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An Addition to the Family

So, we’ve been driving a Civic Hybrid for the last couple of years. We’ve leased it, and our lease is coming due next July and we are going to be over miles. We had been going back and forth about what we wanted to do about that since we weren’t sure we wanted to keep the car. Well, Honda made that decision for us a few weeks ago. They issued a pseudo recall because their charge management system for the batteries was causing them to die prematurely. They assured us in the letter they sent that it would have no impact on fuel economy or performance. Well, they lied. I’m not sure if the fuel use is any different, but the car drives much more poorly than it used to. The worst part is the inconsistency. Sometimes it accelerates from a stop just like it always has, and sometimes it feels like the engine has been replaced with a go-kart motor. It’s terrible! So, we decided to get something else and let the Civic sit for the remainder of our lease so as to minimize our overage charges. But what to get? Well, this last weekend, thanks to some luck and a bit of serendipity, we found the perfect vehicle for us.

We had decided that our next car needed to:

  • Be a hatchback
  • Be Biofuel capable
  • Get at least as good gas mileage as the Civic
  • Be capable of light towing
  • Have a roof rack

This pretty much narrowed the field to the TDI (Turbo Diesel Injection) offerings from Volkswagen. There are some Mercedes options available, but as far as I can tell, they are even harder to find than the VWs. So I researched and researched, and we test drove some new Sportwagons (which are very nice), and decided that we should get a 2003 Jetta Wagon. A new car would be nice, but too expensive, and much to my dismay, the latest diesels from VW are not supposed to run on straight (B99) biodiesel, so they got knocked out of the running.

On a whim Friday night we decided to drive up to Salem to look at one that seemed promising at a dealer. They had been very selective about their pictures online. It was not nearly as clean as we would like. And it kinda felt like a rattle-trap.  After the disappointing test drive we decided to stay in town for dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant and then continue on up to Portland to look at a couple others that seemed promising the next morning. You know, we were halfway there already…

The others in Portland were no better. Not bad exactly, but not nearly clean enough for what the sellers were asking. These cars seem to carry quite a premium, at least in this part of the world, and everyone was asking several thousand over retail book value, but none of them were in the reconditioned state that would justify that. It was clear that this could be the car for us, we just needed to find one that was in a bit better shape. After our second strike out, we decided to just make the best of our time in Portland and run a few errands. While Liz was browsing a sheet music store, I returned to my Craigslist digging on my phone and found what looked like the perfect car. 2003 Jetta wagon, low miles, automatic, leather interior, described as ” unbelievably clean” in the listing. So I called the number in the listing.

“Is the white Jetta wagon still available?”


“Great, what’s you’re location? I’d like to come take a look at it.”

“Well, I see you are calling our Portland number. We’re not in Portland. We’re actually in Bellevue Washington, about two and half hours north.”

“Oh, well, ok. I’ll see what my wife thinks and maybe we’ll see you later this afternoon…”

So I showed Liz the listing and she agreed that it looked perfect. She wasn’t too excited when I broke the news that it was in Bellevue, but you know, we’re halfway there already…

So we drive to Bellevue, find The Green Car Company, and lay eyes on the Jetta. And it is in fact seemingly perfect. It also, however, had been sold sight-unseen to someone over the Internet about 10 minutes prior to our arrival. Doh!

So we start looking around, and after our prior slim pickings, this place is a wonderland of selection. We had at least half a dozen cars to look at, all of which were likely to meet our requirements. I had really been set on the 2003 because it was the last year to use the VE engine, which is the more trouble-free of the VW diesels according to my research, especially when run on B99. I discussed that with the GreenCarCo folks and they said that they hadn’t had any problems running B99 on the newer PD (Pumpe Deuce) engines, so test drove a 2004, which was definitely a step in the right direction in terms of overall “niceness”, but it reeked of dog. Ew.

Next on the list to drive was a 2005 Passat, which wasn’t something I’d considered previously. The gas mileage would be lower than we really wanted and would cost more than the Jetta but not get us much of anything else that we wanted. This one is in great shape, and has a leather interior, which is promising. We sit inside and discover that the previous owner has already wired it up for MP3 player input. Nice to not have to worry about that. When the dealer pulls it out for us to test drive it, we notice that it also already has a hitch on it. Wow. Another thing we don’t need to worry about. This is starting to look like it’s meant to be. The car drives great and has all the creature comforts we’ve gotten used to, short of a nav system.

So, here it is, tentatively named TeeDee:

Isn’t that a fine specimen of German engineering?

Posted in Family News, Life.

2 Responses

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  1. Jerry says

    You wanted a Scion xB and you know it

    • q says

      You’re right, but biodiesel is easier to come by than babies…. 😛