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Screw practicality! Why I picked a fire-breathing Jag over a whisper-quiet Tesla S

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I love to shop for cars, and because I often lease, I get to do that about every three years. This time, around I cast an especially wide net looking at cars ranging from the Toyota FRS (also badged as the Subaru BRZ) and BMW Mini to the Tesla S and Jaguar F-Type. In the end it came down to the Tesla S and Jaguar F-Type, two very different cars that cost, loaded, about the same amount of money. Many of you, particularly the large number of folks who bought Teslas, won’t agree with my decision. But I’ll walk you through it so you can see how I got there.

Practicality vs. fun

This is often the first decision someone has to make, but it’s less of an issue for me. I work from home and I already have an SUV. If we need to take the dogs someplace or carry people, that is the go-to car. This means I don’t really have to think about a commute, but often I do have to drive a long distance in traffic to get to or from a meeting, and having an electric car that could drive in the carpool lane was clearly a bonus. Because I could install a charger at home, a car like the Tesla S made a ton of sense. However, I sit behind a desk much of the day, and the time I’m driving is kind of like a mini vacation to me. Driving is some of the most fun I have during the day, and for me, fun trumps practicality. That means if I were going to get a Tesla S, it would have to be the performance edition, because it is wicked fast and from a stop light you can spank motorcycles, not to mention performance cars.

Keeping the wife happy

If you are happily married you have learned one rule: “happy wife, happy life.” Mary, my wife, was in love with the high-end BMW Mini with the Cooper Works package. I really struggled with the idea of paying nearly $50,000 for a car that starts out selling under $20,000, and where the convertible top is partially manual. (Seriously, BMW can’t figure out how to get the top to close by itself the last 3 inches?) But that car was small, and a ton of fun for her to drive.

Tesla Model SMary really didn’t like the Tesla, and her reasons were threefold. It is kind of a boat, actually larger than our SUV by nearly half a foot, making it really hard to park. It has a ton of electronics and she isn’t good with electronics. For example, while I was driving the Tesla, she explored the seat-adjust button on the dash and nearly tossed me into the back seat. This was during a particularly fast freeway left turn, so we nearly discovered how well the Tesla flew (I’m guessing not well). On the plus side we also discovered I could curse like a sailor.

But for her, the third strike was the lack of places to charge the car quickly. If you forget to gas up your car there is always a gas station nearby, but finding Tesla charging station resulted in generally driving 30 miles the wrong way, and there clearly would be times you’d have to wait hours until a slot was open. (There are a ton of folks working on “electric car charging etiquette” here in California now.)

Now, she was willing to let me buy the car for the carpool-lane advantages, but I didn’t love it. Had it been a smaller sedan, a convertible, or a sports car, this might have ended differently.

Performance you can hear

Maybe it’s a guy thing, but one big problem I had with the Tesla was how quiet it is. There is something about having a beast of an engine screaming when you accelerate that just puts a huge smile on my face. The Tesla was wicked quick, but it was kind of like “who cares?” At one time, Fisker was going to put speakers on his car (don’t know if he did) which could make it sound like it was driven by everything from a 12-cylinder F1 engine, to a jet, or even the flying car from the Jetsons. Apparently the new Renault Cleo has a feature like this, according to the folks on Top Gear. I would have bought that option and cranked it up.

Every time we drove the car, and I mean both of us, it put a huge grin on our faces. 

The best sound in the car is the sound of the engine coupled with the active exhaust system. But here is the thing: every time we drove the car, and I mean both of us, it put a huge grin on our faces. It really was like a mini vacation, regardless of whether we drove to the store or to a meeting. We found ourselves wandering to British Motors, the local Jag dealer, whenever we had a spare moment, just go for another test drive. The dealership was very understanding, considering how unlikely it seemed that we would buy one.

Eventually it hit us: We said “screw practicality, let’s buy fun” and off we went with the F-type. Go figure?

Surviving vs. living

A lot of folks live perfectly good practical lives with practical cars, practical houses, and practical jobs. They live adult practical lives. Well screw that, that didn’t sound like a fun way to live as a kid, and it sure doesn’t sound like fun to me now. I want to hear the roar of the engine, get the wind in my hair, and that my friends is living. And it’s why I bought a Jaguar F-Type, rather than a Tesla S. Look for me on the freeway: roaring engine, top down, and often screaming like a little girl because my wife often drives, and she is a crazy person in that car. Granted, I’m pretty sure she says the same thing about me.

Oh, one final thing: I put the car in the Club Sportiva pool (that’s my F-Type on their page) which means I can swap it for their performance Tesla S when I need that carpool feature, so I kind of ended up with the best of both worlds.

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Rob Enderle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Rob is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. Before…
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