-on-a-urinal mode. I don't understand this, because the Corvette is a very wide car (which is why it handles so damn great), so there should be more room for those of us who take up a little more room. Still, if I somehow came to own one of these Z06s or the raucous ZR1, I might take on Calista's nutrition plan just to run through those gears through the Appalachian Mountains.

Ford Taurus SHO: Holy Crap the Taurus is Awesome and Costs Nearly $50,000

OK, this car is now neck-and-neck with the Infiniti G37x of family-friendly fist-pumpers I have got to try. I did not expect much more than the '89 Mercury my parents had for a few years and at best something that would make the Chevrolet Impala sweat. What I found was E-class and 5-series cuddling, combined with The. Best. Interior. I've. Ever. Sat. In. The Impala is having a panic attack.

Yes, I am quite excited about the 365 ponies and respectable gas mileage. But it's also big inside. Very big. I could do the whole I'm-a-rapper-and-I'm-spreading-my-legs-in-a-chair pose while trolling through Northern Virginia traffic. After getting in the cockpit and closing the door, all outside noise is virtually extinguished. Then you're treated to a center stack that slopes down at about a 35-degree angle, putting all A/C controls within uncanny reach. The two-tone leather is quite supple and doesn't feel slippery.

I'm not crazy about the gadget-and-power-laden Taurus costing nearly $50,000. I could pick up a barely-used 550i or even an AMG E55 for that price. That's not going to keep me from giving it a go. Regardless of the price, I'm sure this will become Ford's halo car.

Wheego Whip: I Don't Care if It's So Damn Big Inside, It Sucks

The Wheego Whip can go 59 miles an hour and can go 50 miles before it needs to get plugged back in to coal-fueled electricity. I don't think I need to say any more than that to describe my overall opinion of this car. If you can even call it a car. Dare I say it, the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is overall a more environmentally-friendly choice.

Still, practically all that bubble you see in the picture can be absorbed by a person. I have more headroom in that car than I have in my own Ford Flex. And the Flex is dang cavernous.

But claiming the car has great ergonomics is like putting powdered sugar on rotten fish.