Virtual reality is a bit of an over-used phrase. So far, it only really exists, perhaps, in hyper-expensive flight simulators.
We can get a taste of VR with googles and through the artificial feedback of console handsets, but really you need to be fully enclosed to get the real experience.
And one place where we are fully enclosed is inside a car. Have no doubt, virtual reality is coming to a plush premium interior near you.
A couple of weeks ago I was pushed into the rear of a prototype 635d and driven around the Munich ring road. The car sounded like any other typical 635d – a sound I don’t find disagreeable.
Then the driver flicked a switch and the engine note changed to one more reminiscent of an M3. A refined, finely engineered sound. It was quite bizarre, but didn’t come across artificial. The new engine noise sounded entirely real.
Do we need this latest innovation? The BMW blurb says ‘through Active Sound Design, diesel engines finally achieve the engine sound that their performance deserves’ but I can’t say the cultured straight six in the 6-series is in any way unpleasant.
Much more odd was the Mini ‘Sound Edition’ prototype. It had a row of red switches on the dash face, offering four alternative engine sounds. ‘Revver’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Tube’ and ‘Octo’.
Stationary at a set of traffic lights, BMW’s driver selected ‘Octo’ and revved the engine. What, hitherto, had been a blameless four pot now sounded like an old-school V8.
In fact, I could actually feel the reverberations of the ‘engine’ though the floor. ‘Ah yes’ said the BMW man ‘that’s because we’ve used a subwoofer.’
I suppose we already have an artificial climate inside the car and electronic chassis controls will soon fool many into thinking that they’re better drivers than they are.
But this technology is actually messing with the driver’s mind. It can make the car feel quicker and harder accelerating than it actually is, as well as completely fooling us as to the number of cylinders under the bonnet. (Mind you, that might come in handy when BMW’s new 3cylinder motor is launched).
The V8 Mini was very impressive. But it was also a bit unsettling.