4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - MATT RAUDONIKIS

WHEN did car own­er­ship stop be­ing about the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence? When did that buzz a car gives you when be­hind the wheel cease to mat­ter? I’m lucky enough to work in a job that I often re­fer to as ‘just hav­ing fun with cars’, but it seems hav­ing fun no longer mat­ters to the folks mak­ing and sell­ing new cars.

The 4X4 Aus­tralia of­fice re­cently re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion to the launch of a heav­ily re­vised new 4x4. This is nor­mally cause for ex­cite­ment as it means we get to go to some cool place to be wined and dined by the car com­pany, have the chance to speak with the en­gi­neers and de­vel­op­ers of the new ve­hi­cle, and, most im­por­tantly, get to drive the thing and see how good (or oth­er­wise) the lat­est devel­op­ments are.

Yet the head­line grab on the in­vi­ta­tion didn’t men­tion any­thing about new and im­proved 4x4 abil­ity, classlead­ing on-road dy­nam­ics, plateshift­ing torque in­creases, or ground-break­ing devel­op­ments in per­for­mance. No, the high­light this car com­pany used to get us ex­cited about its new car was the in­clu­sion of Ap­ple Carplay in the ve­hi­cle’s AV sys­tem.

I ap­pre­ci­ate mu­sic and phone in­te­gra­tion into a ve­hi­cle, but it’s not a deal-breaker when it comes to my buy­ing choices. Things like drive abil­ity, per­for­mance, ca­pa­bil­ity and func­tion­al­ity are the things that mat­ter to me – and I’d like to think you folks, too. Pip­ing your mu­sic through the car stereo is nice but it’s not go­ing to put a smile on my dial when the car steers like a pig on a moun­tain road, the trans­mis­sion can’t make up its mind what gear it wants, or the trac­tive sys­tems can’t get you up the sim­plest of off-road hills.

It seems car com­pa­nies have given up on build­ing the driver’s car, as they know that the abil­ity to drive them our­selves is be­ing taken away from us. All they talk about these days is phone in­te­gra­tion, elec­tric power and au­ton­o­mous driv­ing tech­nol­ogy, which doesn’t leave much for those of us who love to drive.

I’d like to think au­ton­o­mous tech won’t take these ve­hi­cles to stun­ning tracks like the Can­ning Stock Route, the Simp­son Desert, Bor­der Ranges or the Oodnadatta Track – all of which we visit in this is­sue. How­ever, Land Rover re­cently dis­played its au­ton­o­mous sys­tems for of­froad use. Is noth­ing sa­cred?

I’m glad I won’t be around in 20 to 30 years when driv­ing your­self will be out­lawed, along with older cars, mo­tor­cy­cles and off-road ad­ven­tures. The fun po­lice are tak­ing over and I’d rather not be here to wit­ness the Brave New World.

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