Out with the old, in with the zoom

Yesterday, I ended a month-plus-long car search with the purchase of a Mazda3 S Sport. The challenge was to find a car that fit me as well as my Jetta, had the same level of performance, but would prove much more reliable. My most methodical search for a new car had me driving six different cars and dealing with nearly a dozen car salesman over that period. I hope I don’t have to do that too many more times. The Mazda has less than 100 miles on it as I write, but so far so good. Love the features, the performance, and the look of it. I do miss many things about the Jetta, but I do not miss all the time it spent in the shop.

In that regard, I want to put in a good word for my mechanic, Howard Pitkow of Wagenwerx in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania. Howard specializes in VWs, and he did a very good job keeping my car in excellent running condition. Knowing that VWs can be a little temperamental, I didn’t want to bring it to just anywhere. Luckily, I found Howard in, of all places, a column about real estate in the Philadelphia Inquirer written by Alan J. Heavens, who back in 2004, wrote about bringing his Passat to Howard. Alan replied to my email telling me about Wagenwerx, and since then no other mechanic touched my car.

Well, almost no other mechanic. Howard did miss one important thing. At around 120,000 miles, I had noticed something off in my transmission. There seemed to be a slight hesitation when I shifted into first. I told him about it, but he couldn’t detect anything. A couple of weeks later, I was stopped at a light, and when I tried to engage the car again, the transmission seized. In my frantic attempts to get the thing going again, the gearbox literally exploded. The fix cost me $3500. I couldn’t even use my old tranny for the core fee, because of the damage.

For the record, that tranny was built in Argentina. The engine came from Wolfsburg, Germany, and it was all assembled in Mexico. You could say that my Jetta exemplified all the problems that VW had with reliability in the early 2000 models. The company took a beating in those years and deservedly so. I read that later models don’t suffer from these problems, but VW had seriously cheapened the newest Jetta to keep its price down. Not interested, thanks. I never went to look at one.

Too bad for VW and for me, I guess. I already wanted a Jetta when I first saw this commercial, but watching it absolutely sealed the deal. To me, this wasn’t just a good ad, it was a work of cinema, and yes, it nailed the VW driving experience. It also reintroduced me to Nick Drake. Not only did I go out and buy a Jetta, but I bought all his music as well.