I am not a car person. I like cars. I drive one. But if you start rambling on about V-6 engines and throttles and transmissions, I will tune you out. I can’t even tell you the make and model of my husband’s car. I just know our kids call it the “spy car,” because it’s sleek and black and has heated seats and a nice stereo.
Now that we’re shopping for a new car, I care about certain features and nothing more. Specifically, I want third-row seating. Our beloved Subaru Forester has simply grown too small for our family. I want to be able to carpool, and to pick up my parents at the train station without having to hire a babysitter.
Thanks to the nice folks at Koons Automotive, one of the largest online dealers in the U.S., we were able to test-drive a 2013 Volvo XC90 on a recent roadtrip to visit the grandparents. (Blogging has its perks.) Let’s face it: a spin around the block with a car salesman in the passenger seat is not a test drive. But a 700-mile trip with the kids, the husband, and the mountains of stuff we travel with? Now THAT’S a test drive.
Here are the features we discovered matter most to us in a car:
1. Safety. It’s a biological fact that the minute a woman becomes a mother, she develops an irrational obsession with safety. I have been known to pull over because the shoulder straps on a kid’s carseat were twisted. I make my husband crazy pointing out cars in his blind spot and telling him when he’s tailgating. Shockingly, he does not find this helpful. When he remarked of the Volvo, “These blind-spot indicators could save our marriage” he was not joking.
2. Space. I still have scars on my elbow from the summer my family drove cross-country and my brother and I shoved the cooler wedged in between us back and forth for 3,000 miles. “It’s more on my side!” “He’s touching me!” “No fair, you have more room!” Any parent alive would pay a premium to not have to listen to that all the way to grandma’s. And when you travel with as much stuff as we do – Pillow Pets, blankies, my 5yo’s entire library of hardcover Dr. Seuss books, enough snacks to feed a small European nation – you need all the space you can get.
3. Climate controls. My husband likes to blast the air conditioning directly into his face. If his eyeballs aren’t frozen, it’s not cold enough. I, on the other hand, have used seat warmers in the summer. What? I get cold easily. So separate driver and passenger controls are a big plus. Also, tinted windows in the back keep the little ones comfortable. One time we drove for 6 hours on I-95 South with the sun beating down on the baby. None of those roller-shade thingies worked. It was a nightmare for everyone involved, trust me.
4. Stereo. The amount of electronics we travel with is ridonculous. An iPad, iPods, cell phones, DVD players, handheld video games, you name it. And it’s ALL necessary. Remember that one time we forgot the baby’s favorite lullabies and had to make do with a Christmas CD? And the time someone (and by “someone,” I mean my husband) forgot to charge the DVD player before we left and we had to stop at a Walmart in the middle of the night to buy a new one? Let’s just say the Volvo’s MP3 hookup was much appreciated, as was the fact we could play “The Bippolo Seed” audiobook (for the 7th time) only on the back speakers.
I’m not going to say the right vehicle makes roadtripping with small children a vacation — it’s a car, not a magic lamp — but it does make it far less likely that someone will bail out at a rest stop in New Jersey and run screaming for the hills, never to be heard from again. Good enough for me.
TIP O’ THE DAY: Before your next roadtrip, be sure to stop by your local library. The audiobooks were a GODSEND. And a fabulous children’s librarian turned me on to these Playaway Views, little handheld e-reader type things that come preloaded with books and educational programs that you can check out for FREE. I love the library.