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Footpower vs. Horsepower

on March 30th, 2014 by mark

I never thought to hate an object so much as I do now. And it is an obscene object, at that. It’s black and heavy, covered in soot and soil, dirt and grime. But everywhere I go these days, I have to carry it with me–like a ball and chain, limping along, the report of clanking as it meets the tile or sidewalk as I go. Even in the grass, I can’t be silent–as the object scrapes along with the sound of dead leaves in its wake, leaving a trail through the grass like a remorseless lawnmower.

It is of course, a black boot-the kind you wear when you’re injured, but only just so. I’ve been battling my left foot for sometime-first with plantar fascitis, then with tendonitis, now with a fallen arch. The boot is really more for the tendonitis which is where most of the pain emanates from right now.

I know levels of pain–I’m not nearly naive enough to say that I know pain-for pain has cruel practitioners far beyond what I’ve ever felt. But I’ve suffered from severe back pain and neck pain, had surgery on the lower spine, avoided it on the upper and lived with it for years. This pain is certainly not that and I would never pretend it is.

It’s annoying and nuisance-making and it does stop me from doing what I want to do. I’m a habitual walker. Dog on leash, I have traversed thousands of miles in the past 18 years or so since I started. My average is 12 miles a week, but the last two weeks, my average is two. I am to keep myself from using the foot too much, hoping that it will respond to the rest–and then, when I get the new orthodics, perhaps I’ll be able to get back to it. In the meantime, I’m creature-like with my big black boot making me clumsy and gamely.

It is not the end of the world, of course and this too shall pass. It actually came in handy yesterday when I went test-driving new cars with my sister-in-law. She wanted to look at the new Ford Focus hatchback and the Subaru Impreza wagon and as I have become a car fan in recent years, I went along for the ride–literally.  The boot made it harder to climb into back seats, but not impossible, and it was a nice test of how the cars are.

So, to the Ford dealer first where I was excited because all I’ve read of the Focus, particularly the ST version with its turbo assist and sporty good looks, made it one I’ve wanted to try. We didn’t test the ST, however, because sis was interested more in the practical SE version, which is still good looking. The write-ups on it have been wonderful and critics love it—and I don’t know why.

The SE we rode in was not quite the base model, but close. We had the 2.0 liter, four-banger engine and a few added safety bits, but that was all. From the time I climbed in the backseat, I was uncomfortable and too tall. My legs fit, barely, but my head scraped the ceiling and there is a definite claustrophobic air about the car. It is not spacious in any way. The materials inside are cheap and plasticky and build quality seemed, well, like an afterthought. The dashboard had so many buttons, nobs and choices, that it belonged on a Boeing, not on a Ford–and learning them would have been a time consumer. It was equipped with an oversize numeric keyboard on the dash, but this car did not have the Bluetooth connectivity. I guess the idea is, put the keyboard in–and it’ll convince you to pay more for the Bluetooth.

Laurie reported that the driver’s seat was comfortable, indeed. She’d wanted the five-speed manual, but they had none in stock, so we drove the automatic. With two liters and reported 160 hp, I expected snappy and spiffy. We rounded a corner, no traffic and I said, “hey sis, step on it.”

Her reply? “I am.” Not much to it.

The only real thing to report is that it is good looking–but all the pretense about the amount of room, the power, the reliability (which apparently is true really only for the manual transmission, which Ford doesn’t sell many of–as the automatic transmission is already problematic) is just that. It was a disappointment and put me off of Ford just when I was learning to appreciate them again as the only American car maker worth their salt. We are back to the drawing board in American cars.

The Subaru Impreza hatchback, however, lived up to and beyond its reputation. Beautiful to look at–much more handsome than the Focus, roomy, comfortable, powerful, sturdy and engineered very well (if in a collision, the engine drops down and away from the passenger compartment, the anti-lock brakes are cross-over circuitry, allowing for more stable braking as well as more safety should one circuit fail and the list goes on). The backseat was roomy and easy to access and when Sis punched the accelerator (again, an automatic-which according to Subaru gets better mileage than the manual because of its technology–I’m skeptical), the car responded immediately and got up and went. Funny, because it has twelve fewer horsepowers than the Focus, and yet, it was a much more responsive, much quicker car. I dare say, if we’d drag raced the two, the Impreza would have won–certainly off the line anyway.

Sis is methodical and has a few more tests she wants to drive–but I came away from the experience both sadder and wiser–but also, enthused. Thanks, Subaru.

Onward.

Posted in Culture, Family

3 Responses to “Footpower vs. Horsepower”

  1. Keith says:

    Not a surprising result…but I enjoyed your report very much. I have been trying very hard to get into the Ford camp and support them as the last true American auto company, im my humble opinion, but I remember driving the new Ford Taurus a few years ago and also feeling somewhat disappointed. I loved all the techy gizmos but found the ride itself somewhat clunky and more road noise than previous models. It wasn’t a bad car per se, but not worth the 30k they were asking at the time…The Toyota Avalon was a much nicer sedan.
    Same hold true with the trucks,altough one exception is the very cool Ford Raptor. That truck is pure bad-assery.
    Also for sport cars the Mustangs give lots of bang for the buck.

  2. Mark Malloy says:

    I’ve test driven a Focus ST. A whole different ballgame with sport suspension and 252 HP and 270 lb.-ft. of torque under the hood. Starts at 25k though and there are a lot of really good cars in that price range including Camry, Altima and Fusion. Sounds like sis wants to stay under 20k…

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