Monday, September 10, 2007

Car Shopping; The Test Drive

Back to cars this week, Because I just can't get enough of them.

We are still shopping for a replacement for the our beloved "beast" which bit the dust during the recent cyclone (or unusual weather, as the papers are spinning it). To say that I am having limited success in finding the perfect car would be an understatement. Some days, it feels like I am swimming an ocean of brainless, sleazy car salesmen, who circle around me like starving great white sharks, except they are starving great white sharks who are also pathological liars and chronically late. Oh yeah, and more aggressive.

Anyway, poor me right? Thank god we are fortunate enough to be able to buy a replacement car. I know there are some who can't. Two recent (and totally shark free) highlights form an otherwise boring week follow.

Car#1) 2007 Dodge Caliber, 2.4 litre engine. You can get one from Zubair Automotive for a mere 8,800 RO... Available in any color as long as it's metallic burnt sienna.

I would rather gnaw off an arm than buy a car from a dealership, but in the interests of fairness I thought I might stop by Zubair and see what they have on offer. Also, Zubair opens at 08:30 in the morning, which is a distinct advantage when you have a perky infant who has been up since 05:00 and a few hours to kill before nap time.

As someone who likes her cars big, old, and cheap, it didn't take too long to realise that I was in alien territory... The salesmen began to circle, proffering help in the form of pointing at things and mumbling. I was really there to see about a Dodge Charger, which I think is one of the sexiest pieces of machinery to roll out of Detroit in a long time. As I walked toward the object of my lust, I was distracted by a funny looking, orange colored, compact car that looked like something someone had made out of Lego's using a doodle from my highschool notebooks. It was... Amazing... It was The Dodge Caliber (insert Star wars theme song)

It may have the aerodynamics of a brick, but there was something about it that I really liked... The styling, the way the gear shift slots out of the console. The ground clearance looks good, and it has a sporty, wide stance that appeals. give it a turbo and all wheel drive and it would make an interesting rally car. Dodge has taken some risks with the styling, and I think it has paid off in dividends. It's not beautiful, or sleek, but it's.... weird. Not an unpleasant weird, but an eye catching weird that made me stop in my tracks, set the baby on the floor, and walk over and climb in.

Inside, the Lego theme continues, almost to the point of pain. It's all plastic. Even the doors slams so lightly I suspect they are made of plastic. the speaker covers are molded injected plastic, the dash is plastic, the console is plastic. The seats can be color coordinated to match your choice of interior.... Plastic. None the less, I am intrigued. I ask the sales guy if I can schedule a test drive.

Suburban: Would it be possible to schedule a test drive?
Sales Guy: No.... Not in this one. You can drive the 2 litre version. It has a Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT). Very Nice
Suburban: Hmmm... Nothing personal, but I sort of dislike the CVT.
Sales Guy: 2 litre only comes with a CVT.
Suburban: You'll have to forgive me, but I don't see much point in test driving a different car than the one I am interested in buying.
Sales Guy: This car has a rechargeable flashlight built in!
Suburban: Okaaaay...
Sales Guy: This car has speakers that flip down when you open the boot, Like a party anywhere you go!
Suburban: Neat. So about the test drive?
Sales Guy: sorry madam, not possible.
Suburban: OK, Thanks anyway.

Car#2) 1995 GMC Safari, conversion van. V6, 4.5 litre engine, kitted out like a private jet on the inside. Yours for only RO 2,000. Black.

We saw this one parked next to the shell station in Qurum. Passers by on the street could hear me yelling at my husband to Stop! the! car! Right! Now! Because! look! Look! Look! It sat there like a 800 pound gorilla. Hulking, black, and making no excuses for it's presence. Ugly as hell, with blacked out windows and a for sale sign in the window, it was just begging me to take it home.

Let me be clear here, I honestly thought this might be the car of my dreams, the car that could fix the near suicidal sadness of not having my beast, and take away forever the ignominy of driving a borrowed BMW. We stood outside of the van, peering into the windows. Leather seats, cd player, TV, VCR, a bar, and a thousand other bell and whistles just begging to be played with. Oh! And a bed in the back that reclines at the touch of a button. Yeah, you heard me right... there is a bed in the back. How awesome is that?

So, we called the number, and arranged to meet the next day for a look and a test drive. Here is the Test Drive, with the seller's comments in parentheses:

  • The guy shows up 45 minutes late (was at prayers)
  • He fires it up, and oil blows out the tail pipe (has been sitting for six months)
  • the AC doesn't work (needs just a little gas, has been sitting for six months)
  • None of the electrics work inside (just fuses needed)
  • Brakes sound funny (no! they are supposed to be like that.... Very special car)
  • Engine has barely enough compression to get us to the top of Fahud street (very good engine!)
  • Pulls hard to the right
  • the odometer reads 45,000 miles, I suspect 1,045,000 miles. (yes, driven very carefully only 45,000 miles)
  • Here's the kicker... we're driving back down Fahud street, and I can smell something burning. we get out of the car, and the right front brake is smoking. Like, black, acrid brake smoke kind of smoking. Which explains the pull to the right, and the funny brakes... I guess.

So there is another car we won't be getting. The price really was too good to be true. I don't begrudge the guy for the car's condition, though I perhaps would have had it serviced before trying to sell it. The thing that drove me bonkers was that after we listed each thing that wasn't ok with the car, he would say

Al humdulilalh! this car is good! Al humdulilalh!

Far be it from me to dictate what God himself supervises, but I don't really know if a beat to hell 1995 GMC savannah is really on top of the Almighty's priority list. Also, If there has indeed been divine intervention in this particular van, I am rather disappointed with the results.

More from here next week.


a7MeDiNo said...

Wait for the new Dodge Caliber SRT-4 .. I might as well suggest you visit the used car showroom between Lulu and McDonalds Khuwair .. guess they get their cars from Dubai.

TI3GIB said...

The Caliber has an unintentional road charm hidden deep inside. I test drove one (without the CVT) and it's not really the most exciting thing in the world, but not bad either.

Good luck with the new car. (p.s. Have a look at a Disco, perfect soccer mom car)

muscati said...

We have the worst car salesmen in the world right here in Oman. For some reason, care salesmen have bad reps all around the world, and that's because they are annoying, persistent and dishonest. But here in Oman they are just plain incompetent. Our people here in Oman aren't helping the situation because they accept whatever crap the salespeople throw at them.

Like why in the world would anyone put buy a car they haven't driven. I can't excuse it for a 5000 rial Tiida, and yet people do it even for 20,000 Lexuses and worst.

Links: Car Shopping and Toyotas really do sell themselves

Suburban said...


THanks for the comment! I've stopped by cars dubai next to lulu, but found three previously flodded or wrecked cars in thier inventory. When questioned, they lied about the history of the cars. I am desperate though so I asked the if they could find a specific car to replace the one we lost. Told them I would gleefully pay a premium above market value, left my number, and no dice... So blow them.

Yeah, The caliber is so dorky, but so charming. It kills me. THe discovery... It's big, ugly, unreliable, and expensive to repair. WHich makes it the absolutley perfect car for me! Except I hate them.I would buy one and the next thing you know I would be carryig a handbag, having coffee mornings with bored dutch ladies, and wearing a pink sweatshirt with kitties or some other stupid shit emblazoned across the front. SO I'll giv eit a miss.

P.S. Dont' make me reach through the internet and bitch slap you for the soccer mommy comment;-)


Here I was thinking I was being all original with my car posts! I was sort of wondering if It was just me, or if my expectations were totally unreasonable. You, however, are the sanest blogger in Oman. Thus, it's reassuring to see that you have pretty much had exactly the same experiences as me when shopping for your new wheels.

I ust can't bring myself to buy a car without driving it. the mind boggles...

fah'd chipps said...

"why test drive, it's a TOYOTA!"

JP said...

Hilarious as usual Sub',

Just begging for a YouTube hidden camera clip.

Myself I like the look of the Toyota Tundra - big ass engine, 4 door, built to take on the biggest and meanest of MotorCity. And still a Toyota, which are still built best. Maybe in a few years when some second hand ones are on the market... its looks like it'd pimp-up real nice too...

I also have a new respect for ti3gib's bravery. Tats may be bold, but calling Suburban a soccor mom is waaay out there. Respect ti3gib!

allen said...