Life moves on. Time and tide wait for no man. Science advances, but like the grizzled denizens of the automotive jungle that they are, perhaps some car scribes have been left behind by the technology of the motor car. Before you cry foul, it is with great misgivings that I guess I’ll have to class myself in the ‘older journalist’ bracket so I know of what I speak, yet I must remain impartial.
This doesn’t mean that we are all aged crocks fit only for the breaker’s yard, to be left sitting in wing-back chairs sobbing quietly over early dog-eared pictures of Linda Lusardi and the Ferrari Testarossa; far from it. For myself I think I am being entirely fair and honest when I say that although I class myself in this bracket, I reckon I am – all things being considered – still pretty much on the ball. The snag is though that we knackered relics of the Twentieth Century are starting to wonder if cars are not what they used to be and this may reflect badly on us in a fast moving motor world.
Certainly, we use stuff like the new-fangled ‘electric interweb’ on a daily basis because that’s how the world works now. Take automotive technology, for example. We understand how it works and we get that on modern roads there is a greater than ever need for safety, but we are also finding much of it increasingly irrelevant to the art of actual driving. In the same way that a Dementor will suck the soul from you given half the chance, so that special individuality and ‘soul’ that makes a great drivers’ car is slowly being left behind on the road to autonomy.
Younger motoring scribes, or ‘whipper-snappers’ as anyone under forty-five is known by we gnarly survivors, are mad for this techno-kit. They can’t get enough of it, but it remains a mystery as to why. Take the new Mercedes E-Class. It is packed to the firewalls with next generation tech but – and I am truly sorry to say this about a great brand – the car is a bit dull to look at. Sure, it is sleek and modern but there doesn’t seem to be any spark of design originality in it. It is the generic modern motor.
The dashboard is a son et lumière extravaganza. The car has evasive steering and much of the gadgetry we can expect to see in truly self-driving vehicles. In many ways it is astonishing what they have achieved in so short a time. There’s plenty more coming too from the realms of science fiction including, as I understand it, tyre sensors that know when you are losing traction before you do. No doubt that will mean the end of oversteer, deliberately induced or not.
It seems to me that the thing that propels the car, or ‘engine’ as it is known, is almost an afterthought. Eco-technology has probably taken the internal combustion engine as far as it can reasonably go for now and so we look to electricity and hydrogen and hybrids and, alas, in a way that just makes it worse for the last of the old school. The days of having petrol in your veins and engine grease under your finger nails are gone. So the world turns.
It has to happen of course. The younger generation journo’s (you know who you are) with their text-spelling and apparent total ignorance of the semi-colon are taking over. They don’t care how many valves there are per cylinder because there are none in an electric motor. Slowly but surely they are pushing themselves brazenly to the front of the car manufacturers’ test day breakfast buffets and taking all the chocolate croissants. Don’t discount the older blokes yet though; they might need a bit of a lie-down but they aren’t going to take it lying down – not as long as there are some good cars left to drive. Geoff Maxted