Actually, my husband did. I rode. We’re talking about buying a car. And for fun, I suggested we test drive the new beetle convertible. It is unquestionably a triumph of design– ergonomic, quiet (even Whit the top down, it’s remarkable windless) efficient, elegant and even beautifully quirky. But no fun to drive. Smooth and silky, 60 feel like 30 as we flew down the highway. But is that a good thing?
After my husband and I drove home in my ancient cabriolet (also not much fun to drive) we talked about the cars that gave us the most joy behind the wheel. He loves his ’58 bugeye sprite. Even when driving 45 you feel like you are flying. It’s old and small and basic, so the road feel is really intense. When he and I get out of it, it’s like seeing clowns come out of their car– yet when you are in it, it’s pretty roomy.
I miss my old fiat. Driving winding roads in the marin headlands, getting a bit of slide in the corners, top down, shifting down to grab more power– that’s joy.
We’ve driven friends’ Z3, friends’ porches and these cars can do 90 before you start to feel any speed. It’s terrifying to realize you’ve broken the speedlimit without noticing, and you are driving a dangerous speed without feeling it.
Comparing it to Philippe driving the back-roads in the bugeye and I’m holding on for my life at 30 mph and shouting for joy at the tall trees overhead, I have to wonder if the new car’s emphasis on comfort is entirely a good development?
Maybe a bit of discomfort is part of the sport car experience. A driver has to feel some challenge, some sense of control and of power– but the bugeye’s 43 horses can feel just as powerful as the Porsche’s 360. A bit of road feel, a bit of slip in a turn, a bit growl in a downshift– it’s feedback and it’s fun.
VW says in their ads “Drivers wanted” but honestly, I doubt real drivers will want them.
Anyhow, this was all set off by reading dancing mango’s thoughts on pleasure. See what he has to say on the matter.