Dear Tom and Ray:
Iím turning 16, and Iím looking at buying a 1998 Jeep Wrangler Sport. Do you think this is a good car for me? A safe car? I know itís in good shape. It has only 20,000 miles on it, and it has a brand-new transmission. It has a soft top and a hard top. Iíll base my decision on what you guys say, so your opinion would really help me. ? Alec
RAY: The answers to your questions are ďno,Ē and ďno.Ē
TOM: Itís not a good car for you because, in our opinion, itís not a particularly safe car.
RAY: Itís got a short wheelbase, so it bounces all over the road. Itís got an ancient type of suspension system, so itís like driving a basketball. Itís top-heavy, has flimsy doors, has no stability control and has an old-style four-wheel-drive system that can contribute to a rollover if used incorrectly.
TOM: This car ? in our opinion ? basically gives a 16-year-old male driver every tool he needs to flip over on a highway, roll down a ravine and end up operating his motorized wheelchair with his lips for the rest of his life. But other than that, itís a great idea, Alec.
RAY: Iím sure weíre disappointing you terribly, because we do understand the appeal of the Jeep Wrangler. It screams ďadventure.Ē
TOM: Which is appropriate, because driving this thing is an adventure!
RAY: Well, we do understand why that appeals to you, Alec. The primary concern of every 16-year-old boy is getting dates, so youíre obviously convinced that this adventurous enhancement to your image will help you in that arena.
TOM: But donít be so sure. My brother always had cool cars, and he never got any dates. The girls just asked to borrow his car every Friday and Saturday night.
RAY: So if you were my son, Iíd much rather see you in something more boring and safe: a sedan with a normal center of gravity, stability control and side and curtain air bags, if possible.
TOM: Not to mention something that didnít need a new transmission at 20,000 miles!
RAY: I know itís hard for you to believe, but girls donít care nearly as much about cars as guys do. Youíd be much better off with a clean, modest car, and a warm, friendly smile.
TOM: A Fender Stratocaster that you could play like Jimi Hendrix wouldnít hurt either. Good luck, Alec.
You can listen to Tom and Ray Magliozziís ďCar TalkĒ program at 10 a.m. Saturdays on National Public Radio station WUSF, 89.7 FM.
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