We’re all here because we love cars. Whether we need speed, dig dynamics, or just want to cruise around, there are things we all enjoy most about them. At this time of year, it can be good to pump the brakes a bit, slowing down to give thanks not only for the joys of driving but also for cars themselves. I, for one, have been thinking a lot about how cars have changed in my lifetime. As a child of the 80’s, I have seen them change quite a lot! Though car culture often craves nostalgia (Bring a Trailer, am I right?) there is a strong case to be made that automobiles have never been better than they are right now. Here are three things I appreciate the most about modern vehicles.
Nearly every review of a performance car these days ends with the journalist exclaiming, “What a time to be alive! Cars have never been this good!” There is so much truth to this sentiment. In a time when FCA (or is it Stellantis?) is working to “Hellcat” each and every vehicle in their lineup, and when even a Toyota Camry can be had with 301 HP, it is safe to say outright performance has become ubiquitous. EVs are only accelerating the evolution to faster, more powerful vehicles. True, many enthusiasts yearn for days when cars were simpler—before regulations and technology began encroaching on the driving experience. But when I drove a base 2020 Civic coupe last year, I was blown away by its ability to make intimations of the momentum its big brother, the Type-R can carry. The best part of halo cars is that their engineering trickles down; Lexus RC and LC cars directly benefit from the marvel that was the LFA. As manufacturers continue to democratize performance, we will all continue to benefit no matter our level of driving enthusiasm or budgets.
Cars look cooler than ever. Jettas are staid and sophisticated like their Audi counterparts, the Kia Stinger ushered in a host of design improvements to the brand, and even the latest Toyota Sienna looks like it was designed by Hot Wheels. There are exceptions (BMW’s infamous “Beaver Teef"), but, overall, cars are generally much more stylish than they have been in decades. Even if you don’t love all their looks, you must concede that car companies are at least trying harder. Interiors, when not festooned with gloss black plastics, are filling up with soft-touch materials, leather, alcantara, and interesting colors. Indeed, the adjectives “bubbly” and “brickish" and “Tupperware” commonly used to describe vehicles from the past thirty years are fading from the automotive lexicon.
I remember my mother’s car growing up, a Chevy Nova. No, not the collectible one—the GM/Toyota collaboration circa 1985. By the time I was driving it in my teens, it was literally held together by duct tape and had trash bags for windows. The car was well cared for and had low miles; it just couldn’t withstand the rigors of, well, existing. You would be hard pressed to find a ten-year-old car these days in such poor condition. Manufacturing, materials, and overall attention to detail have made vehicles better and longer lasting than ever before. Sure, even new cars will have recalls, unexpected repairs, and the gremlins revealed by reading owner forums. But, on the whole, you can buy and keep a vehicle running well longer and for less money now. With average prices creeping up, it makes more sense to do so.
Vehicles of all makes and models are growing more expensive each year, but they are also worth more. While it is hard to argue that spending so much money on a new car is a difficult decision, the ever-increasing levels of performance, aesthetics, and quality may help you feel better about making a purchase. Everyday Driver exists to guide us through the process, though this piece is not an argument to buy a new car necessarily. Instead, the progress made by the automotive industry deserves praise. Cars, trucks, and SUVs depreciate, but they are packed with more lasting value thanks to many improvements we can all enjoy. The best aspects of driving, and the best aspects of automobiles, have never been more accessible to more people. And, for that, I am grateful.
Bill hosts a blog and YouTube channel that lead him to think more deeply about what it means to drive. The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.