Photography by Nicole Gagnon
Ok, “Giant Slayer” is going a bit far, but when it comes time for my annual “what ridiculous thing can Byron try to beat Miatas with?” piece, the answer can’t always be “Crosstour.” This year, I found that the MSCW’s normal spring autocross happened to be within the Soul loan period. A week earlier, it would have been a Mazda3; one or two later, and I’d have been in a Cayman S. At least the hamster-mobile is yellow—the appropriate hue for making lemonade.
Normally, when I’m queued up in front of a bunch of cones, I’m running on adrenaline and a less-than-optimal amount of sleep. I’m reviewing the version of the course I’ve tried to burn into my subconscious from the course walk, and my hands are flexing almost imperceptibly on the wheel as I rehearse my line. I’ve been told my lips move, as if I’m mumbling. I believe it. It’s how I program; how I run the course before I run the course.
Not this time. I’m a passenger for this run, sitting shotgun in a high-performance SUV, watching a Fiat 500 Abarth burble through a long sweeper a few hundred yards to my right.
Such a feelin’s comin’ over me
There is wonder in most everything I see
Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes
And I won’t be surprised if it’s a dream
It’s 9:45 a.m., local time. I’m standing at one of what must be a hundred overlooks in Wildcat Canyon Park, looking down on, well, everything. If you’ve never been to the Bay area (as I had not until this point), there’s no way for me to describe to you the view before me—one that photography has no hope of doing justice. There’s so much going on, yet it’s all encapsulated in a way. One could easily convince a child that the entire world exists within the geography visible from this vantage point. That goes a long way toward explaining the mindset of the average resident, I think.
Photos courtesy of Nissan
It’s hard to get worked up over a midsized sedan. Yes, I believe they make up the defining segment in the American automotive market, and from time to time I find one of them to be particularly satisfying to drive, but on the whole, they are just plain vanilla.
As a young car enthusiast, I bought into the notion that there were certain vehicles that I was obligated to hate, lest my “car guy card” be stripped forcefully from my still-timid grasp. The list changed depending on what branch of car culture I found myself exploring at the time, but there was always an established pecking order. And since most of my early exposure was to fans of European and Asian import brands, I believed from the very start that there was no self-inflicted punishment more severe than the purchase and possession of a domestic vehicle.