In early December, the East Coast can be described best as being ass-freezingly cold. It's your body's way of signaling you that the ice age was a hell of a long time ago, and planes are a thing. I decided that in lieu of this circumstance, it was high time I took a vacation with a few dear friends whose extremities were in various stages of frostbite as well. Troubling times indeed.
Fuck this, I'm out.
We booked a flight to Vegas, and boarded a Southwest flight to the land of gambling, hookers and $2.99 prime rib. Since one of our group was a manager at a national car rental outlet, we got the royal treatment - meaning we got the car at a reasonable price and didn't really have to worry if an unsuspecting senior slammed into it after falling asleep in the parking lot after an all night bender at the slots. In any case, we got the keys to our slightly used 2012 GMC Acadia and our vacation officially began.
5. If it's used at all, it's trashed.
Before we managed to turn the car on, we immediately smelled an odor not unlike a good curry mixed with a milk way past its prime. Oh, and the car that was less than a year old had more than 60,000 miles on the odometer. Back to the counter for another car, we didn't need a rental slut on its last legs. Luckily they had another Acadia in the fleet, and this one smelled like a broken-in pair of leather shoes and had almost no miles on the clock. "Awesome! We'll take it!" was something I distinctly remember hearing no one say as we piled our luggage into our do-over GMC.
An interesting fact about this car is that it's the closest thing to a minivan you can get while still retaining that last sliver of dignity. It's for the dad that thinks that those polished quad exhaust pipes make up for the fact that had he not had kids, he could have probably afforded that Ferrari he'd promised himself when he was younger, had less liabilites and a lot more hair.
Also the same person who likes this ad.
4. They aren't that practical.
One particularly dissapointing area of the car was the lack of usable luggage space. We had 6 people with 2 bags each, and in order for everything to fit, we needed to have the entire rear row folded flat, which meant 4 of us had to throw personal space out the window and learn to be intimate with one another. This wasn't a RAV4 we were piling into, it was a full size SUV that was nearly 17 feet long. Space should be a non issue, especially in a car that's built as a vehicle for carrying lots of people over large distances. Did the people at GM think that these trips wouldn't involve a change of clothes? It may just have been a problem of logistics on our part, but it certainly seemed like GM's target demographic for this car was a bunch of short, nomadic nudists.
Clearly enough luggage for 7 people over 2 weeks.
Even with no luggage in the car, our 3-row Acadia with all its seats occupied had a laughable amount of rear leg room. In order for the second row passengers to have any leg room at all, the front row passenger's knees would have to perform a mating dance with the dash. Since you can't have 7 passengers and luggage in the car at the same time, why not move the second row a few inches back and make a rear-facing jump seat for the 3rd row?
3. They're Boring, inside and out.
When I finally made the decision to prime the fuel pump and send 12 screaming volts to the starter motor, the result was something that set the tone for my driving adventure from then on out: completely and utterly unremarkable.
The 288HP, 3.6L V6 engine wasn't a bad engine, but it wasn't a particularly good one either. It took the most mediocre aspects of hum, mixed it lazily with drum, and covered it with beige wallpaper with a sprinkling of 99-cent store air freshener. Acceleration for such a heavy car was adequate, and steering was, at its very best, "functional".
"I might as well be a toaster."
Rental cars are generally abysmal because they aren't interesting, passionate, or notable in any way. You can do a quick test of this right now, as you read this. Go to any major rental car website in America. No exotic car rentals or desert dune buggy rentals. I'm not talking about what you do with your tax return the second you get your first gray hair and your mid life crisis comes screaming into reality. Look at the entire lineup of cars and narrow down the ones you'll likely pick for a vacation of leisure. Now imagine that those cars had never existed. What would the world be missing?
The world still mourns its loss.
Don't even think about it, as I've done the thinking for you. The answer you're looking for is: Not a damn thing. A quick note - I'm not talking about the Corvette ZHZ, Shelby Mustang GT-H, or any other car that can possibly throw a wrench in my long-winded rant prematurely. I'm referring to the lion's share of rental cars.
2. Interior Design was an obvious afterthought.
Our rental Acadia had a fair amount of gadgets in it. It had a self opening and closing tailgate, Bluetooth, heated front leather seats, rear backup camera and park warning system, Bose sound system and a digital front / rear 2 zone climate control. Brand new, this car cost around the $50k mark. A lot of luxury for the price, right?
Every single item on this car, including the standard options, felt like an afterthought. It's almost like the exterior and mechaincal portions of the car were finished and the designers simply forgot that the car needed an interior, then did their utmost to fit everything in before lunch. Buttons were placed in weird positions, had a flimsy touch and employed the use of tiny icons that weren't descriptive or analogous to what they actually do.
There are 52 buttons in this picture.
There was an icon that had a To-Do List on it, with a check in one of the tasks. That was the button for "OK" on the cluster menu. You know what else works just as good? A button that says "OK". The climate control buttons were so small you'd have to take your eyes off the road for a good few seconds to make sure you'd selected the rear defroster instead of the "OFF" button, because not only are they right next to each other, they're a half-inch wide. This is the exact opposite of the GM of the 80s and 90s, when cars had interior buttons that could be seen from space, but still had the wacky and ass-backwards placements throughout the cabin.
1. EVERYTHING. IS. CHEAP.
You know you're in bad shape when $20 die cast models of cars have the same build quality and attention to detail as the car you're sitting in. For example, the dash gives one the feeling that a solid stab with a sharpened crayon would create a moderate-sized hole - and while we're on the subject of dashboards - the committee that decreed from the rooftops that all cheap plastic dashboards had to have that obviously fake looking leather texture should - and hopefully do - have a special place reserved in hell.
The entire car had a distinct air of unreliability to it. It felt like it was built to be a car only until the day the warranty expired. Having been in similar European cars and Japanese cars, the feeling of being solid that was so prevalent in those cars is definitely something left behind in this rental. It wasn't falling apart, but its quality gave the impression that not only will something obscure fall off the interior of this car, but you should expect it to do so at the most inopportune and/or hilarious time.
"Now you'll wish I was a toaster."
"It's all in your head!" you yell frantically at your computer screen while your spouse inches closer to force feed you the medication you forgot to take this morning. No, good reader, I'm not just making this up to take a dump on the GMC Acadia. I'm doing it to take a steaming deuce on all rental cars.
Auto companies make cars like these to sell as fleet vehicles. They're cars designed by committee and manufactured by the lowest bidder. Cars used in rentals are bought and sold not as ways to escape the mundane, but to revel in it, and remind yourself that at no point have you escaped. You can look out the windows and experience a new surrounding, but the second your finger touches the window switch, you know that whoever made that switch was subcontracted by a major electronics conglomerate and got a killer deal on distributing whatever they had left in their old parts bin.
The icing on the mediocrity cake was that this car was one of the range-topping models that the company had to offer. That means it could have been much worse. It's ultimately selling people a borderline passable product rather than offering them an adventure they might actually enjoy - and that's perhaps the biggest sin of all.
"Thanks for renting with us! Now go fuck yourself."
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