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It's me doing a little posing while taking a break at the Ouray, Colorado Jeep Jamboree in 1995.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Today Was a Day of Extremes: The Toyota Prius C and a Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

I'm experiencing culture shock.

It's not the first time.

I spent the morning driving the all-new -- as all-new as a Prius can be -- Toyota Prius C. This is the abbreviated version of Toyota's signature hybrid. A Prius lite, if you will.



Unless you've been stocking the shelves in your bomb shelter, you are probably well aware that the hook of the Prius is delivering uber-high city fuel economy. It's a car to get you from point A to point B sans drama or driving excitement, but with solid fuel efficiency.

Its 1.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine and electric motor conspire to push out 99 horsepower. Wheeeeeeeee…!

Your reward for having street sweepers pass you going up hill is a whopping 53 mpg in the city and a very respectable 46 mpg on the highway.

My buddy Paul and I puttered around South Florida in two different examples of the Prius C for a combined total of 90 minutes, or about 10 miles. The mileage/time discrepancy had much more to do with the slug-like traffic on Atlantic Avenue and A1A in the Delray Beach area than on the performance characteristics of the Prius.

We might have made better time, but Paul insisted on hanging his head out the window adding to the wind resistance and scrubbing off precious fuel economy . The poor guy doesn't get out much.

I have no clue what the zero-to-sixty time of the Prius C is, but it's no rocket ship. Think Yaris towing a boat. Actually, that's not fair. The Prius jumps off the line a tad quicker and probably ramps up to 60 miles per hour in less time. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

After lunch I had a car waiting for me that I will pilot around the rest of the weekend. It's a Cadillac CTS-V Coupe. "V" is Cadillac speak for scalded-cat fast.


Of course, it only gets 12 mpg in the city; so it has that going for it. Once you reconcile yourself to dirty looks from people with "Obama 2012" and "Save the Blue Back River Smelt" bumper stickers, leaving virtually every other car in your dust is big fun.

If you want some sense of what it's like to be shot out of a cannon, the CTS-V is your car. Straining against the reins are 556 ponies generated by a 6.2-liter supercharged V8. Moreover, it has 551 pound feet of torque to get the wheels turning from a standing stop.

It will hit 60 miles per hour in just over four seconds. Oh, Momma!

Believe it or not, I've experienced even greater culture shock with another set of back-to-back cars.

It was probably 20 or more years ago. It was so long ago that none of the car manufacturers had dedicated press fleets in South Florida. The handful of auto journalists who needed cars basically swapped them around among ourselves. There might be a Chevy Impala and a Dodge Shadow circulating around at the same time. Journalists would call one another and make arrangements to swap cars at some midpoint between us. I made more car swaps at gas stations in Hollywood, FL than I care to remember.

On this day, though, Chevrolet was using a dealer in North Miami as its fleet manager. I had spent a week with a Corvette ZR1 dazzling young ladies who otherwise wouldn't have given me a second look. I guess, truth be told, they didn't give me so much as the ZR1 a second look.

Anyway, I drove the ZR1 back to the dealership and was handed the keys to a Geo Metro Convertible. It was like driving around in a soup can. The wind buffet from a passing Dodge Caravan would push the Metro onto the shoulder of the road.

At least talking over the wind noise when driving with the top down wasn't a problem; the Metro never built up enough speed to create any wind noise.

So yes, I'm suffering from culture shock, but in a very, very good way.

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