I'm not the kind of guy to hold a grudge. Well, not usually. There is that kid who sucker punched me in second grade over some sort of playground teeter-totter dispute. If I ever run into her again, she'll get a stern talking to. But, generally, I try to look ahead and not into the rearview mirror. So when, after years of not being invited to Honda media-launch events, Honda did include me in its recent media first-drive of the Civic in the Los Angeles area, I jumped at the opportunity.
Of course, the decision to accept was made easier because Honda headquartered the event in Westlake Village where I had been in July with Mazda. On that junket, my driving partner and I located several nearby craft breweries, as well as Wade's Wines – one of the best liquor/wine stores I have visited. Since my Mazda-sponsored trip, a Greenville friend had turned me on to a hard-to-get spirit distilled in the Los Angeles area called Slow Hand Six Woods Whiskey. I figured if any liquor store would stock it, it would be Wade's Wines. Not to mention this is the same store where I scored two 22-oz. bottles of Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout that I carted home in my luggage the last time around.
Honda put us up at the Westlake Village Inn on Agoura Rd. It's an upscale joint with a spa, golf course and lake. A gorgeous property with spacious, nicely furnished guest rooms, West Lake Village Inn is just a mile or so distant down Agoura Rd. from the aforementioned Wade's Wines. I arrived in my room in plenty of time to grab my camera and embark on a little hike to Wade's before getting ready for dinner. After sitting on a plane for several hours, I needed the exercise.
Arriving at Wade's, I scoured the shelves of bourbons and whiskeys in a futile search for Six Woods. Eventually one of Wade's helpful experts came to my rescue. Unfamiliar himself with this hard-to-get elixir, he looked it up on the store's computerized inventory. Deciding two bottles were hidden away somewhere among the displays, we played “where's Waldo” for another five minutes before he returned to the computer. This time, he went to a search engine, typed in the whiskey's name and found images for the labels. With a knowledge of the label design, finding the elusive bottles required less than a minute. Deciding that I wanted one bottle, I called my Greenville buddy to see if he wanted the other. Why, yes, yes he did.
Wandering back into the beer section, I found a few 22-oz. bottles of my beloved peanut butter stout of which I captured two. Now I was in a quandary. I had enough bubble wrap and space in my suitcase for two bottles of something, but not four. My helpful Wade's counter person to the rescue. He suggested I buy a three-bottle shipping container and put it on the plane as checked luggage. Problem solved. Now all I had to do was lug the packed shipping container and remaining bottle of beer back to the hotel. I considered calling Uber; however, Wade's is not on the street proper, but actually about a city block off of it. I had no confidence the Uber driver would find it. So, I hoofed it back, struggling with my load of goodies. Checking the shipping container as luggage was a fine idea; everything arrived home in mint condition.
I arrived back at the hotel in plenty of time to quaff a couple of beers with some of my buddies who had driven that day and were waiting for their shuttles to the airport. This was one of those one-and-done, arrive-one-day-and-leave-the-next trips. I'm not usually keen on such overnighters – particularly when in Calif. – but it was what it was. Either I was going or I wasn't. Full disclosure: Honda provided an option in my time zone, but I went with Calif. Mea culpa.
Dinner that evening was at the hotel. It was casual and the food was pretty good. After breakfast the next morning, we media types were given a 90-minute tutorial on the redesigned Civic. Honda knows a little about building and selling Civics. More than 10 million Civics have left U.S. showrooms with more than 35 million sold worldwide. Seven million of the 10 million-plus Civics sold in the U.S. were built in the the U.S.
|Four decades of Civic.|
The original Civic sold here was a 1973 model with the second generation following in 1980. The 2016 will be the 10th generation. To say its exterior lines are stunning doesn't do it justice. This sedan, designed in Calif., is drop-dead gorgeous. But, it's not just a pretty face. Honda is calling it the most ambitious Civic remake in its history. Rather than benchmarking other cars in Civic's segment, planners and engineers targeted European performance sedans. In areas of acceleration, fuel economy, handling, noise and vibration and safety, among others, Civic stalks the best Europe has to offer.
Two new powertrains provide the go. LX and EX grades get the 158-horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder engine; while the upper three grades – EX-T, EX-L and Touring – get a tasty174-horsepower 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. A CVT hustles engine output to the front wheels of all but the $18,640 entry-level LX 2.0L version, which uses a six-speed manual. Remarkably both engines deliver 35 mpg in combined city/highway driving, except with the manual tranny which drops that number to 31 mpg.
Its most tricked-out Touring trim starts at $26,500. Honda doesn't really offer options. To gain content, you move up to the next grade. So, $26,500 is about as much as you can spend. Our turbo was not only fun to drive, but it was quiet and smooth as silk.
Offering scads of elbow room, the cabin is spacious and its premium materials provide the illusion of a much more expensive four-door. And, its trunk has as much cargo room as a Jaguar XJ sedan. Every Civic comes with such features as remote engine start, dual-zone automatic climate control and rain sensing wipers. Honda Sensing is corporate speak for its suite of safety technologies such as forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, and road departure mitigation. It is available on even the entry-level LX grade. No question, in the Civic, Honda has raised the bar in the compact-sedan segment.
|This is what a Pinewood Derby loser looks like.|
Our drive route took us to Malibu Wine's Saddlerock Ranch where we lunched from several food trucks. Not only could we drive the new Civic on a route near the lunch, but some competitive models were also available. Otherwise, we amused ourselves building and racing some Pinewood Derby cars as well as playing some other games. If you are curious, my Derby entry was a real dog. Moral: Never compete in a Pinewood Derby against auto engineers determined not to lose.
|I certainly can eat and drink $29 worth of free stuff in seven hours; I've seen me do it!|
My red-eye flight home wasn't until around 11:30. Honda shuttled me to LAX at 4:30. Wow; seven hours to burn! I wandered into Delta's Sky Club to inquire about the number of Sky Miles needed to buy a day pass. I was shocked to learn Delta doesn't accept miles for day passes. No way was I going to pony up $50 to buy one. I can eat and drink a lot of free stuff in seven hours, but not $50 worth. Then the Sky Club desk agent said the magic words, “American Express.” Turns out my Delta AmEx card was good for a $21 discount. Now, $29 is a number I can work with.
Sixteen hours after Honda dropped me off at LAX, I landed home in Greenville, SC, reminded of why I'm not a fan of one-night car events in Calif.