Think of a time when your faith in a certain car has been so shaken by driving something completely different. We’ve all been there, and I fervently believe that those who haven’t need to get out and drive more things. Because man, oh man, am I dazed in this whirlwind of emotions.
Allow me to state that I am very much grateful to be in a position where I can see and experience all sorts of cars I never thought I’d be able to outside video games. No, I’m not Johnny Lieberman or Daddy Doug, nor am I any other uber-elite celebrity auto journo that gets a press car delivered every seven minutes. Not even remotely close. But I do live a certain lifestyle, work certain jobs, and keep certain company that allows me to experience a breathtaking array of cars, more than I know what to do with, and it’s got me shortcircuiting recently.
I’ve been able to drive more and more cars throughout the years, either from friends, work as an auto journo, or even finding those diamond-in-the-rough Turo specials. And let me tell you: I once thought I knew exactly what I wanted as a driver, but now I don’t have the first clue.
Like many youngins out there, I grew up as part of the Gran Turismo generation, having idolized Japanese imports like a cult, thanks to video games and that one movie franchise with the guy who played Riddick. On top of that, I was raised under my dad’s and many uncles’ tutelage, who all admired the elegance of European luxury machines and the brawn of American muscle, whose oil spills dripped red, white, and blue. So right off the bat, I grew up with many tastes that wound up making me just as many friends as it started arguments.
For years, however, I was firmly planted on the side of modern American metal, having grown deeply impressed with their progression from brutish muscle cars to genuine sports cars, but even that started to shift as I became exposed to more niches. Even believing my interest in the American pony cars I loved so much was starting to stagnate, I held true to the thought that my next car would be another Mustang to succeed my Little Blue Car – until I drove something completely different.
During a recent work trip to Reno, I ventured out onto one of Nevada’s finest driving roads saddled in the cockpit of a Toyota GR 86, and it was a revelation of what a modern sports car can feel like. Sharper and more focused than an ND Miata, which I had also driven not long ago and walked away from with similar affection.
Most recently, I had a go in a good friend’s lightly modified Ford Focus RS, which defied my expectations for an EcoBoost hot hatch and sport compacts in general. It was unexpectedly lively, joyously giddy, and bursting at the seams with a personality that my car, as capable as I’ve built it to be, utterly lacks.
As vomit-inducingly cliché as it sounds, the RS and 86 beckoned to memories of other engaging and soulful drivers cars I had driven in recent years: Shelby GT350, Fiesta ST, and WRX STI Type RA, among other things. They all had one thing in common: their emphasis on pleasure and emotion over outright numbers chasing, like how it feels with so many modern performance cars.
What separated them was how they did it. But that’s the secret sauce, wouldn’t you say?
My faith has been shaken. So suddenly, I’ve found myself clamoring for these alien experiences I’ve never felt or rarely get to feel. Turbo all-wheel drive? Yes, please! Where’s the nearest Evo emporium? And while I’m at it, how about something sub-3,000 pounds for that special occasion when I find America’s Akina?
It’s strange, though. It’s not like I haven’t driven these kinds of cars before, so what gives? Were these extended test drives on proper backroads enough to convince me? Or have I always loved these cars but am merely tired of the same familiar platforms? Perhaps it’s time I really start practicing what I preach.
I wrote quite an argumentative column on DriveTribe about how variety truly is the spice of life. I implored people to drive different platforms while panning the mindset of confining one’s self to the same one or two cars solely out of familiarity. I still hold true to those beliefs in many ways, reflected in my Ford Mustang/Nissan Be-1 buddy comedy of a garage lineup. Familiarity stagnates the mind, teaches us nothing new, and bars us from the potentially riveting experiences we could have if we stepped outside our comfort zones.
Look at me, getting on some high horse telling people how to approach car culture. Maybe I should stop writing this and go make a quesadilla or something. It could just be the late-night hangriness.
Let me be very clear in saying I’m not one of those sad souls who got bored of cars. I’m probably just bored of mine and am searching for that next great driver’s car, one to whisk me around a racetrack or mountain road in a different manner than the last. But man, what could that next step be? Sure, I could land another Mustang, one that’s faster and of a completely different era for the famed pony car. At the same time, I could swing in a whole new direction and gun for a Lancer Evo or even an E36 M3. Nowadays, I don’t care if it’s the latest and greatest thing on the market. As long as it’s different.Published in