We need to talk about throttle response.
You know, the reaction time between the flex of your big toe and the engine’s responses – the one that has become increasingly dulled through a period of downsizing engines, increasing reliance on turbochargers and ever-more-complicated control software.
I’m not talking about expensive and exotic machinery, because they have complex, trick systems to overcome the response hindrance of blown cylinders – like the Ferrari 488 GTB, which uses dark magic to give its pair of constantly spinning turbos razor sharp reaction times, or the naturally aspirated Audi R8, which arguably has the most reactive engine in production. I’m talking about run-of the-mill, boggo-spec cars.
These attainable models, produced with fuel economy and CO2 output in mind, have slowly extended the connection between the synapses in your brain and the fuel injectors in the cylinder head. They have rubberised this imaginary cable so much that many of us now proclaim engines are responsive, when in comparison to drivetrains of yesteryear, they are not.
There are a few cars that have dodged the lag bullet – like the Subaru BRZ, which I’m running on the Autocar long-term test fleet, with its atmospheric 2.0-litre flat four. But even cars like this can’t match the simpler engines in times gone past. I was reminded of this recently when driving a very tatty-looking Mk3 Ford Fiesta with a 1.6-litre engine. It was slow, but its engine felt directly wired to my toes - and this wasn't a particularly reactive car in its day. If you’ve ever driven a Mk1 Ford Ka, you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about, and perhaps understand why my impression of the attainable end of the new car market is that it has lost a once easily enjoyable feature of driving almost entirely.