Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why I Test Drove a Prius Only Four Blocks

We've been considering a hybrid for years, but they were always a little too expensive. G. found one at the dealership where we bought our last two cars (ahem...10 years ago). It was a 2008, priced around $16G, had 38,000 miles, and looked pretty. So we packed up the boys and went over for a test drive.

Our regular guy, the one who sold us our cars 10 years ago and amazingly still works there, was off today, so we spoke with the nice young man fresh out of the car rental biz. He tried to start the car, and found that the battery was dead. Apparently, these batteries will die if you leave them sitting around too long. So he got out his trusty portable-jumper-briefcase and jumped it. It was running fine, we gave our drivers' licenses up for copying and decided I'd take the first drive and G would stay with the kids, then test drive it after I returned. The nice young guy offered to watch them so we could go together, but, no. We didn't know him from jack, and we'd have his car, but he'd have our kids and we're not really willing to trade. Now, in hindsight, maybe I should be more trusting.

So I got in and it was like a video game. The computerized dashboard seems so far away, I was looking down a tunnel to see the numbers. He handed me the key, but said I didn't need it. I looked all over for the ignition, and there is none. You press a "Power" button that is marked like the one on my computer, seriously. They made a fake gear shift on the dashboard so you'd feel like you were shifting into drive, but really, I got the feeling it could have been done with buttons or a mouse.
The engine is pretty freaking quiet. In fact, I'd gone about four blocks and stopped at a red light when I thought, Geez, it's REALLY quiet. Then everything went dark. Crap. The traffic light turned green and I couldn't start the car. I pushed that button over and over, managed to get the dashboard lights back up and the window rolled down so I could wave people past me, but then it all went black again. Since it was all black, I couldn't shift into neutral. Fuckin' A, I'm stalled on a busy street in not-the-best-section of my city, and I can't even push it over to the side. I hate people who stall and then just sit there blocking the lane. Now I was one of them, and it wasn't even my car.

No battery, no hazard lights. G. was not answering his cell phone. I grabbed the piece of paper the salesman had given me, and of course there was no phone number on it. Goddamnit! It was making me crazy that I was causing this huge traffic hazard and I couldn't even reach someone to help me and it WASN'T MY CAR. I could not believe G. wasn't answering his cell phone when he should know something like this could happen! I considered leaving it there and hightailing it the four blocks back, probably about half a mile, but I'd left the window open and now couldn't get it back up and I felt bad leaving an open car unattended like that.

Oh wait, I have an iPhone!! I opened the browser, googled the dealership, found the number and called. When some dude answered, I yelled at him that I was test driving one of their vehicles, it died and I was now blocking a whole lane of traffic and could someone come out NOW??? He told me to hold, and a minute later our salesman answered, saying, "This is Ron, how can I help you?" Goddamnit all to hell, was I not clear?? I repeated myself and he asked, "What happened? Did it just stop?"

"It DIED. It's DEAD. And there are a whole bunch of people on this street who are not at all happy with me or your car so get out here."

OK. I felt a little better that someone was coming, so I stood behind the car waving cars past since they couldn't really tell the Prius was stalled. I mouthed, "Sorry!" to each of them as they passed. A couple nice people offered to help me push it over, and I told them I would LOVE to push it over but I couldn't get it into neutral. One kind of oddly dressed guy yelled, when he found out it wasn't my car, "They let you take a test drive by yourself????" He returned to his bus stop, then came back and said, "I just can't get over this. Someone should've gone with you!" He was hanging around a little too much and I was wishing his bus would show up.

Nice young man showed up, handed me the cars to the Mazda 626 he'd taken off the lot and told me to drive it back to the dealership. I was happy to leave him with Dead Prius and then I thought, "Oh, geez, what do you want to bet he'll get in, push the button and the thing will start right up?" So I glanced back and was gratified to see him opening the hood and beginning the jumping process. Odd Guy was there with him, probably giving him hell for letting me take a test drive by myself, and I was really just fine leaving them both there together. G. drove by with the boys in the car, I guess to make sure I could get back. He told me later that the boys had decided in the back of the car that we weren't going to buy the Prius under any circumstances because we "at least want a car that's going to get us to the end of California." Or more than four blocks.

The 626 drove quite nicely. Believe it or not, we haven't ruled out the Prius. Young Man assured us that this wasn't a usual problem, but that because it's sitting on the lot, it doesn't get driven enough to keep the battery charged. OK. So now you know, don't let people test drive it when the battery's low. So glad I could help. The only bright spot was that it wasn't pouring rain today, like it has been for the last two weeks or so.

Edited to add: If you take the previous post and this one together, it would appear that I should just give up driving altogether and take the bus.


followingtheroad said...

You know? I've always wondered what it is like to drive a Prius. And now? Not so much. I probably don't drive enough any more to keep the battery charged.

I'd like to know what it's like when the battery actually works though. Someday I might drive enough again.

Anonymous said...

Sorry it was an ordeal! I feel badly I insisted we go test driving yesterday afternoon -- G

Anonymous said...
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