Forgive me, I know I sound like a stuck record on this subject at times. But driving the
we had on loan for our PH Heroes piece was a further reminder we might have passed a high water mark for the kind of fast cars many of us enjoy. Indeed, I'd argue the 1 M represents, at least in BMW terms, the perfect intersection of technology and traditional driver focus. And from this point onwards the machines are only going to interfere more and 'augmented reality' is going to become ever more prevalent.
A high point for tech and thrills?
In the 1 M's case you get all of the good stuff modern motor vehicle engineering can deliver; namely a sophisticated twin-turbo engine with bags of power and character but capable of vaguely real world running costs and enough of the convenience features like DAB, connectivity and the rest to make it feel like an up to date vehicle. More fundamental in its appeal is what it doesn't have. It doesn't have three modes for the steering, a series of throttle maps, dampers with a variety of settings none of which quite work for any given scenario or engine noise generated by speakers rather than the combustion of flammable liquids.
It's been set up properly by people who know more about damping, throttle maps and steering weighting than you do and leaves you to enjoy the fruits of their labours. Rather than delude yourself into thinking a button push can actually transform the dynamic attributes of your car and/or suffer the distracting 'mode anxiety' of wondering if you'd have had more fun on a certain section of road if only you'd have been in a different throttle/damper/steering/ESP mode. This, in BMW's case, was a proper last gasp for the traditional engineers before their software colleagues took precedence - a policy already well under way with the contemporary 'real' M cars like the E92 M3 and E60 M5. No wonder the 1 M has such a following and residuals remain firm.
New C63 has a very tough act to follow
AMG's equivalent is/was the 6.2-litre V8 C63, a car I enjoyed very much this year on
and appreciated for its no-nonsense approach to going very fast, making lots of noise and using extravagant quantities of the earth's resources. Having driven
, the first of a new era of AMGs packed with configurability and multi-mode fiddling, I'm sure the similarly repurposed
we'll drive in 2015 will be awesome. But will the tech smother the essential charisma? I guess we'll see.
Nostalgia ain't what it used to be and all that but I suspect we'll look back on the last few years of fast cars and see the end of an era where driver input was at least as important in how a car drove as that of the black boxes.
The old ways still being campaigned by a few
There are a few that carry the torch still. I worried as much about the 991 GT3 before driving it recently and returned from that sweaty palmed and a bit wide eyed, Porsche seemingly having used the technology to make it more edgy and focused rather than dumbed down and safe. More on this shortly. Meanwhile 'my' new
Subaru WRX STI
long-termer is a revelation in the authentic, mechanical interaction twixt driver and powertrain and the Megane Renaultsport offers a refreshing riposte to the VW group
with their numb steering, contrived noise and 'sport' modes for everything from damping to cruise control. But it's clear which way the prevailing wind is blowing.
Bah humbug and all that. Maybe I need to lighten up and crack open some early seasonal cheer. Or simply set '2014' as the ceiling for all future classifieds tyre kicking ventures.