If you have a car, chances are that you want to change to a different model or a new brand. The first axiom of being a car-owner is: The one that the other person has is better. In that sense, owning a car is no different from being in a marriage.
There are many more obvious, cheesy euphemisms to make further links between automobiles and marital situations. But I will not go into them because this week’s piece is going to be a technical one, in that it will involve terms like ‘torque’, ‘wheelbase’ and ‘hydraulics’. But non-technical people need not worry, this piece will also contain equally non-technical stuff like ‘is’, ‘the’ and ‘and’. If there are folks who find even these words slightly technical, well, to suit their understanding levels I will leave some blank spaces too.
Ok, buying a car, in these days of unending choices, is a task you cannot accomplish unless you have the right information and technical knowhow, by which I mean, the ability to look casual and cool even when the salesperson is letting loose verbal thunderbolts like ‘the suspension is MacPherson strut with coil spring and stabiliser bar’. The truth is the salesperson too doesn’t have a clue as to what he is talking about. He is merely regurgitating what is given in the manual, which itself was cooked up by a desperate engineer who included those words just because they conveyed the idea of deep meaning because they were incomprehensible.
This handy ready-reckoner has been written with the aim of making car-buying child’s play. After reading this, at the end, you will immediately want to go out and pick a car and come directly to my place and mow me down.
Dx or Dy?
In your school and college days you might have been mortally terrified of integral and differential calculus and bitterly wondered how on earth these fx, dy/dx thingies could be put to use in everyday situations. Well, the enterprising automobile engineers seem to have fused the unused and uncared for dy/dxs together and put it to proper technical use: As suffixes to car models. ‘Honda dy’. ‘Suzuki rdx’, ‘Hyundai drdo’, Lamborghini dx/(a + b) 2 are typical variations of models. In overall appreciation of the contribution of mathematics to the lexicon of automobile industry, Benz is to shortly launch: Benz — Mathematics Class.
The various suffixes are like colon and semicolon in a sentence. They don’t have any meaning. Everyone uses it because everyone else is using it.
But remember the best model is still in the making. So that takes us to the first in the list, the ‘base model’
Thought up to meet the dreams of the common man who desires to own a car, the base model is all economy, in that it comes just with a steering and four wheels with the rest of the other features, like brake, accelerator left to higher models affordable only to the rich and luxurious.
Base models, as a rule, are unbuyable. Car firms perhaps do not even manufacture base models; they are thought up only for catalogues.
High-end or base model? You don’t have to answer the question, because luckily there is the mid-segment that offers you a wonderful compromise by allowing you to enjoy both the worlds, as it were, by providing base model features at high-end prices.
Being the mid-segment, everything comes at half-measures. In that the brake will be operational only on the back tyres while the AC will be effective only for the front-seaters.
Aimed at the connoisseur, it comes with the main feature that gives it the privilege to be at the top of the heap: A heavy price tag. A top-end car is a state-of-the-art base model built to high cost. If you ask the salesman what is the difference between the various models, he will bring into conversation the dreaded words of torque, suspension and hydraulics. After this, people generally stuff the cash into the salesman’s hands and drive away any car that is ready to be driven away.
Even if you settle for the high cost variant, it still wouldn’t have all the features. Car manufacturers don’t put all the features in one single car for a valid reason. If they did, they won’t have an excuse for launching a ‘new improved version’. The ‘improved versions’ reflect the quintessential thirst in automobile companies for freshness, meaning new design for headlights. For, as far as I can tell, no ‘improved version’ has changed anything other than the shape of the headlamp domes and sockets.
Mileage and speed
The mileage figure mentioned in the advertisement pamphlet and the one when you actually drive the vehicle on real road is different. But all manufacturers honestly mention the fact that the test driving situations are different. They, however, dishonestly hide the fact that the vehicle on the brochure was tested when it was stationary.
Talking of mileage, there are two variants: the costlier diesel model and the regular petrol version. In the diesel type you pay the vehicle manufacturer upfront whatever you possibly hope to save owing to the lower cost of diesel. In the petrol variant, whatever you save with the manufacturer, you pay up at the gas station.
Colour and style
This is the least important and the most non-technical area of an automobile, and hence is usually the clincher in deciding what you buy. And while talking of colour, you have to talk of paint. And it’s here you have to take the most important decision of whether you want your car’s under chassis painted or not. Because for some reason, car manufacturers run out of money while trying to paint the underside of the chassis. So the first thing the salesman asks is whether you want the under-chassis painted or not?
Once you evaluate the vehicle on all these parameters, you need to neatly write all these on a piece of paper. Then take a relook at them and go through all of them carefully. After this, quietly tear the paper to pieces. Then walk up to your son or daughter and ask what he or she likes. This is the universal method. Usually this doesn’t fail.
Did I not tell you that buying a car is kid’s play?