After nine consecutive weeks of test driving press vehicles, I begged my editor to give me a little break, allowing me in turn to give my good old Honda Civic some much needed love.
The battery had run empty and the grounds had oxidized. I checked the fluids and let the battery charge for an hour before starting the engine. The immediate grumble reassured me.
It didn't take long for me to remember its lazy brake pedal and leaking exhaust system, not to mention the imminent need of an oil change. At the same time, I found a certain satisfaction in palming the shift knob and squeezing my butt into the Acura Integra seats I had previously fitted. The #5 service bay at my friend's repair shop was waiting for me on Friday. For sure, I had my work cut out for me!
Once the thrill of diving back into my old habits vanished, I realized the enormous gap between today's basic trim levels and my then-fully loaded 1996 Civic Si, which included a Power Package (windows, mirrors, door locks), Comfort Package with air conditioning (which stopped working after five years), a sunroof and a CD player. It even came with ABS brakes, although the rear ones relied on drums.
There was power rack-and-pinion steering with the calibration and feedback of a city bus. I mean, almost two full turns of the wheel were necessary to turn a street corner! Forget about traction control and other electronic nannies. Back in the day, when the ''Check Engine'' light came on, you didn't use a scanner. No, you simply jumped a pair of fuses and counted the number of flashes on the instrument panel.
So, after nine weeks of test driving brand new vehicles, I accidentally hit the horn and scared the crap out of the old lady in the adjacent lane - all because I reached for the audio controls on the steering wheel and never found them!
Now, every time I take place in a modern car and realize that there are no power heated mirrors, automatic headlights, sunroof, heated seats, intelligent key, steering wheel-mounted controls, voice command and touch screen, I get a bit upset with the automaker for not having made them standard features considering the asking price.
All these features and amenities weren't even available with my first few cars. As I get reacquainted with my lovable 1996 Honda Civic, I know that I can live without them - and not worry about damaging some electronic sensor when I work under the hood.