Sunday, July 04, 2010

Maybe don’t Super Size us

After months of debate, my wife Kara and I have finally narrowed down our new car search to the three contenders that best fit all of our requirements: the Chevy Tooth Fairy, the Subaru Free Lunch and the Honda Basement That Doesn’t Flood at Least Once. Which is to say, the car we’re looking for does not exist.

All we want is an automobile that can seat two parents, two children (one real and one extremely hypothetical) and two visiting grandparents, with room to squeeze in a stroller and a dog, while still getting at least 25 combined mpg. We’d also like it to look, if not cool, then at least not painfully uncool. And we’d also like onion rings that make you skinnier.

Plenty of cars have more seating than Carnegie Hall, but the extra room always comes at the expense of fuel efficiency, making me feel like the bad guy from “The Lorax” just for looking at them. But our current fleet of one small hatchback and one smaller two-doored baby-hater just isn’t conducive to a baby-hauling lifestyle, so we’ve started considering our alternatives. We knew it would be tough to find an Earth-friendly large car, but we’re finding it nearly impossible to even be Earth-cordial.

This isn’t the first time we’ve experienced the clash of parenthood and treehuggerism. Since our son Evan was born just over a year ago, I’ve thrown away so many diapers and plastic bottle liners that when I try to high-five a tree, it leaves me hanging.

“Sounds like you need a minivan,” my buddy Johnny said over the phone recently.

“Yeah, we might. We’ve been looking,” I said, surprised to hear a friend advocate what is clearly the most logical choice for us. In general, our friends without children seem to harbor a deeply felt animosity toward minivans, as if they spent their respective childhoods receiving atomic wedgies from Dodge Caravans.

“Dude! I was kidding. I can’t be friends with you anymore,” Johnny replied.

I didn’t tell him that Kara and I have gone so far as to look at some minivans at a local dealership.

“We prefer to call it a swagger wagon,” the salesman said, parroting a line from a Toyota commercial I’d unfortunately seen, one that tried to make minivans seem cool, and which ultimately failed worse than a BP top kill.

Sometimes, I suspect Toyota’s marketing department of secretly trying to steer people towards SUVs. Just today, I saw an Internet banner ad with a picture of the newest Toyota minivan featuring this slogan underneath: “Mommy like.”

Seriously, “Mommy like”?

Are they trying to make it impossible for a fair-to-moderately self-respecting dude to buy a minivan? This seems like purposeful sabotage. Daddy no like.

The only car we’ve seen that meets our requirements for space and fuel efficiency is the hybrid Toyota Highlander, the biggest tease of the automotive world.

“It costs $9,000 more than the comparable non-hybrid Highlander,” Kara said, researching on her computer after we got home.

“But we’d save on gas,” I said.

“At $4.00 a gallon, we’d break even in 25.4 years,” she replied, helping us both to locate the boundary between idealism and reality.

Fortunately, we’re not in a huge rush, so it looks for now like we’ll just keep wedging ourselves into the cars we have now.

Also, with all this talk of upsizing, I hope it was clear to any of Evan’s grandparents who might have been writing their own stories between the lines that the above-referenced second child is more hypothetical than the Higgs boson, and will remain that way for some time. Kara’s not pregnant, is my point. But if she gets that way, we might need your help knocking out a windshield to make room.

You can stow Mike Todd behind your third row at


  1. "Mommy-like"? If Toyota is looking to go out of business in America, that's their slogan. Geeesh!

  2. I can offer you a ton of "realistic" vs "earth friendly" pros and cons. But I don't want to pollute your blog!

    But in all reality, just remember that fuel economy is based in a test track environment, using a calibrated weight driver. So, if a manufacturer states a vehicle gets 40mpg on a vehicle, that is based on a certain weight of driver. Each time you add weight to a vehicle (passenger, luggage, gear,) you decrease your fuel efficiency.

    Also, just because a vehicle uses E85, it doesn't yield the same gas mileage, as unleaded fuel, which means you have to fill up more often, which can add up over time).

    Peace, out.

  3. We have TWO two-door baby-haters. I feel your pain.

    Hypothetically speaking, we've discussed that once Parker is forward facing, sliding an infant carrier into place using the base is still doable with the two-door. Sure the pooch (a boxer) will have either have to ride on my lap or be strapped to the top...

  4. Loon -- Thanks for the laugh!

    Tim's Mom -- Thanks for the tips! Maybe we'll just wait for rocket cars. Hybrid rocket cars.

    Sheleatha -- Dang, TWO baby-haters? You dudes are hard core. If putting the dog on top of the car is OK for Mitt Romney, it should be good enough for the rest of us, too. Hypothetically, of course.

    And sorry for being late with the replies - stupid vacation last week messed up my internetting.

  5. Awesome post Mr. Todd. I have a family friend who was in a similar position (although 2 real baby twins and local grand parents) ... they ended up with the Toyota Highlander with a 3rd row. I feel hybrids are hocus pocus since like Kara saw, 25.4 years to break even on gas and uptick is way past a cruel joke from automakers.

    I say bring back the 70s station wagon with the seats facing backwards so you can make funny faces at the car behind you on family trips (or get nauseous).

  6. SUUUUUUUSHIIIIIIIL! Hey man, awesome to hear from you. I used to pick my nose at people from the back seat of the station wagon. Had to do something -- my grandparents lived in Florida.