Chris Harris may have been wrong about Miatas, but his review of the Audi RS4, where he describes the various configurable driveline settings as “adjustment theatre”, brilliantly describes the overly-complex systems that are cropping up in today’s performance cars as they attempt to appeal to not just the lead-footed, but the well-heeled.
The RS4, as Harris notes, is supposed to be the sports car for everyone, able to carry dogs, people and cargo while offering unbeatable performance in every situation. It would be easy to dismiss the whole package as a hopeless compromise, and tell everyone to go buy a Caterham and a base A4 wagon, but luckily, Harris has the empathy to see past that fallacious, nonsensical line of thinking.
Adjustment theater isn’t just defined to the OEMs. Think of the adjustable shocks that offer different “clicks” that presumably adjust how soft or stiff they are. But what about pre-loading, or rebound damping or any of the other parameters that really matter. Turning a knob from “1” to “10” doesn’t tell you much, but it sure does sound cool when bragging to friends or forum users.
Adjustment theater isn’t just the domain of the RS4. The E60 M5 was famous for having all kinds of different modes (including a “Power” button), the Nissan GTR is like Gran Turismo come to life and even the Hyundai Elantra GT, which we’ll be driving next week, has different power steering modes.
Harris notes that one of the great things about the previous RS4 was that it “…just worked out of the box”. Today’s breed of performance car seems to be able to do that – as long as you know the right cheat codes.