Y’all are going to have to bear with me on this one cause it may be a long blog. I spent the last ten days driving across the continental United States on a scouting trip for the upcoming Mother Lode Road Rally which runs from May 15th to the 22nd of this year. We started in Chicago, IL and made our way west to our final destination of San Diego, CA some 3,100 miles later.
Obviously one immediate concern about driving across the United States in the dead of winter was the weather. We simply had no idea what the elements were going to bombard us with. So we set out to get the right vehicle for our journey west.
Before we even left things started to get funky. We had originally made a reservation through Hertz for a full size SUV, so I’m thinking perhaps we’d be getting a Tahoe or and Expedition or something. But when we arrived at the Hertz counter at Midway Airport we were informed that we were getting a KIA Sorento. I will put on my flame suit now because I must say that this vehicle is nothing but a monumental pile of… well… lets just say it’s not very good.
I am sure that it’s safe and has good rating, but from a drivers perspective… woof! What a slob. First off the parking brake is positioned right next to the drivers right leg and actually digs into your thigh every time you go around a corner. Just a bonehead design in my opinion. The rest of the interior was standard economy SUV—cheap plastics covered with vinyl that try to convince you that you’re driving a more expensive vehicle. Sadly, it doesn’t work.
Driving the Sorento was even more disappointing, as this thing has absolutely no road feel whatsoever. Seriously, the steering wheel feels completely detached the front tires. Not exactly a confidence-inspiring vehicle. So we knew it had to go. Fortunately I was picking my brother up at Chicago’s O’Hare airport where there was another Hertz location. I got my bro and his luggage and headed to the counter.
Before I forget though let me mention that there were three of us on this trip. I’m 6’4”, 240 pounds. My brother at 6’0”, 230 and our friend Ashlie is 5’3” and is about as chunky as a paper-weight. We also had ten days worth of luggage crammed into four large duffel bags, one big backpack and three normal carry on size pieces to boot. That combined with our emergency roadside and first aid kits and two bottles of washer fluid meant that we were loaded to the hilt.
The Sorrento is advertised as having 242 hp and 262 pounds torque. Pretty decent numbers, actually. Problem is, I think it’s a lie as the little KIA was struggling to cope with simple on-ramp entrances and small hills. As I said earlier, it had to go. For those of you out there that own one, well… God Bless. Use it for what it was meant for, that being a suburban family utility buggy that gets little Jimmy and Sally to soccer on time and gets the groceries home safe. For all others on the fence about this thing, keep reading and I’ll tell you what to get.
Now, back the Hertz counter. If you want to get a new car and/or upgrade, simply tell the people at the Hertz counter that the car is f*cked up. We did and it worked like a charm. I told the nice lady that little Kia pulled to the right at speeds above 60 mph and shook a little. No, problem she said, and preceded to get us 2009 Ford Explorer.
I am actually a big Explorer fan and have in fact owned three of them over the years. They’re big, have nice interior appointments and plenty of power. Problem with this particular one though was that it was only two-wheel drive, something we didn’t realize until we were about 20 miles from the Hertz dealer. Crap.
After one more trip to Hertz and with the woman apologizing again (this time it was warranted) we were treated to a 2008 Nissan Xterra.
Now most everyone has seen the Xterra commercials—they generally have people mountain biking with kayaks on their backs and eating granola. Honestly, not my cup of tea. I mean, I don’t mountain bike or kayak, but I do like the occasional granola bar and in fact had two with me. Thus I felt qualified enough to pilot this thing on our journey.
To be continued…