I had to head up to Kalispell, Montana for a week and since I like road trips, I decided to drive to and from my home in Boulder, Colorado. Estimated distance, one way: 970 miles. Once there, I had an almost daily 2-3 hours drive to an even more rural location, so at least another 500 miles while in town. A lot of driving, for sure, and I didn’t want to put 2500 miles on my own car, so I rented a 2015 Chevy Cruze LT from Hertz at a terrific rate and hit the road.
Here’s a photo of the car with a scenic rock formation just outside of Chugwater, Wyoming:
Yes, Chugwater. That’s the name of the town. It’s associated with an old Indian legend about a rather innovative way to kill buffalo by forcing them to run over the local cliffs. There ya go, something new to learn.
Back to the car, though. I was impressed. The Cruze LT is powered by a small 1.4L engine, but with its ECOTEC turbo engine, it was not only remarkably peppy, but got really good mileage too: Across the 2500 miles of driving, I averaged 29.1 mpg. Quite respectable.
The Cruze is a four-door with a big, deep trunk, lots of storage space and plenty of cup holders. The overall cabin space was reasonably comfortable for my 6’2″ frame, but getting in and out of the car was always a bit awkward, particularly entering the car and rubbing my head on the roof. Every. Single. Time. I thought that I’d figure out the optimal way to get in and out after a few days, but never did. Something to know if you’re on the taller side.
The dashboard layout was easy and quite functional, as you can see here:
What I really appreciated was the cruise control – something that’s a must on any sort of road trip, of course – and how it showed you precisely what speed you set, along with an easy control that lets you click up or down 1mph at a time.
Here’s what it looks like setting it for precisely 54 mph. Not 55, not 53:
My regular car, a Toyota Highlander Hybrid, doesn’t have this nice a cruise control display and in combination with the device I had stuck onto the windshield, I zoomed past plenty of cops with their radar guns and speed traps, never going more than 2-3 mph over the posted limit at each time. What was on the windshield? This:
What is it, you ask? It’s the tiny, powerful Cobra DSP 9200 BT radar detector, and it proved a great addition to the trip. Better yet, the USB power plug for the Cobra has a second USB plug slot so that also powered my iPhone in transit too.
And what did we do with the iPhone? Listen to audio books. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on the way up to Kalispell, and The Three-Body Problem science fiction on the way back. Both really good, but quite different.
Got a few scenics during the trip too, including this picture of lovely Whitefish, Montana. A cute little town, it needed a foot or two of snow to get the best photo, but the nice weather was a great surprise nonetheless:
We really enjoyed exploring Whitefish, though it was mostly bars and restaurants. Then again, there was some splendid pizza there, Jersey Boys Pizzeria (we ordered “The Norm”) and it was a definite hit with everyone in the family!
Then there’s this great shot of the Welcome to Colorful Colorado sign as I zipped by at 75mph:
Props to the Apple iPhone 6s camera for capturing what was a tricky shot!
And with 2500 miles of driving, there were plenty of open road shots too:
It’s roads like this that make me yearn for a self-driving car, quite frankly. The complications of autonomous vehicles in city traffic are one thing, but when you’re on a straight road with 5-10 cars/mile and multiple lanes, well, as you can see above, even a semi-clueless robot could take over driving and let me read a book or watch a movie!
The Chevy Cruze LT also features the Chevrolet StabiliTrack stability control system (which proved useful when I drove on a rough, muddy road), nice leather seats and a two-tone interior design that was quite elegant. The car also featured the quite functional Chevy MyLink entertainment center that let us enjoy the audio books via bluetooth directly from the iPhone, through the 6-speaker audio system that did both the audio books and Sirius XM music justice. There was a fair amount of road noise at higher speeds, however, particularly when driving through always-windy Wyoming.
I really liked the Cruze with its classic sedan styling and peppy turbocharged engine. I just need to be a few inches shorter or otherwise learn the yoga maneuver to get in and out of the vehicle more easily.