For reasons mentioned in a previous post, we got a new car. I had been hoping my next car would be self-driving, but that was not to be. The new car needed to be bigger than the previous as we have 3 children who sometimes all need to be transported. The Subaru Forester and similar sized cars are incapable of carrying three children in the back row in three car seats (which is what the law requires in some states, seriously the car seat lobby must be making a fortune on fear-mongering). This requires 3 rows. After filtering for size of car, we considered the Dodge Durango, GMC Acadia, Ford Flex, Honda Odyssey, Honda Pilot, and Toyota Siena. Nissan was out of the running based on previous quality issues (damn poor Sentry that stalled out at intersections), and in the end that did in GM as well (damn poor Chevette that leaked over the driver’s foot when it rained, because water accumulated in the vents). Based on quality of ride and build, and reliability (both perceived and real), and the fact that I would not want to be in a minivan, we wound up with the Pilot, which we have nicknamed Menace 2 Society.
The car buying experience was not great (I purchased at Buerkle (pronounced Berkeley) Honda). The salesman let me do a short test drive, I would have preferred to be longer. They had their best price. I asked for lower. They had their Costco price. I asked for lower. They said ok to a lower price (take that Costco price guarantee). I probably could have pushed them more, but I didn’t have all day, and didn’t want to come back (since I was in a daily rental from Enterprise).
But then they had their financing people. I chose to finance primarily because I don’t carry around that much cash, but interest rates are so freakin’ low it would make sense in any case. Strangely the finance people also sell the service contracts. I don’t have special fondness for dealer service (though they are usually fine in my experience, if pricey), but I like to make one organization responsible for everything so there is a minimum of finger pointing. It seems break-even in costs, based on history with previous cars, though they get some money in advance, but like I said, the interest rates are really low. They also sell the undercoating/rust proofing after-market. There is controversy about this, some say it is like mattress protection, and too expensive or worthless. I plan on holding the car a long time assuming it doesn’t break, crash, or the price of gas doesn’t go about $10/gallon, so I am interested in long term preservation. My last car was held 14 years, and after treatment did not rust (but was beginning to rust beforehand at edges with scratches.) At any rate, they sold as a package and it is hard to decompose how much it is for each item. There is an insurance aspect to this, hoping I won’t use it, but if something goes wrong in the first 8 years, they can be held accountable.
As part of their service contract, they include a contracted service (Honda Care Roadside Assistance via Cross-Country Motor Club) that is like AAA for stranded cars etc. Good luck finding them though, this is not information they want you to have, or a service they want you to use (since you already paid for it, using it is a cost to them without future revenue.) In some ways I want to test it, and see if it works. I worry though that if I call them I will get a “no one is home” message. We are still AAA members from last season, I am debating re-upping.
Honda Financial Services are not swift with their systems. First, their site says this:
Please note: email spam filters may block our emails from being delivered. If you have a spam blocker, please set it to accept email from: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why would this be? Was your server taken over by spammers? Can you not fix this properly?
Second, once you sign up for electronic payments, they don’t actually debit the first payment, only the second. Again, why? Then, since you didn’t make your first payment (assuming naively that since you signed up, they could deal with it), they send bill collectors after you. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just take the money that was offered the first time.
The car runs and rides very nicely. It feels like I am just gliding down the road (especially compared to a 1998 Subaru Forester). My main complaint is with user interface:
There are so many buttons and dials on the dashboard, if only they had voice control. It does, but it is voice control c. 1998 automated phone tree. You have to push a button, and then wait so long for it to tell you what you can do you have already reached your destinations. I complained about it in the test drive, and the salesman tried to explain that it wasn’t the most god-awful terrible piece of crap user interface (or something like that which I muttered), but really, this was a 2012 model, not a 1998 model.
The buttons are sort of randomly placed, environmental controls sandwiched between the radio and the navigation system. The problem is keeping your eye on the road and hitting the right button. I don’t have a solution, but I am sure Apple would. Start with fewer buttons, or maybe a touch screen that only gives you controls in the right mode (environment, entertainment, navigation, communications, car statistics, whatever), or maybe a good voice control that actually does what you tell it to.
The GPS is generally accurate in my limited experience, and not too intrusive, but programming it for the destination you want is a pain. Again touch screen would be really nice here. Give me a map, let me point to where I want to go, and then you find the best path from here to there. Or a smart voice control that could understand what I said at a normal rate of speech.
I periodically get surveys from someone on behalf of Honda about whether I would recommend it to a friend or family member. Thus far aside from the UI, I am happy with it, but as the saying goes, YMMV.
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