Fast? Yes, when it wants to be. I like fast.
But when I wanted, when I needed, it to be fast, it was slow like a sloth on Valium. I don’t like slow, and especially not when I demand fast. Turbo lag of just under one second and a diesel engine that went to sleep at junctions and electronics that took control of the handbrake and denied it to me almost resulted in me being wiped out by traffic on more than one occasion.
And I kept banging my head so that, when I returned the damned thing, there were bits of me embedded in the sun visor.
I like to balance the car on the throttle, prepared to accelerate on demand. It’s efficient and it’s safe and it allows me graduated control over the power – smooth demand, smooth delivery. I do not want a programmer whose idea of car control is binary telling me that, at certain stages of the process, the power is on or off, a one or a zero, pushed back in the seat or sitting waiting for the large lorry that’s approaching to trample me underfoot. When I put my foot down, I want it to go, like shit off a shovel, not to wait while some part of the car debates with itself and./or several other parts whether to do as it’s told and, if so, to wait until it’s finished its sausage and sauerkraut.
A lorry travelling legally at 60mph on an A Road in the country travels a mile in a minute, that’s 29 yards in a second. With tall hedgerows and winding roads, many junctions appear, albeit with warning signs, less than 75 yards ahead. That’s two and a half seconds. Last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix raised debates about human reaction time and, for the very fastest, it’s 2 milliseconds, according to research. No one in a real world driving situation reacts even close to that. The UK Highway Code, the bible for learner drivers, says that, for a car, the thinking distance is 18 metres, that’s roughly 17 yards. So, before the lorry driver hits the brakes, assuming it’s safe for him to do so (it might not be if he’s on a tight bend in the wet, for example), there are less than 55 yards before impact. It takes a car 55 metres (53 yards, approx) after the brakes are hit to come to a stop. That’s assuming perfect road conditions and a good driver. Let’s assume a good driver and perfect road conditions and a 38 tonne truck. That is not going to stop in 55 metres, unless it hits a building.
Knowing all of that, I had to pull out of side roads into main roads fully aware that some high-handed programmer driven by a control-freak car designer had taken all of my control away from me and was putting me directly in the path of such a truck, if one was coming. Hell, it was putting me in the path of ANYTHING that was coming because that 55 yards from the driver hitting the brakes to impact is exactly the distance that driver would have had before hitting the door next to my head. .
The car costs more than GBP46,000 and on my fourth day with it I looked out of the window of my hotel room, saw it in the car park, said to myself “F..K, I really do not want to drive that.” I walked down to the hotel reception and booked another night then I spent the day in the hotel reading, then in the bar. I didn’t want to drive it until I had to return it to Heathrow on the fifth day.
The car annoyed me in so many ways: you can’t take your finger off the hood opening/closing mechanism until it’s finished its entire process and that seems like half a decade each time you drop or close the lid. Behind the dashboard, a solenoid or something clicks away, seemingly unrelated to anything I was doing. I don’t like unexplained noises. I’m used to hearing a noise and assessing it: does it mean stop now before the car bursts into flames? I’ve been there, done that. Does it mean something is going to break and I’m going to have to be towed to my destination or a repair shop (that’s half a day, at least, down the drain?) Done that, too. Does it mean something will break but it doesn’t matter? Does it mean nothing? I still don’t know. It was still doing it when I gratefully handed the car back.
The SatNav was ridiculously complicated: it took two days and three lawyers plus a scientist of some sort to work out how to get the SatNav to speak in more than a whisper without simultaneously turning up the “urban” radio station that the damned thing appeared to be locked into. Worse, no one told the SatNav about a) the car’s enormous turning circle or b) the width of the car so it chose entirely unsuitable roads much of the time. They were roads I’d have been delighted to drive on in a car suited to them, like a Morgan or an MGB. This horrible thing was exactly not suited to them.