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.

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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 🙂

Tolls are such crap

I just want to say this first, Virginia I hate you and your place on my shit list right next to New Jersey is well deserved.  Anyway on to today’s rant!  Last night I decided to drive to Washington DC to take some pictures of the monuments at night since they are really awesome at that time of the day.  I got there at about sun down so there was still some light left.  I spent a few hours there doing the rounds and snapping pictures.  At around 10PM I called it quits and decided to head back to my hotel in Reston VA.

In order to get to my hotel in Reston I have to take a toll road.  To me toll roads are such crap, its just a way to get more money out of me every time I travel to pay for a road thats already been built.  The thing that annoys me most is that the Dulles Toll Road is the only highway that goes to Reston, at least Florida’s saving grace is that if you don’t want to take a toll road there is an interstate alternative that can be taken even though you have to go out of your way, its not that bad.  So last night I pull up to the Full Service window at my exit, normally there’s a little person in there to accept my money, drop a coin in the exact change bucket and I can go on my way.  Last night there was no little person and I looked around to see what to do.  I didn’t see anything that I could do except give exact change and being a consultant, I try to carry as little extraneous crap as possible, especially loose change!  Since I didn’t want to sit there like a dumbass, I decided to just say “ah fuck it” and drove through the toll.

This type of thing has happened to me before and Florida is notorious for it as well, putting up tolls but expecting people to either have a SunPass or EZPass or exact change.  I don’t get why the DOT in various states think so backwards that we all have loose change or some sort of transponder in our cars.  I rent cars for most of the week that I’m working so I’m not using a transponder and most of the time I’m trying to get points on my credit card so I don’t carry cash.  Metal sets off alarms at the airport so I get rid of all my loose change so I don’t have to be patted down or something.  A lot of toll roads take pictures of plates these days and the plates are tied to individuals.  It would be simple enough to provide a statement to the registered owner of the vehicle to pay the said toll after taking a snap shot of their license plate.  Another fun thing would be to use technology in the plate itself and have it be a transponder so I don’t have to buy one, or register for one, or add money to it if it gets low on funds.  If I don’t pay my tolls, I just can’t re-register the car.  This would eliminate annoying things like toll violation fees and trying to enforce people paying tolls if the state actually used tolls.

I know, these ideas are really far out there and require lots of computing power and intelligence (on the part of the government which is seriously lacking at all levels) but it can be done successfully with the tech we have today.  Even if we have people stop so that the system takes a photo of the license plate first, thats better than having to stop, get a ticket or pay the toll and then make sure the dude in the booth hits the button.  OK, enough ranting and raving for now.  I have two more weeks in DC and then I have to find yet another project in some state I don’t live in so that I can earn my paycheck.

Time to try Hertz again

After 3 loyal years with Avis and after achieving Avis First status I’m leaving Avis for Hertz. I first used Hertz a long time ago when I first started consulting but the offers at Avis were just too good (I certainly couldn’t pass up free iTunes songs after every rental). Since then there haven’t been many compelling offers beyond getting free weekend rentals which I never use.

Just try something different I decided to go back to Hertz to see if they will give me better cars, to see if their point system is worth all the hype, and simply because Avis isn’t really offering me anything that I want at the moment. The only bad thing Hertz did that made me switch was that they gave me a Corolla as a rental. Last week kind of did it for me with Avis, my car want clean again (it’s kind of gross web you find an apple in your car) but I do like hat they have a no smoking policy now.

I plan to rent with Hertz for the next 6 weeks. I figure I should be fair before I decide to dump them and go back to Avis. Here’s hoping I don’t get a PT Cruiser because that car will be returned before I leave the lot.