Monday, June 26, 2006

This is the best they can do?

Unfortunately, yesterday we had a sudden torrential downpour, and the resulting water leakage in my car caused some wiring to short out; which caused a small fire (or at least a lot of smoke).

At the moment, the instrument panel, seats, windows, sun roof, door locks, radio etc... are non functional; it seems the amplifier is fried, some of my wiring is burned; all in all the normal stuff you expect with an electrical issue such as described.

The good news is it looks like insurance is going to cover it. The car is at my mechanics (Nathan Babitt of Babbitt Motorwerks - best BMW guy in PHX by far. NEVER go to Chapman for anything but parts or warranty service), and they're sending out an adjuster tomorrow or the next day.

Also, presuming the repair is covered, my rental car is covered as well (oh and one of the great things about Babbitt, he'll either give you a loaner, or cover half the cost of your rental if insurance wont coer it); so rather than do without a car, we got a rental.

Being the size I am, there are certian minimum sizes I need for a vehicle; and the only things they had available above compact right at that minute were a Buick "national dairy products brand" (what in the hell WERE they thinking with that name); and a Chrysler 300.

So I'm driving around in a 300 at the moment. This is the car that won Motor Trends car of the year a couple years back; is consistently on peoples list of top American cars; and is billed as Chryslers best car ever.

There are reasons why I drive a BMW. This is the best they can do? No wonder the American auto industry is bleeding cash faster than MC Hammer and Paris Hilton combined.

So what's wrong with the car? Lets go on to the specifics:

1. No visibility. This car has almsot no rearward visibility, and HUGE blindspots.

2. Creaks and rattles. This car has a total of 2500 miles on it. It was delivered to the rental company less than two months ago. It creaks worse than my 15 year old bimmer.

3. Spongy... everything really. The seats are spongy, the steering is spongy and ridiculously overboosted, the brakes have NO feel at all; they are either very weakly "on", "off" or way too boosted "on". THere is almost no useful pedal modulation. The transmission is spongy too. THeres plenty of power, but it doesnt arrive at the road for at least a full seconds to two seconds after you hit the pedal.

4. Terrible ergonomics. Noting is within reach of anything. Controls are hidden by other controls or the steering wheel. The instruments are low contrast and hard to read. Nothing is at your finger tips. You need to reposition or even take your hand off the wheel to use the turn signal for example. The cruise control is mounted on a weidrd stalk sticking out at a 45 degree angle off the steering column and it gets in the way of flicking on the turn signal. Forget about the seat controls. Oh and why on earth do cars that have auto roll down windows not have auto roll up windows? Again, this is a brand new 2006 top of the line luxury vehicle, and my middle of the line 15 year BMW has that feature.

There is one good thing about the car; it's roomy; but given all the other irritations I wouldnt even say it's all the comfortable.

Seriously, is this the best they can do? This isn't even close to as good as a late 80s mercedes or BMW; yet it costs just as much in inflation adjusted dollars (of xcourse the NEW mercedes and BMWs run about 10-15k more for a similar class of vehicle today).

Cmmparing features alone, the car looks great, and the hemi powered versions certainly have the get up and go; but look at the price to value and price to quality ratios, and things don't seem as good.

Lets compare the top of the line Chrysler, to a brand new 5 series BMW; say a 550i sport, vs. a 300 srt8; both optioned to the same level:

There's a $13,000 price difference between the two($47,000 vs $60,000 msrp), the optioning levels come out very similar; and the 300 has 60 more horsepower, but it's also a bit heavier.

Is that $13,000 worth it? I say it is, because the 550i is going to pretty much stomp the 300 in every other way (well... I think both are odd looking cars, and some my prefer the 300s looks), and have better resale value and reliability in the bargain (though higher maintenance costs).

As to the initial price difference... well if you can pay for a $50,000 car you can pay for a $60,000 car.

Of course this is why once the initial market demand for the Hemi motoroed cars petered out, they sell for far below MSRP (like $7k or $8k below), so that they can compete for the top end of the Camry buying market instead of the bottom end of the BMW buying market.

Overall, I can't see why anyone would choose the Chrysler. You can't even say "buy American" because the Chrysler isn't Chrysler anymore, it's Daimler Chrysler, owned by the same parent company as Mercedes Benz. I suppose this is also why no Chrysler will ever be any better than this car, because if it was it could in theory cannibalize the bottom end of the Mercedes market

But seriously, is this really the best American companies can do? Are the Cadillac STS or STS-V any better? I know the top of the CTS line, is about the same price as the 5 series and the STS is MORE expensive (The CTS is $41k, the cts-v is $53k, both less than the 5, but smaller vehicles. The STS is more expensive at $67,000 loaded up, and the STS-V is $78k compared to the M5 at $80k - or 90k fully optioned. The STS is more of a 7 series competitor anyway), so even that slight advantage is negated. Is there really any reason to buy an American passenger sedan anymore?

Honestly, I just can't see why anyone would; over the comparable BMW, Mercedes, Audi, or Lexus.