MIAMI — The Cube is not a car. Not really.
It’s a lifestyle, a modus operandi, a statement.
It’s a polarizing force that is about the people inside it. It’s about enjoying being inside. Cube is not of your world, it is your world.
Or so the spiel goes.
“It is not a vehicle designed to get you from point A to point B,” its marketers preach. “It’s a social hub, a destination in and of itself.”
Or, or as my mother more accurately described it, “a cute little hearse.”
Two weeks ago, I was flown to Miami to test drive a new car, the Cube. I belonged to a group of 13 journalists whom Cube’s marketers, armed with flashy PowerPoints and car keys, inundated with everything there is to know and love about Cube. I was on a press junket, which, from my experience, is a corporate schmoozefest where a member of the press (me) tacitly agrees to write about some commodity if corporation X and its cadre of PR representatives brownnoses sufficiently. Obviously, they brownnosed sufficiently.
Here are my notes.
“Friday April 3rd — five hours after arrival at Miami International Airport”
The first scheduled junket activity is dinner at 7 p.m.. The 13 of us have assembled in the lobby of the Epic Hotel — one of those modernist establishments that has flat screen plasma televisions in every room. We file into a shuttle bus and make awkward conversation on the ride to dinner and drinks at Table 8, a shi-shi restaurant on Miami’s South Beach.
We arrive and I order a Basil 8, their signature drink, and the waiter doesn’t bat an eye. Thank god — I forgot my, uh, ID at home.
The grab-bag bunch, brought together for the sole purpose of learning about a car, breaks into groups of four and commence an evening of entertainingly exaggerated storytelling.
Over 1,000 miles from New Haven, the intrigue of Yale’s secret society lives. Jon, the editor in chief at a college paper in Alabama, tells a fascinating story about the attempts of a Skull and Bones offshoot group called “The Machine’s” to control the university’s student government.
On the sidewalk, people in bikinis and swim trunks make their way lazily back to town from the beach.
I could get used to this.
Next morning. 11 a.m.
Twenty yards into my first test drive and it is increasingly uncertain whether I will survive.
Romi, one of the other college journalists with whom I had dinner last night, is in the drivers seat. She has one foot on the brake and one on the accelerator, and I am getting increasingly nervous. If I did not have to prove I was a licensed driver before getting in the car, did she?
At this point, I have willingly signed away any rights I had to sue someone for test-driving–related injuries, and so I figure it’s best to hold on and pray.
She must have sensed my discomfort, or maybe she didn’t want to subject me to her attempt to drive on the freeway. In any event, she suggests we swap places. We pull over, and I gladly take the wheel.
Cube is not a bad car to drive. Pulling onto the highway, the pickup leaves something to be desired.
Our route is a 30-minute loop down to South Beach. Driving past the hordes of well-tanned and toned people headed toward the surf on our left, it didn’t take long for us to decide we should leave the Cube. Best feature so far: even I can parallel park this thing.
I mean, did they really think they could fly us to Miami, send us to the beach and not expect we would eventually ditch? We are not the only ones with this idea. All along the South Beach stretch we see our compatriots’ Cubes parked conspicuously outside crowded restaurants and shops.
The people on the sidewalk point and stare at Cube, and given how much there is to point and stare at in South Beach, it’s very cool.
What a cute little hearse indeed.
Still wearing our name tags, we wander down South Beach and head to the main thoroughfare for some serious window shopping. Heaven.
Sunday, back in the ’Have
While it seems a decidedly risky proposition to hand car keys to a bunch of strangers and tell them to take each other for a spin, if it’s all free, other factors become irrelevant.
We weren’t asked for our license information, but after we’d waived any fragment of a right to sue, it didn’t really matter.
As long as the company’s liabilities are covered, it’s all good. Right?
At the end of the day, we all got home safe and sound, and the experience was enjoyable, if sometimes frightening. Still, there is only so much marketing mumbo jumbo a person can take.
Cube is about an image, an idea. Fine. It was inspired by a bulldog wearing sunglasses. For an Eli, kind of cool. I can parallel park it. Fantastic.
The starting price for Cube: $13,990. A fully accessorized special-edition Krom Cube :$19,000. An all-expenses-paid weekend in Miami: priceless.
Also, some things don’t need commentary. The following is from the Cube’s promotional materials: “Dogs don’t design cars. But they do inspire designers. Ours created this bold grille with a bite, after a bulldog wearing shades. And who doesn’t love dogs?”
(Oh, and the car is made by Nissan. Why can’t GM be so fun?)