Friday, October 29, 2010

Have we gone beyond the tipping point in automobile engineering?

Recently I was involved in a discussion on whether we have gone beyond the tipping point in automobile engineering. The question discussed was whether future cars will not be "truly" better than the cars produced today and points mentioned where things such as engine downsizing, cars getting heavier and heavier, more and more electronics taking away the fun from driving, noise restrictions, emission regulations enforcing direct fuel injections, etc..
Of course you can have many different perspectives here. Let me just mention a few:
(I) The best cars are the ones from the last decade. Cars like the Audi RS4/SE, BMW M3, Porsche 911 Carrera GT3/GT3 RS, Audi RS8 V10, Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggiera, maybe even the Bugatti Veyron, etc. have set the bar and shown what is feasible. With new laws and restrictions you can only make it worse, but barely better.
(II) The best cars come from the 50ies and early 60ies, as then racing and competition cars (especially GTs and prototype type two seaters) could be driven on the road and offered maximum driving pleasure and a great sound spectrum. Take a Jaguar C-Type or a Porsche Carrera 6 as example. And don't think about convenience and usability.
(III) The best cars are still to come as with modern computer technology they will be extremely safe, extremely convenient taking over most/all of the driver's activivities and offer full access to web, TV, sound and entertainment while moving from A to B.
All of the three perspective have some "raison d'ĂȘtre". And for all there are exceptions and counter arguments of course. It's all a matter of what you want and value.
However there are some facts out there as well. The Volkswagen V6 engine built into the R32 for example offered an incredible sound, which the new 4 cylinder Golf R can't match. On the other side modern sound engineering and computer controlled exhaust systems in cars such as the Maserati coupé or the Aston Martin DBS/DB9 enables interesting noise patterns as well. Or just listen to a Ferrari 430 Scuderia. And it's obvious that the current cars offer superior road handling thanks to electronics, modern tyre technology and great suspension design. And it's also clear that weight spoils driving pleasure to some extent, so a 600kg sportscar of the 60ies has certain advantages against a 2 ton Aston Martin, even if the advantage doesn't translate to better lap times.
So, it's a wide topic or as you can say in German "das ist ein weites Feld". Enjoy what you like best and let room for the others with different opinions.

No comments: