Fancy (car) Lads and their Dads by Ben Shahrabani

July 17, 2013—In many families, between fathers and sons especially, there is that semi-regular trip to the local car dealer of choice to check out the new 'iron.' It’s usually a familial, bonding event. I’ve always been a car guy; my mum swears my first word was 'carsaaa.' So by the time I was a slightly more formed and cognitive human being, I was accompanying my dad on all visits to the dealership. The Ford Pinto he purchased for my mum in the 70's was a tough moment for us, though.

2004 Jaguar XJR

© Jaguar Land Rover Limited


My father has had his current car, a 2004 Jaguar XJR, for almost ten years. This was a car I steered him into though even though he had two previous Jaguars including the original Jaguar XJR (the supercharged six-cylinder which was a 1995 model, I think. I still miss that car even though I had to replace the trunk latch like 5-times. I got pretty good at it). When time came to replace it, he wanted to stay with Jaguar (the dealership is close-by) but this time, he wasn't concerned with getting another XJR.

Me: Dad, you must get the XJR.
Dad: Son, I just don't need the horsepower.
Me: You never know when you might need it. And it has all the options as standard. So it kind of makes sense.
Dad: It's a more expensive car.
Me: But it’s the better value.
Dad: How is it the better value? It's more expensive, and I don't need the horsepower.
Me: It just is! Trust me!

My father does not trust me. And yet, when I located a very low mileage almost-new 2004 silver XJR out of Texas, I convinced him to buy it. It was pennies (OK, many, many thousands more pennies) more than the plebeian version, but so worth it. At the time it was one of the most powerful sedans you could buy – 400 hp! Ten years on and you can get close to that in any mid-sized sedan (take note, father, when one pulls up beside you), but back then it was heady, heady stuff.

So where to begin? The Jaguar dealer near his house was out-of-business. Porsche? My dad doesn't like the Panamera. Also, everything is an option. Porsche basically gives you just what you need (a key, a seat, and steering wheel) for driving pleasure, and expects you to know everything else is optional. Mercedes? We had driven an E-class a while back, but it was just 'meh.' Besides Mercedes’ values sink more quickly than the Titanic. Audi? Maybe. We’ve owned a couple and the price advantage that existed once-upon-a-time (compared to BMW or Mercedes), no longer does.

Ok, to the BMW dealership…

2014 BMW 535i


My father and I had been to BMW Darien three and a half years ago to look at the then-new 5-series. We did not purchase anything. Upon returning two weeks ago, we were approached by a salesperson, Sebastian, who asked if we needed any help. We did. He asked if we had been there before. We had. Did we remember who our salesperson was? We didn't. But he said he recognized us—from three and a half years ago! He remembered where I live! Amazing! After re-introductions were made, he asked what we were interested in.

Salesperson/Sebastian: So what are you in the market for, gentlemen?
Dad: A…
Me: I think my dad would be interested in the M5.
Dad: I don't think so.
Me: But why? It would make things so much easier when ordering? There are no options really.
Dad: I do not need an M5.
Me: It is the better value…and has 560 grossly under-rated horsepower. You could pull a house off its foundation, like in Lethal Weapon 2.
Dad: I do not need 560 grossly under-rated horsepower or to pull a house. It is not the better value.
Salesperson/Sebastian: How about a 535 just like last time?
Me: OK… but the M5 is the better value.

2014 BMW 535i grille


My father drove while I rode shotgun. Sebastian planted himself in back. Darien is a small town on Connecticut's 'Gold Coast,' so pretty picturesque. Sebastian directed us to some twisty roads, where my father sedately but competently put the 535i through its paces, while I prattled on about Alex Roy’s M5 cross-country documentary (Sebastian cross-referenced the information on his iPhone).

Me: Father, if we got an M5 we could beat the record, coast to coast, a father-son team. Imagine!
Dad: I don't need an M5.

Sebastian was amused. I was hoping he could assist and help up-sell my dad into an M5 but I think he sensed it might be futile. What happened to the days when a guy would go into a dealership and buy a car with the biggest, baddest engine? My father had a big Plymouth in the early 1970's when I was born. Even though I don't remember it, and obviously since my father didn't have the benefit of my help, I'm pretty sure it didn't have a Hemi. If I had been able to communicate back then, surely I would have directed him to the performance engine option. Surely.

2014 BMW 535i interior


The 5-series is a really engaging car, even the non-M5 version. Plus, they've just revamped it for 2014: new front and rear fascia plus a better nav system. It is a VERY nice car in spite of its piddling 300 hp.The seats are amazing. Supportive, heated…and…wait for it…VENTILATED. I love this. My next car must have ventilated seats. The navigation screen is HUUUUGE, and has traffic notifications too to re-route you in case of a jam. Amazing. The one thing I didn't care for is the gear lever. It's a bit counterintuitive. It's not a P-R-N-D, it's more like a joystick with a 'park' button on top. Why mess with convention, BMW?

2014 BMW 535i


The 5-series is definitely bigger than 5-series of yesteryear, but its elegant lines mask its size. It's probably close to the size of the 7-series of a decade ago though. The handling was pretty tight and dynamic (although shouldn't it be as this is a new car?).

We flew by a Darien patrol officer. Luckily, he was looking away… or enjoying a donut. Sebastian said that even though the dealership has been generous to the town, the police won’t cut them any breaks. I sensed an opening.

Me: If we had an M5, we could have outrun that cop. Like in the Cannonball Run.
Dad: Does this 535 have an eject button?
Sebastian: We’ll check the options list.

After the test drive was over, we went back to his desk where we were offered a complimentary beverage—a small bottle of Arrowhead. I’d expect Fiji, from a Bimmer dealer. We went through the options list to configure a car. I pretty much checked off nearly every option. My father's face? Priceless. I guess his needs for HIS car are far more modest than mine.

2014 BMW 535i


Me: I think we need that M Sport Package.
Dad: Do I?
Me: We do.
Dad: Isn't this supposed to be my car?
Me: Yes, I'm just anticipating your future needs.

Sebastian was most amused. Eventually my father and I reached an accord about the options, and looks like we'll (I mean he’ll…) be ordering a nicely equipped 535i Xdrive.

Next stop? Dinan Engineering for some upgrades. Dad, are you ready? [kiWO]