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The Joys of Simplicity

A lot of things in life are better when they're simple. Food is a good example here, as anyone who has enjoyed a well prepared spaghetti aglio e olio - a dish that can be made with just three ingredients - will tell you.

But what about cars? Are cars better when they're simple?

There's a certain part of me that thinks no - the brutal acceleration of a modern day supercar is a thrill that I find it hard to come close to in any of mine, and in addition to that the way in which you can push boundaries in these technological marvels without finding yourself in a truly compromising position is fantastic.

However, I think a larger part of me says yes - simplicity is the key to enjoyment. Whilst I imagine it is, indeed, great fun to power down a B-road in the latest super-hatch offerings from the likes of Audi, Mercedes and BMW, I do begin to wonder just how engaged you actually are? Like the Lancer Evos and Impreza STIs were back in the day, these are family cars that offer supercar troubling 0-60 figures and Nürburgring times, but how engaging are they? Do they make you work hard to find the perfect line, reward you for timing a gear shift correctly, and punish you for exceeding the vehicle limits?

The consensus is a resounding no. With so many computers making thousands of decisions a second, slowly the squidgy lump of flesh and bone in the driving seat is becoming nothing more than a hindrance to the car and it's quest for speed.

And thus, we find ourselves losing the connection to the road we drive. Driving the most recent addition pictured, one begins to remember just how fun a low power car with low grip levels and no driver aids can be. Every texture change in the road transmits itself through the steering wheel, every gear change feels like you're reaching your hand into the gearbox and selecting the gear with no interference, every engine revolution speaks to you through the throttle pedal.

There, there lies the joy of driving - cutting out the electronics. Reverting back to gearbox shift linkages instead of fly by wire selectors, cable driven throttles instead of pulses transmitted through a wire, mechanical differentials and locking brakes, gauges that wobble slightly under hard acceleration making 70mph look like anything from 65 to 75, the roar of the engine heard through a thin firewall, not through the speakers.

I positively urge anyone who considers themself a car lover, and yet hasn't driven something that resonates with the above section, to find one and give it a try. It shows you what driving really is, and teaches you how to respect it.

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