Refinement is boring?

Associate
Joined
28 Dec 2005
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515
I think I've got a problem... I seem to like rubbish cars!

So I've recently been driving a slightly sheddy Citroen Saxo diesel and finding it more fun to drive than my Alfa 156 V6. The Alfa is of course very pretty, very comfy, nice to drive (though everything's a little over-assisted) and has an utterly fantastic engine.

The Citroen meanwhile, is as refined as a tin of beans, has an engine that when new had a quarter of the Alfa's power and feels like it probably has even less now. Being an NA diesel it doesn't really rev either, so every road becomes a case of foot-to-the-floor and working the gearbox to keep the revs up, trying to be as smooth as possible through corners to keep the exit speed up etc. Occasionally annoying, but often quite amusing.

The problem with the Alfa is that its almost too good to be fun most of the time - the engine is just a complete get out of jail free card and aside from a fantastic gearchange the rest of the car feels a bit more detached - other than the over-light steering though, its just the inevitable result of the car being made to be more comfortable and refined than its predecessors.

Is it just me?

What should I look at getting instead that actually feels mechanical and less effortless? A petrol Saxo/106? An MX5? mk1 MR2?
 
Soldato
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13 Mar 2004
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16,649
not just you

i had toplols in a mk3 golf 16v for years, chose to keep the golf over an audi s4.

now ive got a 94 m3, no traction control etc just far more fun than modern stuff
 
Soldato
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Fun in a car comes from simplicity and that 'direct feel'

I had a MK1 XR2 in the late 80s, which was one of the best in its day.

I drove a 1100 Mini and was amazed at how much fun it was.

Simplicity is key with 'fun' cars

MK1 Golf GTi, MK1 XR2, Mini, MK1 MR2. All good in this respect.
 
Soldato
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Your own age makes a huge difference. Imo it would be hard to live with day to day at 30 years old, personally
 
Soldato
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90s stuff makes a lot of sense to me. Electronic management, more plain power compared to 80s, a bit more crash safety and basic refinement
 
Caporegime
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25 Nov 2004
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On the road....
Hmm, I think I'd far rather something like an e39 M5 than any 80's hot hatch / performance icon, perhaps it's my age (41), maybe it's because an e39 can still feel like a go-cart after a week driving an HGV....

Having driven a few lairy & very powerful Sierra Cosworths for example, give me the refinement of the later BMW every time.

The Sierra is lighter, and more raw as such, but the M5 gives both refinement and great driving fun.

And that's coming from somebody who hero worshiped the Sierra back in the mid 80's when it was King.
 
Soldato
Joined
26 Feb 2007
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8,172
I get what the OP means, the E46 is quick and really sure footed and competent, you never feel like it's about to throw you off the road. This makes for a 'good' driving experience, and I love it. But I took the rover 25 that it replaced out for a spin the other day (gf used the car) and it was a hoot! Noisey, wallowy, dangerous feeling and crap, but for some reason incredibly fun! Add to that the fact that you can stamp on the throttle for more than 10 seconds without losing your licence...

I seriously think my next car might be an mx5, or some other low-powered rwd go-kart vehicle.
 

Imy

Imy

Soldato
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21 Nov 2005
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Warwickshire, UK
I agree with the OP, at least for inner-city driving anyway. My MK1 Focus 2.0i (when it wasn't trying to kill me) felt more fun than my ST220.

The Focus was light and agile and 0-35 felt quick-ish (it had about 110bhp/ton). The steering was as good as the ST220's (nice feedback and responsiveness) as was the gear changes. The braking performance was as good or better. You could keep your foot down and the revs high for longer without getting into trouble (or traffic) too quickly. Both cars are equally rewarding when you get the gear changes spot on at high revs but the opportunities to do that came about more often in the Focus. It rolled in the corners and you sometimes almost slid of the leather seats but that just added to the fun. This is probably the most unexpected part though; the engine note was more exciting/rewarding in the Focus.

The ST220 on the other hand feels heavy and sluggish moving away (but makes up for it moments later), is very quiet, comfortable and forgiving of not so great driving. Picked the wrong gear for an overtake (or other car sped up in response)? Not a problem; plenty of time (and power) to drop down a cog and make up for it and then some. There's virtually no body roll and little sensation of speed due mainly to the smooth acceleration and lack of engine noise. Only when really pushed does the engine seem to give a semi-rewarding but barely audible growl.

On the motorways and stretched A-roads the ST220 is better in pretty much every respect that matters for those type of roads. The Focus had a particular problem with getting blown around in high winds at motorway speeds.

I haven't driven on quick windy roads enough to make a distinction. I would imagine the ST220 would be more fun due to being able to carry more speed around the bends but would probably also be more likely to get you killed for the same reason.
 
Man of Honour
Joined
21 Feb 2006
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28,632
Refinement has its place but it does rob sensations and these are important to a petrol head. I like my 530D as it eats miles and is so clever I can climb into the back and have a sleep on long runs. However, I miss the blood in my wee from driving the GT3 out the garage, that was hard work when parked let alone when being driven but god did it deliver on the 'event' stakes. Moving from that to an RS4 was very hard and it never gave close to the same enjoyment event though on most real world roads it was quicker.

Modern cars are blindingly rapid and eat miles very quickly but they do lack a sense of occasion that you get from cars you really need to work at to get something from them.
 
Soldato
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16,649
Add to that the fact that you can stamp on the throttle for more than 10 seconds without losing your licence...

there is so much truth in that its unreal

with my old Golf youd be able to thrash that car at 8/10 for miles on end

with the M3 you can bearly thrash the car on the road at all and you rarely get to get the revs up to the red.

it takes very little time at all to get to the top of 3rd by which point youre doing the best part of a ton which is completely impractical on a B road and if a copper spotted you doing that on the road in a bright red chavvy emmmfree-innit youd best start getting familiar with the bus time table

so modern stuff is much much faster but not necessary better
 
Man of Honour
Joined
21 Feb 2006
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28,632
A slow car that moves around lots and is fun to balance on the throttle is all you need really, speed is for pubs or when your car is too good it needs speed to be an event.
 
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