Fevered

We’re going stir-crazy here again. Somehow our (and Maggie’s) great fortune in avoiding illness during the fall term has boomeranged around on us for winter term, and we’re in the throes of another batch of viruses. I think I had the flu; I had a cough and the sniffles and then about 48 hours of up-and-down fever. It would have been better if we hadn’t been on the road for a few appointments that required our presence at an American base hospital three hours away during that time, but what can you do?

You can go test drive cars!

…Now, who thought that would be the answer? But since we had to go to our appointment at the hospital in Lakenheath, where there’s a Volvo Military Sales dealership, we decided to make lemonade out of this lemon of a trip and try some cars out.

The first thing we noticed when we walked in (aside from the showroom-shiny luxury cars–it was also a Land Rover and Jaguar dealership) was a sour-looking young family of three who, frankly, appeared to not be enjoying their car-buying experience in the least. I returned the toddler’s winning smile only to be glared at by the mother so I hid my face in an SUV trunk until I no longer felt her searing gaze.

The second thing we noticed was that there was a beverage station with coffee and water, and a small clear refrigerator meant to hold a variety of soft drinks. As this was a military sales outlet, the fridge obviously only held energy drinks: dozens and dozens of cans of Red Bull. Obviously, they know their military market.

We were there to look at two cars: the XC60 and the XC90. The 90–a seven-seater family hauler–was my choice. The sleeker 60–a five-seater crossover–was Tom’s. From the very start of our new car search he’d maintained his steadfast disapproval of the XC90 and I couldn’t wait to prove him wrong.

Yeah. Stop me if you know where this is going.

Even just coming down from a fever that had reached near-hallucinatory states, I couldn’t deny that the XC90 was flat-out disappointing. Call me a snob but for a starting price in the high $30Ks, the interior was dated-looking and the handling somewhat stiff and truck-like. And oddly enough for their only seven-seat model, it wasn’t that family-friendly: it had one integrated booster seat for older kids and two top-tether car seat positions for seven seats vs. the XC60’s two integrated boosters and three top-tether positions for five seats. I asked the salesman for an explanation for that and he completely sidestepped me. Maybe Volvo just thinks that because so many families are looking for seven seats they’ll take a sub-par setup; I’m sure a few years ago the XC90 was top-of-its-class but it hasn’t been redesigned in a while and it looks it.

The XC60, on the other hand, was a total joy to drive. So much fun, and I’m going to give the highest compliment someone with a bad back who was once trapped for nine hours in a Honda Fit can give: it’s a bum-cuddler. Yes. I said that. A heated-seat bum-cuddler. The seats were soooooo comfortable. It’s the superior vehicle in every respect…except it doesn’t seat seven.

Why does a family of four need a seven-seater car, anyway? Well, we technically don’t, but the girls’ car seats turn any five-seat car into a four-seater. And we do have guests, and the girls will have friends, and the convenience of a smaller seven-seater with the third row down most of the time is unbeatable.

Me: The third row doesn’t look very comfortable.

Tom: I think the third row comfort is one of those things where we get to say “Suck it up and deal” to whoever is back there.

Me: Works for me.

In the end, we decided to strike the XC90 from the list entirely and to agree that if the XC60 made it to the final round it was because it is the fun, emotional choice and not the practical one–fun and emotional meaning that it would end up being Tom’s car upon our return to the States and we’d probably have to go through this process again, and I’m starting to sense his master plan here. We have two Fords to test-drive this summer when we’re home. One, the Flex, isn’t available on base for test-drives and the other, the Transit Connect Wagon mini-minivan, won’t actually be released until later this year. Both seat seven and both bear more than a passing resemblance to toaster ovens that have mated with box trucks, but the Flex is renowned for its, uh, family flexibility and the Transit Connect Wagon is reportedly going to pull 30MPG with the eco-boost engine. That, we cannot ignore.

But oh, I will miss you, my bum-hugging XC60. And the XC90? Yeah. Step up yo game, Volvo.

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