Michael Booth: Et tu, Audi?
The new uglified A4 is well, OK, but if, after 2,000 yearsof civilisation, you were hoping for a giant leap forward, you'll be disappointed. Perhaps the Romans' sacking of the library at Alexandria is to blame
Sunday 14 September 2008
They say that, if the Romans (or whoever it was, for no one knows for sure), hadnot sacked the library at Alexandria in ancient times, the Normans would have invaded England with nuclear weapons in 1066, so detrimental was its loss to the progress of human civilisation. Could that explain why the new Audi A4 is so underwhelming, I wonder?
You see, I have an A4 myself. It's 10 years old, with the über '90s aubergine paint and a turbo with a mind of its own, but I have grown very fond of it, in much the way that one grows fond of an old, incontinent labrador. I've learned to ignore the bad smells, strange stains and the mess it leaves on the drive, and appreciate its loyalty and character. And I have to say, though the new A4 is a little faster, a bit more refined, and ever so slightly more efficient (the 1.8 litre manages 3mpg more than mine), it isn't outrageously better than mine. Not 10 years better, any road – and it's considerably uglier, I might add.
This set me thinking: where are the great automotive advances of the past decade? Diesel engines are a bit smoother but even the best still sound like Arthur Smith with a cold. Hybrids remain a minority pursuit, and hydrogen power is no closer a reality than it has ever been. If anything, cars don't ride as well as they used to, and, thanks to safety legislation, they're invariably bigger and heavier. You would be hard pushed to find a new car that could be described as graceful these days, and, if you do, the chances are they will have had to have made it as big as Ayers Rock (yes, I mean you, Maserati GranTurismo).
True, we have rain sensors and paddle shifts, but you still get cars with no left foot rest, and some aren't even iPod compatible. And, no, giving us all a superfluous sixth gear doesn't make up for it.
Corporate timidity is as much to blame as Caesar pyromania for our technological tardiness, I suspect, and Audi isn't the only offender. Next month's Paris show will very likely bring cars with joystick steering and engines in each wheel, but when it comes to production all mention of these things will mysteriously vanish. Which is how we end up with cars such as the A4 – a familiar formula, gently tweaked, smoothed, titivated and incrementally improved, but no quantum leap.
Life & Style blogs
Google Maps hides image of Android robot urinating on Apple in surprisingly insolent Easter egg
KickassTorrents down: new Isle of Man domain taken offline just hours after launch
Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...