Opinion – “What makes the best automobile for the summer?”

Here in the heartland of the South, as well as the rest of the northern hemisphere, the first day of summer was a few days ago. This has led to an interesting question: “If you could have any type of vehicle to drive until the first day of autumn, what would it be?” I know each reader will have his or her own idea of what this ideal vehicle would be, but I hope I can create a small list that we can all agree would make for fantastic summer vehicles. One assumption I must make is that all vehicles referenced are exactly as they were when they rolled off the assembly line.

Before I begin the details of this list, I would like to make a list of features I would or would not want on any vehicle in my list. The first item in the list of features is leather seats. Some may enjoy leather, but as someone who has had leather in the summer, I know how incredibly unpleasant it is to sit on when has been heated to 120ᐤF or above. For a summer only vehicle, I would choose cloth seats. The next item is air conditioning, for obvious reasons. I may want to enjoy summer, but sometimes I also just want to be cool. The final item is a sound system in good working order. When I drive, I need to listen to the radio. I prefer to have one that can be heard if I am driving with the windows down. Some may say most of the items in this list are standard features, but I include them because some of the vehicles I reference are not new, and may or may not have these features.

The first vehicle type I would like to mention is the Jeep Wrangler. I have considered this vehicle for two reasons. First of all, I categorize it  as a vehicle type because very few vehicles can be taken apart in the way a Wrangler can. With an older model Wrangler, the top, doors, and windshield can be taken down in about a half hour. Note I do not endorse driving without a windshield, but I included it because it is an option. Second of all, the Wrangler is the posterboy of the great outdoors. Jeep markets the Wrangler as a the great tamer of the wilderness, and the Wrangler has proven itself as a capable offroad vehicle. The Wrangler makes a great summer vehicle because a driver can easily remove the top. This allows the driver to be engulfed in the summer season. All Wranglers come with four seats, so there is ample room for friends. If you do not have an Unlimited, the cargo room can seem slightly cramped. Luckily the rear seats fold up for more space, but that presents a tradeoff between storage capacity and people capacity. The Wrangler’s offroad capabilities also allow you to navigate rough terrain to get to any certain point you wish, including a secluded beach or lake, for example.

summer drive

The next vehicle type is probably at the top of the list for most readers: the convertible sports car. Convertible sports cars come in two classes, full convertibles, and t-tops/targa tops. I personally favor t-tops, such as the Nissan 300zx had, but full convertibles, such as a Chevrolet Corvette, Mazda Miatta, or Porche 911, would also be fantastic. The convertible sports car allows one the experience the season, but differs from the Wrangler in that it also allows for ridiculous speeds and provides a symphony of noise from the exhaust. Convertible sports cars are best on twisting country roads at the height of summer. The speed provides an adrenaline boost, but is contradicted by the relaxing and scenic views of the countryside. One thing the sports car does not have is very large capacity for people or storage. They are typically two seaters, and most storage space is occupied with the vehicle top. This vehicle type is best for those with few friends, or a very special one.

The final vehicle type I would like to mention if the pseudo-SUV/hatchback.  This is a very large type of vehicle, so some examples I would like to give are the Honda Element and the Subaru Crosstrek. This type of vehicle has seating for 4+, and usually a good amount of storage. These vehicles also more often than not come with a sunroof, so the passengers are more insulated from the environment. This insulations can be a good thing, if driving in an area prone to frequent changes in the weather. This vehicle type is also usually pretty fun to drive. It may not be able to attain the speeds of the sports car, but it can still be driven aggressively, so as to get some of the adrenaline boost mentioned before. They are spunky, but without being the monsters that the sports cars are. This vehicle is best suited for long drives to camping grounds, concerts, etc. With these vehicles, drivers can bring friends on longer trips, thanks to the higher storage and people capacity.

These are three vehicle types I think are best for the summer months. They all provide the passengers with the ability to experience the summer in all its glory, though each has its strengths and weaknesses. I know everyone may not agree with this list, but I hope they can see how I came to the conclusions I did.

Please feel free to leave your own list in the comments.

– J. Potts, Autmotive Contributor

Edited by JRB, Editor-in-Chief

Buying a New Car in the 21st Century – A Look Back

Purchasing a new car has greatly changed with the rise of the internet. As a kid, I remember my mom taking an afternoon to purchase a car. The vehicle in question was test driven, the old car appraised for next to nothing, papers were signed, and that was the end of it. We never went back to the dealership, save for something being wrong with the new car. Also the dealership never contacted my mother. Once the car was purchased, that was the end of it.

This is not the way things are today when buying a new vehicle. Of course the driving and signing your life away is the same, but the communication with the dealership and the company is not over once the dealer hands over the keys. I know this because I purchased a new 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sport in early March, and the company is still engaging in communication with me. This week a letter arrived in the mail from the Jeep Brand. Inside was an informational pamphlet about my vehicle and support services offered with it.  Note that is also full of advertisements for warranties, parts, clothing, etc., but there was also a rehashing of information I previously obtained about ways in which the company was engaging the customer.

One key difference between buying a new vehicle from when I was younger to now is that when I purchased my Wrangler, the dealer asked for my email address. Naturally, I thought this was for advertisements, but was surprised when I got home that I had received an email that was not an advertisement. It was a link to a website run by the Chrysler Group called the Mopar Owner Center. This site allows the user to create an account, bind the new vehicle’s VIN to the account, and track the maintenance of the vehicle. This site is tied to Chrysler’s databases, so any and all maintenance records performed at a dealership are instantly available to the user. It also allows for the addition of custom records, in case the you like to change the oil yourself.

I personally find this amazing. I know that giving someone a small amount of space in the database to save their information and allow them to access it isn’t a big deal from a tech standpoint, but from the average person’s standpoint, it is a very useful and intriguing tool. It shows that the company cares about the buyer in the long term.  In addition to access to this site, I’ve already been asked to complete two surveys for Chrysler about my vehicle, my buying experience, etc. and receive the letter mentioned earlier. Included in the letter was a leather keychain with “Jeep” on one side and “Wrangler” on the other. I know that this is just a small item, but I think it is a fantastic marketing tool.


Companies are beginning to focus more on brand loyalty, and in doing so I believe on the way to building better vehicles. By sending things such as pamphlets and keychains, a company can keep a buyer interested in communicating with the company, which allows for better data collection without buyers feeling hassled by the company. With better feedback, companies know what consumers think could be done better and design and market appropriately. The consumer also feels that the company is truly interested in the customer, and not just the profit margin; therefore the consumer is more likely to continue buying a certain brand.

This new mode of operation by companies has greatly changed the way one thinks about buying a new vehicle. No longer is the transaction over once the papers are signed. Instead, the company creates a lasting bond with the consumer that benefits both parties in the long run.

– J. Potts, Automotive Contributor for The Spirited Drive

– Edited by JRB, Editor of The Spirited Drive