Michael Buffington

No More Hybrid

Thursday, December 21 2006

A few months ago I raved about buying a hybrid. I did all sorts of calculations on the money I’d be saving on gas, gushed about the new in dash navigation system, and determined that this was my new way of being. I was living an ideal I had in my mind for a while that lasted in reality all of four months.

The problem with the hybrid was that the puppy love wore off quickly. The fancy navigation system had a mediocre user interface, the voice commands never really worked, and when cooler temperatures came the gas mileage dropped like a stone.

So here I was in a very humble and entirely unexciting vehicle. I was somewhat okay with that sort of outcome – I’d made my bed and knew I should see it through. That opinion began to change as winter started to really come. The back end of the car would often slip out around corners, and the lack of accelleration nearly cost me my life once as a Secret Service SUV came barrelling down on me.

One morning as I was driving to work I hit what looked like a small patch of ice, maybe six inches in diameter and the car spun out of control, doing a full 360 in the middle of traffic. Luckily I hit nothing, and ended up going the same direction I had been going without getting hit by someone else.

That afternoon I was in negotiations with a Subaru dealer. The next day I drove off the lot with a 2006 Subaru WRX STI – my dream car. About a month after getting the hybrid I horribly missed my Subaru, and having a two wheel drive car with a bank of batteries in the trunk was the exact opposite of what I was used to (and needed) – a car that actually stayed on the road in foul weather.

A lot of people are content with having simply a car as a means of conveyance. If it runs, has two wheels and gets you where you need to go, for some, that’s completely acceptable. For me, a car is a tool I use to get around. I’m not content with baseline tools. When I buy a hammer, I do research on the hammer first, and I determine what makes the best hammer. I don’t skimp when it comes to buying a computer. The chair I sit in is just as important.

But any car that can do what you’ll see in the following video is what I’d call a real car – according to the driver it’s stock except for the rollcage and safety harnesses. I don’t plan on doing this in my car, but knowing that I could reinforces my opinion that there’s more to choosing a tool that functionality alone – the best tools, whether cars, hammers, chairs, web applications, are ones that go a bit beyond acceptable, and move into the realm of incredible.