Motoring: I like big, anti-excitement cars. They cruise along in a lazy, carefree way, encouraging a similar driving manner. They are the perfect foil to a hard day's work
Saturday 01 February 1997
Many car makers crow about "building excitement" and such rubbish, among them Toyota, Japan's biggest maker (and taking both quality and cost into account, probably the world's most accomplished manufacturer of cars). People do not buy Toyotas to be excited. They buy them because they are good value and rarely let you down. They are anti-excitement cars. (After all, there is rarely a motoring event so exciting as being stranded on the hard shoulder of a motorway at peak hour.)
I have just been driving a Toyota Camry V6 automatic and it is, without doubt, one of the least exciting cars I have ever driven. It goes about its business quietly and comfortably and completely fuss-free. Like the best big saloons, it is therapeutic rather than exciting to drive. Its anonymous looks are a boon: they help avoid the excitement of being stopped by the police.
I like big anti-excitement cars. They cruise along in a lazy, carefree way, encouraging a similar driving manner. They are the perfect foil to a hard day's work. Who wants to climb aboard a five-speed GTi buzz box, when the alternative is a soft and supple automatic saloon that can waft you home: the motoring equivalent of a pipe and slippers in front of a fireplace while the butler brings a large scotch?
The best big, anti-excitement cars, in my experience, are Jaguars. (Rolls- Royces would be even better, were it not for the fact that everybody else on the road hates you, which tends to increase the excitement level.) Jags are relatively common, at least in London, and are big and unstressed and comfortable. You can feel your angst dissipate after a few miles. The sporty models, of course, are not so good. Jags are not sporty cars, no matter what the big alloy wheels and war paint and marketing bumf may suggest. Jags are big, soft saloons, or at least the best ones are.
Mercedes saloons are also good. My favourite is the old S-class, as favoured by politicians, plutocrats and peers. They are plush tanks, and all that protective armour tends to reduce excitement, because you know you will rarely be threatened.
Other favourite anti-excitement tonics include the V6 Ford Scorpio (helped by its profound ugliness and its surprising comfort), big Citroens (because they ride with such suppleness and yet reassurance) and most large new American cars (rare in Europe). Off-roaders are too frenzied - they're too noisy and roll too much, although new Range Rovers are almost unexciting. BMWs are hopeless, even the big saloons. They're too sporty and thus about as therapeutic as a 10-mile jog. Volvos don't relax, either. Too many motorcyclists abuse you, in anticipation of eventually being killed by you or a fellow Volvo driver. Most Japanese saloons are also poor. They are too energetic of ride and too buzzy of motor.
Which is why the Camry V6 was such a surprise. Quiet, refined, anonymous. I hardly remember a single journey I did in it, it was so relaxing. In fact, it was so unexciting, I barely recollect the car at all. It merely served up entirely fuss-free transport, like a good, big saloon car should.
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