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Adam Growe (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)
Adam Growe (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

My Car

The Cash Cab is only for show Add to ...

You could say Adam Growe is moonlighting.

He's not just a comedian; he's a licensed cab driver - a necessity for the host of Discovery Channel Canada's Cash Cab, in which passengers on a taxi ride become instant contestants on the TV game show.

When scouring the streets for victims, Growe drives a Toyota Sienna minivan. But when he's on the road with his wife and three kids, he skips the boring old minivan in favour of a 2010 Toyota Highlander SUV, which he bought with his own cash.

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Adam Growe

"We have a family of five. We'd been living with a station wagon for over 10 years. We'd just grown out of it and we wanted to avoid the minivan thing.

"The Highlander has a third-row option, which is a treat for us because we lived so many years with all our kids crammed into a single bench in a station wagon. Although we don't always use the third row, it feels like such a luxury when you're accustomed to being crammed into a vehicle," says the father of 12-year-old Jack, 9-year-old Emma and 5-year-old Lilly.

"I decided to go with a four-cylinder. But they only have a few options. You can't get the sunroof or leather interior."

That too bad because he's not fond of the cloth seats. "The interior looks good, but the material they use for the seats seems to attract and collect hair, dirt. It's like Velcro. It's a light-grey colour and literally you can't get stuff off of it. Its starting to look used compared to when we got it."

Growe prefers the four-cylinder to the hybrid version. "The four-cylinder Highlander is more fuel-efficient on the highway than the hybrid. I do a lot of highway driving.

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"I took the difference in price between a regular engine and a hybrid and I invested that into our home to get a high-efficiency furnace and hot water tank."

And the four-cylinder proved more than capable on a recent family trip from Toronto to Orillia, Ont.

"We packed into that car all five of us. The cargo space was completely full. I bought a Thule for the top - that was completely full. And I had four bikes on a hitch on the back. You could see the back end of the car lower down. It was very weighted down.

"You couldn't gun it. But there was never a point where if I had to pass someone I still could. The engine is fantastic - it did the job. Whether it can do that job for 10 years I can only hope," says Growe, who has performed in radio, TV , and on stage for more than two decades; he's currently touring with his one-man quiz show.

Adam Growe demonstrates his Highlander's cargo room

Growe doesn't turn over his vehicles often. "We love to drive vehicles as long as we can.

"We had a Mercury Sable station wagon for over 10 years. It was a 1997 when we got rid of it in October to purchase this vehicle. Honestly I couldn't get any money for it - the dealer offered me 100 bucks! The car had about 300,000 km on it. It was still running well. So I donated it to a high school for their shop [class]and I got a tax receipt.

"I've driven mostly clunkers in my life. I've driven cars right to the end. Even when I was in high school I had a 1971 Duster. I called it the Ruster. My mom gave me her old Honda Accord and it was a rust bucket.

"Our Sable was dented. It got to the point where my wife and I would go on dates and we wouldn't even valet park our car. We couldn't bear people getting into our clunker.

"Even at corporate gigs where I'm being paid to entertain people I would park as far away as possible - it seems superficial, but you got to think about the impression you make on people by the kind of car you drive. The Highlander says this guy is not over the top, he's not trying to push his limits, but he's got good taste in his wheels. He wants to look good, but he's a family guy. He wants something safe for the kids and the planet."

Growe has been a licensed cab driver since 2008, when the TV show first premiered. "I got my taxi licence for this job because it requires picking up real passengers.

"The Municipal Licensing Service wasn't going to let some guy pick up passengers on the street. … It was a three-week course in Toronto. There's no road test. There's a number of little tests and a big final exam and if you don't get 70 per cent on the final exam you can't get your licence.

Adam Growe in his Toyota Highlander

"It was a mad rush. The day I was getting my results back was the day we were shooting our first episode ever. So if I failed the class you could do a rewrite, but you can't do a rewrite for two weeks. There was a lot of pressure on me."

He says he scored 96 per cent and discovered a lot about the bustling taxi business. "I learned a lot about how hard and how long taxi drivers work and what it actually costs. Once you become a licensed taxi driver it doesn't mean you have a taxi cab. You still have to get a vehicle that's plated - that's the most difficult part.

"I have so much fun making the Cash Cab - it's almost like summer camp coming to an end. Its bittersweet - it's a lot of work, a lot of nights out, but it's so much fun. You never know who you'll get, how much money they'll get or if they'll strike out. When people win 500 bucks, it's like they've won a million bucks - they're ballistic!"

Growe doesn't plan on replacing his Highlander any time soon - although he has a few vehicles he'd love to own.

"I've had a fondness for the Mini Cooper for many years. I remember always loving the original tiny little Minis - thinking they were awesome.

"At the same time, part of me is living the mid-life crisis thing where if I could get one of James Bond's sports cars - that would be the ultimate."

pgentile@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

 

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