In 2011, after finding some two-thirds of iced-beverage customers already pony up the stomach capacity for a Venti, Starbucks introduced its Trenta size — a 31-ounce tribute to America's appetite for 1,000-watt stereos, quadruple burgers and Cowboys Stadium. More than a year later, Trenta is alive and well, leading us to wonder if car cupholders are up to the job of holding it. After all, the mismatch prompted 7-Eleven to downsize its titanic Double Gulp from 64 ounces to 50. Oh, the toil.
But Starbucks has the bigger footprint, with some 11,000 stores in North America compared with 7-Eleven's 9,375. What's more, cupholders and Starbucks go together like Korean rappers and YouTube. So we bought two Trenta iced teas and a Venti for comparison (pictured), and we took them to our current crop of press cars: a 2013 Infiniti G37 IPL convertible, 2012 Honda Insight and 2013 Volvo S60, plus our two long-term cars, a 2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2011 Nissan Leaf.
I'm still working through one of the iced teas. My head hurts a little.
The Trenta comes only as an iced beverage — probably a good thing, as a Trenta-sized portion of Starbucks' drip coffee would exceed the American Medical Association's recommended daily allowance of caffeine by 157%. In theory, most cupholders should cradle a Trenta as well as a Venti. Both cups measure about 2.5 inches in diameter at their base. The challenge would be vertical space: While the Venti measures 6.5 inches tall with a 3.8-inch top, the Trenta ascends 7.2 inches toward a 4.1-inch cover. Could these cupholders secure an ungainly size of a Trenta iced coffee — or handle two of them side by side? We'd soon find out.
Nissan Leaf: The Leaf's cupholders have offset floors, which tilt the beverages ever so slightly away from each other. It's a novel design that maintains airspace better than flat bases, but our Trenta lids still rubbed together. Despite being shallow, the holders kept a snug fit on our cups. Better yet, they stayed ahead of the Leaf's automatic shifter — and left a storage tray below the center controls accessible.
Chevrolet Volt: Apart from some squeaking to get the cups in, the Volt's rubberized grips held the Trentas in well. The Trentas' tops brushed against each other when you took one out, but space issues were far better than in some of the other cars. The rearward cup obstructed the latch to open the center console, but apart from that, the Volt should have no problem supporting that caffeine addiction.
Volvo S60: The S60's stadium-stacked cupholders were the only ones to keep both Trentas disentangled for contact-free lifting. You won't have to worry about the lid popping off — something all the others risk. Unfortunately, other issues annoy. The expanded real estate runs up against the automatic shifter, which nearly hits the cups when you shift into Drive. And the wide cupholders have useless rubber grips that leave the cups to lean about on the morning commute.
Honda Insight: Like the Leaf, the Insight places its cupholders ahead of the automatic shifter. But the cupholders are short and wide, leaving a single Trenta to shift around too much. Shoehorn two of them in, and the cupholders sit too close together, risking a lid popping every time you pull one out. Good luck picking any toll-booth change from the storage cubby ahead of the cupholders. Honda's little hybrid might sip gas, but its cupholders will have you sipping from a smaller container.
Infiniti G37 IPL convertible: The G37's cupholders use a spring-loaded divider that abandons ship too easily. Throw a Trenta in, and the divider springs out of the way — leaving the cup to lean wherever, whenever. Two Trentas simply don't fit; you end up jamming one on a higher plane versus the other. Beverage lovers with a G37 should build some extra time into their schedule: It's best to drink yours at the store.