Since this is my first post on this blog, I will introduce myself: my name is Maki, and I am the accountant here at Autocom Japan. I handle all the money that goes in and out the company, and occasionally dabble in other work such as advertisement design.
I am also a petrolhead; I love all things with an engine and four wheels, especially those rare, expensive metals loaded with tons of horsepower.
So, today I would like to talk about my experience in the most technically advanced car I have ever driven: the Toyota Harrier Hybrid 2008 (or Lexus RX Hybrid).
First and foremost of all, let me inform you that I do not own a Harrier. A huge luxury SUV is not the kind of car a 22-year-old girl should be driving, much less be able to afford. But I got to drive it at a test-driving course set aside specifically for that purpose by Toyota. And what a car!
Here are a few of the things that impressed me:
1. It’s so eerily quiet to drive. That is of course due to the car being a hybrid, running entirely on its electric motor during the course of my drive without the use of its powerful 3000cc engine. It’s so silent, in fact, that I think it could possibly be a health hazard to unwary pedestrians crossing the road!
2. It’s very, very comfortable inside… not very surprising in a heavy luxury car, but the ride was so smooth that it almost felt like the car was floating and gliding over the road. It’s great as long as the driver doesn’t fall asleep from being too comfortable.
3. All of the interior – especially the dashboard – look awesome! It has enough cool buttons and gadgets to keep any driver or passenger entertained during long drives.
I now understand why the Harrier is so popular among men: it looks cool, sporty and luxurious at the same time, and when you’re driving it you start to feel invincible, as if you were in a heavily armored tank.
However, as I was climbing out the car after my drive, I could not help thinking “was I really driving it?” Sure, I was behind the wheel, making turns, signalling, pressing down the gas and the break. Only it did not feel like I was in direct control of the car, but more like I was telling its in-built computer what to do, and that computer was in turn directing the car. So, when asked how the driving experience was, I wasn’t sure how to answer.
Now, let me take you back a couple years back in my lifetime, back to a time when I lived on the island of Hawaii. The car I and my roommates drove back then was an old gray Nissan Maxima. I don’t know exactly how old the car was, only that the model was first produced in 1989. And what can I say… the car was like the exact opposite of the afore-mentioned Harrier: a plain, old, half-broken-down car. Here’s why…
1. The air-conditioner never worked correctly so that the windows often had to be opened to let in the fresh tropical breeze… along with all the noxious fumes from surrounding cars and lorries. Oh, joy.
2. The steering was crooked so that if I let go of the wheel, the car would automatically veer to the left and into the opposing lane (this is in America, with right-side lanes).
3. No matter how diligently we washed and cleaned it, it always looked as if someone had poured acid over its bonnet.
4. Occasionally, the car stubbornly refused to start its engine at all and was therefore completely useless.
However, when the old Maxima did obey its driver, despite the hot, humid air, despite the coughing engine noise and the crooked steering, and despite its shabby looks, it could sometimes create a truly wonderful driving experience. I could feel each part of the car working hard, moving and responding directly to me, and it gave me a sense of freedom.
After driving the new Harrier Hybrid, I realized that that was what was missing from my driving experience in it. I could not “feel” the car like I could in the Maxima.
So, you might ask, what’s my point in comparing these two vastly different cars? One is an epitome of modern Japanese engineering, while the Maxima is just a plain, out-dated car by today’s standards.
My point is this: modern, technologically-advanced cars can sometimes be so sophisticated that there is very little left for the driver to do, and therefore lose a lot of that “connection” between car and driver. Don’t get me wrong, the Toyota Harrier Hybrid is an excellent car. I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants a sporty SUV that is both luxurious and economical at the same time. Toyota really does some amazing things.
…but sometimes, depending on time and place, and if I could choose between the two, I would much rather go out for a drive in an old beaten-up Maxima.