In what year/era did we reach "peak" car?

In what year/era did we reach "peak" car?

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Discussion

white_goodman

Original Poster:

3,644 posts

155 months

Wednesday 3rd March
quotequote all
Inspired by the "what did you drive in the ..." threads and some of the fantastic cars that PHers have owned on there, in what era do you think we achieved "peak car" and why?

I appreciate that there's no right or wrong answer to this but I guess objectively the cars of today are as good as they have ever been but in general, I'm not a fan. Too many "driver aids" and over-complexity/reliance on touchscreens and the interesting/performance car template has become a little homogeneous and there seem to be too many driver setting options of which none are quite right rather than one decent passive setup.

I can see why someone might say the 60s, as there are some truly beautiful cars from that era and engineers/designers had less constraints to work with in terms of safety legislation, emissions and noise etc but at the same time, your average car was pretty crappy, rusted quickly and didn't last all that long.

For me, the 70s/early 80s didn't see much significant advancement but I'm very fond of cars from the late 80s/early 90s era. Fuel injection meant better reliability, features like ABS advanced safety slightly and yet the cars were still relatively simple, light and fun. I've loved all the cars that I owned from this era.

By the early 2000s, after going through a period where weight, performance and driving feel had been compromised by improvement in emissions/passive safety in the late 90s in my opinion, you had much better passive safety, refinement and luxury features such as air conditioning were more commonplace on ordinary cars but some of the performance/fun of the late 80s/early 90s had been brought back. I don't really see a lot of positive advancement since this era to be honest, as those cars can be as usable as modern ones without many compromises.

However, I think that I have narrowed "peak car" for me down to a 5 year window of 2009-2013. You could still get an NA V8 in a small saloon/estate or a V10 in a big saloon, hot hatches were available with your choice of 4, 5 or 6 cylinder engines, manual transmissions were still fairly commonplace in performance cars but the autos were also very good by this point if you preferred. Diesels were quite good and fuel economy very impressive but not yet overly-complex. You could still get NA cars and hydraulic steering and generally, I prefer the styling of vehicles from this era i.e. not to say that I don't like or dislike the styling of some modern cars but there are many from this era that were never really replaced or what replaced them didn't appeal to me as much.

To give a few examples of cars that I loved from this era:

AM V8 Vantage/DBS

Audi RS4 B8

Audi R8 V8 manual

BMW E9x M3

BMW M135i

Ferrari 458/F12

Lamborghini Gallardo/Murcielago

Ford Focus ST/RS mk2

mk5 Golf R32

Honda S2000

Mazda RX8

Nissan 350Z

LR Discovery 4

Porsche 911 (997)/Cayman (981)

Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG (W204)/E63 AMG (W211/W212)

Maserati QP V/GranTurismo

mk1 Jaguar XF

So, in your opinion, in what era/time period did we reach "peak car"?

Mark8815

181 posts

46 months

Wednesday 3rd March
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2004-2009 for me

Every day a journey

390 posts

2 months

Wednesday 3rd March
quotequote all
1990s

Because EVERYTHING was better then.

Cars were individual. Not same shape with different badges.

Music was better

Wasn't so much red tape and beaurocracy

Less 'Credit life' more 'work hard and enjoy' life.

People actually BOUGHT cars

pits

5,964 posts

154 months

Wednesday 3rd March
quotequote all
late 90's to early 2000's for me, few driver aids, manual gearboxes and cars that didn't look the same and weren't bulbous messes, the last era of good looking cars as well, 355, 550, Diablo, all 90's BMW's, the E38 the last sporty super saloon imho, the current 7 is cool with all it's tech but it's no different really to a Rolls or Bentley, TVR churning out beautiful cars, even the Jap stuff was good, there are so few modern cars out there that actually appeal to me they are either pointless powerhouses or a mile from a big bill.

Take my E46 330ci, 201k miles on the clock, original clutch all I have ever done is an alternator, fuel pump and suspension arms, my mates E92, lovely car, 330ci, injectors, batteries and sensors, the only thing out there that I think has retained any "purity" is Lamborghini, there is no modern Ferrari I look at and want, same for Porsche.

anonymous-user

18 months

Wednesday 3rd March
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Anywhere leading up to 2010. All downhill from there.

Every day a journey

390 posts

2 months

Wednesday 3rd March
quotequote all
pits said:
late 90's to early 2000's for me, few driver aids, manual gearboxes and cars that didn't look the same and weren't bulbous messes, the last era of good looking cars as well, 355, 550, Diablo, all 90's BMW's, the E38 the last sporty super saloon imho, the current 7 is cool with all it's tech but it's no different really to a Rolls or Bentley, TVR churning out beautiful cars, even the Jap stuff was good, there are so few modern cars out there that actually appeal to me they are either pointless powerhouses or a mile from a big bill.

Take my E46 330ci, 201k miles on the clock, original clutch all I have ever done is an alternator, fuel pump and suspension arms, my mates E92, lovely car, 330ci, injectors, batteries and sensors, the only thing out there that I think has retained any "purity" is Lamborghini, there is no modern Ferrari I look at and want, same for Porsche.
e numberzzzzzzz sleepsleep

Olivera

4,417 posts

203 months

Wednesday 3rd March
quotequote all
90s through the 00s

Paul671

290 posts

171 months

Wednesday 3rd March
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1998, peak car and peak civilisation.

Lincsls1

1,884 posts

104 months

Wednesday 3rd March
quotequote all
2000-2010 for me.
Narrowing the band further 2005-2010.
Cars from this time are reliable, safe and efficient enough, but not too technical so easy to maintain and repair and not too expensive. They can be DIY'd and are pretty corrosion resistant compared to stuff earlier.

RazerSauber

1,101 posts

24 months

Wednesday 3rd March
quotequote all
Late 90's and early to mid 00's for me. Cars were nice and came with the features you just want. No A pillars being 3 feet thick, dashboards 2 feet deep, 4859845092 lights on the dashboard and if you need to replace an EGR it's a 114 hour job. Cars stopped rusting for the most part then too. As has been said already, a lot of modern cars all look very similar. After the mid 00's, DPFs started coming in thick and fast and the dizzying array of sensors on cars seem to just cause more problems than they're worth.

StuntmanMike

11,671 posts

115 months

Wednesday 3rd March
quotequote all
‘90’s for me. Nothing modern moves me at all.

2000’s at a push. Even my old E60 feels to remote and even though it’s the V8, it’s a godsend having a hooligan exhaust on it.

I think Max Torque summed it up perfectly. He said in a post something like, modern cars are so well engineered that all the flaws we call character have gone.

Something along those lines anyway.

But I will say I remember hatchbacks being called euro box and being accused of all being the same as far back as the eighties.

Jag_NE

2,492 posts

64 months

Wednesday 3rd March
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Objectively, it’s absolutely now. I love older stuff but a big part of it is nostalgia and a dislike for too much tech is due to advancing age.

maz8062

1,436 posts

179 months

Wednesday 3rd March
quotequote all
pits said:
late 90's to early 2000's for me, few driver aids, manual gearboxes and cars that didn't look the same and weren't bulbous messes, the last era of good looking cars as well, 355, 550, Diablo, all 90's BMW's, the E38 the last sporty super saloon imho, the current 7 is cool with all it's tech but it's no different really to a Rolls or Bentley, TVR churning out beautiful cars, even the Jap stuff was good, there are so few modern cars out there that actually appeal to me they are either pointless powerhouses or a mile from a big bill.

Take my E46 330ci, 201k miles on the clock, original clutch all I have ever done is an alternator, fuel pump and suspension arms, my mates E92, lovely car, 330ci, injectors, batteries and sensors, the only thing out there that I think has retained any "purity" is Lamborghini, there is no modern Ferrari I look at and want, same for Porsche.
yes

Savagegeese agrees with you.

Muddle238

2,431 posts

77 months

Wednesday 3rd March
quotequote all
Around 2000 for me.

Car bodies generally well protected against corrosion, so you weren’t likely so see BL-levels of rot within a few years.

You had creature comforts like electric windows and air conditioning, but you didn’t have the intrusive gimmicks such as lane departure warning or bong noises warning you of impending oblivion.

Engines and drivetrains were reliable too, but they pre-date the emissions guff that in following years would slowly be added, increasing overall weight and overall complexity so the manufacturer could scrape through emissions targets.

Ride and comfort was better too, generally 15”/16” wheels the norm with far cheaper tyres than today’s 19”/20” styling exercises with rubber band tyres costing £200 a corner.

Bigger engines too, just about everything nowadays is a turbocharged 4-pot, as opposed to big lazy V6’s, straight sixes and 5-pots.

In general, around 2000 cars had everything to make them safe, reliable and comfortable. Since then they’ve got less comfy and no more reliable (perhaps less so given the dependence on electronics running everything). I’d say only safety has improved.

Tickle

3,982 posts

168 months

Wednesday 3rd March
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Late 90's early 00's

MrGTI6

1,999 posts

94 months

Wednesday 3rd March
quotequote all
For me, it has to be late '90s and early '00s.

Good rust resistance (with the odd exception).

All the extras you want such as fuel injection, ABS, power steering, air-con, remote locking, electric windows, etc. on most mainstream cars.

None of the nonsense that you don't such as electric handbrakes, key-less entry/go, Ad-Blue, electric power steering, etc.

Smaller wheels meaning better ride quality.

More manual gearbox options and a wide variety of engine configurations, as well as more steering feel and driver engagement.

Cars were much safer than in earlier decades, albeit nowhere near as safe as they are now.

Reliable, unstressed engines that are generally durable.

Decent combination of performance and economy.

The added bonus is that these cars are as cheap now as they'll ever be.

rotaryjam

152 posts

65 months

Wednesday 3rd March
quotequote all
Have to agree with others, specifically I'd say 95-2005.

A few reasons

- Designs were not overdone, just pure simplicity. No fake vents and cuts all over the place for no reason
- Turbo charging not so prevalent so nice mix of NA and Turbo cars
- No petrol filters
- Weight reduction without the added weight of safety equipment
- Real dials!

white_goodman

Original Poster:

3,644 posts

155 months

Wednesday 3rd March
quotequote all
General consensus seems to be early 2000s so far. Is this an age thing? Are we more drawn to cars that were current in our late teens/early 20s? Would someone that was born around that time think that cars from the early 2000s were crap and present day is where it's at?

I currently have a 2016 mk7 Golf, which is a great car. I've owned/driven most of the recent models in this class and in my opinion it is the best. However, there were a number of active safety features such as lane assist that I had to turn off when I got it, as they were driving me to distraction. It could be "rose-tinted glasses" but I had a number of mk5 Golfs as company cars back in the day when they were new and I'm sure they were more fun/handled better. I remember that you could really chuck them around but still had ESP/ABS as a safety net and yet this one is nice up until about 6/10 and then gets a little scrappy (and yes, mine does have the multi-link rear suspension). Doesn't make a lot of sense when I was under the impression that the mk7 MQB platform is lighter than the mk5/6 Golf platform?

HocusPocus

371 posts

65 months

Wednesday 3rd March
quotequote all
About 2010.

Build quality and rust resistance are now so much better....unlike the 90s buying a new back box every other year.

Driver active aids like abs and traction control; passive safety with crumple zones, air bags and pre-tensioning seat belts. Convenience like Sat nav.

2021 cars are too digital with lane change, drowsiness, radar brakes, menu screens to change the radio or heating, umpteen buttons on the steering wheel......all of which detract from the driver's need to pay attention outside and apply basic driving skills. Accidents are waiting out there whilst modern drivers fiddle inside focused on the digital controls!

Also the 2021 business model for cars rented on PCP etc is exploiting consumers with over inflated retail prices, thus exponentially increasing the rental charged for the first 3 years. Government wont stop this as it has a vested interest thriugh BIK tax revenue. Pity those paying full price for new cars when those with money and patience can find discount of 20-30% (sometimes more) against retail.

white_goodman

Original Poster:

3,644 posts

155 months

Wednesday 3rd March
quotequote all
Every day a journey said:
1990s

Because EVERYTHING was better then.

Cars were individual. Not same shape with different badges.

Music was better

Wasn't so much red tape and beaurocracy

Less 'Credit life' more 'work hard and enjoy' life.

People actually BOUGHT cars
The 90s was a bit of a "mixed bag" for me. You had the 80s designs at the beginning that didn't have much crash safety built-in but had been perfected over the 80s into cars that were fantastic to own/drive. Think Peugeot 205 GTi, mk2 Golf GTi, E30 3-Series etc and then the newer generation of cars such as the mk5 Escort/mk3 Astra/Corsa B etc, which are some of the worst cars that I have driven. Objectively better but subjectively significantly worse than their predecessors. In many cases, you had engines carried over from the previous generation of cars in bigger, "safer" but heavier cars, which kind of killed performance and handling, especially in conjunction with emissions regulations and cats strangling these older engines. By the late 90s, going into the early 2000s, they were starting to do things right again.