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How many folks get the rare opportunity of test-riding in a Pontiac Vibe taxi cab back to back against the king of taxi cabs: the Ford Crown Victoria? Being as I seem to be the one who was on fate's receiving end of this good fortune, I feel it is my duty to share that which I have learned... (oh brother!)

It was this morning on the streets of San Franciso that the contest took place. After arriving for a trade conference, one of the folks in my entourage realized that he had forgotten the overhead projector we would need for a presentation later in the day, so I offered to grab the nearest cab back to the hotel and get it.

The nearest cab happened to be a Pontiac Vibe. I jumped into the back of the seat, barked out my destination, and began to take in the experience--fully realizing that something unique was happening.

Like most large cities, SF cab drivers like to really high-tail it through the busy streets and crowded intersections. It was clear that the Vibe contributed substantially to the driver's skill in narrowly missing pedestrians as the scenery flew by.

The Toyota influence on the Vibe was evident in the back seat upon which I was ensconched. Firm, but not all that uncomfortable, and definitely well put-together. The quality of materials was pretty darn good as cabs go. This was most apparent in the way that the dashboard had been reconfigured for the fare register--the holes that were drilled into the dashboard were clean and didn't show any signs of cracking the surrounding area.

A few short minutes and six bucks later, I was at the hotel. I ran into the building, grabbed an elevator to the appropriate floor, zoomed in and out of the room with the projector, and returned the opposite way to the front receiving area, where I called for another cab.

This time, the statistical guarentee of riding in a Crown Vic in San Francisco proved itself eminently reliable. I climbed into the back seat, called out my destination, and we were off.

The first immediately apparent reaction I had was that the seat was really soft and worn. This particular Ford had seen better days, and the seat slumped like a worn-out mattress. Still, I can't hold that against the Crown Vic since it had the disadvantage of a couple added years of age; but the other thing I noticed was that there was surprisingly little legroom for such a big car. The Vibe seemed to have just as much space.

Even with all its miles, the Crown Vic bolted out of the parking space and into traffic more sprightly than did the Vibe in the same circumstance--in both cases, the driver had to sneak in between rude drivers who don't like to slow down for cabs entering the roadway. The torquey Ford V8 had the clear advantage here.

Going down the hills of San Francisco really put the stopping power of these cars to the test. Both were capable stoppers, but the more lumbering halt of the Crown Vic caused brief flurries of concern over the imminent explosion that would occur if the car behind us fails to stop as ably as the Vic.

There was also a commendable skill I noted of the driver of the Ford--regardless of the girth of his larger car, he could sneak in between pedestrians with only inches of clearance without any apparent injury. I added a buck to his tip out of sheer admiration.

So, which was better? Well--following in the footsteps of the trade rags who don't seem to like to take sides when it's BMW vs. Mercedes or Toyota vs. Honda--I'd say both cabs have their strengths and weaknesses, and your preference for one or the other depends on your tastes as a passenger in a taxi cab.

The Vibe was clearly (and obviously) the more nimble of the two, but there was something about that old workhorse Crown Vic that you just have to admire. For what it's worth, one thing I noticed was that the Vibe driver was a much more pleasant person than the Crown Vic driver; but I'm sure that has nothing to do with who was driving which car--right? B)
 

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Interesting a day in the life of coolcaddy :D

In my city, a taxi company have Pontiac Aztek's as cabs. Another taxi company will have that English small van taxi cabs on the streets here shortly.
 

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As a resident of the central city in Chicago, let me say I HATE Crown Vic cabs. There's no space whatsoever in the back seat, and when the drivers pull over at odd angles to pick up and drop off fares, the long, long bodies of these antedeluvian monsters can block the entire street.

How does Ford do it: no space, yet the damned thing's huge?

We've got those little English cabs now. They're a huge improvement.

(BTW: I had a cab driver tell me once that his Crown Vic was, like many cabs, a former police car. So once the cops have driven the thing into the ground, then, and only then, has the car reached a point at which is sufficiently clapped out to start life as a cab.)
 

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I love the Vibe, its incredibly roomy and comfy for such a small car. Havent seen either type of cabs in indy, though.
 

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I have seen more than a few Chevy Astro cabs around - I always wondered why more minivan and medium vans like the Astro don't do taxi duty - its so much easier to unload/load than a trunk, and they get about the same gas mileage with more passenger space.
 

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*this is no joke*

the first en toyota echo seems spacious too, but that's only because of the upright seating position (with tall roof).
I was also suprised with the small space in those crown vic boats. we should be grateful with the new chrysler 300, because I was really, really fedup with those cheapo 190hp v8 rwd only ford can make!!

don't get me wrong, I love big cars (park ave daily driver), but those fords are hopeless
 

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Try it again in a couple of years with 300,000 in town cab miles. The Astro/Safari's do seem to work well in cab service though. One company in town uses them for a 300 mile loop, and put as many as 600,000 kms on them with very little problems. This is why my wife is currently drivin one and I have no concerns on replacing it with 190,000 kms on it.
 

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Yah Ford has a long history of BIG bodies with small intearers. They should use the LWB version of the CV as the standerd cars. I dont think those unitized/vibe and others bodies will last that long as cabs on rutted/potholed streets the way a full frame platform does. The Astro Van is a good idea being it has a full frame and heavy duty truck suspention. I think GM could use there mid or fullsize SUV frames and rebody them as Cabs/Police cars and take this market back if they (REALLY) wonted to being that the B body is no more.
 

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Very interesting comparison...but you do have to realize Crown Vics and Vibes aren't really good competitors. The big space in the Ford is good taxi-wise, but not everyday fun like the Vibe....
 
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