Automotive Compromise: You Can't Have It All

Illustration for article titled Automotive Compromise: You Can't Have It All

A friend recently went shopping for a vehicle with his list of "must haves". It read like Volkswagen boss Ferdinand Piëch's Phaeton requirements—only longer. I could only shake my head. In the automotive world we make compromises.

He was a bit shocked when I told him there wasn't one single car, truck, or SUV that had everything he was looking for. After all I was the car guy, shouldn't I be aware of such an automobile? Perhaps in an alternate universe. Each suggestion I gave him didn't meet his standards. I attempted to explain to him even seemingly simple decisions, like cloth or leather come with trade-offs. Sure, leather looks nice, is more durable, and is easy to clean. But when the extreme temperatures in both summer and winter hit, my rear end isn't buying the luxury of leather.

Comfort and safety are in a constant battle with weight and performance. You want comfort? Add on the pounds. You can have that 24-way power adjustable, air-conditioned driver's seat complete with back massage, but it will never be as light as the latest offering of fixed back race seats from Recaro. Which would you rather have on track day? Which would you rather have driving to the track? I appreciate a quality installed stereo system; but amplifiers, subwoofers and enclosures can easily add an average human's mass into your ride. An automatic tranny is better for the congested freeway commute to work, but what if you decide to take the long way home through the twisty canyon? Give me the five speed and third pedal. Like a Weight Watchers diet, we have to compromise creature comforts to keep the weight down and performance up. But how much are typical consumers willing to give up? What about die-hard car enthusiasts? In 2004, the edgy Subaru STi made an effort to save weight by omitting the stereo on the standard options list. That lasted all of one year. In 2005 the stereo showed up as standard in the souped-up Impreza. Nowadays it seems we can't live without GPS navigation, power everything, and enough sound insulation to silence the outside world.


More safety means more weight too. The Mitsubishi Evo went from two airbags in the VIII and IX, to seven airbags in the X, no doubt adding weight while increasing the level of safety. Your left knee will appreciate that extra airbag if you ever collide with a Suburban head-on, but what about your right foot pushing the throttle pedal as you accelerate down the drag strip? As car enthusiasts, we appreciate nimbleness and speed in our vehicles; weight reduction is a means to that end. As Colin Chapman said, "...less weight makes it fast everywhere." Adding lightness can be tricky in the realm of today's laws and complex safety regulations. Fortunately amazing advances in technology and engineering are able to combat the battle of the bulge.

An acquaintance of mine sold his Porsche GT3 after a short life in his garage. It was a contradiction of sorts: stunningly good on the track, but much too harsh on the local public streets. Basically a street legal race car, it just did not have the ride comfort and amenities to enjoy around town. Is this why some car guys and gals never seem content? We all know the type (or are one yourself): they've owned twenty different cars in the past ten years. On a seemingly endless quest to find a car they are perfectly happy with. One that achieves a perfect balance of comfort, speed, safety, and performance.

Our one ideal vehicle doesn't exist. That's why there will always be an internal conflict in the hearts of gear heads. That's why there are hundreds of different models to choose from with hundreds of different trim levels and options. That's why many of us own multiple vehicles. That's why I am going to appreciate what I've got a little longer even though that 3-series Bimmer for sale in the newspaper looks tempting. I suppose it couldn't hurt to call.

I want my car to be beautiful but mean, spacious yet compact, showy and subdued, efficient and powerful. I want the driving dynamics of a BMW with the comfort of a Rolls Royce, the safety of a Volvo and reliability of a Honda. Give me the lightness of a Lotus with the sound of a Ferrari, the speed of a 911 Turbo with launch control and a price tag of a Kia with a Hyundai warranty. Is that too much to ask?


This piece was written and submitted by a Jalopnik reader and may not express views held by Jalopnik or its staff. But maybe they will become our views. It all depends on whether or not this person wins by whit of your eyeballs in our reality show, "Who Wants to be America's Next Top Car Blogger?"

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The perfect car is like a unicorn- it'll never be seen. There's always going to be a flaw in someone's mind.