Dueling test drives and muy buena comida…

This morning, Bill and I rose early and made the long drive to Kaiserslautern.  Our mission was to test drive a BMW and a Volvo.  Yes, that’s right.  It’s time to buy a new car.  Our trusty SUV is getting expensive to maintain, although it still mostly runs fine.  It’s time for an upgrade.

We purchased our 2006 Toyota RAV 4 brand new in Northern Virginia about a year before we moved to Germany the first time.  In those days, we didn’t have much money.  Bill was paying a lot of child support and we were paying off a lot of debt.  I remember being freaked out about financing the beautiful, brand new car.  I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to afford the payments.  I also remember the stress of the car purchase itself.  We went to Koons Tysons Toyota and spent the whole morning dealing with a very aggressive car salesman who was determined to make a sale.  He made a sale, but it was not a pleasant experience for us.  However, the Toyota has been an excellent vehicle.  We’ve rarely had any problems with it and it’s been all over Europe.

Back in 2006, Bill’s credit rating was a lot lower, mainly owing to financial baggage from his first marriage.  I had a perfect credit rating, but I wasn’t the breadwinner.  We took the loan out in my name with Bill’s financial backing.  In time, we refinanced and got a lower interest rate.  Bill’s credit rating improved dramatically.  It’s now almost as good as mine is.

Then, in 2009, we bought my Mini Cooper on our way out of Stuttgart the first time.  We ordered the car from the dealer and it was built expressly for me.  I don’t drive it that much, although we did take it to Kaiserslautern this morning.  At ten years old, it only has about 36,000 miles on it.  It’s still a cute car, but it’s not practical for every job.  I imagine I’ll be ready for a new car in a couple of years.

Both of our car loans were paid off early, just as my student loans were.  I am the queen of paying off debt ASAP.  This is a good thing, since we’re going to be financing a large loan for our new car.  One thing I like about buying from military sales, though, is that it’s low stress, hassle free, no pressure… We bought the Mini from Dennis Huntsman, who worked in Stuttgart for years.  When we came back to Germany in 2014, he was still in Stuttgart and remembered Bill.  He has since moved on, but our buying experience with him was so good that we’ve decided to buy our new car through military sales again.  K-Town has many, many, many car dealers that cater to Americans, so that’s why we went there instead of staying in Wiesbaden.

Bill emailed Capital Motors Volvo and got us a 10:00am appointment, and got us a noon appointment at the BMW dealer.  Having visited both dealers today, I have to admit that I was a lot more impressed by the Volvo dealer.  In fact, I think we’re pretty much set on going Swedish this time, even though Bill says that he enjoyed the power of the BMW.

The Volvo dealership was quiet when we arrived just before 10:00am.  A salesman named Andre greeted us and Bill explained what we were looking for.  Andre was very professional and listened carefully, assuring us he could give us a deal on our trade in, too.


Right next door is a picture framing shop.  I had to take a picture because my dad ran a picture framing business from our home in Virginia.  He sold it to his employee before he died in 2014.  I never learned how to frame pictures myself, but I get a kick out of seeing framing businesses and sharing photos of them with my old friend, Deborah, who owns my dad’s business now.

Bill handed over his license and photo ID.  Andre took a photocopy, then took us out to the XC60 to show us some of its features.  The model we tried today was top of the line and is priced at about $47,000.  That’s a lot of money, but it’s likely we’ll keep the car until well after it’s been paid for.  That’s what we’ve done with all of our prior cars.

I sat in the backseat while Andre showed Bill how to operate this new fangled auto.  You don’t even have to put the key in an ignition.  It has power and touchscreen everything, and drives (and rides) like you’re sitting in your living room.  I tried the front seat and the back.  Very comfortable… and it should be for the price!


The 2019 XC60.  I don’t know if we’ll go with a 2019 or a 2020.

We ran into one of Bill’s co-workers, who is looking at a XC90 model for his wife.


We left the Volvo dealership very impressed.  In fact, I was feeling like I didn’t even need to see the BMW.  We tried it anyway.

A prestigious brand… and I am already familiar with BMW’s power, since I drive a Mini Cooper.


Bill decided to test the X3.  It’s currently on sale nicely loaded for about $45,000.


We stopped at a rest stop so I could try the back seat in both cars.  This sign caught my eye.  Guess they have problems with marauding wild animals.


I was significantly less impressed by the BMW experience.  The lady who took care of us isn’t a salesperson and didn’t seem to have much knowledge about the BMW product.  She was mostly concerned with making sure Bill signed the paperwork.  She didn’t show us any of the car’s features, nor was she mindful of the rainy weather when she left us waiting for her in it while she copied Bill’s information.

Finally, I just got in the car and waited for her to come back to talk to us.  We were limited to 20 miles for the test drive, and if I had wanted to test drive, I would have had to give her my license, too.  By contrast, Andre said I could drive the car if I wanted to; he only needed Bill’s license.  And we were not limited in how far we could test drive, although we took both cars on the same loop that included a stretch of the Autobahn.

Still, it was a pretty car and drove well.  While the Volvo was ultra high-tech with lots of features designed to make the ride comfortable, the BMW had mostly more conventional controls (except for when we needed to go in reverse) and more power.  It was “sportier”, and not quite as cushy, although it was more responsive.

When we got back to the BMW dealership, Bill had to take a minute to figure out the controls enough to put the car in reverse.  He didn’t have that problem with the Volvo, which almost seemed to drive itself.  The BMW is definitely a nice car, but if I was “team Volvo” before we tried the cars today, I was even more “team Volvo” after comparing both dealerships.

When we got in my Mini to go have lunch, I said “As far as I’m concerned, the Volvo is a winner.”  Not only did I like the vehicle better, I also liked the sales experience better.  The salesman at BMW wasn’t in today and won’t be in until later this week.  And after we turned in the car, the German lady who helped us– whose name I never caught– made a point of walking around the car to make sure there were no scratches on it and really didn’t say or do anything to convince us we should buy a BMW.  Andre was more professional on many levels.  He encouraged our interest, without pressuring us.  He was a good ambassador for the brand, but let the car sell itself.  And he treated us like he valued our business.  So, I think Andre gets the nod.

Your address for real Mexican food in Germany.


It’s got plenty of parking, plenty of seating, and some of the wait staff is trilingual– English, Spanish, and German!

Bill’s former co-worker, Steve in Stuttgart, told Bill about Cantina Mexicana, an excellent Mexican restaurant in Kaiserslautern.  Now that we’ve been there, we can recommend it, too.  I haven’t had Mexican food that good since our first (and last) trip to El Mero Mexicano in Fellbach, near Stuttgart.  El Mero Mexicano is owned by actual Mexicans.  I’m not sure who owns Cantina Mexicana, but damn, was it good!

Bill checks the menu.  This is a large restaurant with lots of normal height tables, though we were seated at a tall “pub” table.  The seats were not very deep, which was not so good.  I don’t have long legs, so it was hard to perch on the chair.   


They brought us some tasty tortilla chips with five different salsas, ranging from the regular tomato kind to a spicy habanero version… and a green tomatillo salsa, too.


We were hungry, so we had an appetizer.  This was the dip sampler, which included queso, guacamole, and frijoles.  All three dips were killer, but I especially loved the queso!  We didn’t finish it, so we brought it home.

I had the fajita quesadilla, which was a large tortilla filled with marinated steak, grilled peppers and onions, iceberg lettuce, and cheese.  It was served with guacamole, sour cream, and salsa.  I didn’t finish it, but it was very good.  I brought the rest home!

Bill had the Chicken Tingo with potatoes.  It came with rice and refried beans.  He was also very happy with his dish, though he also filled up too much on chips and salsa.  


I noticed this Mexican restaurant was offering things I haven’t seen in German Mexican restaurants, including El Mero Mexicano.  They had tostadas, burritos, chimichangas, fajitas, and enchiladas, for instance, while El Mero Mexicano’s menu appeared to be more authentic Mexican.  This is a very kid friendly restaurant.  There’s a children’s bathroom and play area, as well as a children’s menu.  And there’s also plenty to keep the adults happy.  You can enjoy a wide range of tequilas, for instance, if that’s your thing.  It’s my thing, but I stuck to beer.

Our bill came to about 34 euros, which I thought was a good deal.  You can pay in cash or with a credit card.  We drove home in dismal rain, talking about the cars and how pretty soon we’ll be stepping up to new wheels and a new car payment.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll be writing about a factory tour in Sweden before too long.

We see so many of these ugly apartment buildings in Germany… it reminds me of living in Eastern Europe again.  I kind of wonder who decided to paint these buildings like this.  On the other hand, Armenian apartment buildings were never this nice.


I don’t enjoy test driving cars or the whole car buying experience, but I must say it was a pleasure to meet Andre today.  I look forward to taking custody of one of his cushy Swedish rides very soon.


Leave a Reply