What need could we possibly have to RTFL? Rather a lot, as it happens…
Men. We do not require an instruction book; perhaps only to enforce our knowledge upon those who know not. Nor hints to work the car. We are men. We know. Even if the eyes are strained and the arm becomes trombone-like, we shall not bow down to the book.
That is until we need to tap into the sub-menu that operates the dual heating options. And the stay on lights‘ length: do we need them at twenty five, or thirty seconds? I know a chap who was openly boastful at not knowing how to switch on the heated rear window. He worked in IT. The car was a Toyota Auris, hardly taxing in any aspect.
The modern car; that is anything built from the year 2000, is a computer that happens to seat several people, along with a form of music media. The inexorable rise of technology equates to a baffling array of options, add-ons, extras and accessories that in all honesty has made driving the actual car worse. We all benefited from Electronic fuel injection, ABS brakes, Electronic Skid Control and central locking; Ideas that enhance, make safe.
Only then did buffoonery take over as the Electronic Control Unit grew hungry to control more. Recently reading a test drive of a Mercedes caused me to investigate. Prepare for an acronym onslaught. Sliding seamlessly with acronyms are the length of model names. The car in question is a Mercedes AMG C43 4-matic Estate. Say that after a sniff of vermouth. Nowhere near the longest nomenclature, either.
With its three litre V6 developing just shy of 400bhp (here we go…) over 500 Nm of torque and that clever 4-matic AWD, the weight balance is 31:69, front to rear. With this being a magazine’s test drive, the car had been lavishly box-ticked. The base model comes handsomely equipped anyway as it should for £50k but we all know the lucrative money spinner the Sisyphean extra is to the manufacturers.
With steel springs that have the redoubtable four easy to choose settings, one can set the car up for the school run, rubbish dump tour, dash to the coast or pretending you’re Walter Rohl at the Nurburgring. Automatic mode or flappy paddles? Your choice sir, though be advised there are nine cogs in there, somewhere.
Most colours these days cost more so that’s one you’ll either agree with or push hard against. Now, to the Premium package, that will cost you five grand. The reward for your largesse being a Burmeister surround system over the presumably standard vacuum tube and valve set up, Comand on-line (why only the one m..?), a larger 12.3 inch digital display (configurable) ambient lighting, an LED intelligent lighting system, wireless charging for you smart device, a 360 degree camera, no ignition key and a Panoramic sunroof.
You want more? Course you do, mate!
The Driving Assistance Package, which (deep breath) has not one but two lots of ABA’s, Active Blind spot Assist along with Active Braking Assist which handily ties in with Cross Traffic and Tailback Emergency Braking. Now add ADAD, ASLA, ALCA, ALKA, ESA, RBSA and Pre-safe. Acronyms that will relieve you of another £1800. Come on, man; you MUST know what they all stand for, no?
In order, Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Speed Limit Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Route Based Speed Adaptation. Pre-safe is the seatbelt tensioner. Never having had the option of driving one of these acronym-ed beasts, only seeing what the journalists informs us with, most people seem to either switch these off or attempt to ignore them.
Difficult when the sub-menu to access them is contained within a sub-menu. As with our ubiquitous smart phones, there’s an accompanying irritation in the shape of beep, ping or both to distract you from enjoying your service station machine made cappuccino whilst driving one handed, deep in conversation with your beloved, at a cruise controlled 83mph and the regulation 80cm gap to the car in front.
Ah, the slippery named Satin Steel Grey (metallic) Opel Insignia Sports Tourer 2.0 Bi-turbo CDTi ecoFlex. Which in turn is just in front of a Seoul Pearl Silver Land Rover Range Rover Evoque 2.0 TD4 Ecapability 4×4 HSE Dynamic. It’s not just Mercedes, then, nor my ire with Stuttgart-Untertürkheim alone as the French and the Anglo-Indians see fit to bombard and bamboozle us with the same, if not more gadgetry and naming nonsense.
My jaded eyes fail to be impressed by all of this. I remember a time, not so long ago when you had a key to gain access, a different key to start the car, a heater and radio if you were lucky. Progress and marketing made us want more and whilst I can not dispute that some of these acronyms must be useful, my heavy heart believes most of them to be frippery, window dressing. 60 ambient colours for the dash, really? Digital over analogue dials? Rear cameras help. But the make the exhaust louder button is free!
There are bigger beefs to attend to but this being DTW, I’m sure the Mercedes is PDQ and VGVFM but all the BS concerning these acronyms makes me reach for The A & E through the NHS.