Oct 16, 2010

#30before30: Drive a Fast Car

“So, how do you drive a WRX?” I asked my brother, as we stood under cloudy skies at City Subaru.

“Like you stole it,” he replied.

My initial plan for the “drive a fast car” challenge was to get behind the wheel of an Aston Martin and James Bond my little heart out. But it turns out sourcing an Aston Martin is not an easy thing to do. They’re obviously all busy being used to thwart the evil machinations of Goldfinger or something.

My brother Simon has a long abiding love for fast cars, and offered to help me out. Turns out he has a mate named Ryan who’s one of the dealers down at City Subaru, and could hook me up a test drive in a new model WRX.

Now I drive a Yaris day-to-day. Before that it was a Corolla. Before that an Astra. And my first car was a superb little Barina.  So you could say I don’t really have a history of driving “fast cars”, even though I have a nasty habit of picking up speeding fines (Kelvin Grove Road past the KFC, I mean REALLY, COME ON, IT’S DOWNHILL).

I really didn’t know much about WRXs beyond their rather infamous reputation amongst a certain sector of youthful motorists. But according to Ryan, Subaru has worked to “clean up” the WRX, and reaffirm its core attraction as an affordable flat four-cylinder sports compact with a turbo charge that’ll make your bowels loosen.

The challenge was to test the acceleration on this machine, rather than imitate a bottle shop ram-raider through suburban streets. While “getting nicked for hooning” certainly would qualify for #30before30, none of the lawyers I know were willing to represent me pro bono, so that was out.

Ryan, an affable bloke with a passion for speed that was adequately summed up by his number plates “1DR4G”, took us out along Kingsford Smith Drive to a bare stretch of road near the Portside district.

We changed seats and I got behind the wheel. The WRX felt very sturdy, like it was sticking to the road. Ryan and Simon told me that was the “all wheel drive”, which is like “four wheel drive” only with one word difference.  Certainly the car cornered very securely.

Despite the “thick” feeling of the car, the gearbox was very light and responsive. Certainly that came in handy when, on a clear stretch, Ryan urged me to drop my foot on the accelerator.

Wow. Turbo cars really know how to get the heart pumping.  It didn’t jump off or jerk away; rather, it grabbed the road and kept on pulling, matching the flick of the gear changes perfectly. It felt like it could just keep going and going, getting faster and faster.

I will admit to squealing at the sensation of it, prompting my brother to tell me not to “be a sook”. Despite this fraternal affection, I let my foot ease off the accelerator once we hit the speed limit – which we did in about seven or eight seconds.

What IS it with boys and speed? It’s a generalisation, of course, but still. There’s truth there.
“It’s adrenalin,” said Ryan. “I take my modified car to the drag-racing at Willowbank. It’s just amazing, you finish a race and you’re wired.”

Hmmm, I pondered. I admitted to a similar type of rush when I perform onstage in plays or comedy shows. “Of course, I don’t have to hurtle along at high speeds to achieve that,” I said.

The WRX was certainly an enjoyable car to drive, and I could see it being quite useful zipping in and out of traffic. But all that potential for speed worried me. An errant foot stomp could end in tears. I’d never get past the KFC on Kelvin Grove Road.

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