The Relentless Overcomplication Of Everything.

IMAG4827 So, I was in Milton Keynes in a new-generation C-Class. The Buckinghamshire “New Town” is essentially a controlled experiment in post-war urban planning which went viral, overcame its creators and expanded uncontrollably in every direction. It now resembles one of my earlier flirtations with Sim City- one of those times when I was so dissatisfied with my creation that I didn’t bother clicking “save game”. The layout of this bleak urban sprawl is composed entirely of roundabouts linked by straight lines. It’s not easy to keep up a sustained average speed here, driving in traffic is made up of a series of surges, heaves and lunges strung together into a despicably inelegant ballet. The drivers are, by and large, very miserable and extremely assertive. You can’t afford to hesitate before making your move, so it pays to be in a car with lots of low-down grunt and a responsive nine-speed transmission. This C-Class diesel has both of those attributes in its favour, so you’d think that would be job done, wouldn’t you? You’d think so. But it turns out that, as is so often the case, electronic intervention means you can’t have your cake and eat it. I’m pretty sure you could, once…. In my old, manual cars I can decide for my self exactly what the car does, by simply pressing harder on whichever of the three pedals best serve my whim at the time. On a roundabout this would typically involve a big kick of throttle then some deft clutchwork to throw 3000rpm at the tarmac without standing still while quickly serving up hot tyre soup. On most modern automatics you can do pretty well, too. Ramming the loud pedal to the floor and beyond the kickdown button usually clues the engine up as to what you want of it, even moreso if Sports Mode is engaged. The thing is, this C-Class has five modes, and you have to access them via a menu with a shortcut on the centre console. And those modes have features and characteristics which are specific and over-ruling. My whole reason for this post stems from my folly in attempting to swiftly enter a roundabout with the car set on the “ECO” mode which I had engaged in a fit of sudden planet-preservation for the motorway section of today’s journey. I set it and then forgot it, and then, when I needed to accelerate in a bit of a hurry, I couldn’t. There was, literally, nothing there at all. Mashing the accelerator was met with indifference and confusion, and eventually a half-hearted shrug of acceleration which earned me a full lights and horns concert from one of the local savages who wasn’t about to slow down for anybody. Look, seriously, ECO or not, when I ask for full power, I want full power. Got me? IMAG4828 When I picked the car up it was in SPORTS+ mode which, as far as I could see, wouldn’t let me go beyond fourth gear, but was happy to let me sit at 26mph in traffic with 3000rpm on the tach. Stupid. It obviously expected me to suddenly lash out and go on an overtaking rampage, but I wasn’t going to. To be fair, you can go deeper into the menu system and customise all these modes. You can tell the car how to prioritise things like power, steering assistance and climate control against economy, but if you go all out for green-ness you kiss goodbye to any chance of help when you need to get out of somebody’s way in a hurry. I put it to you that this is Stupid. If the car can do all this stuff, if it can use power generated under braking to recharge the battery, if it can cut power assistance to the steering and air conditioning where possible in the interest of economy, why can’t it have the common sense to figure out when doing so is appropriate? Summoning up full fury like I did ought to bloody well over-ride ECO and put me straight in “Get me the fuck outa here” mode until I start being a bit more moderate. If I’m setting out on a journey I don’t want to decide whether I’m going to be Sporty, or Sporty Plus, or Comfy or Economical. I want an unspecified mixture depending on my mood at the time. I want the car to do what I want it to do, when I want it. And then when I don’t want anything in particular, then it can use its own imagination and do what it thinks is best. How hard can that be? (All images Chris Haining / Hooniverse except for Milton Keynes map which appeared during a Google search)

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