PH BLOG: THE NEW DRIVING
Fast cars are getting faster but are they actually getting better? Chris isn't convinced they are...
This process of emasculation is well documented - the motor industry seems obsessed with removing the driver from any direct, physical contact with the car - and I've whinged about that enough already.
But what I do want to know is this: who perpetrates all of this stuff? Who sits down and proposes that a car aimed squarely at car enthusiasts should have a steering wheel rim so thick that Lord Voldemort couldn't wrap his fingers around it? Or that isn't actually round? Think about it for a minute - unless the car has a steering rack of one turn lock-to-lock or less, it's a bonkers idea.
Who decided that suspension should no longer absorb bumps? Actually, I can answer that, it was the berks in the marketing department - but this fallacy of stiff springs and zero tyre sidewall has meant that virtually all new cars sold in the UK do not ride well. They are therefore not carrying out a basic requirement - to keep the occupants isolated from the road surface. That's like buying a £300 toaster, revelling in its build-quality, enjoying the control buttons and overlooking the small fact that it cannot heat white bread to the point that it hardens and turns light brown.
The only difference is that the car buyer tolerates cars that crash rigidly into cats-eyes, celebrates them even, but will return the toaster the moment they realised it didn't work.
Like sports seats. Designing a seat which locates the human torso under heavily lateral forces is not difficult - the clue's in the definition above. You locate the torso. So why do most sports seats have great wings either side of the squab which trap your thighs - the very things you want to keep mobile? And yet there's barely any support under your armpits, where you actually need it. And don't get me started on 'shoulder wings' - right up there with the BMW M two-piston caliper as the worst performance component of the century.
A great sports car used to be one that not only covered ground with electrifying speed, but also communicated its actions to the operator. That second definition now appears to play a minimal role in the development of a so-called drivers' car.
I'll never understand it. It's like making hi-fi which sounds bad, watches that don't keep accurate time, selling food that tastes of old socks.
We live in a world where bad has become good. Strange and worrying.