Requiem for a Beast…

It hasn’t been a pleasant month for me on the car front.

I had a black 2008 Dodge Avenger SXT that I nicknamed “the Beast”. I called it that because at the time it was the largest car I had owned (even if it was a mid-sized sedan), and the way the front of the car was designed it looked like it had a fairly mean expression on its “face”. I also joked that the Beast was my superhero car, as it was an Avenger, had remote start capability, had Bluetooth handsfree capability installed in its stereo system, and accepted alternate fuel (it had flex-fuel capability and accepted gasoline and E85). I loved that car, and had absolutely no intention of giving it up.

Note that I’ve been speaking about the Beast in the past tense. There’s a reason for that.

Almost exactly a month ago, I was driving to meet Jennifer for dinner after work. I was stopped at a red light, waiting to make a left turn, at the front of the line. A car coming the other way ran the red light, and smashed into a car turning into the lane right front of him. He then lost control, and his now-ballistic vehicle smashed into mine, on the front driver’s side corner. The impact was hard enough to cause all of the airbags to deploy, and the car frame was severely warped.

I got off relatively easy: my ribs were slightly bruised and my arm was slightly burned by the airbag. More than anything else, I was annoyed and upset, as I only had one payment left on the car and I had only gone that particular route to avoid another accident. Still, the family in the car that was hit first wasn’t as lucky, as they all went to the hospital as a precaution. The guy who hit us declined to go to the hospital, and the police investigating the accident cited him for running the red light.

The Beast was eventually declared a total loss, and I got more than a fair settlement for it from my insurance company.

While waiting for the insurance check to arrive, Jennifer and I decided to go vehicle shopping. At first, I had four initial choices for my next car: a Dodge Avenger, a Dodge Charger, a Subaru Impreza WRX, or a Volkswagen Jetta. The first car I got to try was the Dodge Charger, as it was the rental vehicle that the insurance company was reimbursing me for. I had been thinking about a Charger for years, as it was Dodge’s “performance” sedan. As it turned out, I ended up not liking the car at all. It was too big for me, and I never felt comfortable driving in. In addition, I didn’t like how the windows were shaped and tilted, and I felt I had a better range of vision with the Avenger. After a day or two of driving the rental Charger, I dropped it from consideration.

My next choice was the Subaru Impreza WRX, which was Subaru’s “performance” sedan. However, when we went to the local Subaru dealership, we learned something that crossed it off our list immediately: the Impreza WRX is only available in manual transmission, which I never learned how to drive. I decided to try the Subaru Legacy instead, and I felt it was decent. However, the possible maintenance costs were a serious concern. I ended up keeping looking.

The next car I looked at was the Volkswagen Jetta. I tried the “performance” model, but Jennifer and I talked it out and decided that it didn’t suit how I would end up driving it. I test drove the next version down, and while it was okay, we decided there were two problems we couldn’t ignore. The first was again the maintenance costs. The second was that it was smaller than the Avenger, and as such I wasn’t as comfortable. Cargo space in the trunk was also an issue. We briefly thought about the Passat, but like the Charger it was too large for my liking. We ended up crossing Volkswagen off the list as well.

We finally went to a Dodge dealership and trying out an Avenger. I was perfectly comfortable and happy in it, so we decided to make that our first option. After doing research, we found that our choices of Avengers were somewhat limited. I had originally wanted an RT (which are the top of the line), but there were no Avenger RTs anywhere in the Houston area. I was okay with an SXT, but was not going to downgrade to an SE. In addition, I wanted black (or at least grey), the bigger 3.6L engine, and Bluetooth handsfree capability. We narrowed it down to several vehicles at three different dealerships, and I ended up spending a Friday shopping (with the help of Jennifer’s father).

In the end, we found that of all of the vehicles I had picked, only one really fit my specifications. Specifically, it turned out that while all of the other ones could have Bluetooth handsfree installed, it would end up being a bit of a kludge like it was in the Beast. The dealership had added the Bluetooth handsfree after the fact, and had placed the microphone right next to the windshield. As a result, anyone who I spoke to through it had to contend with wind noise coming from my end. The one I picked was the only one of all the choices that had Bluetooth handsfree built-in. In addition, it had Sirius/XM, GPS navigation, auto-tinting rear view mirror, and a sun roof. The only thing it didn’t have that I wanted was a spoiler, but that was easy enough to take care of. They gave me a good deal on it, and I signed on it. The main thing I ended up waiting on was the spoiler installation, and once done it looked like it was factory-installed.

So far, I have to say I really love this car. It’s essentially an updated version of the Beast, with the same colors and outside trim, except with the sleeker look and different external features (foglamps, dual exhaust pipes, sun roof, spoiler). It also has a stronger engine, so it has more oomph to it. The seats are also more comfortable, which makes for a more pleasant drive.

I wasn’t ready to give up the Beast, and I still feel bad about how I lost it. As Jennifer put it, “It gave its life to save you.” We had hoped to get another couple of years of life out of it, but it was not to be. I’m glad for the time I had with it, and I’m hoping I get the same long and useful life out of the new Avenger.