- Chris Teague
My Car is Just a Car and That's OK
I consider myself a hopeless automotive enthusiast. As a freelance automotive journalist, it's strongly suggested, but not required, that I have a passion for cars. Even so, I own a boring car. Where so many of my colleagues have two or three quirky cars that they happily rotate through as one breaks, my family and other priorities dictate that I own "just a car". That said, I don't think the fact that I own a boring vehicle kills my street cred as a legitimate enthusiast - at least not entirely.
With a different test vehicle in my driveway every week, the car I actually own often sits for long periods of time. That’s unfortunate, but it’s by design, because I bought the car with the intention of it being a backup to the loaners that I’m so lucky to have on a regular basis. Its role as a backup car meant that I bought it with an eye mostly on price and reliability, rather than thinking about its driving dynamics and performance. Even so, I ignored the need for practicality as much my wife would tolerate and bought a 2010 Lexus IS 250 AWD in late 2018 at a great price from a private seller that appeared to be meticulous about car care but, as I later found out, was well-intentioned but poorly equipped to perform basic maintenance in his own garage.
That meant that just a week after I purchased the car, I was at the brake shop replacing rotors that had been ordered for the wrong model of Lexus IS, and found that 10-year-old in-vehicle electronics don’t always perform as expected. On top of that, there are the weird things Lexus did when designing the car that just don’t make sense after driving it for a while. Like, when adapting the vehicle for all-wheel drive, the engineers had to flare the sides of the transmission tunnel, which cuts right into the footwell and forces an awkward movement to reach the pedals.
All of that is in addition to the fact that it falls well short of being fast. I frequently make the joke that it’s got many of the drawbacks of a sports sedan without many of the benefits. The ride is rough, legroom is an afterthought for all passengers, and plenty of road noise makes its way past the Lexus’ sound deadening.
Having said all of that, I’m not even remotely ready to sell the thing. Why? Well, unless there’s a red-hot market for all-wheel drive IS sedans that I'm unaware of, I’ll likely lose money on it. There’s also the fact that I actually need a backup car. Those are solid reasons on their own, but one of the biggest reasons I keep the old sled hanging around is that it’s ok to own a car that’s just a car.
Before you start Googling where I live to plan your assassination, hear me out. It’s ok to be an enthusiast and also be at a place in your life where it’s just not practical to own your ideal vehicle. We’d all love to be able to find that perfect balance of fun and practicality and be able to afford it when we need to, but finding that sweet spot wasn’t in the cards for me. I’ve made peace with that fact.
Where does that leave me? Ultimately, I don’t hate driving the car and I find ways to push it as hard as I can without breaking it (or ending up in a ditch). I’ve found that it’s quite good at some things and makes an excellent stand in for a sports sedan in a few limited scenarios. It’s also very competent in slippery conditions, which we see a lot of here in New England. I haven’t stopped my near-constant internet search for the perfect hidden gem, but the fact remains that it will be years before I can actually buy one, and that’s in an ideal situation.
So, why am I telling you all of this? It’s not because I need validation – I know the car’s pretty hopeless – and it certainly isn’t because I want to talk you into buying a car that doesn’t meet your needs or that stretches your budget too far out of line. I hope that after reading this, you can go drive whatever’s parked in front of your house without the slightest care what someone like me or anybody else thinks about it. Maybe you bought the exact car you wanted and maybe it meets your needs exactly. If that’s the case, you’re very lucky, but even if you feel like your car is just a car, there’s nothing in the enthusiast rule book that says you can't still have fun. We'll let you keep your club membership for another year, at least.
I cover autos and technology for several outlets online and in print. My goal is to bring the complex and sometimes confusing automotive world into focus for everyone. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.