I often find myself becoming a sceptical old git in the presence of some of the new kit that gets loaded onto cars. I've still never found an electric handbrake that I like, or a keyless start system that beats having an actual key.
But a recent discovery proved that, to give a bit of credit where it's due, there are still some good new ideas being hatched out there. I was exploring the depths of the various sub-menus in an A4 Allroad's MMI system when I stumbled across a switchable headlamp beam converter.
This is a function I've been waiting for years for someone to invent. Frequent travel in Europe with right-hand drive cars is always a hassle due to the need to either get busy with some of those ludicrously fiddly stick on 'beam converters', or to spend any journey conducted during the hours of darkness being flashed by irate Continental lorry drivers who think you're motoring along on full beam.
Older headlamps with manual adjustment had a decent poor man's fix: you could just turn the lights to their lowest setting, trading a bit of visibility for peace from the truckers. But that's impossible with the self-levelling xenons fitted to many new cars.
And I know from previous experience that getting these swapped to a right-hand dip is a far from trivial process. The Ford Mondeo I used to run had to visit a Ford dealership en route to France to get its beams swapped over, with the obvious corollary that I then dazzled everybody on this side of the Chunnel until I got them switched back.
But if you pay to upgrade to xenons on an A4 then the system comes as standard, saving all that fiddling and flashing. A good idea: and one that might even mean some European drivers go to the bother of converting their headlights when they get over here.