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Hybrids - Long On Mileage, Short On Soul

hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,120
While I want to keep an open mind about the future, judging from current offerings hybridization has contributed to making cars more appliance-like, with a corresponding reduction in the "soul" factor. Why? the increase in weight and complexity associated with hybrids, coupled with new or, sometimes, nonexisting sounds, detract from the attributes that I value when I think of driving fun.

In fairness, I must disclose that I've never driven or even ridden in a hybrid vehicle, so my perception has been shaped entirely by what I've read and heard, and somewhat by the (non- automotive enthusiast) people whom I know who have bought them. I'm somewhat conflicted on the hybrid issue, however, by the fact that hybrids reduce our reliance on foreign sources of energy. In the large scheme of things, that's very desirable, but it also falls outside the scope of this topic, so I'm mentioning it as an aside.

Do you agree or disagree that, until now, at least, hybridization is not consistent with driving fun?


  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,398
    Do you agree or disagree that, until now, at least, hybridization is not consistent with driving fun?

    I'd have to agree given the state of the art. Things may be changing as makers look to hybridization as a means of delivering more power without increasing fuel consumption as is done with the Accord Hybrid and the Lexus RX-400H.

    A recent article in the NY Times noted that Green activists are complaining about car companies proceeding in this direction.

    I myself look forward to the car that fulfills the promise of the Honda/Acura DualNote concept car shown at auto shows in 2001-02 with a potential of 400hp @ 40mpg. Now that I could get excited about. ;)
  • carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
    I think our perceptions are colored because when we think of hybrids, we think of Toyotas. The Prius in particular.

    I've heard good things about the Insight. The Civic is available with a manual transmission. The Accord might be, and I haven't heard that it's less fun than a V6 Accord (which is 'fun', for that kind of car).

    Fundamentally, there are two reasons for hybrids not being much fun. The lesser one is electric steering, which as far as I know, is necessary for some technical reason. They're getting better, but the first electric steering systems have been quite numb.

    The second is that the people who want hybrids tend not to be into driving. For a lot of people I know, having a hybrid would be the only way for them to justify (to themselves) owning a car at all. Mileage-based hybrids have to be marketed to slow drivers anyway.

    Hybrids can have soul just like a reliable midsized family sedan can have soul. It just isn't what (most) buyers want.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,669
    just a point of clarification: the last Civic hybrid offered a manual, the new one does not. In general, I would expect to see all hybrids that follow the Toyota school of thought adopting CVTs (or CVT-like devices) for power transmission, and calling it a day. That type of transmission is best for fuel economy in these types of vehicles.

    Hybrids built to save gas will always go that extra mile by using smaller-than-average tires with low rolling resistance, which always decreases the fun factor.

    All cars will have electric steering pretty soon except the sporty models (and even some of those), so in a sense the whole market is gradually moving away from fun, except in the exotics.

    In hybrids, even the high-powered models are just that: high-powered. They are for the most part not engaging or sporty in other ways (I am thinking especially of the Accord hybrid and HL hybrids here), they just happen to be fast if you floor it off the line.

    Besides, to enthusiasts, how could anything so technically complex ever have "soul"? The soul of the most fun cars on the market is embodied in the amount of raw driving experience that remains for the seat of the pants. Lexus has never understood that so they have never been able to produce a visceral sporty car, and BMW and Mercedes ought to take note here, as they seem to be forgetting that truism bit by bit with every new generation of their cars.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
    Thanks for the Civic clarification.

    I didn't find a whole bunch of 'soul' in my friend's e46 328i, so maybe I'm not an authority on it. But I don't think a hybrid drivetrain is too complex to be soulful. Turbos have similar complexities and quirks, but some of the cars they come in are said to have soul. The Evo and STi have a lot of complexity in their AWD systems... I don't think that detracts from the experience.

    I won't say the Civic and Accord hybrids are all that much fun, but are they less fun and soulful than normal Civics and Accords with equivalent transmissions? Are engineers even trying to make cars fun to drive, or are they just giving people what they want?
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Hybrids have introduced and entirely new kind of "driving fun."

    The fun of trying to maximize the miles per gallon your car can achieve.

    The fun of knowing that changing your driving style to a slower style is helping reduce your driving stress.

    The fun of knowing that you are polluting far far less than virtually any other car on the road.

    The fun of knowing that your fuel bill for 700 miles of driving will be less than $30.

    The fun of knowing that your chances of ever getting a speeding ticket have been reduced by about 90%.

    The fun of knowing that this awesome hybrid technology will be showing up in more and more cars as time goes by.

    So there is far more "fun" things about driving than the "traditional" view of speed speed speed.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,669
    also suffer a loss of soul because they are so intensively computerized - they are not cars, they are transportation appliances run by computer chips. Again, they are not unique in this situation, as all cars are being more and more run by the computer than by the driver.

    Maybe we should change the title here to "Modern Cars: Long on computers, short on soul".

    Certainly hybrids have a better computer-driver interface than most cars, as hybrid drivers use their LCD screens to interact with the computer to maximize gas mileage.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • kernickkernick Posts: 4,072
    Those things you mention rank right up there on the "fun factor" list with: 1) doing your laundry in a stream to save electric, 2) taking a date to the local crafts-store, and 3) switching TV channels to PBS just to watch their 10-min. membership-drive sessions. :D You can call them fun, just as you call Alan Greenspan "handsome" - it's all subjective.
  • I don't think hybrids are built for people who like cars; they are built for people who like gadgets. Different market.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    HHHMmmmmmmmmmmm....I'm gonna need to ponder that.....
    (ponder mode activated)
    (pondering engaged)

    Well, after pondering, I think there are many many "vehicles" which are not built for "people who like cars" but are built to provide a function.

    Minivans? 15-passenger vans? Huge SUVs? Two-passenger coupes?

    All those are examples of vehicles built with a particular "job to perform" and they do that job, usually pretty well.

    Hybrids (at least the high MPG ones) are built for that also. To provide a clean emission, high MPG vehicle to someone who wants or needs such a function provided to them.

    I feel the cars are more than "mere gadgets." Individuals may love any car they buy, merely because it's their car. Car's don't have to be "universally loved" to be successful.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    No one ever claimed that hybrids don't fulfill their function. Just that they are 'short on soul'.

    Of course, rather than just diving right into whether or not hybrids are 'short on soul', perhaps we should try to identify just what consitutes 'soul' in a car and THEN decide if hybrids are short on this or not.

    Personally, I think that any car which incites passion in their owner to just DRIVE just for the heck of it (no particular destination, no particular timetable, no particular REASON, just a need to go out and DRIVE) could be said to have 'soul'.

    So, given that criteria, would a car which is centered around efficiency and saving gas ever incite it's owner to just drive around aimlessly and......waste gas? Seems like an oxymoron to me.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Not in my case, but I may not be the typical Hybrid owner....

    I sometimes volunteer to drive my car, if I know the route is conducive to increasing my MPG for a tank.

    "Driving to increase your MPG" is one "fun" reason for driving a hybrid.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    I can accept that.

    The question that comes to mind however is how much of that 'soul' is due to your passion for the concept of hybrids in general and how much of that is due to the car itself?

    One could ask if a more average driver would feel the same way about your hybrid? Of course, the question could also be asked if you (larsb) were put being the wheel of a more 'soulful' car, if you would have the same passion?

    Personally, I think that the 'spark' only occurs when the individual is matched to the right car. For larsb, that may only occur behind the wheel of a hybrid. For most others, that may only happen behind the wheel of a car with a bit more spunk. One could say that a car with 'soul' is one which encourages more driver involvement. I think we are conditioned to say this means high performance. But I know that for individuals centered around maximizing economy, a hybrid DOES encourage lots of driver involvement.

    Most drivers concentrate on driving a good line, or working on their shifting/trail braking or whatever; and cars which encourage this type of driving are said to be 'soulful'. But, if the driver is concentrating on a DIFFERENT aspect of performance (fuel economy), perhaps a vehicle which encourages THIS type of driving could also be said to be 'soulful'.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    I think the younger a person is, and the newer they are to driving, and the FEWER MILES they have driven, the more they might care about the "soul" of a car.

    I had several cars in my younger years which had a lot of "soul" from my perspective. A 1980 Nissan 200SX from which I received 323,000 miles - I loved that car because it had a sunroof and a good stereo and I owned it when I was 20-27 years old and it virtually never broke down.

    I had a black 1992 Infiniti Q45 which was a great car for acceleration and feeling your body get pushed back into the seat by the huge 278 HP V8.

    Now, at age 42, I get my kicks from things other than loud stereos, sunroofs, and fast driving. Like 56.0 MPG tanks, or going 31 days between fillups.
  • I rarely find myself going WAA--HOO! in a hybrid. I always associated the term "soul" with a kind of excitement level or emotion.

    Sure hybrids fulfill many functions and serve people well, and it is certainly true that there are other cars built for people who hate cars...Volvo lived off that for many years until they got faster and prettier.

    To be fair to hybrids, it's getting increasingly difficult to find character and eccentricity in ANY mass produced modern car except for a handful of them.
  • carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
    My generalization of a hybrid is like being at the helm of the USS Enterprise. And if you told Scotty that she had no soul, he'd throw you out the airlock =p.

    "Driving" enthusiasts aren't the only ones who enjoy cars, and we're not the only ones who pretend cars have souls. My friend says her Corolla has personality... I don't get it, just like I don't get what she sees in her last boyfriend, but she does see something. (On the other hand, my Tercel had soul, but I was driving it in a WAA-HOO! sorta way, and it gave a lot of feedback.)

    To find out whether or not a hybrid can have soul... well it's a silly question to begin with. But if it weren't a silly question, we'd still suffer from a shortage of samples.

    Ze Germans vill soon provide mör specimens.
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 9,452
    i agree with most of your post. hybrids are not really about 'fun to drive'. my sister has a priius. it is not 'fun to drive'. i could enjoy the challenge of getting the best possible mileage i could from it, but i can do that with any vehicle. it is pretty practical, though.
    character and eccentric do not necessarily equate to good.
    my wife had a saab. one time one of the kids reached over and turned the car off while she was on the highway. they have the ignition key between the front seats. i'm sure you know that.
  • I don't think all knowledge is so utterly relative. If a person thinks that Grover Cleveland Junior High has a football team as good as the Indiapolis Colts, you would not hesitate to call them charming, perhaps hopeful, nay, even dreamily naive--- but delusional nonetheless.
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Posts: 5,525
    “Soul”... always has been an amusing word to me when it comes to cars (and trucks). What is it about?

    Could a minivan have a soul? A truck? Or, is it that a car only has a soul if it is sporty enough? And even in that case, do we have "categorization of soul"... like less soul, more soul... ?
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,120
    Great question, to which there's no generally accepted definition, as the messages so far suggest. I've seen the term used on various occasions, and it resonates with me, but I've never seen it defined in an automotive sense.

    In message #11 above, rorr writes, "...I think that any car which incites passion in their owner to just DRIVE just for the heck of it (no particular destination, no particular timetable, no particular REASON, just a need to go out and DRIVE) could be said to have 'soul'...." That works for me, even though my choice of words might differ somewhat, to include "character, responsive, nimble, steering feel, and some styling uniqueness." I value a class leading blend of balanced performance, combined with reasonable cost-of-ownership, over blazing zero-sixty and remarkable slalom times. However, others will, without a doubt, define soul differently. A Mazda MX-5 or MINI would probably come closer to my definition than, say, a Viper (but not a Ferrari). It's an emotional thing, which, by definition, is hard to rationalize.
  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,676
    A lot of the time soul means that the car sucks.

    The only minivan that sucks enough to have soul is a Vanagon.

    A Saab 900 Turbo sucks enough to have soul.

    I think a lot of the time it means the car feels like it was designed and put together by people rather than computers and robots. The worse a vehicle sucks, the more evident the human influence.

    What creeps me out is when people say a car is sexy. I think they mean attractive, not sexually stimulating. I know attractive has become a secondary definition, but I refuse to use it discussing anything other than women.
This discussion has been closed.