Fast Feature: Ease up on the Future

Motoring Journalist Dan Prosser said of electric sportscars in a DriveNation post on Instagram, “As long as that sort of car is rendered only in my imagination, EVs will, come, go, and leave me unmoved”. Let’s expand on that.

He’s referring to the possibility that one day an electric car will come out and it will be fun to drive rather than just drive well. Modern electric cars such as the Jaguar I-Pace, Audi e-tron and the various Teslas have been criticised, not for being bad cars but rather for being un-fun.

They reportedly lack steering and brake feel which means on a twisting road they are not as enjoyable as an ordinary car such as basic hatchback or saloon.

You see we are in the middle of a transition period from the end of te era of the ICE car (Internal Combustion Engine) car to the era of the all electric society. Yet it has got me thinking about what we may well be about to lose. Driver involvement.

You see it hasn’t all started because Elon Musk wanted to start an electric revolutiona nd go to the stars. Its been a continuous process since the dawn fo the car itself, manufacturers merely want to make like easier for the motorist. This has either been through quieter engines, quieter cabins, bigger seats, every increasing levels of safety.

All of these are fantastic things, the fact that Fiat Panda is now has a 0 start Euro NCap raiting is testament to how far we have come in less than a decade in terms of safety.

Yet manufacturers have now gone a bit too far. Things are becoming too easy. I mean I’m all for power steering and ABS but you can have too much of a bad thing. Drivers are slowly being deprived of something we actually need, feel. Specifically, steering feel.

We need to be able to feel what’s going on underneath those front tyres, those two contact patches keeping us on terra-firma. Isn’t there a danger in not being able to feel what’s going on through your hands? The steering wheel is a car’s main communicator in icy conditions. Put it this way I’d rather found this out before a slide rather than during it.Yes, in this new world of ours we still turn the wheel, depress the brake and throttle but we don’t actual feel any of this in these electric cars. I dislike how things are becoming too easy for drivers.

In short I just don’t like feeling I have to guess where the wheels are.

This was something I encountered in the first months of owning my Gen 7 Astra, fitted with electric steering, there was no feeling through the wheel at all. This is fine on a motorway or in town where the steering is light, but along the Coast Road from Morston to Holkham its less than talkative. I went into a corner relying on my previous experience of the road rather than the car itself simply because the steering is not telling me anything.

To compare I jumped into my parent’s ‘old’ 2011 Mini Countryman and drove the same road. Immediately its like someone has opened up another tributary of information. The reason? The Mini had hydraulic steering which is heavier, more mechanical and therefore a bit more predictable.

The steering however is the Astra’s only foible as I’ve adapted to it over the past 18 months and it has great brake fee. Which reminds me, there’s one final grip to grind before the festive period begins.

Jenson Button pushing the brakes of his Williams FW22 at the 200 Italian Grand Prix. No predictive emergency braking here, just his left foot.

Braking. Should Predictive Emergency Braking Systems be standard on modern cars?

Yes! You are surely crying. Its a safety feature after all, one that stops the car if it detects an obstacle that you haven’t noticed e.g. a small child or rogue terrier.

That it is but I’m merely saying that if the system is utilised by the car does it not show that you were not paying attention in the first place? Modern braking systems are great but I just get the feeling that they’re taking a bit of responsibility from the driver.

That’s what the hazard perception part of our Theory Test was for after all wasn’t it?

If they hit something the excuse shouldn’t be, “Well the car should have braked” to stop us. In my view this software should be an optional extra to be selected by those drivers that feel they need it rather than made standard. In short, what electric cars need is a bit of the past to make them fit for the future.

Some of you, most of you maybe, may read this and think I’m just a grumpy young man complaining about the future. And you know what? You’d be right.

Yet in another way, you’d be wrong. I’m not against the rise of electric or technically advanced vehicles, just read my review of the Rivian R1T if you like. I’m just worried that automotive manufacturers, in their desire for ever increasing ease of use even in their most basic of models, will rid of the car of driving feel, and the driver of control.

After all that is what makes a car more than a machine, its what makes even a basic hatch or saloon or MPV, in some way fun.


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