The Pontiac G5

This is my second time renting a car. The first time was in Reston and I grabbed a bright yellow Chevy Cobalt. It was ok to drive, but I liked that it was yellow: easy to spot in a parking lot, jaunty and annoying but in a good “I don’t have to live with it” way. It did alright for me, I have to say. I prefer my Rabbit of course.

So this time when I walked out of the Alamo office and the first car in line was similarly bright yellow, I decided to turn it into a trend. Where possible, I will rent yellow cars. This one turned out to be a Pontiac G5 with a sunroof, Alabama tags, and nearly 27000 miles on it.

Oh my god was this a mistake.

I’ve been taking car snobbery to a new level lately, especially after getting the VW. The thing is, the interiors in American cars and European cars are pretty significantly different. Americanized Euro cars are not as good as full Euro cars, but there’s still a difference. My automotive idols, the guys from Top Gear, call (most) American interiors ‘chintzy.’ Cheap. The plastic of the dashboard has a feel like it’s not all that different from the throwaway plastic from a box of chocolates. It’s also uninspired, sometimes uncomfortable, and lacks fundamental aesthetics.

When I got my Rabbit I understood immediately what they meant. There was a smoothed aluminium trim here and there that was always cold to the touch and looked lovely. The plastic of the dash was different, it was softer and had a finer texture to it. The gear shift is the second best I’ve ever used on an automatic (beaten by the semi-pistol-grip from my first car), with a release button with that aluminium that’s hard not to caress as I drive. It’s soothing. It’s comfortable. It’s nice.

The G5 goes back to that horrible plastic. The gear shifter looks like it came out of something from the late 80s (It’s a 2007 car I believe), or at least no different than Erin’s former 2000 Escort. The face of the dials is ok to look at but trickier than some to read. It shows the outside temperature but not engine temperature, and that fact was a tad annoying as I got into it this morning to learn that it was 40 degrees outside, but had no idea how long until the car would warm up and I could stop feeling it. To get back to British slang, the brakes are ruddy awful, the handling is goppingly sloppy, and despite the asbo-fab ‘chav yellow’ exterior, the car is a complete minger. Oh, and it’s a complete bastard trying to see out the rear window. The only saving grace is that when I give it the beans it leaps like it’s trying to make up for its other faults.

I have bemoaned the sorry state of American cars before and the G5 confirms it again. But here’s what really gets me. I just hit Pontiac’s site to compare it to the Rabbit. With the G5 you have to pick the GT model, then they both have the same approximate power (GT is one more hp) and fuel economy. The Rabbit, with its nicer interior, similar overall size, a sunroof, four doors, and an automatic transmission, ran me just under $21,000. I had to add a few items to the G5 to bring it up to standard Rabbit spec though the G5 doesn’t have four doors (Rabbits have a 6 disc changer standard, for instance), and then it has a four speed auto-tranny where the Rabbit has a six speed DSG… the G5 comes out to just under $21,000. In fact, it’s $100 more than the Rabbit was, and that’s including the present $1,500 off deal they have going on.

Yet people bemoan European cars for being more expensive? My god. This is why I’ve switched, and I may very well have switched for life. American cars are crap. I have to assume that whomever decided the G5 design was good enough has never had the time to drive anything else it’s competing with. Because OMFG. If I owned a car company that produced this, and I had ever driven a Rabbit, I’d fire the dude that designed the G5 on the goddamned spot.

There is simply no excuse for this. None.

quick edit: At the beginning of the training class we introduced ourselves and mentioned who we worked for, etc. Four people out of twelve work for Ford. Two more work for Chrysler. Heh.