Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Life is Too Short

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the first post of Cars & Driving with Fox Mulligan. I am your host, Fox Mulligan, and this blog shall be dedicated to Cars, Driving, and Observations on both, and life in general. I hope that you all have fun reading my observations (if you don't please don't let me know).

To begin with, I have noticed that life is just too short. Think about your average day: you wake up, often at stupid o'clock in the morning, shower, shave, eat your breakfast, head out to work, actually get to work, spend anywhere between 8-12 hours there, drive back home, have dinner, you have a few hours before bed, and then sleep before it all happens again. Depending on your method commute and local traffic conditions, you've got anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour total commute time. All things considered, that's a not insignificant amount of time to spend driving.

By the same token, let's assume you take time off. The cost of travel being what it is, let's assume that you chose to drive on your vacation. Unfortunately, this means you can spend anywhere between 2 to 15 hours (seattle to santa cruz, baby!) getting to your destination, which is time that can be better spent barbecuing, surfing, skiing, snowboarding, jet-skiing, or just pampering yourself at your chosen travel destination.

According to some , Federal employees spend 233 hours each year in the car on average. That's nearly 10 days! I can only imagine that the numbers are similar for workers in the private sector. With that in mind, and most Americans spending so much time in their cars, why not drive something that excites the passions?

On that note, we arrive at the topic of our first post: a 2003 Toyota Corolla CE .

Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Why, oh why is he talking about a Corolla? And a 6 year old one, to boot!" But I have my resons. First, and let's be fair, this is the first post in what basically amounts to amateur journalism. I do not have the clout that Car & Driver or the other large magazines have. Secondly, and as a consequence of this, I have to rely on the resources at hand. So, I am submitting my car for your reading pleasure.

Now, on paper, the Corolla's pretty good. The 1.8l 4 cylinder engine is, without a doubt, the best feature about the car. This engine is not only fuel efficient (I recently tested mine and I am getting about 30 mpg, even with 121000 miles on the car), but it is also rather clever with a separate valve timing camshaft that gets more horsepower over 5000 rpms. While it comes in at only 130 hp (they upped it to 170 after 2005), this engine is good. And it shows. Most cars that I've driven seem to have a speed they're comfortable at. This Corolla seems most comfortable at about 75 mph. The engine is so good, in fact, that Lotus uses them in their Elise here in the United States. Also, there is an aftermarket supercharger that I understand is fairly easy to install.

However, this would be a waste because, like most compact cars these days, the power goes to the front wheels as opposed to the rear. For example, 0-60 is dealt with at 9.6 seconds, which may be due to the fact that my tires need replacing, but at most that could only deal with one or two seconds off the clock. At 130 hp the chassis can cope fairly well, and produces very little understeer. The only occasion I had significant understeer was a very tight 180 degree turn that I needed to make on the way to work (if you're curious, the right hand turn onto Laurelwood off of Montague Expressway if you live near San Jose). However, if you were to up the power, I am pretty sure that youd wind up with significant torque steer as well as understeer.

Anyway, moving on: the transmission is fairly snappy, as is the suspension. The interior is logically laid out as well as having room for 5, a fairly spacious trunk, and plenty of headroom for yours truly (I'm about 6'1", so a fairly big guy). The ride is firm, but without being stiff, so that's good. The stereo has capacity for one cd, and fairly high quality speakers standard.

Finally, like the supercharger, there are a lot of aftermarket body-kits available, and the car is fairly easy to tune, which is something I always appreciate.

Overall then, the car seems like a slam dunk. It's got Toyota's reliability, it's fairly sporty, has the capacity to be modified to the user's taste, and has room enough for you and four friends for some organized mayhem, or for a school run.

But here comes the but. And it's one that's not readily apparanent until after you're off the lot and have driven the car for about a week.

While all the pieces are there, somehow, Toyota fails to put them together in a package that comes anywhere near exciting your senses. Most cars I've driven have personalities. Toyota has a work ethic. It's about as entertaining as an IRS auditor. Yes, it's professional, and yes it gets the job done right the first time, but it's about as boring as listening to grass grow. Overall, I'll give it 3 out of 5 stars, but if it entertained me, it'd have had 4.

And that's my overall point: Life's too short to have such a boring car. Carpe Diem!

Who should buy this car: This car is perfect for the high-school/college crowd. The reliability, cost, and utility is perfect for someone who doesn't need anything exciting.

Who should not buy this car: Anyone with a soul.

Engine: 1.8L 4-cylinder engine with 130 bhp
Brake Setup: Front Calipers, Rear Drums
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Drivetrain: Front Wheel Drive
Overall: 3/5 Stars. Like your accountant, and just as entertaining.


  1. Heh, heh...

    1978 Cadillac Coupe de Ville D'elegance package.

    In all honesty, they thirty years of her existence are showing on her, despite the paint and re-upholstery. She sports the last of the caddy big blocks, 425 (same as the mythical 500, but with a shorter stroke) The horsepower is only rated at 195bhp, adequate to move this 4100lb giant.

    I didn't buy this classic land yacht to win GT races. I hate modern cars with their "sport tuned" suspensions. To me that is all code-speak for "harsh uncomfortable ride". The D'Elegance package has an upgraded interior than the standard DeVilles, Rather than tuck and roll upholstery, it has sewn in throw pillows everywhere! I love cloth, especially in the summertime and the buckskin does not readily absorb heat. (As opposed to the maroon leather in my Roadmaster that left scars!)

    This car suffers from the '80's big brick school of styling, but she still has the lines of a Caddy there, from the massive chrome grill, to her twin, shining tail fins!

    Fuel economy? Well.... =^^;

    With the factory quadrajet 13 city 17 highway.

    With the Holly 9 city, 13 highway >X.x<

    (as a side note, I experimented with tire pressure and found that fuel economy was unaffected in city driving with tire pressures ranging from 15 - 35 psi. However on the highway, I forgot to air the tires up and rode 200 miles at 20psi. I got 13 mpg instead of 17)

    She's the last of the real caddy's in my book. before the heresies of front wheel drive, and the disaster of the HT4100. She still sports real tail fins, not this vestigal crap that was eroded away by the laws of aerodymanics. I don't drive her that often, she's a continual work in progress. I gotta rebuild that Quadrajet!

  2. Oh man...sounds like you've got a classic there. Sounds like the perfect road trip machine. Comfort and style.