Every year, on the occasion of Autocar’s annual Britain’s Best Driver’s Car test, the same argument breaks out: how do you define great handling? It’s one of those questions you can debate for hours on end. And we usually do.
Somebody very wise and experienced in the dark art of road testing once told me his irreducible definition. “A good handling car simply goes where you point it.”
He was talking about the importance of consistency and predictability of dynamic response. Referring to the laudable qualities of a car that responds exactly as you expect it to with every input. That ends up going where you want, on road or track, and doing just what you intend so consistently, easily and immediately that you could almost be controlling it telepathically. When reviewers blather on about cars that you somehow ‘think’ down the road, this is what they’re on about.
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But that definition doesn’t cover a car’s ability to make you feel more involved in the act of driving than you do ordinarily. Or sense of occasion – a car’s capacity to make you feel as excited as a dizzy kid, even at walking pace. Or the intense reward that often comes when you finally get under the skin of a really focused, fast and challenging circuit machine. Or dynamic flattery, for that matter – from a car that simply makes you feel more skilled as a driver than you ever have before.