With another school year about to begin, parents nationwide are preparing to spend lots more time driving children to and from after-school activities. According to a recent CarGurus online poll of car shoppers with school-age kids, 38% of parents estimate they spend between 30 minutes and an hour shuttling their kids around on a typical weekday, while 33% of parents polled say they spend more than an hour. If your current daily driver isn’t up to the task, here are 10 vehicles with high safety ratings that also offer plenty of cargo space, seating capacity, cabin comforts, and a host of modern technology features that should at least make that extra time spent shuttling children around a little more comfortable for the whole family.
As you might have heard, the state of Washington is currently on fire. As it so happens, the state of Washington is also where I currently live.
While flames have not directly threatened my family, countless others have been evacuated from their homes or lost them altogether.
The resulting smoke in the air has been suffocating. Even in cities miles from the fires, smoke chokes out residents as embers from burned trees fall from the sky. Flecks of white ash cover cars.
My family and I, desperate to escape the heavy blanket of smoke, packed up the car and left the state to find a place where we could breathe some clean, crisp air. We ended up at Priest Lake, deep in the forests of North Idaho. The first day was perfect. On the second day, though, we discovered that Idaho is on fire, too.
I only tell this story because there’s an important lesson to remember here about cars:
Normally driving a 2015 Lexus RC 350 is an exercise in automotive enjoyment. On one hot day recently, I found it extremely difficult. I had trouble seeing. My movements were largely restricted, and my hand was shaking. I was less confident in my ability to safely drive.
While it sounds like I was drunk, I wasn’t. I was encased in Ford’s Third Age Suit. It is designed to significantly reduce mobility when worn. It helps designers and engineers create future vehicles with the needs and limitations of the elderly in mind. It also does a great job of highlighting how crucial current safety technology will become as you age.
You’d think, at some point, we’d grow immune to recall news and just start ignoring the mass of notices that fill the headlines of news outlets everywhere.
For now, though, the recalls that dominate headlines seem to feed our hunger for negative news and cultivate a fear of our own vehicles.
Don’t get me wrong—recalls are serious, and some of them must be addressed as soon as possible to avoid danger. Others are, in my humble opinion, the result of over-anxious government agencies trying to justify their existence.
The latest recall from FCA could potentially be a must-fix, so let’s address that and then look at something seriously cool that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is doing to constantly improve its vehicles.
First, the recall:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has flexed its muscle and leveled Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles with a massive fine and buyback program, in addition to requiring strict oversight of future recalls.
A fine of up to $105 million is the result of a settlement between the government and FCA over allegations of misconduct in 23 recalls covering more than 11 million vehicles. Part of that misconduct includes failure to disclose defects and not properly conducting recalls.
The bigger consequence is FCA’s agreement to offer to buy back upward of 500,000 Ram vehicles.
Sometimes the beginning of major change happens with one simple “a-ha” moment.
I had one over the weekend, which I’ll describe a little later. But first, here’s what led to my moment of clarity.
While in San Francisco I had the opportunity to drive a Commuter Cars Tango T600 through heavy traffic into the city and back to the suburbs. The entire trip was about 50 miles.
The T600 is about as wide as a Honda Goldwing motorcycle, weighs as much as a Subaru Outback, has the rollover threshold of a Porsche 911, has four times as many side impact protection bars in its doors as a Volvo, and has quicker acceleration to 60-mph than most stock Ferraris.
Yesterday we drove Highway 1 in California from San Simeon to Monterey. This is the most beautiful segment of the most beautiful road in America, but one thing started driving me crazy:
One in ten cars that passed in the opposite direction was either a red convertible Camaro or Mustang. That’s no exaggeration. I don’t know if there’s either a rental place that specializes in outfitting people with red convertibles or if people with red convertibles just like driving the 1, but it got to the point of being ridiculous. Every minute or two someone in the family announced the sighting of yet another convertible Mustang.
Without question, we have entered the season of convertibles. Warm weather brings dropped tops, messy hair, sunburned foreheads, and sun-bleached interiors.
The white Tahoe sat in the median between the north and south lanes of the freeway. Personal belongings were scattered for dozens of feet in all directions. The rear window was broken out, and about 10 people milled around inspecting the damage.
This could have been any of the accidents that are unfortunately all too familiar on American Interstates, except this particular vehicle had come to rest on its roof.
Yesterday was clear and warm with nothing but blue skies, dry pavement, and light traffic. I don’t know how the Tahoe rolled over or what circumstances led to the accident, but it appeared that it happened just moments before I passed. No other vehicles were involved.
How can a single-vehicle rollover happen on such a perfect day for driving?
“Hey, watch this, kids,” I said as I lifted my feet off the pedals off my 2013 Subaru Legacy. “This car’s so cool because it senses cars in front of it and stops itself.”
I should mention that I was on the Interstate going about 60 miles per hour as traffic up ahead slowed to a crawl.
With my car careening toward the brake lights, I trusted the car would perform as it always has and apply the brakes before I even had to worry.
Except I started to worry.
When you’re buying a used car, it’s always a good idea to have it checked out by a mechanic. There’s nothing new or Earth shattering about that advice, but people routinely ignore it.
Over the next few weeks and months, buyers who choose not to have used cars thoroughly inspected do so at their own peril. We have the recent flooding in Texas to thank for that.
Thousands of vehicles get damaged beyond repair anytime there’s a natural disaster involving water. Flooding, even on a small scale, can do more damage to a car than a lifetime on the road.
The floods in Texas were anything but small-scale, and some reports say up to 10,000 vehicles were damaged by the high waters.