Treating Yourself to the Car of Your Dreams Is a Little Stupid, But Oh So Glorious

Ruminations on practical consumerism from the proud, stressed new owner of a Toyota GR Corolla.

byAdam Ismail, Chris Rosales|
Culture photo
Adam Ismail

Everyone has an opinion about meeting your heroes. Well, I was lucky enough to buy mine: a 2024 Toyota GR Corolla. I'm incredibly grateful to have it and, truth be told, it's more car than I could ever need. Which got me thinking, because I tend to think about wants and needs a lot.

Now, before this goes off the rails in the vein of "spoiled automotive journalist doesn't appreciate what they have," let me say this: I've had this car for a couple of weeks now, and I love it. I recognize how few are out there; the depressing, deplorable efforts of shifty dealers to profit off that truth; and how rare, conceptually, vehicles of the GR Corolla's ilk are anymore. Given the chance to buy it again, of course I would. But that purchasing decision wasn't one of pure joy. I don't know if you've heard, but cars are expensive nowadays, and job security across a vast number of industries is not quite what it used to be.

Obviously nobody needs an all-wheel-drive, turbocharged three-cylinder hatchback with dinner plate-sized brake rotors and laughably limited cargo space. Ours is an irrational hobby. For the vast majority of people, cars are appliances. For us, they're more. So you could say the S.S. Sensibility set sail about a quarter century ago, around the time I picked up a Sega Saturn controller and bounced off every invisible wall on Sega Rally's Desert course—in a Castrol-liveried Celica GT-Four.

Adam Ismail

My colleague Chris Rosales, who you're going to hear from in a minute, drives a car a lot like mine: a 2019 Honda Civic Type R. What's more, he drives it hard, and well. If you track your daily, cars like these are probably the right purchase. If, like me, your track experience is more anxiety inducing than fun, and you derive all your driving enjoyment from slightly exceeding the posted speed limit on an empty backroad, I hate to break it to you, but I can't help but think we'd have just as much fun in a Civic Si, with another $10K in our bank accounts and the ability to travel considerably further than 200 miles on a full tank of 93. Yeah, that three-cylinder is thirsty.

Sure, I knew all this going in. I was fortunate enough to drive the GR Corolla on a track when Toyota first let journalists get behind the wheel, and I fell in love with it. I returned home and my brain immediately kicked into monthly payment avoidance mode. My old Fiesta ST was a joy. When I bought it, I couldn't drive stick, so you'd figure we did a lot of growing together. I can't recommend the FiST enough. Even though the secret's kind of out about it now on the used market, it's probably still the cheapest way to have the ultimate thrill driving anywhere, at any speed. The GR Corolla is phenomenal, but its amusement-per-dollar ratio doesn't compare. Frankly, I'm not sure any modern car's does.

Adam Ismail

This is all to say that maybe that part of your psyche that constantly nags you is a little too loud in mine, but for the life of me I can't get it to shut up. Fortunately, that's what Chris is here for!

Buying What You Want Is OK (Chris' Version)

OK, Adam, look at me (virtually, of course). It's more than OK to spend money on things you want. Especially if the object gives you real joy.

First things first: incredibly well-bought. Though I rated the Honda Civic Type R and Hyundai Elantra N highly in my reviews, I think my choice to drive every day would be the GR Corolla precisely because it values personality over excellence. Yeah, it gets mediocre fuel economy, and folks seem to get hung up on the interior, but the thing has charisma for days. It knows the joy of motoring more than the other two.

And I don't think the fact that I track my car (beat the shit out of it, really) makes me any more or less worthy than the next person who wants a Type R. Sure, we've all been taught to desire Objects our whole lives and that's kinda weird, but it's the system we live in. And it happens that some of these Objects can genuinely enhance the experience of living. iPhones and such are a short-term hit of dopamine. But a machine is something that is endlessly complex and engaging.

When it comes to cars, I firmly believe in the overbuy. If it's what you want, do it. Because a car isn't just transportation—it's an expression and an extension of yourself. If you get the right car, you can go out and do a track day. Or if you're like me, you take your perfectly good daily driver, cut a hole in the hood, give it an extra 100 horsepower, and compete in Global Time Attack. Yeah, there's a bit of money being spent there. But the result, however basic it sounds, is truly the memories.

Chris Rosales doing what he does best (on three wheels) in his Civic Type R. Bobby Yu

I may not have the means forever, but I do now. If you have the chance to buy what you really want, don't feel shame about it. Don't go homeless or neglect your families either, but stretch that budget a bit. Live the experience.

The construction of nobody needs X is just reductive, I think. We don't need most things in our lives. We don't need Netflix and Google, we don't really need air conditioning, we don't need video games, and we don't need to listen to music, oh and we don't need to eat pizza. What is living if it wasn't for wants? We'd all be cavepeople without art, excess, and desire. Nobody wants to be cavepeople.

Adam, stop thinking so much and enjoy that Corolla. Live it while you got it. And so should all of you! Have you overbought? Do you plan to? Share your experience and perspective on these eternal dilemmas in the comments below.