PH blog: interactive experience

A stark comparison the other night as I took a lengthy drive down a dark, damp and busy dual-carriageway, followed by 15 miles of equally damp, leaf-strewn and twisty B-roads, before swapping cars and driving the exact same route in reverse.

For the outward journey I’m driving a new Mini Cooper D. It’s a decent car to be honest, with enough power to be fun coupled with the tidy handing we have come to expect from Mini. I enjoy the drive, the dual-carriageway is a breeze, the Cooper charges along at a decent lick, the brakes are strong when needed, the lights and wipers work well and I don’t really have to think too much.

An involving drive even on a day like this
An involving drive even on a day like this
Much the same for the B-roads. We make good progress, throw ourselves around bends without effort and arrive at our destination having made good time while listening to the radio and pondering what to have for dinner.

I then swap the keys for the courtesy car Mini for those to my 4.0 Chimaera. By now it’s gone 8pm, dark and wet. The car fires and idles lazily with a few short prods of the throttle to clear its throat (you must hear a TVR cold start, it’s great) and I allow the misted windscreen to clear. My mindset has immediately altered and I’m watching dials, getting comfortable and I no longer want to listen to Radio 2.

My headlights aren’t that bright, so that twisty B-road is now harder to negotiate, but we settle in and start to press on once the car has warmed up. As bends approach I see wet leaves on the entry, no ABS means an early lift and gentle braking. I’m not accelerating hard until we are out of the bend and after a while I realise I am grinding my teeth a little such is the concentration to not only see ahead but to actually drive the car safely in these conditions.

On the dual carriageway that concentration remains as stopping distances are kept bigger than many others thanks to no ABS with stop/start traffic and wet roads. The fast sweeping bend taken at speed in the Mini is different when in the TVR. I’m conscious of the glistening tarmac and change in road surface and can see a little standing water too. Despite all that I’m enjoying myself,  I’m not thinking of anything else but driving and I’m relishing the silenced radio (the V8 soundtrack is better) with both hands firmly on the wheel.

I make the return leg in about the same time as the outward run, but I am so much more focused throughout and it feels faster. I’ve worked harder, concentrated more and ended the run exhilarated and a little tired.  Most of all I had respect for the TVR, and that was lacking when in the Mini.

It’s all too easy to drive fast in a modern family car; it doesn’t mind what you do to it. Want to brake mid-corner? That’s fine. Want to plant the throttle around that damp bend? Go ahead. That’s all very well and good, but you don’t learn to respect the car, to think far ahead, to constantly read the road just to maintain a safe 70mph cruise on a wet dual-carriageway.

Driving is fun, it’s just a shame many of us never get to experience what driving actually means these days.


Comments (110) Join the discussion on the forum

  • ghibbett 01 Oct 2012

    Very good write up!! Now try the same again in a Caterham smile

  • SomeMinorTrouble 01 Oct 2012

    "Driving is fun, it’s just a shame many of us never get to experience what driving actually means these days."
    So true

  • Trevor450 01 Oct 2012

    Driving a TVR always keeps it very real and makes you appreciate it all the more.

  • Gunslinger1979 01 Oct 2012

    Been on these boards a while but this is my first post, have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed your article and there was truth in every line!

    Modern cars have taken a little of the fun out of driving and speed is definatley not everything.
    I often rag my Clio 182 Cup down country roads with relative ease, safe in the knowledge that most of the time I will be ok unless I do something particularly stupid.

    Slightly ashamed to say it but in the wet I occasionally have more fun and certainly more hair-raising times in my old K11 1.0 Micra with it's terrible budget tyres, wallowy handling and lack of ABS!

    Respect really is earned!

  • broadside 01 Oct 2012

    Totally agree. When driving my TVR it made you think and concentrate that little bit more. The whole driving experience was much more rewarding. The only traction control is your right foot and you soon learn when you can accelerate at full pelt or to feed the power in depending on the road surface and conditions.

    You only have to go back to the mid 80's and all cars didn't have all the safety gadgets that have been phased in since then. I remember my dad getting one of the first Granadas that had ABS as standard ....the car could stop in 150 feet in an emaergency stop while the bloke behind you stopped in 200 feet!!

    To me TVRs in particular and other specialist cars without all the safety gizmos are real drivers cars because you only have yourself to rely on and not a set of electronic interfering systems to fall back on.

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