GETTING rear-ended, even without resulting injuries, is to a motorist what an unwanted pregnancy is to a teenage schoolgirl.
There is a high-pitched “oh my god!” followed by a dawning realisation that things are never going to be the same again.
Much gnashing of teeth is followed by incredible inconvenience. At the end of it, you get a new car whether you like it or not.
Long story short, a daydreaming buff oon caused so much damage to my father’s car that the repair quote exceeded the car’s actual worth by some margin.
Worse, my dad’s Jaguar XF is barely four years old and had only just finished descending the steepest sections of its depreciation curve.
The XF had most of its life still ahead of it, had ambitions to venture far and wide. Those dreams were dashed.
Written off. Appropriated by fate and the insurance company. Condemned to a wreck dealer.
Still, silver linings and all that. Who can resist loving a new baby, planned or not. To Leng Kee we went!
The interesting thing about buying a car in Singapore is that often we do not think in straight lines.
We do not haul boats to the river on the weekend, nor intend to ford anything deeper than the occasional puddle.
Nobody factors ponding into their car buying decisions. For the purposes of transporting up to five people over short, PIE-at-most distances, the distinctions between market segments are entirely arbitrary.
One needs a Bentley Bentayga as much as one needs a Hyundai i30. My dad entered this exercise with only the vaguest of vague concepts for what he was looking for.
He just knew he wanted something “nice”.
This meant that the contenders for his deposit cheque spread themselves over a hundred thousand dollars in price difference, three body types and four size classes.
They were (deep breath): the Mazda 6 2.0, Audi A4 2.0, Lexus UX, Mercedes-Benz A200, Mercedes-Benz C180, Lexus ES250, Jaguar XF and, at my insistence, our 2018 Car of the Year, the Kia Stinger 3.3 GT.
Let the test drives begin! Or not. My dad is not a petrolhead and he cares not for the nuances of the “driving experience”.
I had to strong-arm him into the Stinger demonstrator, the only car he actually drove that afternoon, in vain hope he might discover the virtue of POWERRRRR.
No banana. Despite agreeing that it is a great car for a great price for driving enthusiasts, he was unmoved.
Now all my waxing lyrical about vehicle segments and value fell on deaf ears. I emphasised till my face was blue that the Audi A4 2.0 is a C200 equivalent at a lower price than a C180, but my dad simply grabbed a brochure and hightailed it.
Sometimes the brand just does not speak to you. Or perhaps Audi overdid the whole hyper-cool, industrial-chic thing (in its oddly morose showroom) to the point of blandness.
Anyway, the A4 made an early exit from the competition.
Then to C&C, where we were greeted by the best car salesman I have ever met. Combining likeable affability with authoritative knowledge, he was articulate, warm, and successfully enhanced the perception of his product’s positives while making the negatives feel inconsequential.
It helps that he looks a dead ringer for Sean Lau Ching-Wan. Suddenly my dad decided that his desires in the nebulous concepts of “niceness”, “bigness” and an acceptable price intersected perfectly at the C180.
Still, I insisted we do more homework, so we kept going.
My dad thought long and hard about the Jaguar. His old car was an XF and he likes pretending to be British royalty.
Unfortunately, its interior is underwhelming next to the digital fireworks display in the Mercs. And again, the Merc sales rep was one hell of a charmer. Germany beats England once more.
Lexus’ ES250 crossed the line a very close third. This new ES is not the boat-like glorified Camry of yesteryear.
Proper artfulness courses through every sculpted line. Despite not caring about power and driven wheels, my dad let the words “Jaguar” and “Lexus” roll off his tongue a few times and concluded, I know not how, that he prefers “Jaguar”.
All BMWs were immediately eliminated from consideration upon entry into the showroom, on account of the current 1 and 3 series being the automotive equivalent of Pioneer Generation citizens. The coffee was good though.
So Mercedes C180 it is.
But like a bad M. Night Shyamalan movie, there was a final twist. Two days of following my dad around like a pest chanting “Sixtyfive-thousand-dollars” – the amount he would save on a Mazda 6 over the C180 – either wore down his resistance or triggered an epiphany.
After all, the Mazda 6, what with its soft sweeping leather and searing LED gaze, is a luxury sedan in all but name.
Graphical razzmatazz in its internal displays aside, there is little the 6 doesn’t have in its locker that you might meaningfully miss.
So for the price of a C180 minus a Suzuki Swift, he became the proud owner of a Crystal Blue Mazda 6 2.0.
Now for my parents to actually spend the money they saved enjoying their retirement.
Or all I will have is the guilt that my quasi-enlightened squawking has, in their golden years, denied them the cushy luxury car of their desire.
DR KONG IS PLANNING TO CONVINCE HIS WIFE TO SWOP HER JUNIOR EXECUTIVE SEDAN FOR SOMETHING SPORTIER – LIKE THE LATEST MX-5. HE’S GOING TO HAVE A MUCH HARDER TIME, THOUGH.
Getting into an accident is as desirable as an unwanted pregnancy.
THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT BUYING A CAR IN SINGAPORE IS THAT OFTEN WE DO NOT THINK IN STRAIGHT LINES.