Quick Stats: Lucas Grabeel, actor
Daily Driver: 2009 Infiniti G37 S (Lucas' rating: 10 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Los Angeles to Salt Lake City
Car he learned to drive in: 1984 Toyota 4Runner
First car bought: 1989 Nissan Maxima
The first of the three hit Disney Channel "High School Musical" movies was seen by more than 200 million people. But despite appearing in this major franchise, actor Lucas Grabeel still maintains a practical view when it comes to his car choices.
After the movie's success, Grabeel treated himself to a used 2004 Acura TL. "I had no idea that one movie was going to turn into three movies and two tours and this worldwide phenomenon," he says. "I was always skeptical in thinking every job could be my last job for any given amount of time, so I have to always live within my means and not go crazy and buy a Porsche or something, because you never know when it's all going to stop."
He's now on the ABC Family show "Switched At Birth," and his splurge was the 2009 Infiniti G37 S convertible. It's the first new car he has bought, and he gives a perfect 10. For Grabeel, the Infiniti is a "more bang for your buck luxury car," and it's his favorite car of those he's owned.
"The same car in a BMW or Audi would be $20,000 more," he says. "I get all the same amenities and options. It's a great car. I love it and I get it for a much less amount of money. It'll last forever. I'm not going to have any problems with it. Knock on wood."
Grabeel says he plans to drive it for as long as he can. "I bought it and I don't owe any money on it," he says. "It's nice not having any car payments. I was always big on not having credit cards when I was younger, so that I could never buy anything that I can't afford right at that moment."
When he was shopping for a car, Grabeel wanted a convertible, and test-drove Audis, BMWs, and Lexus. "I like the Asian steering style, slightly looser steering, comparatively to the European style, like BMW, or Mercedes with tighter steering, built more for European roads. I really like the feel of the Infiniti more than anything. It's a G37 S, so it hugs the road a little bit more, so it's a little rougher ride than the normal G37."
Many L.A. roads are far from smooth, and can be a bumpy ride in the GS27 S. That's Grabeel's only complaint with the Infiniti, but when the top comes down, he forgets about the rough ride. The G37 S convertible also gives Grabeel a feeling of freedom.
"I love driving to the beach in it, going through the canyons to Malibu and up and down PCH, but I've also driven it to Utah, which is a beautiful drive," he says. "It's a great shorter road-trip car. It's not very comfortable; it's meant for the driver mainly. For the passenger, it's not as a good."
2005 Honda Element
While he has driven the 11-hour road trip to his home in Utah in the Infiniti, with the top down much of the way, Grabeel says the Element is better for road trips. "You don't have to worry about filling it up with stuff," he says. "There's not much room in the trunk in the Infiniti because it's a hardtop convertible. You can set a briefcase in there and that's about it when the top's down."
Grabeel loves this perfect practical SUV for different reasons than his Infiniti. "It's the complete opposite vehicle from the small, fast sports car," he says. "It's very rugged. It's comfortable. You sit high above the road; you can see everything; it's got great visibility. I'm very picky when it comes to buying a car. I searched a lot of SUV's because I wanted something that could run through the snow and I could move things, and the Element was by far the best."
The price point was good, and the SUV has the storage room he needs. "I've never had any problems with it. I don't have to worry as much about getting a ding or a scratch or going over a bump in the road. It's a freedom in a slightly different way than having the top down. It's a Honda and it's going to run forever," he says. "It's a utility vehicle in the sense that there's no carpet or anything in the car. You can rinse it out with the hose if you want to and it's got an enormous amount of space for hauling things."
Grabeel also likes the seats. "With the suicide doors and sitting in the back seat it is really cool. It sits up significantly higher than the front seat, so you feel like you have stadium seating in a movie theater. You can really see the road and everything that passes by."
Car he learned to drive in
Grabeel grew up outside of Springfield, Missouri, in a small town called Rogersville. He learned to drive in his dad's 1984 Toyota 4Runner on old gravel farm roads.
"We lived way out in the country, and if I wasn't driving my dad's 4Runner, I would be driving his friend's pickup truck while he and his friend were throwing hay out the back feeding the cows," he says.
Grabeel actually learned to drive informally on a 1979 Ford F-150 a year or two earlier, at around age 7. The Ford belonged to his dad's friend, who was a caretaker of a dude ranch, so they would often help feed cattle.
"It wasn't really on roads. It was in fields and going through rivers and forested areas, so all kinds of off-road stuff," says of his earlier driving experience on the F-150, which had a manual transmission. "My dad was a farm boy when he was a kid and he learned to drive tractors when he was really little, so he was always anxious to teach me how to drive."
Some of his views about cars might have come from his dad. "We never bought new cars in my family. My dad was always buying used cars and being as cheap as possible.
My dad doesn't really like convertibles because he's going off a convertible from the '60s. That's probably the last convertible that he drove. He's like, 'Well, they always leak and always having problems,'" Grabeel imitates his dad's voice. "I'm like, 'Well, Dad, I think they probably figured out all that stuff out by 2009, hopefully.' He was always very practical with his cars and I think that's why I have the Honda Element, because it's so practical."