Wanted: good cars to drive slowly
The need for speed? I need a car for congestion
If you live in a city as I do, you’ll spend most of your time while in the car sitting in traffic. And this got me thinking about how we value cars.
You see, when we talk about how good a car is, we review its good looks, what the top speed is, whether it has sport mode, diff locks and many other things. But, what we don’t ever really rate, at least not highly, is what the car is like when not moving at all.
And I think that’s strange, because I reckon most of the time we spend in a car nowadays is spent in the slow lane. Either slugging along in traffic jams, picking up your kids, going through average speed checks or sat stationary, admiring a wonderful view, or engaging in some rumpy pumpy.
But, yet, we very rarely rate a car on its still-ability. This is probably for good reason. Why would anyone care if the Ferrari 458’s brake pedal isn’t ergonomic enough? I certainly don’t. It is a car for moving quickly.
However, if you are a wealthy Sheikh living in London, it probably is especially important. London is the 6th most congested city on Earth. I suspect to Mr Sheikh a traffic friendly Aventador or Model X Tesla would trump a track happy Vulcan.
At a more normal level, I’ve certainly started choosing cars based on their accessibility at slow speed. The Volkswagen Polo, for example, is a brilliant car for going A to B. But for stopping and starting in traffic, I’d rather have a camel. And, again, the Electric Golf. A supremely epic car but, at low speeds, it goes all HAL 9000, "I'm sorry, Tom. This journey is too important for you to jeopardize it."
But, then you have cars which are just such nice places to be in at slow speed. I was driving a new Toyota Corolla recently. An awful car when moving at pace, however, stuck in a 30-minute traffic jam, sitting in the cabin felt like an executive boardroom – I’m just surprised it didn’t come with free pens.
Arguably, these qualities are already ranked and rated in car reviews. From speaking about the comfy seats to the dash display. And that’s great. But, there is certainly a special quality about a car that makes going nowhere fun, rather than needing speed.
And with more people driving than ever before due to coronavirus, perhaps finding good cars to drive slowly will become a more important trait when we’re all jammed up.