There’s nothing worse than climbing into a new performance car only to find that, before you can have some fun, you’re faced with more electronic trickery than an Airbus pilot.
In my book driving for fun should be enjoyable. For that to be possible I’d rather not have to wade through thick tomes disguised as user guides before turning a key.
Ask yourself, do you really need seven different gear-change modes? Are three alternate steering-rate adjustments going to enhance your life? Of course not, yet this is just the tip of the automotive iceberg. The PlayStation generation might like plenty of buttons to press, but I don’t.
There’s a lot to be said for a hot hatch from a decade ago, boasting a fraction of the power and none of the black box nannies we now take for granted."
I can see the point – only just, mind – of having a ‘road’ and ‘track’ mode for something seriously quick. But I can also see the argument for seriously high performance cars to have only one mode - scary. The onus is then on the driver to manage the horsepower surplus with their right foot.
Neither do I want the added complication of ‘launch control’. I’ve never seen the point of being able to instigate a smokey burnout at will. Apart from reducing the life of a car’s tyres and anything else that rotates for a living, how exactly does this feature add value? And no, earning bragging rights in the pub doesn’t count.
The fact that you have to remember a mind-boggling sequence of actions to activate the feature – press this button, lean hard on the brake pedal, pull the right paddle shifter, pat your head, rub your tummy, engage Race mode – is proof that we’ve been reduced to mere computer operators.
Sadly this madness doesn’t stop with so-called performance features. The latest trend for enhancing a car’s otherwise subdued exhaust note is to include a ‘sound generator’ to add some apparently much-needed testosterone to the mix.
If I want my hot hatch to sound like a Formula One car I wouldn’t have bought a puny GTI wannabe. Likewise, the deep bass sound cooked up in the lab usually results in something akin to a flatulent cow in the real world. Honestly, even if only a day was spent at a computer designing these features, it was a day wasted.
The PlayStation generation might like plenty of buttons to press, but I don’t."
I’m not seeking a stripped-out car Fred Flintstone would be jealous of, merely something that delivers on its maker’s promise of an engaging experience. The use of increasingly distracting and frustrating technology has ensured this has become harder to achieve.
Sometimes it’s reached a point where I’d rather be behind the wheel of something old and slow. There’s a lot to be said for a hot hatch from a decade ago, boasting a fraction of the power and none of the black box nannies we now take for granted. I believe the kids today call this a ‘retro’ experience. Maybe I can start a trend and bring this sorry mess full circle.
Iain Dooley is a Senior Motoring Writer for BT.com and this week has been mourning the loss of the CD player in Peugeot’s new 308 and wondering how much fun Mazda’s MX-5 would be if its regular wheels were swapped for space savers.
This article is the opinion of Iain Dooley and not necessarily that of BT.