Thursday, July 19, 2007

Are these the best of times?

You can argue that this is the best time to be alive if you're a car nut. Sure there are those who yearn for the "good old days" when cars were simpler. Old cars are great but we seem to be in an automotive renaissance. Modern cars are safer, faster, more reliable, more comfortable and more efficient than ever.

We are also in the middle of a new "horsepower war" among the manufacturers. Twenty years ago you couldn't find a street car with 500HP. Today that's nothing. There are 4 door sedans with that much power. Exotics are pushing well over 600HP safely, relatively reliably and street legal. It's a great time to be into cars.

The only issue with the current state of automotive design is the complexity of the cars being produced. There is so much technology and safety designed into modern cars that they are becoming more and more expensive and gaining more and more weight. Back in the old days sports cars weighed around 2000lbs and today a 3000lb car is considered light. I guess that's why we need so much horsepower.

A lot of this extra stuff is convenience related. Things like air conditioning, power windows, power seats, 20 speaker stereos, and power locks weren't standard or even necessities in cars years ago. Then there is all the extra safety systems built into modern cars.

Now, I'm all for safer cars but the amount of stuff being packed into cars is getting ridiculous. Multiple airbags, ABS, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring, active safety, passive safety, radar cruise get the idea. All of this is making cars bigger and heavier and, in my opinion, less fun to drive. But then again, I don't think there are that many people left in this country who care about the fun or the experience of driving. For most people, driving a car is like using an appliance. It's just a tool to get them where they are going. I could go on with that subject for a while, but I'll save it for another day. In the meantime I have an idea. Instead of the making all these safety features standard or mandatory, how about we train the drivers a little better in this country. Then everyone will be better, safer drivers and those who want a rolling cocoon of safety can buy one and I can have my simple but modern, lightweight, fun to drive car.

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