I got a new car; a 2011 Subaru Outback. And yes, it really does come with an intrinsic sense of self satisfaction, thanks for asking. I was about to buy an ubiquitous Toyota Rav4 because it was most of the things I wanted, but the day before, my dad introduced me to the new outback (unlike the older, more wagon-y model that he has), and the next day I bought it. And thank god I got my new car in a manual. I was ready to go automatic for lack of manual versions of the cars I was looking at, but the Outback worked its way in. People these days. There were literally four manual transmission Outbacks in Southern California. Two were ugly, and one was in my color. Armed with that information, I got a price that allows me to chuckle at Rav4s for how much more car I got for quite a bit less money. Plus, having a car made at a zero landfill plant makes non-Subaru hippies cry when they can't take the moral high ground on their choice of car. I put an NRA sticker on the back just to piss them off.
The car represents a kind of phase shift for me. To quote everyone who knows me, "It's a grown-up car!" Exiting the phase of "Yeah, fast cars are awesome, I love to go fast." and entering the phase of "Yeah, fast cars are awesome, and I'm going to die if I get the combination of perfect song, perfect level of congestion of the freeway, and my recurring lead-foot syndrome." The Subaru is considerably slower than the turbo Passat. To get a manual, I had to get the smaller engine. But beside being slow, it's also smoother, and much more refined. The clutch is electronic, so at first, I could barely drive it. I couldn't feel a damn thing. I resorted to looking at the tachometer to know when I should shift, and when I missed a shift and ground the gears, the only way I knew it was because I could hear it. I couldn't feel shit. The fact that there is no real engine noise, very little power (comparatively, I guess), a very smooth ride, and no raw connection between you and the engine, gearbox, and clutch makes it a lot harder to get excited, and attempt to beat the land speed record while driving a slalom of zombie drivers on the freeway while Born Too Slow turns that knob in your adrenal gland up to 11.
That said, there is truly nothing like that rush. But it ain't worth gettin' dead over.
Oh yeah, I was sure I was going to miss the turning radius on the Passat, but the Outback blew the Passat out of the water. I'm pretty sure I could flip a bitch inside a parking spot. It's really impressive, and really useful.
Coming back from the desert trip yesterday we popped the Outback's cherry with some light off-roading along a dirt road mountain pass of rocks and washes. The latter of which sent most of the contents of the trunk airborne for enough time to do the tablecloth pull trick with my trunk liner. After a bit of practice, I got a better feel for how to spot the washes and take them in a way that didn't make me worry for my virgin car. Honestly, I'll admit to having a bit of the pucker factor for most of the trip. Driving over sharp rocks, steering through soft sand, and hitting bumps that would have broken my last car in half, all at a fair speed was mentally taxing. But these thoughts were countered at each turn by the Subaru's constant reassurance that yes, it could do this, and yes, it could probably do it backwards and at twice the speed. In fact, thinking back now, I don't think we ever bottomed out. 8.7" of ground clearance and good suspension are probably the reason for that. I was impressed, and we got the new Subaru the thing that Subarus seem to need most; dirty.