Barry Smith: Lap of luxury is in eye of be-cupholder

There was a point in my life where the main criteria for the car that I owned was that you could sleep in it more or less comfortably. So I drove a ’71 VW van.After a few years of that – and no doubt as a direct result – my criteria changed to “it starts when you turn the key.” So, a ’91 Honda Civic it was. And still is.I’m really not much of a car guy. For the most part, all cars pretty much look alike to me. I mean, I can tell the difference between a truck and a car, and maybe, in a pinch, between a truck and a jeep, but that’s about it. If I were an eyewitness to some sort of bank robbery get-a-way car, and the cops asked me to describe the vehicle that the perpetrators were driving, I would answer, “Red.”So when I stepped into the 2002 Lincoln Navigator for a test drive, I was like an innocent little newborn. I didn’t actually go to a dealership, but was accosted on the sidewalk during Aspen’s recent Food & Wine Classic. There was a whole team of people pimping for the new Lincoln, and I opted for a test drive. Or, specifically, to be test driven. I was in no state to drive at the time.Margi, the woman who was to be my test driver, began showing me around the Navigator. And I do mean around. The interior is about the size of my living room, only with much more comfortable seating, a far superior video/sound system and probably even better lighting.As one who is clueless about the world of auto advancement, I felt like I was in a James Bond car. Margi flicked on the GPS system and I said, “Wow.” Like a real Gomer Pyle kind of “wow.” Like a “Wow, indoor plumbing!” kind of “wow.” I did the same as she explained the air-conditioned seats, the dual front-seat climate control, the electronically retractable side mirrors, and on down the line. Wow. It was basically the last seven years of auto technology being sprung on me at once.Margi asked what kind of car I drove. I blanked for a moment, but was finally able to answer.”Blue.”It was painfully obvious that I was not a potential buyer for the 40 some-odd thousand dollar luxury SUV, but Margi treated me well anyway. She punched the gas as we went up Independence Pass to demonstrate the power of the 300-horsepower, 32-valve V8 engine. I agreed that it was impressive, and asked her to show me that retractable side-mirror trick again.Many of the features in this car had that “how can I live without this” feel to them. I was worried that stepping back into the Honda would be depressing, but as I sit at home leafing through the Navigator brochure, I realize that my Honda already has all of these features, or at least reasonable, low-tech substitutes for them.And yes, as a matter of fact, I do have examples:* Back Up Radar: The Navigator has some sort of radar or sonar or whatever mounted on the rear end which beeps as you back up. A constant, steady beep means you are clear, and as you get closer to an object the beeps get faster and more piercing until an even louder alarm sounds just before impact. You’d have to try really hard to back into something with this system.(Honda Equivalent): A similar concept – back up until you hear glass break, then quickly drive forward while pretending you didn’t hear glass break.* Dual Passenger Climate Control: The Navigator allows you to set the actual degrees (with digital display) for both the driver and passenger seat. (Honda Equivalent): Hey, I drove to Vegas in the summer with my girlfriend, who later, in spite of my Honda’s lack of A/C, agreed to be my wife, so I know a little bit about dual climate control. Put a sweater on, take a sweater off, roll your window down a little, dump some cold water on yourself. You’ll be OK.* GPS Navigation System: Allows you to pinpoint your exact location on a digital map readout.(Honda Equivalent): “Excuse me, sir, how do I get to Tastee Freeze from here?”* DVD/Playstation: This ceiling-mounted, digital entertainment system is to keep the kids from bickering and scuffling in the back seat during those cross-country excursions.(Honda Equivalent): A few powerful strokes from a wooden spoon wielding adult. True, a beating with a spoon isn’t exactly “The Lion King,” but it managed to keep me in line as a kid. Right about shin level seemed to be the favorite target area for my Mom, but maybe kids today have tougher shins.* Power Adjustable Brake and Accelerator Pedal: Customizable to your leg strength/length. Programmable for different drivers.(Honda Equivalent): Slide the seat forward, slide the seat back. Once I get around to fixing my seat.[Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Monday and Thursday. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at]