Today's cars will never be timeless

By Dhruv Behl | on August 4, 2020

Are you a dog or cat person; Fiat or Ambassador family; and which do you fancy – the three-pointed star or blue-and-white propeller? 

If you had asked me a decade or two ago, I would have been quick on the draw – dog, Fiat & BMW! 

Cats have grown on me since – especially the big ones in the wild – Fiat is a fact that remains, but I can see the appeal of stately Ambys, and BMW… well, that one I have to be a bit more careful with. Occupational hazard you see! I’m required to be objective; to be neutral. 

That being said, I started this magazine out of a love for machines. But, more than that, out of a love for wringing their necks. It’s all very well for a car or bike maker to produce something that looks pretty, but there’s little virtue in vanity. The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. At the end of the day, all that matters is how long a vehicle lasts, and how well it goes down the road. 

But, as the car becomes the ultimate gadget, there’s a lot more to consider now. After all, we – human beings – have become semi cyborgs, with phones attached to the ends of our arms. This device gives us computing power and access to information the likes of which we could never have imagined just a few short years ago. But, while our smartphones are quick to adapt – considering they’ve become almost disposable – our cars have a far longer shelf life and struggle to keep pace. But, keep up they must. And the latest-gen Mercs and BMWs are prime examples of this – with massive screens, proprietary interfaces, voice commands and even gesture controls. 

Smartphones are an area, though, that have democratized advancements in technology. Gone are the days when the luxury cars would have all the juicy tech, while the plebeians would have to wait decades for those advancements to filter down into more mundane machinery. Now, all it takes is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In fact, more mainstream cars even lead the way, with built-in SIM cards and apps that allow you to control even more functions than the German luxury brigade brings to the table. 

Sure, BMWs still prioritize driving enjoyment and Mercs continue to appear indestructible. But now, with acres of wiring and tonnes of micro-processors, today’s cars are likely to last about as long as their digital brains can stay abreast. In a decade, they’ll be so far behind the curve that no amount of over-the-air updates will be able to help. Which is why I long for an old Merc that was truly built like a tank, or an old BMW that managed to distil the very essence of driving pleasure. 

Don’t get me wrong, the duo on the cover are incredible feats of technology – they truly are at the pinnacle of current engineering – but they will never be timeless. Such is the rate of change in today’s world. So, whether you choose the X5 for how it drives, or the GLE for its Starship Enterprise rivalling interface, you simply can’t go wrong. But make sure you get an array of service packages and extended warranties to cover you during your three-to-five-year ownership experience. 

I, for one, still long for an analogue machine that considers my arms and legs as integral to the driving experience. As a cyborg, then, I’m still awaiting my over-the-air update... 

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Tags: Mercedes-Benz

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