introducing …

So I bought a car Saturday. I haven’t taken my own picture of it, but this will give you the idea:


(Sorry, Mercedes, I stole your picture. But hey, I gave you credit for it – and bought your car.)

It’s a Mercedes GLA250, and looks somewhat dolphin-ish. I haven’t named it yet, though I’ve been thinking maybe Gladys, for the GLA moniker, and also after Flavia De Luce’s bike.

I still think the Subaru Crosstrek is a great car, but after driving the lux-o-rama models, it just felt …. thin, somehow. Plastic-y. I’m sure that feeling would have worn off quickly, but hey, I haven’t actually owned a car (except I guess I have a half-share in our truck) since 2006 and I wanted something nice. Also, I loved the cars I had in 2006 (Toyota Tacoma, Toyota MR2 Spyder) and was hoping for something else I could love as much. Another issue with the Subaru is that the CVT (continuously variable transmission) apparently feels unresponsive to a lot of people and I think it would have bugged me when I’d driven it more.

Just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, last Friday night I went and drove a BMW X1, and they let me take it overnight so we could test it for longer. That car was freaking adorable – a dark burnt orange in color and with the only wheels I’ve ever seen that I really liked the look of. (Normally I can never figure out why some people pay extra for wheels, unless they just want a bigger size. These made me think of tree roots or spider webs – in fact, it was a very good car for Halloween, overall.) Here’s a picture, though it makes the car look a bit too red. I loved the way the car drove, too – and it had leather seats, which the Mercedes doesn’t. There were just a couple of issues, though. For one thing, very little storage. I don’t mean the cargo, just not many places for things like eyeglasses. There were three front cupholders: one is always obscured by the armrest unless you flip it up; one is covered when the armrest is slid forward (e.g. where it is when a short person like me is driving) and the third (which I think is an add-on) sticks out into the passenger’s leg space. Speaking of that armrest, it’s way down low, so that you can’t really actually rest your arm on it while driving. Fine for short trips, but we were afraid it could get uncomfortable on long ones, like our biweekly drive to the lake.

The Mercedes didn’t have those issues, as we remembered, so I tentatively decided on it, pending one more test drive to be sure. (When you drive enough cars, they do blur together!)

That car buying pretty much took all day. First we tested the X1, with Ted driving, to get his opinion. Then we went to breakfast. Then I dropped Ted off, dropped the Beamer off, and went to Mercedes. First I went on another drive with the salesman, during which we made a stop for lunch that took a lot longer than planned (he ate; I’d just had breakfast so I had a strawberry lemonade. But I did get to talk to a visiting homebrewer from Atlanta, which was nice, and just enjoy being out on a nice day). Then we did paperwork for 40 minutes or so – that part wasn’t too bad. Then I had to wait about another hour and a half for them to do the preliminary inspection of the car. They’d only had it in house for two days, and I think once I said I wanted it, the salesguys hid it so no one else would take it! So that got old. I finally got home about 5:30, just in time to erg 12 km before dinner. Bleah. Buying cars isn’t fun.

Driving this one is, though! To be fair, the BMW has a few more advantages over the Merc: free service for 4 years (or you could say it’s built into the price), free roadside assistance for 10 years, more power (though less fuel economy because of it, and the GLA’s 208 horsepower isn’t exactly underpowered), a little more cargo space. The first one is ok, though; I bought the Mercedes four-year service plan. (They have a bad rep for reliability, but the actual statistics are better than BMW from what I found; I think it’s a case of perception lagging reality. Either way, at least I’m covered for a while.) On the plus side, it handles beautifully, gives a feeling of sticking tight to the road, and has a lot of comfort. I had that Spyder convertible when we lived in Arizona; I don’t really want one in Portland, but the big moonroof gives me a similar open feeling, especially with windows down. (After I’d been testing the GLA and X1, my old moonroof-less Edge felt a bit claustrophobic!) Edmund’s gives the GLA better ratings for reliability, performance, fun-ness to drive, build quality and value quality. They don’t seem to like it as much for interior design, exterior design and comfort but those are easy enough to judge for myself and I don’t need anyone else’s rating. (Though that does make me wonder about their general accuracy!)

I did save some money by cutting down on features. I don’t have leather in this one, but the “MB-Tec” is a pretty good fake, and I do have all the options I want most. I like the way this one looks and I love how it feels Any negative comments I could find about it online are from people who seem to be wanting a bigger SUV – but I wanted a small car. This drives like one and parks like one and has lots more internal space than an actual small car. I’m loving being able to just make a right turn and zip into parking spaces – that Edge I was driving lumbers like a truck.

There have been a few small disappointments, and a few nice discoveries.

Among the former, I can’t make a phone call by voice control, because that’s on an option package I don’t have. However, I can still make a call by just holding my iPhone button and telling Siri to make it, and then the phone audio is still piped through the car. The glove box is too small to hold the manual – what kind of engineer designed that? But it comes in a sturdy case, so I tossed it onto the rear floor. The memory seats aren’t linked to our keys, as they are in our truck, so you have to actually hold the memory button for the appropriate driver to move the seat into position. (But Ted rarely drives me car during the week, so it’s not like we do that all the time.

On the plus side, I didn’t think there was a lumbar adjustment for the seats, but there is (on the side of the seats, whereas the other controls are on the doors. The BMW didn’t want to stream music from my iPhone unless plugged in (though it was supposed to do that) but the GLA has no problem playing music from my phone, plugged in or not. A few other things work better than the BMW’s too; I find the navigation maps a lot easier to read on this car, and the keyless locks seem to work a lot more reliably on the GLA. And the navigation menu, among other local attractions, has a whole section on wineries! It’s a decent list, including the one we were headed to in order to enjoy yesterday’s gorgeous weather, when I found that out.

Today has just been about driving to work and to and from a customer site, but even with that, I’ve really been enjoying the open roof, general zippiness, and the ease of parking.

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