So I don’t think I’m surprising anyone when I say that gas prices are high. (And when I say ‘high’, I mean “Holy living MOTHERF**KING F**K! $2.10 for REGULAR? You’ve got to be S**TTING ME!” high.) Of course, my current vehicle (a 1999 Ford Explorer) isn’t doing me any favors – filling my 22-gallon tank usually costs over $40, and my gas mileage…well, it’s a six year old SUV, so you do the math. (Suffice to say, it’s not great. It’s not single-digit bad, but it’s not great.)

I never thought I’d say this, but I actually miss my old ’92 Ford Escort GT – in part because of the insane fuel economy, and in part because when I HAD the Escort (which, I should add, my friend Kimet from college named “Speedy” – I never really thought the name fit), gas was 99 cents per gallon – for SUPER. I could keep my car running for a month for under $20. It was fantastic.

Now, of course, I’m on the wrong end of the equation. And more than once over the last year, I’ve thought to myself, “if I HAD to buy something new (or if I had the MONEY to buy something new, what would I buy?” The easy answer would be ‘another Explorer’, since the Explorer is my comfort zone. Problem there is that I’d still be on the wrong end of the equation – as I learned on my most recent trip to the huge state of Texas, the new Explorers only get about 18mpg – probably a little better than what I’ve got now, but nothing stellar. And while sedans (or, as Kristin calls them, ‘passenger cars’) are more fuel-efficient, I just don’t think I could go back…once you’ve driven an SUV or something similar, you get used to driving from a certain perspective. The few times I’ve needed to get a rental car, the feeling was akin to piloting a luge down a bobsleigh run. (I’ve gone into detail on this in the past.)

hhybrid.jpgLeave it to those magnificent bastards at Toyota. The Highlander Hybrid is finally available, and frankly, I’m drooling. From the outside, you’d never be able to tell the difference between the normal, internal-combustion Highlander and the hybrid version. But inside it’s got all the same good stuff that makes the Prius do what it does, only with a huge honkin’ second battery sitting in the floor of the cargo area to ensure that the Highlander can hold its own with the V8s. (And it STILL gets 32mpg city!) The best part is that a ‘well-equipped’ (ie: fully pimped-out) Highlander Hybrid Limited 4×4, complete with navigation system, is roughly the same price as an Explorer Limited, which has no navigation option. (Sure, the Explorer DOES have leather seats, but…f**k that. I’ll take fuel economy and a spiffy touch-screen over leather seats any day.)

So there IS a vehicle out there that can satisfy my primal SUV-driving instincts, but won’t make me want to go into a blind rage and start stringing together new variations of profanity whenever I pass a gas station. Now there’s just the little issue of limited availability & an inevitable waiting-list, and the fact that I’d rather not have a car payment right now, but hey…I can drool, can’t I?