Somehow “Dawdler” wasn’t taken

Roberta X drew driving duty in a Freightliner/Dodge/Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, but regardless of the badge, she didn’t like it much:

It’s ferociously underpowered. Maybe if it was kitted out with plumber’s tools and supplies or filled with parcels to be delivered, it would be fine, but in my trade, we mount thousands of pounds of equipment in these vans. 0-60 is a matter of a couple of minutes; okay, I can deal with that, see “Suzuki Samurai” above.* But the brakes are frighteningly spongy and slowing or stopping is more of a request than a command. Steering is a little soft and tends to hunt. None of these are so bad as to make the vehicle dangerous — but when you put, oh, me at the wheel and head into bumper-to-bumper, 65 mph, multi-lane traffic on a route where highways merge and split and some of the exits require getting across two and four lanes merging into six in what seems like barely enough distance, it’s a recipe for white knuckles.

It’s been a while, but I remember “ferociously underpowered”: I learned how to drive in a second-generation Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus, sporting a whole 47 horsepower from somewhere way in the back. Still, this version of the Bus, having shed the old VW swing-axle rear end, was relatively stable unless the winds picked up; I imagine the Sprinter, being a tall and tippy device by design, probably wants to go several directions at once.

Regarding the Samurai, she says:

The tough little baby SUV has a sub-one-liter engine about the size of an old-fashioned tabletop sewing machine and nearly the same horsepower-to-weight ratio as a full semi tractor-trailer. They’re pretty good up to 45 mph if you flirt with the red line and don’t mind doing a lot of shifting but at freeway speeds, it runs with the trucks. The drivers seem greatly amused by this.

The owners, by and large, loved it despite its lack of suds; Suzuki actually bothered to give the little wagon a proper 4WD drivetrain with a transfer case and a low range. The Jimny, to give it its Japanese designation, is still in production for some markets, though not this market.


  1. backwoods conservative »

    8 November 2015 · 5:45 pm

    She forgot to mention how ugly those things are. That’s the biggest reason why I wouldn’t have one. I suspect that fuel efficiency is the only reason manufacturers have switched to producing those types of vans. As it stands now, Chevrolet is the only major auto company still making the old style vans.

    My van is a 1999 Dodge cargo van. It’s one of the extended versions, the size of a 15 passenger van. The fuel injected 318 under the hood provides an abundance of horsepower. I do have to be careful not to drive into turns fast, but I can go into the mountains with it and climb hills like they’re not even there.

    The 1983 Buick LeSabre I previously owned had the same lack of horsepower she speaks of. It would go from 0 to 60 in about 7 minutes, if there was a tailwind. I actually hated for people to slow down in front of me to make a turn, because it would take so long to get back to cruising speed.

  2. McGehee »

    8 November 2015 · 10:45 pm

    When I was in grade school, one of the neighbors had a Suzuki jeep-type thing that the old diving-helmet Honda car would have laughed at. I’m pretty sure it actually had a motorcycle engine.

    It also had the steering wheel on the right, which tells you where he got it. I wouldn’t have wanted to dodge Godzilla stomps in that thing.

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