Driving in France in the Renault Captur

If there’s one thing you need in the south of France in the middle of nowhere its a rental car. I am not well versed in driving a manual transmission car so I chose an automatic. The manual would have been a lot cheaper but I’m not confident in driving one and I was also in a foreign country and I wanted to be able to pay attention to my GPS and the traffic. Per my company policy, I rented a compact car but I was not prepared on how compact it was. I was given a Renault Captur which was a tiny car even by my standards.

The size of the of the car was pretty dismal, I could fit my 20” roller and my work backpack in the trunk. Even renting the smallest car in the US, I would be able to at least put in a 25” suitcase. What I didn’t know was that there was a plastic plate that would make the trunk a little it deeper. I didn’t discover that until I had to transport some of my team members and their suitcases. Needless to say we needed to stack some of the bags in the backseat to accommodate everything. The front area wasn’t so bad, I had enough room but I’m not that tall to begin with.

The infotainment system was pretty good, I changed it from French to English so the next person that rents it is going to be surprised when they start it up. I was able to connect my phone via Bluetooth and play music and hear the voice prompts for my GPS just fine. One thing that surprised me was that the car lacked any kind of backup camera. I’ve really gotten used to having a backup camera at my disposal and the streets in France are not very car friendly so having one would have been really helpful.

I could tell while driving the car that it had turbo in it but man the car was weak. I guess thats ok considering that most of the time I wasn’t driving more than 50mph. Most of the roads I drove on weren’t really highways in the American sense, they were short straightaways broken up by roundabouts. The gas tank on the Renault was really tiny. It only holds about 8 gallons of gas, my minivan holds around 19 gallons so I can go almost twice as far in a vehicle twice as big with an engine that probably has three times the horsepower here at home. For what it was, the car is the right size for the streets of Montpellier and the surrounding area. I did venture into Montpellier and I didn’t see a lot of large cars or SUV’s.

I think one of the more unique things on the car as the key fob. It was about the size of three credit cards put together and it had buttons to open the doors and the trunk. Thats not the interesting part though, you took this key fob and inserted it into a port in the center console to turn the ignition into the “On” position, from there you had to press the brake and hit the start button like an American car. My personal car I can keep the key fob in my pocket and just press the brake and the start button and away I go. The key fob was not compact so it takes up a lot of space in your pocket. I think thats a design flaw but maybe its the norm for cars in France. I didn’t get to see any others while I was there so I’m just making assumptions.

Overall it was a good car, the pickup sucked but it handled ok overall. My Honda Accord with its V6 278HP smokes this little shit box. I definitely missed it while I was away. I did put my car on sport mode when I came home and man it felt good to just step on the gas and go to 80MPH in less than 8 seconds. Although the turbo probably helped the little car along, I would hate to try and drive it without the turbo, it probably would have been slower than it already was. It was definitely a good experience overall, I got to experience a car that I can’t get here in the US and I was also able to finally drive in Europe. I think I need to rent a car in Asia just to compare it against Europe and the US.


The Buick Envision is a real gas guzzler

I’ve had a ton of rental cars over the last few weeks but this week I’m cruising around in the Buick Envision AWD. The cross over is typical of most American cars made in 2018 that I’ve driven. Overall I like them as rental cars more than I like the imports like the Nissans or Toyotas. A difference that I find between the Buick Envision and my normal Chevy Envoy AWD is how much gas the Buick guzzles. It’s only Wednesday and I think I have to fill up the tank before I even head back to Detroit. I don’t think I’ve been pushing the car too hard but I will admit that the engine revs a little high and downshifts an awful lot when I’m just cruising on the highway trying to pass someone (slowly mind you).

Surprisingly, the Dodge Challenger that I had a couple weeks ago gets better mileage than the Envision and that had a high powered V6 in it if not a V8. I was able to last the entire week and return the car without having to fill up. I think the Buick is supposed to be the higher end model of the Chevy that I normally roll around in but truthfully I’d save the money and get the Chevy if I had to buy one of them. Fortunately, I’m not in the market for a new car. My Honda Accord is still working just fine and I still haven’t hit 15,000 miles after owning it for the last 4 years.

The issue I now have is that I’m going to have to fill up my rental car here at my client site, drive 2 hours all the way to Detroit and get charged again for gas by Hertz. At least now I know I’m not going to get the Buick Envision again if I see it in the lot. The great part about having Presidents Circle is that I can try out a ton of cars (mostly American) so that I know what car I would potentially consider buying for the family if the time ever arises.

Last weeks car was also quite disappointing too and also ate gas but not at the rate of the Envision. The Toyota Highlander AWD XLE had a really tiny trunk with the third row up. The most disappointing feature of all was that it didn’t have Apple CarPlay and it was as 2018 model too. I’m glad that I live in FL, I don’t have to buy any of the AWD vehicles. I think my wife’s XTerra was probably one of the better 4×4 cars I’ve driven even though it was weak. At least I could choose if it was going to be a 4×2 or a 4×4 to improve gas mileage rather than having it on all the time. I think the one on the Envision is adaptive but I’m too lazy to look it up. Besides, the next choice for a car is the wife’s, but it will be replacing my car most likely since I really want to keep the van. I just need to keep the van going for a little longer, maybe until 200K miles if possible. Just a little TLC should keep it moving so I can avoid these weak engined gas guzzling clunkers they’re coming out with.

Driving the Infiniti Q60 3.0T AWD…. what?

Last week I had the pleasure to drive around in an Infiniti Q60.  My good fortune is attributed to landing really late at night and there not being any other cars in the Hertz lot and my Presidents Circle status.  One of the things that are crazy about Japanese cars is their branding.  Lots of letters and numbers in the title so when you talk to someone it sounds like you’re a scientist or something.  Even I have a hard time telling people what it is I rented since it doesn’t have a cool name that stands out, just a model number for the most part.

Anyway, this car was really FAST!  It had a 3.0 turbo under the hood but since I had to drive on Long Island and the LIE, there was no where to really test out all the muscle under the hood.  This car is truly wasted in the NY Metro area since the speed limit is 55mph, there are cops everywhere, and the pot holes in the road just ruin the otherwise very smooth ride.  I will say that climbing hills was a lot of fun, just slam on the gas and zip up to the top and leave the little Hyundai tailgating me in the dust!  I don’t know how many gears the transmission had but it had a nice manual mode which is also wasted in NY Metro and I appreciated that it wasn’t paddle shifters but the actual floor shifter that is used to move from gear to gear.

As with most sports cars, the interior is cramped but at least the trunk was big enough to hold my backpack and my rollerboard suitcase with ease unlike the Camero SS convertible I had that one time in California.  There IS a feature to have a map but since the SD card with the map data isn’t in the car it just showed a blank screen, slightly annoying and there was also no CarPlay.  I had my phone mount which made it not so bad but the infotainment needs an update to support CarPlay or Android Auto.  I guess overall not a bad car as a rental but I still wouldn’t buy one myself.  Surprisingly I still like running around in my Honda Accord or Honda Odyssey than most of the cars that I end up renting.  Too bad Hertz doesn’t invest in Honda’s as rental cars, I think a lot of people would like renting those cars compared to some of the ones they offer currently.

I wonder what car I’ll be able to rent this week….. another Chevy Malibu or Impala perhaps?  At least those have CarPlay 🙂

Car companies need to stop messing with classic interior design

Last week I had the pleasure of getting a Mercedes-Benz as a rental car but it was a little weird because so much of the car was crazy in terms of placement.  I’ll give some examples of what I mean.

FIrst the gear shift, normally the gear shift is a floor shifter, on some older American cars it’s a stick on the steering column, on the Benz it was actually where the windshield wiper control arm would normally be.  That is a major revision on how cars are designed in my opinion.  

Second thing that totally weirded me out was the placement of the emergency brake.   Being on the left foot or on the center console makes sense since almost ALL cars do that but not on the Benz!  It’s below the light switch on the lower left of the control panel.  Say what now??  Who would ever look to think there!

I think some of the newer electric cars are also experimenting with different layouts for the controls, that just needs to stop.  I’m sure that everything was placed in a car over 100 years ago with a reason and purpose so that it would be easy for a driver to do everything without looking.  With these new layouts, it’s getting kinda funny to drive newer cars that don’t follow a common design framework used by practically everyone.  I won’t refuse the car if Hertz tries to give me a Benz again but it’ll still be weird.  But I do like how fast the car is, at least that’s big in the plus column for the car.

Hertz Presidents Circle – Only Good for Points

If my recent experienes with Hertz is any example of how Presidents Circle members are treated, then the only good thing about having that high status are the points.  The points bonuses aren’t even that good most of the time.  I would say more than 50% of the time, I don’t get to walk to the Presidents Circle area to get a car.  Two weeks in a row I was supposed to rent a car that had over 50K miles.  This week I asked to get another car and that one smelled a little like cigarettes.

The overall quality of what cars I’m assigned has been steadily going down.  That might be attributed to me renting from La Guardia.  NY cars tend to get the shit kicked out of them but thats really not a good excuse since the cars are supposed to be washed and serviced before they’re given out.  Chicago was much better at giving good cars out but I also took a lot of cars from Gold Choice because my assigned car was garbage.

Avis seems to have better cars overall and a better experience, the only thing that brings me back all the time is the points and the fact I can use them during the week instead of just on the weekends.  Either way I have to stay with Hertz, I’ve accumulated too many points already to stop now.  I’ve used my points successfully to get a 2 week rental this year and I can see when I would need another rental soon while on vacation or something.  Come on Hertz, time to step up your game and give your most frequent renters some awesome cars!

Finally Using my Miles on United

I finally was able to use my United miles for a trip and surprisingly it only cost me 150K for 3 round trip tickets. Although I have given up on United as an airline because of my travel schedule, that doesn’t mean I won’t use the status that I currently have to my family’s advantage. While doing all this traveling has its benefits, I have decided to do quite a bit of shifting of my loyalties just to make my life easier. For hotels I think I’ll try to maintain status at Starwood and at Hilton rather than solely concentrate on accumulating points at one brand. I’ve definitely found it useful to be Hilton Diamond and SPG Platinum this year. That calls for me to shift hotels mid week to get the necessary stays to maintain my status or at least get Gold in SPG since I still value Hilton more for their perks.

Car rentals basically stay the same since I like the rewards Hertz gives me but good lord are their cars pieces of crap. They definitely keep their cars much too long in their fleets (come on, over 50K?) and that forces me to waste time getting a newer one. While I would like to go to Avis, their rewards are only useful on the weekends an most of the time I need full week rentals. I wish the places I use would stop devaluing their programs. It’s taking more and more trips to get my rewards to mean something when I need to use them or to achieve the appropriate status so traveling doesn’t suck so bad. In the mean time, I need to start working on regaining SPG, Hilton, and American Airline status for 2015, I have another 2 months of no travel coming up in the summer which impacts my ability to make Platinum.

Hybrid cars suck

Last week I had the opportunity to drive a co-workers Toyota Camry hybrid and I can say that the experience was…… lacking. I know it’s environmentally friendly and all that good stuff but the driving experience just sucks! I drove a Prius before a cowpoke of years ago and I thought that experience was weird but I attributed that to it being a Prius. I thought that the Camry would be different since it was adapted from a regular car. Nope WRONG! The car drives ok but there is no power in the thing. I step on the gas and it kicks in kind of late with the power. The acceleration is Wally bad, but that might be due to the under powered engine and the extra weight of the battery.

This week I’m driving a regular Camry and the experience is way better than the hybrid. I also noticed that a lot of the trunk room was used up for the battery pack on the hybrid. It looks like I won’t be getting a hybrid any time soon until it drives more like a regular gas only car. It needs the get up and go of a gas car and needs more horsepower to get up to speed in a short amount of time. Maybe I’m just spoiled but that’s just my opinion. Now I just need to save for the next 8 years so I can get my mid life crisis German sports car.