Thanks to the marketing geniuses of the world, we now live in an age where words don't actually mean anything anymore. Four-door sedans and SUVs are now "coupes" and cars have "DNA" instead of just common styling. But no word is as misused, overused, and utterly meaningless as the word "dynamic."
You have no idea how much automakers like to use the word "dynamic." In 2014, it is their favorite word. Go to any major auto show and you're likely to hear it nigh on 3,000 times. Everything is "dynamic." Styling is "dynamic," performance is "dynamic," braking is "dynamic," and technologies are "dynamic." Audi loves to say "sporty dynamism," whatever that means. I'm amazed they haven't started offering "dynamic" financing deals yet.
"Dynamic" needs to die forever.
First, I think it would be helpful to define what "dynamic" actually means. This is from Merriam-Webster Online. (Dictionaries are your friends, car companies.)
: always active or changing
: having or showing a lot of energy
: of or relating to energy, motion, or physical force
The primary definition is something that is "always changing;" ecosystems, for example, are dynamic places. The word also deals with motion, power and force, so it's often used in physics.
But over time, the word has evolved to where it's used as a kind of synonym for "exciting" or "thrilling" or "charismatic." "He's a leader with a dynamic personality," someone might say. And that's fine. Language evolves over time, new terms and phrases crop up as old ones fall out of favor, and words gain new meanings. It happens.
My problem with dynamic, especially when it comes to cars, is that it's so overused as kind of a vaguely positive term that it doesn't really mean anything. Dynamic is often used not once but multiple times to describe various aspects of a car, and it doesn't really tell us anything at all.
When everything is dynamic, nothing is.
So how widespread is dynamic? Let's start with the news release for a brand-new car just unveiled today, the very lovely Mercedes C-Class Estate. Excluding its use in the word aerodynamic, which is fine, I found five instances of the word dynamic:
The new C-Class Estate combines a striking, dynamic design with outstanding adaptability and adapts to a wide variety of requirements.
Dynamic and of high value
The new C-Class sets visual highlights with a modern, dynamic design that at the same time exudes sensuous clarity, arouses emotions and encompasses high-tech in perfect fashion.
Exemplary ride comfort coupled with outstanding dynamic vehicle handling – these are the hallmarks of the newly designed suspension of the new C-Class Estate.
The AirMATIC air suspension manages to bridge the gap between a high level of ride comfort and dynamic-agile handling.
So now we've used dynamic to describe both the C-wagon's design and handling, but in neither instance does it actually tell us about either of those things. I read dynamic here as "generally good and moderately positive." Heck, the last one even tacked "-agile" at the end of it. Holy shit everyone, it's dynamic-agile! HAPPENINGS!
Dynamic seems to be used often for settings and features drivers have control over, like suspensions and sport/comfort/normal modes. And sure, "driving dynamics" can kind of mean the way a car feels on the road. But often, the word is just a catch-all for anything that seems exciting and cool.
The English language is wonderful and weird! Surely there are enough words out there — and more descriptive words — that we don't have to default to dynamic every single time?
To give you an understanding of just how overused dynamic is, I ran a search for the word in Newspress, a kind of gigantic automotive press release repository that's useful for folks like me.
I got 4,790 results. Mother of God. Here's a few, and just a few because I don't want to keep you here all week:
Audi A3 Clubsport Quattro: "We have pushed the limits in every respect with this show car: power, dynamics, sound, design."
BMW M5 30th Anniversary Edition: "Its BMW Individual-inspired looks and dynamic and comfort-enhancing equipment make this special edition M5 set to be a highly desirable collector's item."
Seat Ibiza Cupster: "Every Ibiza captures the imagination, with a design that is as emotional as it is dynamic – and cited by customers as one of the most important reasons for buying the Spanish brand's most successful model."
Rolls Royce Ghost Series II: Today, in answer to our clients' demands for the best in effortless dynamism, modern luxury and industry-leading technology, clothed in a discreetly updated design that protects the iconic character of a Rolls-Royce, we proudly introduce Ghost Series II – an oasis of calm in a frenetic business world."
Kia Sedona: "The platform also has revised rear cross-member bushings, an isolated rear sub-frame with longer trailing arms and added rear strut reinforcement, all of which combine for improved dynamic ride characteristics."
Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake: "As with the standard Jaguar Sportbrake, the combination of a flowing rear window graphic, rising waist and estate roofline lends the XFR-S Sportbrake a dynamic, broad-shouldered stance."
BMW X4: Its dynamic pedigree is underlined by a wide range of cutting-edge high-performance engines, the xDrive all-wheel-drive system and a high level of standard equipment... cuts a dynamic profile with its perfectly balanced proportions and distinctive sporting character.
Audi S3 Cabriolet: The chassis with its eager, precise response and high stability brings the dynamic quality of the Audi S3 Cabriolet to perfection.
Peugeot 308 SW: It's a dynamic estate car with a performance-oriented design, outstanding load space and impeccable road manners... Customers for estates are younger, more dynamic and more male than in general for the C segment.
Ferrari California T: Overall the system improves the car's dynamic behaviour thanks to the faster response times of its various components.
Lexus RC F Sport: F Sport's dynamic upgrades take the form of tuned front and rear suspension systems and the availability of Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) with the Sport S+ driving mode.
I could keep going, but I won't. Keep in mind those are one or two instances of the word; most releases use it anywhere from five to 2,000 times. One day I'm gonna get a press release in my inbox that is nothing but the word "dynamic" repeated 750 times.
It's not just used for descriptions of styling features or how a car supposedly drives. Plenty of features use the word, too. BMW has EfficientDynamics, Acura has Integrated Dynamics System, Audi has Dynamic Ride Control, Volvo has Dynamic Steering, and Lexus has Lexus Dynamic Handling.
It turns out there's even a "Vehicle Dynamics International Awards," and this year the Mercedes S-Class Coupe was named "Dynamicist of the Year." And then my fucking brain exploded.
So automakers, the era of dynamic dynamism needs to come to an end. Surely we can do better than that word all the time, every time. I'll even do something to encourage this: Every time I see the word "dynamic" in a press release from now on, I'm going to replace it with "turdtacular."
I'm here to help.