Mechanically Speaking

Mechanically Speaking: I like to drive … most of the time

"Somehow time had blurred my judgement or this version of the minivan had gone downhill from the last one I drove."

I like to drive… at least I used to like to drive. I am freshly back from a short whirlwind vacation of sorts. Five days in the Silicon Valley. The home of tech. Maybe the birthplace of the autonomous car?

No, I did not drive from the Kootenays to there. I flew. By the way, it was the most uncomfortable flight I have ever taken. I had negative legroom. Good thing Vancouver to San Francisco is only a bit over two hours. I know my legs are no longer growing so this was the least legroom on a plane I have experienced. Thank you Air Canada Rouge.

We chose to rent a car when we got to the San Francisco airport. We sort of had three areas to go to: Santa Cruz, Sunnyvale, and San Fran while enjoying all the beauty in between. My rental car of choice; Chrysler Town and Country.

I was chastised repeatedly by my teenage son. “A minivan? This thing is a piece of crap.”

Ahhhh… our nation’s youth.

Our vacation included five people and surfing. That Town and Country easily swallowed four surfboards and five people comfortably. My automobile selection was redeemed. Let’s see a Tesla or a Maserati provide that kind of yeoman service. Thank you Lee Iacocca.

I had fond memories of Chrysler’s minivans. Somehow time had blurred my judgement or this version of the minivan had gone downhill from the last one I drove. I dreamed that they were nice quiet cruisers with reasonably sharp steering and handling.

This one was maybe one of those Monday or Friday cars. It was noisy inside. The suspension was just plain jiggly. The six speed automatic thought it should be in sixth shortly after you got going and it would stay there until you forced it with the Mercedes style dashboard stick shift or you prodigiously prodded the accelerator pedal.

In case you have not been to the San Francisco Bay area let me tell you it is simply big city driving. Six to eight lane freeways and 70 miles per hour speed limits and congested traffic. Exits going all directions. Left right and centre. When you are not one hundred per cent sure where you are going it makes for an intense, frustrating driving experience.

Thank goodness for our trip out to Santa Cruz where I was caught by a few waves on my surfboard. I got to drive the coast Highway 1 from Santa Cruz to San Francisco. It was a weekday and the trip was relaxing and gorgeous. Then there were some windy mountain roads in Woodside and Sunnyvale. I will be back some day with my Porsche.

Everyday included at least an hour or two of that intense freeway driving. Choosing the correct lane to drive in at any moment was a challenge. The GPS was helpful but not a total saviour. I started to wonder. Could an autonomous car take me on these freeways and get me where I wanted to go while I rested comfortably in a seat with plenty of legroom and while I listened to my favorite music? Would that really be possible?

I think my first Porsche will be autonomous with the autonomous off package. I guess I just want it all.

Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. E-mail:

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