September was a busy month for me. I had a couple of road trips planned to attend Maker Faire in Calgary and the XOXO Festival in Portland. Honda Canada was generous enough to loan me a couple of their vehicles to put them through their paces on these trips.
I chose two very different vehicles for the trips as I wanted to contrast them against each other.
For the first trip to Calgary, I chose a 2013 Acura RDX (the TECH edition, which seemed fitting) as the trip was about 12 hours through the Rockies. As we were attending Maker Faire and bringing a bunch of 3d printers, the vehicle had to be big enough to fit our gear and luggage while at the same time being comfortable.
The RDX had plenty of room for all four 3d printers we were taking to MakerFaire:
The dash and steering wheel had an overwhelming amount of buttons and options but it didn’t take long to get familiar with them. The dual climate control was great for the road trip.
I loved the info screens that Honda is building into all their current vehicles…so much better than a ‘Check Engine’ light.
The ride was incredibly comfortable. I don’t think I’ve ever gone so long on a road trip and not had to stop for a stretch break…we only stopped if we needed gas.
My only gripe with the RDX was it’s voice navigation system. I found it quite frustrating to have to spell out every word for a destination, one letter at a time. This would be fine for the most part but every time I wanted to say something, the system would explain how it works (~10-20 seconds) then beep and wait for my response. I’d say “C” and it would drop back to music mode. Then I’d have to press the voice button again, listen to the system explanation again and then say my next letter. I get that the dvd nav systems don’t have as complete of a dictionary as my iPhone does (thanks to the internet) but it got old fast. I figured out quickly that I could simply press the voice button again to skip the explanation but they should have been an easier way…maybe there was and I just didn’t find it.
I understand with current laws that you aren’t able to interact with the maps and various things while driving so they want you to use voice controls for everything. But my passenger was still able to push buttons but was locked out of them while we were moving which seemed weird.
Navigation aside (and I’ve never really been happy with in-dash nav systems anyways), I really did like the RDX a lot…and worked perfectly for the trip to Calgary and back.
Next up was a trip to Portland for the XOXO Festival. I thought a hybrid would be a good choice for the 5.5 hour trip from Vancouver so I chose the 2012 Honda Insight Hybrid . This was actually the first time (other than cabs) that I’d been in a hybrid vehicle, let alone drive it for a week.
The Insight was much less expensive than I thought…the model I borrowed has a list price starting at around $21,000 which is a fair bit less than my Kia Soul cost. What also impressed me was my work commute (about 70km round trip daily) was a breeze for the Insight…I easily used half the gas I normally would with my Kia and that’s without really changing the way I drive.
That really hit home with me as I usually spend upwards of $50 a week on gas just going to and from work. I went pretty much the entire week on the original tank of gas (to and from work before leaving for XOXO) then part way to Seattle before I had to fill up. The Insight that I had was a fairly standard model with little bells & whistles but I’ve always preferred function over form and the Insight was great to drive and the costs certainly outweighed the gadgets in this case. Besides, I could always add those things.
I wasn’t expecting it to be so quiet too…I’ve driven electric vehicles before so expected it to be somewhat quiet but this was very quiet…and when you break at a stop light, the motor is completely off so it took a little getting used to.
Like the RDX, the Insight also had a push button start engine…this too took getting used to although I’m still not sure I got it as there were a few times when I got out of the car with it still ‘on’ and the keys in my pocket.
It was great to have the opportunity to really try these vehicles in the situations I was able to use them in. I’m also really considering exploring Hybrid technology a lot more now thanks to this experience. A few years ago when I was looking to buy a new vehicle, I wanted a hybrid but the costs were still quite high so it’s great to see them coming down in price and being on par with ‘regular’ vehicles…or at least close enough that the fuel economy equation makes it an easy choice for my next car.
My thanks again to Honda Canada for the vehicle loans to make my roadtrips more enjoyable.