Recently, I was at the mechanic and overheard a lady talking about how much better old cars are overall in comparison to new cars. It got me thinking about my own experiences, having owned some older performance cars, but also being able to test some new cars on offer from different manufacturers.
For the sake of this article, I’d like to compare some cars that are currently owned by me, including a 1994 BMW M3 E36 and 1990 Nissan 300ZX Z32, to some current models that I’ve tested.
To start with, I agree that my older cars involve the driver more as they don’t have any driver aids. It’s up to the driver to control the car as there’s no traction or stability control to get you out of trouble. It’s a great feeling driving these cars hard and knowing where the limits are, without having to worry about a computer intervening. Sure, you can turn these aids off on modern cars, but never know if they are actually completely off.
There are however some modern performance cars that still really involve the driver. The current Toyota 86 that was tested recently reminds me of a smaller version of my Nissan 300ZX. They’re both similar in that they’re very well balanced and are two of the best handling cars I’ve driven. The current model Suzuki Swift Sport really involves the driver due to its torquey turbocharged engine and low weight. I didn’t used to enjoy driving front wheel drive cars because of the amount of torque steer and understeer present, but the Hyundai i30N has largely eliminated these problems and is a real driver’s car. The Kia Stinger GT will get you to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds and is an exciting car to drive. I find that I’m more involved in the driving experience with a manual gearbox and feel that modern manual cars are just as fun to drive as the older ones.
Looks and sounds
I also like how my older cars sound and look. It’s a feature of some modern performance cars to have fake exhaust noise emitted through the speaker system. Why not just build a car with a good sounding exhaust to start with? The sound from my older BMW M3 is purely mechanical whereas some modern BMW’s have artificial sound. The other thing that I dislike on some modern cars is fake vents that are added for aesthetic reasons only. I can understand adding vents, but wouldn’t it make sense to make them functional?
Safety and Technology
In regards to safety and technology, cars have come an incredibly long way over the last 30 years. The days of trying to interpret a Melway before heading to a destination have long gone, and every new car I’ve tested has featured easy to operate satellite-navigation systems. These systems are built into the dashboard and I like them best when they are well integrated into the dash. The majority of new cars have a five star ANCAP safety rating, achieved through the implementation of safety measures, including front, side and head airbags, autonomous emergency braking, driver fatigue detection and lane keeping assist. In the early 1990’s it was a big deal just to have ABS and driver and passenger airbags.
Again, the features found in modern cars are far superior to my cars from the 90’s. Modern touchscreens enable the driver to select between radio stations, navigation, drive modes, iPhone and Bluetooth capabilities and even drive modes. Speaking of drive modes, the Kia Stinger GT has Eco, Comfort, Sport, Smart, Custom and Sport.
The i30 Fastback N features five drive modes including an N Custom mode, including a performance timer featuring a lap timer and 0-100km/h readout, longitudinal and lateral g-force meter, turbo readout torque readout and power readout.
In terms of features available to occupants, modern cars have come a long way. I really like cars that have both analogue and digital speed readouts. Having an Auto Hold function is handy and particularly good in the Hyundai i30 Fastback N as it holds the car automatically on inclines. The current BMW 125i’s I-Drive system is easy to use, and it’s great that you can operate all the multimedia on a touchscreen. Another new feature I enjoy using is adaptive cruise control that automatically adjusts your vehicle speed to maintain a safe distance from vehicles ahead. The start/stop system isn’t something I enjoy using and I wonder how this will affect the starter motor of new cars in years to come. Modern cars are packed full of technology and you wonder how these systems will hold up over the life of the car.
Interior ergonomics are certainly in favour of new cars. There’s a better range of seat and steering adjustment now, with the offering of heated or cooled seats and steering wheels. The new Toyota Corolla hybrid variants are cheap, but are feature packed and include things like keyless entry and ignition, LED headlights and dual-zone climate control.
New car issues
It’s annoying that most manufacturers now choose to offer either run flat tyres or spacesavers. It hasn’t happened to me yet, but it would be very frustrating having to put a spacesaver on and be limited to just 80km/h. My BMW has a full sized spare which I’m grateful for.
I think that some skill has been taken away from the driver with some modern safety systems. I find the lane-departure warning overkill on new cars, and in some models the car shakes quite abruptly if it senses that you’re meandering into another lane, even though you’re not really that close to it. Autonomous emergency braking and driver fatigue detection are required to achieve better safety ratings. I feel like you should be a good enough driver to avoid a potential collision on your own and be responsible enough to know when you’re tired and need to rest.
I like driving the modern cars that have different engine and suspension settings. Modern cars are a lot safer, but there’s some technology that’s relied on that takes the skill out of driving. I also don’t like the artificial engine sounds and fake vents/wings that are purely for aesthetic reasons and not functional.
There are both pros and cons for old and new cars. In a modern car with a manual transmission like a Toyota 86, it compares favourably to my two cars from the 1990’s, and still really rewards the driver. Overall, my older cars are more fun to drive, however the features, technology and safety of the modern car are far superior to what was around 30 years ago, and is something that should be commended.