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.

Paul

Comments (110) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Craikeybaby 04 Oct 2012

    This reminds me about a few summers ago, when I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a Jaguar XFR for the weekend, a truely amazing car, but driving back home in my mk1 MX-5 on the Monday evening, I took the same long way home as I had in the Jaguar on the Friday and the drive in the MX-5 was actually more fun, because I was much more connected with the car and able to get some flow going, rather than just bursts of rapid acceleration.

  • carinaman 03 Oct 2012

    '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.'

    A few thoughts:

    1. In the SP&TL section there was a thread about the accident that killed a HATO last week. TallbutBuxomly said mentioned that some roads seem to have dodgy draining and leave water, or streams crossing the road. Was it Mark Walton in CAR Magazine that mentioned going off of a main road in a 911 and when the emergency services arrived they said it was a spot known to suffer such accidents due to water on the road.

    I can't be the only one that's been sat in traffic watching water run across a slip road, across a carriageway and then onto the white lines and continuing on its way once there is a gap in the white lines.

    What happens when these runs of water across roads freeze? Climate change means we'll get harsher winters with more frozen water on our roads?

    Are roads having more water sat on them, or having more miniature streams crossing them? If they are why?

    2. I must admit Quattro did cross my mind. I'm not sure how many of us have the time or weather to choose when we get to drive so perhaps something with 4WD may be better if it's about making progress safely whatever the weather or on road water road designers and/or Engineers like to leave behind.

    Perhaps 4WD would be overkill given the progress Garlick made in a MINI D?

  • smartypants 03 Oct 2012

    That's true enough. Had one experience in a glider... magical.

    I have enough problems finding the time and funding my current hobbies... maybe later in life biggrin

  • RichB 03 Oct 2012

    smartypants said:
    Have always been tempted to try again, see if I can "get it" again.
    To be honest unless yo do what Ed does I agree with you, just flying a Cessna is boring, that's why I took to gliders - because of the thrill of flying without any power. It's more of a challenge and less of a process - but you need the weather! frown

  • Garlick 03 Oct 2012

    justjones said:
    Garlick,

    If you like having to think, anticipate, and immerse yourself in the operation of a machine. You should try something that goes faster than any car and pulls so many G's it makes an F1 car's g force feel like a go cart, you should try an aerobatic plane and learn to fly if you haven't already learned. Far more rewarding to master than a MINI and a Chimaera on a slick road I'm sure.

    Cheers
    Closest I've been to aerobatics was doing a bunny hop on my BMX in 1986 and a flight to Greece on Dan Air not so long after.

    I'd love to have a go but my eyesight, and lack of funds to buy an aircraft, would hinder me.

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