Why own a fast car if you're never allowed to drive fast?
That, in brief, is the conundrum faced by anyone who has ever put down 50 grand or more for a set of wheels. This bind was epitomized last week by a fresh-faced 19-year-old Vladimir Rigenco. "What's the point of buying an M5," he wrote, "to drive as a daily driver and feeling like u are 70 years old?"
Rigenco, who lives in Vaughan, Ont., posted this query on a fan site called 5 Series Forums and was referring to his very own 2006 BMW M5S. According to reports in the media, Rigenco (username "bmw550ifreak") was given the car by his parents as a reward for good grades. Back in the day, we also got a reward for getting good grades (it was called going to university). He not only bemoaned his plight (fast car, speed limits) but bragged about racing down a residential street and "hitting 140 in like six seconds lol." This he did in a vehicle that boasts 400 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. "I gotta admit," Vlad the Accelerator added. "I can't stop racing with this car."
BMW takes the Mini to the max
His musings outraged fellow forum posters who chastised him for irresponsible and dangerous behaviour. (Note: Vlad, baby, if you're looking to impress girls a car nut website is probably not the best place to do it). An American 5 Series Forum member alerted local law enforcement. They investigated and found a witness who said they had seen the speeding incident and was willing to give a statement. Rigenco was charged.
"Colour me Vlad" pleaded guilty to careless driving and has been banned from operating a car for six months. He is also required to participate in a remedial driving program, pay a $1,000 fine and sentenced to 12 months probation.
Where to begin?
Let's put aside the world's most redundant headline: "Teen Given Fast Car Speeds."
Let's put aside the second most redundant: "Old People Who Mourn the Loss of their Youth Shocked by Youthful Stupidity of Young People Who Are Still Young."
Put aside the fact that, you should never "give" a teenager a car, but if you must, give him a piece of crap that can't go over 110 km/h. All incidents of kids receiving fast cars end badly.
Put all those facts aside and I have to admit that "Vlad Max" was onto something when he asked "What's the point of buying an M5 to drive as a daily driver and feeling like u are 70 years old?" Now, Vlad didn't buy his car (he was given it) and some 70-year-olds get up to some pretty freaky stuff. That said, why have a car like the BMW M5 if you can't use them at their peak speeds? It's like buying a Monet you can't look at.
Should we be making an effort to accommodate the need for speed? Vlad's pathetic tale of teenage exuberance demonstrates the need to find a way to accommodate speed freaks. Sure, there are race tracks where responsible and skilled drivers can satisfy their love of high speeds but you don't see too many young drivers on them. They can't afford it because although their parents bought their rides they don't cough up the extra cash for racing. Can you believe it? They're so mean!
Personally, speed limits don't bother me. I drive a minivan so slow and utterly uncool that to speed in it would be the equivalent of watching Orson Welles, circa 1972, running a marathon shirtless. I'd be broadcasting my obvious shortcomings. At least my car mirrors current driving conditions. But pity the poor Ferrari owner. All revved up and no place to legally go incredibly fast. I imagine it's kind of like being the astronaut who went to the moon but had to stay in the spacecraft while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the lunar face.
What North America needs is a system like Germany's Autobahn. We need 11,000 kilometres of roads on which there is only a suggested "Tempolimit" (on the Autobahn's "A" routes it's 130 km/h) that is not rigorously enforced.
I've had the opportunity to travel the Autobahn and, as so many other car geeks have observed, it's not a free-for-all. For instance, passing on the right-hand lane is illegal, unless traffic has slowed to under 60 km/h. Rather, it's a controlled environment where drivers are allowed to travel at high speeds but expected to demonstrate skill and care. A German licence costs $2,000 (U.S.) and to get one a driver must take 25 to 45 hours of professional instruction and 12 hours of theory. It's tough to imagine Canadians going for that.
Now, I'm not suggesting that we try to replicate such Teutonic culture here (they already tried that - twice). But couldn't we build Canadian versions of the Autobahn? Saskatchewan would be the perfect place for a high-speed motorway with plenty of straightaways. Why not turn Prince Edward Island into the world's largest high-speed race track? Drivers could roar around its coast at 220 km/h and then stop for lobster. We could turn the struggling city of Hamilton into a Grand Theft Auto theme park (it's almost there, anyway). In Vancouver, we could establish an Autobong in honour of pot advocate David Melmo-Levine. In Quebec City, we could construct a distinct highway called the AutoBonhomme.
Okay, enough with the puns. In honour of Vlad the Hightailer, it's time to take the Grand Caravan out and get it from zero to 60 in less than three decades.