Misery and photo by Justin Pritchard
One of my best friends, Dave, had a 2000 GMC Yukon for many years.
I was very familiar with this machine. It was a majestic roadbeast which towered above traffic, powered through weather and terrain of the nastiest sorts, and was built on a proper American truck-frame made of steel and bolts and manliness.
Watch the hell out: Yukon’s handsome 4.8-litre V8 generated 275 of the silkiest horsepower to ever grace a sports ute, and it would piston-slap loudly on cold mornings in self-applause of its ability to start at thirty below.
Which it would do. Every. Single. Time.
We’re not talking minus 15. Where I live, that’s not cold. It’s nippy. Maybe even nipply. But at minus 15, my mom used to tell me to make sure I wore a toque for the 2.2-kilometre walk to school. I wasn’t even allowed a scarf unless it was 20 below or worse. (Mom didn’t want me to get soft).
So, anyways, for context, I’m talking Northern Ontario Cold. That starts around 25 below, and goes from there.
The 2000 GMC Yukon did two other great things in the cold. First, it’d start providing usable heat to the cabin in about a minute. Second, it would retain that heat, deep within the bowels of its engine block, for what seemed like hours after you’d turn it off. That engine block, incidentally, was made of cast-freaking-iron, of the same variety you’d find in a wood stove or sauna oven or a really good skillet.
Dave recently sold the Yukon, and I wish I’d bought it. Why? Because I hate being cold, and because cars today just don’t seem to get hot in any sort of hurry in the winter.
You’ve read the news and the tweets and articles: you don’t have to warm your engine up before driving it. It’s programmed to start up and go, even in the cold. Just fire it up, put on your belt, find something tropical-sounding on the radio, and then set off, wishing your breath wasn’t frosting up the windshield.
But I’ve been warming up engines before I set off anyways. Not because of some concern that I’ll harm them if not, nor because of a failure to grasp the miracle of modern computers and fuel injection, nor because I want the polar ice caps to melt. Instead, I do it because I, Justin Pritchard, hate driving in a cold car.
“You rotten smog-bastard! You’ll kill all of the polar bears with your emissions!”
Nah. I’d bet, having a bonfire or cutting your lawn with a yucky two-stroke mower puts more crap into the atmosphere than idling a brand new car for a few minutes, anyways.
But that’s another rant.
What’s with this, though? Why do new cars take so bloody long to get hot? I was driving a Subaru Impreza the other week, and it was just the final straw. The new Impreza is great in the winter. It’s a Subaru. It’ll go more places in a blizzard than some pickup trucks, bashes through snowbanks with no second thought, and will probably never break.
But over that week, after driving to the gym daily and finding myself still freezing my arse off after even 8 minutes of driving at 25 below, I was led to rant. Turns out Yarkony had a similar gripe about the new VW Golf. I’m sure there are other examples. Funny thing, too, is that I drove an Impreza a few years back and found it one of the fastest heating-up rides that winter.
What’s going on?