Wednesday 13th March 2013


Why we need to take the rose tints off and embrace the future with both flappy paddles!

The way a lot of talk, both editorially and on the forums, has been going of late I was wondering about organising a PH Luddites tour. While not, perhaps, going to the extremes of a trip to Getrag to smash up every dual-clutch gearbox in the place with lump hammers or burning down ZF's electric steering development department it could take in a slightly more civilised approach of handing in petitions. Or polite tutting. The itinerary could take in a ferry crossing to Dieppe to have a moan about five doors and flappy paddles on Renaultsport Clios. Thence to Stuttgart to express displeasure at the 991 GT3's new focus on tech over tactility. Before heading over to Garching to play the sound of classic M engines over loudspeakers to jolly well see how they like it.

Clio's new direction has inspired soul searching
Clio's new direction has inspired soul searching
Of course, the trip should really return via Harwich to drop by Lotus to celebrate the business case for playing strictly to the purist, enthusiast elite and see how well that's served the boys from Norfolk.

You may, by now, have spotted the flaw in this argument...

Yep, if manufacturers listened to us we'd now be on our next generation of stupidly thirsty M cars with high-revving engines and jerky gearboxes. Lethal 911s that prove our manliness by demanding Rohrl-like hand-eye coordination and commitment. Or a fiery demise at Schwedenkreuz. Clios with powerbands 500rpm off the redline and mid-20s fuel consumption.

Actually they did listen to us. And the latest technology means they can build cars that deliver the visceral thrills all but a noisy one per cent demand while making them liveable with and appealing to a vast new audience. Let us not forget, manufacturers exist to build cars they can sell to us in numbers sufficient to turn a profit according to their particular business model. Not satisfy some romantic dream. And most of them are getting better at it.

'Too fast, too fat, too fake!' comes the cry
'Too fast, too fat, too fake!' comes the cry
Those of us in that noisy one per cent will moan we're being sold out to the marketeers by the very cars whose iconic status we've helped forge. That we're at a tipping point where technology means these cars have outpaced the ability of drivers to enjoy them, let alone roads or even racetracks contain them.

Thing is, it's not really reason to feel gloomy. New GT3 too tech heavy to be fun? Drive an old one then. Don't want a turbocharged five-door Clio with flappy paddles? Cash in on the majority turning their back on high-revving, manual ones and pick up a bargain. New cars too much about power and grip? Buy a Toyobaru or MX-5. There are enough cars of all vintages to go around and suit all tastes and budgets.

Dual-clutch apologists are no more wrong than manual die-hards are right. Technology enhanced speed at all costs no less valid a goal than going a little slower but feeling more involved.

There's much to celebrate about the new age
There's much to celebrate about the new age
Doesn't mean to say we can't argue the toss though. Soapboxes will be clambered upon on occasion. But after last week's self-indulgent 'they don't make 'em like they used to' paean to GT3s of old I've come round to a more optimistic view. That, far from the end of proper driving as we know it, we could actually be on the cusp of a technologically exciting age of amazing cars that really push the boundaries of what's possible. Be they million-pound hypercars or cleverly engineered 100mpg runabouts.

And if that doesn't float your boat we've still got the classifieds.


Author: Dan Trent
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