Eugene, OR. Sat 25 Mar 2017, 10:30am.
When I picked up our rental car at PDX airport after our late arrival last night— actually it was early this morning, as the rental agreement shows— I was offered a choice of a Nissan Altima, a Chevy Impala, or some CUV-type vehicle. I've driven more rental Altimas than I can count. I've driven so many that I wrote a review of the Altima a few years ago. It's not a bad choice for a rental car. It's roomy, predictable, and even in base trim offers a modicum of creature comforts. But the Impala option caught my attention because of a favorable experience I had driving an Impala 18 months ago.
As I walked up to the car in the lot, though, I realized something was off. This car didn't look like that Impala I drove 18 months ago, either inside or outside. In fact it looked like the bad old Impala from the late 90s— The Car That Killed GM, I wrote years ago after GM's bankruptcy and bailout by the US government.
I was frustrated at finding myself in such an outdated vehicle. I suppose I could have taken the keys back to the office and asked for a different car. It was going on 1am, though, so I didn't feel like spending time switching. And Hawk assured me that the front seat was comfortable for her, which was one of my top issues in choosing a car anyway.
This morning I poked around a bit online to determine how such an ancient vehicle could be marked as a 2016 model. It turns out my memory was not fooling me: GM introduced a vastly more modern car as the Impala 3-4 years ago. At the same though it continued manufacturing the previous generation Impala as the Impala Limited, sold only to fleet customers such as rental car agencies.
In virtually every other automobile industry usage "limited" indicates a high level trim. But here "limited" is ironic for being so literal: limited modern features, limited creature comforts, limited safety features, limited performance, etc.
Just looking at the dashboard was like taking a trip into the past. The controls design is straight out of the late 1990s. The materials are what US automakers like GM thought at the time a luxury-ish car entailed, including all that awful fake cheap wood trim. And while the stereo has an aux-in jack there's no USB jack, not even for charging. Nope, but the car does have three 12V cigarette lighter adaptor jacks!
Looks aside, the car doesn't totally suck. It got us from Portland down to Eugene this morning, a drive of about 120 miles, in one piece. After all, this car only looks 20 years old. It was built about a year ago.