TESTER’S NOTES Nei­ther the plate nor the fork has needed fur­ther tin­ker­ing for quite some years

Autocar - - NEW CAR PRICES - Matt Prior

While I was out walk­ing the other day, a light air­craft flew over­head. Noth­ing un­usual about that; with its sin­gle en­gine, whirring away gen­tly like they do, it milled across the sky like it could have been any time dur­ing the past 70 years.

Then I walked past some­body who was wear­ing tweed, which, again, is not un­com­mon round my way – the pe­cu­liarly, slightly dis­con­cert­ingly old-fash­ioned bit of Mid­dle Eng­land where trousers of colour out­num­ber peo­ple of colour by an alarm­ing ra­tio.

Any­way, there’s a rea­son for tweed: it’s late sum­mer, af­ter all, so start­ing to get a bit cooler. Per­haps, I thought, when I get home, I’ll warm the house up, by set­ting fire to a lump of wood.

Odd, isn’t it? All of these pieces of – for want of a bet­ter word – tech­nol­ogy have been sur­passed. Or could have been, if we’d wanted to sur­pass them. Per­haps I’m stretch­ing the point a lit­tle with the light air­craft, but there are far more ‘tech­ni­cal’ fab­rics than tweed, far more ef­fi­cient and less time con­sum­ing ways to heat one cor­ner of one room of a house by sea­son­ing wood for three years and then burn­ing it, but here we are, yearn­ing for the in­ef­fi­cient: own­ing a range cooker, mow­ing lawns our­selves when a ro­botic mower would do it bet­ter, buying vinyl, or, in­deed, us­ing a clas­sic car.

‘Es­chew’ is a banned word in the Au­to­car style guide for the good rea­son that it makes you sound like a div, but when it comes to mod­ernising el­e­ments of our lives, it fits. There is a great deal of es­chew­ery of the lat­est things go­ing on. I could con­trol the tem­per­a­ture of my home via an app, on a phone. I have it that some peo­ple even do. But some­how it is nicer to watch flames flicker, and burn. And then go out. And then f licker, and fade again and… I don’t know, I think it would have been eas­ier if I’d just put the heat­ing on.

I don’t think this is nos­tal­gia. At least, not in the ac­cepted sense. I just think there comes a point in the de­vel­op­ment of things where we ac­cept that tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment has served us well enough. Nei­ther the plate, nor the fork, say, has needed any fur­ther tin­ker­ing, for quite some years. It’s pos­si­ble to buy an electric, even dig­i­tal, salt dis­penser. But why would you? Things are not just fine. They are good. They are enough.

Which leaves the car where, ex­actly? When it comes to mo­tor rac­ing, it is, I sus­pect, done. The spec­ta­cle prob­a­bly peaked when cars were at their nois­i­est and wildest and driv­ers at their most vis­i­ble, which is why clas­sic car rac­ing is so pop­u­lar, re­gard­less of how tech-laden some rac­ing se­ries, con­tested by com­pa­nies with cars to flog, have be­come.

In the road car mar­ket, though, we’re not done. We can’t be. It’s an odd time. Too many peo­ple die, we sit in queues for too long, and air qual­ity is too bad. It has been for decades, yet only now do we seem to have no­ticed.

And yet? And yet still few peo­ple buy an electric car. Ac­tive safety sys­tems re­main neg­li­gi­ble rea­sons for buying one. For all of the mod­ern car’s faults and draw­backs, there’s some­thing of the salt cel­lar about it. It just fits, al­beit some­times un­com­fort­ably, into our lives. To move on, I think we’ll have to be pushed. I won­der when it will be? No idea. But I don’t doubt it’ll be worth it when we get there.

Is it 2017 or 1947? Prior can hardly tell the dif­fer­ence

F1 has en­joyed more ex­cit­ing times

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