Five Rental Cars

During my recent business trip, I drove five rental cars in five days. I have mixed emotions about that experience. On one hand, I enjoy driving different vehicles as it gives me the opportunity to test drive new cars. On the other hand, not all those cars were comfortable. Even after several visits to the chiropractor, my lower back is still complaining. But that is to be expected … I suppose.

During the trip, I drove a KIA Sportage, a new Infiniti QX30, a Ford Fusion, a new Chrysler Pacifica, and a Dodge Dart. I had limited time in the Ford and Chrysler but they were both comfortable and luxurious. I don’t remember much about the KIA. But the other two were memorable in different ways.

When I got to Baltimore’s airport, the lines were long, I was tired, and nobody was cooperating. Even being a preferred member of Enterprise didn’t help me to walk in and get a car. However, I finally made a reservation through Enterprise’s website and found that all the cars were the same price … $270 for a one way trip to Syracuse. Yikes!

Instead of paying that much for an economy car, I chose luxury. Why not? I ended up getting the 2017 Infiniti QX30. It is a small SUV with a 2.0 turbo four and AWD. I received several compliments on the vehicle. It was stylish and interesting. But for my body size, it was too small to be comfortable. I think the combination of driving this and sleeping in a cheap hotel caused my back trouble.

However… there were some interesting things about this snazzy ride. The first thing I noticed was the interior’s use of Mercedes-Benz components. The power seat controls were on the door. The steering wheel controls were the same. And the cruise control was exactly like MB. No complaints about that as they were familiar and worked well. It was just strange to see them in an Infiniti.

The last car I rented was a 2015 Dodge Dart with 30k miles on the odometer. Even though it was a small car, the cloth/mesh seats were very comfortable. The Bluetooth system was also easy to use and allowed me to play audio from my phone. Nice. The performance, however, was lacking. The little engine could rev up to almost 6000 rpm but it made more noise than speed. Of course, this was after driving the turbo charged Infiniti so it probably is not a fair comparison.

Overall, I enjoyed driving the different vehicles. The Pacifica’s touch screen was the best looking HD quality unit I have ever seen. The Ford was very comfortable and luxurious. But with my back issues, I will be especially careful with the next car I choose … especially at $270 per day.

Test Drive : Lotus 7 Replica

Our drive to church on Sunday morning is about 40 minutes. As a family we have used that time to read various books to each other. It gives reading practice to the children and keeps them from pestering each other. Our latest book is from the original Tom Swift series from the early 1900’s. During each novel, young Tom invents or improves something like a motorcycle, electric car, or flying machine. The stories are quite dated but are exciting and make you think that maybe you could build something yourself. That’s a good thing.


This Sunday, after our afternoon church service, I got to drive a Lotus 7 replica that is being built by the son of one of our church members. As you can see in the pictures below, it is not quite completed. The owner is slowly working on it and hopes to add fenders for the wheels eventually as well as a hood to cover the engine. This one has a turbo-charged Mazda Miata engine with a 5-speed manual transmission. It certainly makes me walk over for a look every time I see it. Notice how low it sits to the ground?

“You know it’s a Lotus when your knuckles touch the ground.”
–Jon Engdahl

The owner offered me a ride and we drove up Rt. 322 about a mile. He gave it the gas and made it move pretty quickly. Of course, being that low to the ground, everything seems fast. Then he surprised me by asking if I wanted to drive it. “Sure,” I said. We switched places in somebody’s driveway and I backed it out and back onto 322. It took me a while to get used to the bottom hinged pedals. But after over-revving the engine a couple times, I managed to get it into the various gears. The biggest surprise was pressing the brake pedal — no power brakes! We made it back safely but from the picture someone took, it looks like he didn’t like my driving. (Actually, he didn’t complain. It’s just a bit awkward to get out of the car.)


I’m of the opinion that it would take a lot of patience to build a car from the ground up. But on the positive side, you would know the vehicle inside and out and probably appreciate it more. The owner of this car has been working on it for several years and drives it daily when the weather permits. That reminds me of the scientist inventor in the old Tom Swift books we’ve been reading. Funny thing is that the owner’s father has the entire first series of those books.


I don’t think so.

Test Drive : 2015 Volvo S80 T5

Volvo has some tricks up its sleeve for the future. They have an all new MY16 XC90 coming out in the first quarter of next year. They have also promised that by calendar year 2017, the new XC90 will be the oldest model on our showroom floors. That means that Volvo has some exciting new models planned for the next couple of years. But don’t let the future take away from what is being offered right now. The all new Drive-E engines are a big deal — especially in the 2015 Volvo S80 T5!

For the longest time, Volvos were known for their safety but never especially good fuel economy. That has changed. Safety, comfort, AND good fuel economy comprise the new mantra for Volvo cars. If you haven’t heard, the new 240 hp 2.0L inline four-cylinder uses direct-injection, turbo charging, and ECO start/stop features to get an impressive 25 mpg city and 37 mpg hwy. That’s much better than the 3.2 I-6 engine it replaces. Who would have thought that a full-size Volvo would get 37 mpg on the highway? Meet the new Volvo.


When I first started working at Leikin Motor Companies, the S60 was my favorite car. Then it was the sporty C30. But now that I am in my mid-40’s, I am most attracted to the Volvo S80. Volvo’s flagship sedan is the most comfortable car you will ever drive both across town or across the country. The leather seats must have been designed with me in mind because I immediately smile when I sit in the driver’s seat. Take a look at the interior. I like the glossy wood center console with matching wood trim throughout the car. It is simple but elegant. You don’t have to wear plaid pants when driving an S80 but as you can see it does add to the attraction. Right? (Moving right along.)

Another thing to note is the new TFT gauges in the dashboard. The center gauge can be changed to one of three themes. In the picture, I chose Sport mode for a digital speedometer surrounded by the tachometer. You can also choose Elegant or ECO for a more traditional look. Each mode emphasizes a different aspect of the driver’s needs whether that be engine power, speed, or fuel economy. It’s a nice thing to have when you want to change things up once in a while.


The new 2015 Volvo S80 is a great choice for someone who wants a full-size sedan with comfortable seats and good fuel economy. But don’t think that Volvo has lost its way when it comes to safety. Volvo’s acclaimed City Safety system is designed to apply the brakes in city traffic if you are about to rear end another vehicle and are not paying attention. This is particularly helpful when those in the back seat are distracting you from what’s happening ahead. Or it could also help when you are looking over your shoulder to change lanes. If City Safety determines that you are about to rear end the car ahead, it will apply the brakes and hold them for 1 1/2 seconds. You can imagine how that will affect your insurance rates.

Do you get the idea that I like this car? I really do. With all that the car offers (comfort, safety, fuel economy, luxury), it is a great option for someone looking for a full-size sedan. If you are waiting for just the right car to come out, don’t wait anymore. The 2015 Volvo S80 T5 is a great choice.

Test Drive : 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG

If you are looking for a good review of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, this is the video to watch. The driver is fair and balanced about the first front wheel drive AMG car (that I know of) in the USA. He points out the positive and negative aspects of the car. I appreciated his honesty and hopefully you will too. See what you think.

Test Drive : 2006 BMW 750Li

I was handed an iPhone at work today. That usually means a customer from AutoTrader wants to talk about one of our pre-owned cars. Sure enough, an out of state customer was interested in our 2006 BMW 750Li. This is a car that I have driven before. I had driven it to Cleveland and back on an errand for the dealership. But rather than recite a description from memory, I walked out to the car and looked it over while we spoke.


As you can imagine, this car comes with a lot of nice options:

Cold Weather Package (Heated Front Seats, Heated Rear Seats, and Heated Steering Wheel), Convenience Package (Automatic Trunk Opening & Closing), Luxury Seating Package (Driver’s Side Front Active Seat and Front Ventilated Seats), Power Moonroof, and SIRIUS Satellite Radio.

The controls are a bit odd after driving Volvos and Mercedes-Benz cars. But I eventually figured out how to adjust the seats and turn on the fan inside the seats. (That is a nice feature on a warmish day.) The center controller moves you between navigation, entertainment, and a few other options. But I had the hardest time locating the volume knob for the radio. After many attempts with the controller, I found a small volume knob by the CD slot.

After the phone call, I took the car out for a test drive by myself to get re-acquainted. While I am not a BMW fanatic, I must admit that this is a very nice riding car. The 360 hp V8 engine has plenty of power and the ride is very comfortable. I had no problem getting up to speed on the highway and felt fully in control at every moment. In fact, what could have been a short drive around the block turned into my lunch break just because I enjoyed the drive so much. This is the car you would like to take for a day trip into the mountains. It has all the needed power, comfort, and driving pleasure you would expect from the top-of-the-line BMW sedan.

As of the writing of the article, the customer has not arrived to test drive the car. He may or may not. But if I was looking for a nice luxury sedan, this one would be a good one for under $20k. So, click here to see if the car is still available.