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  #1  
Old 03-30-2003, 10:21 AM
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Location: England
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Electronics - how much is too much?

I have been getting continually more frustrated the more modern cars that I drive. I drive a lot, but more recently those that have annoyed me are:

1999 VW Golf 1.6 manual - when changing from 1st to 2nd gear, the engine seems to reduce engine power and bring it back in slowly, as if trying to make things smoother and reduce driveline shudder. WHY? I can do that myself, and it makes it dreadfully slow when trying to accelerate hard, as it pauses for at least a whole second.

2000 Seat Leon 1.8 Turbo manual (180bhp - as found in Golf and Audi TT) - When keeping foot down from low revs right up to ~ 6000+ rpm, the engine very noticeabley was adjusting something.. it would be fast from 2000-3000 rpm, then very suddenly (at a guaranteed rpm) stop accelerating so hard, then at about 5300 rpm it again very suddenly came on pulling hard again up to the limiter.

Modern Automatics - No major gripes, but I don't like the electronic control and reduction of engine power during changes etc. It gives very smooth changes yes, but they feel artificial and its often impossible to get the rapid, near-instance upchange we can get when going hard in our older MBs.

Plus many many cars with fly-by-wire throttles, I just don't feel like I'm controlling the engine at all.

So how much is too much? Don't get me wrong, I'm 20 years old and I love electronics (who would choose not to have ABS? - it's there but you don't notice it), but i don't appreciate them when they make me feel they are driving the car rather than me.


0.02

Russ
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190E's:
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2.0E 8v 1986 107,000m Black 2nd owner
http://www.maylane.demon.co.uk/190esmall.jpghttp://www.maylane.demon.co.uk/190esmall2.jpg
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  #2  
Old 03-30-2003, 10:54 AM
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Boneyards of the future will be full of Brain-Dead , good looking cars...
Actually, Benz has the jump on other makes with their early '90's Bio-degradeable wire harness success....

Maybe then JC Whitney will come out with a "Universal-Fits All "
conversion kit to change your new car back over to Points/Cond ignition , complete w/mechanical advance.......
and, Oh ya , almost forgot....the mechanical Choke cable kit too......for those 'Hard Starts".....
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  #3  
Old 03-30-2003, 11:08 AM
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You have to remember, there are two main reasons for all these electronics:

1. Reduced exhaust emissions .
( for the benefits of all of us ).
2. Many things for total idiots, that don't know how to drive
( For the benefits of insurance companies ),
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  #4  
Old 03-30-2003, 11:35 AM
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I'm hoping that one day I'll be able to buy a car like that and reprogram it to my likeing, wouldn't that be awsome? Or at least build an interface to the car so it can be tweaked and monitored to as much extent as you like on the fly

cars with macros, you push a button and it goes into economy mode lets you drive around the city slowly, and then young crazy driver mode

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  #5  
Old 03-30-2003, 12:42 PM
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Pentoman raises a good point. How much IS too much? Well for what it's worth, here's my two cents. The overwhelming majority of electronic features on todays cars are enhancements of familiar, proven systems OR different applications of existing technology. What began as ABS evolved into ASR, which turned into ESP. There's not a whole lot of additional parts/software required, in fact anyone who's good at diagnosing ABS systems can (with a little training ) easily make the jump to ESP systems. As far as applications are concerned, we've all seen electronic components get smaller and still be able to do more! For the last few years the vacuum/pressure pump that operates the locks also serves as the Anti-Theft Alarm control unit as well as operating the rear de-frost. The recent ME-SFI control unit does the job of the old Diagnostic Module as well as controlling engine functions, and it's half the size and weight. Of course, none of this would be possible if the vehicle control units weren't linked together via various data-busses. I could go on forever on this subject. Suffice to say that things will continue to change as long as the demand is there. Seeya
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  #6  
Old 03-30-2003, 01:08 PM
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Every aspect of the car is being improved with electronic control.

They even do better when broken many times. Many of the original complaints in this post sound like problems to me. Even considering the actual differences between actual throttle and actual foot position in drive by wire, the total driving effect is a better feel than it was before, Before we had hesitations due to inefficient control. Now anything you can feel is probably wrong or will be reprogrammed next week.

The demand for the systems is what is driving this and the ease that electronics allows our satisfaction promotes their increased use.

My German partner loves his old MBs. I have had a few and still do, but when I want to drive give me all the technology I can handle. The fact that my drive by wire BMW v8 obviously stages its throttle increase even after my foot is to the floor, doesn't change the fact that it gives instant response and more power out of 4.4 liters than anything I could have imagined 20 years ago.
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  #7  
Old 03-30-2003, 02:27 PM
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I agree with everything that you said, but it just seems sometimes that some technology is truly superfluous. For instance.....

Distronic. Is this really necessary? Are we now too lazy to speed up and slow down ourselves? Now we don't even have to pay attention to the road anymore! Not like this was happening in the first place with cell phones. How would you like to replace the control module brain for that in about 10-15 years?

Keyless Go. Purely there to impress your friends. First we got too lazy to turn a key, so all we have to do is push a button. Now we're too lazy to do that! And then ya had to reach alllll the way up there on the dash and turn that heeeaaavy key.....don't worry, all taken care of.

ABC. Do we really need fully electronic suspension? Yes, may give advantages, but was a well tuned "standard" suspension ever that bad? And again, you wanna replace one of those struts in a decade? People complain about their self-leveling, a dinosaur in comparision, giving them trouble in their 560s....you ain't seen nothin yet.

The new electro-hydraulic brakes. I haven't driven one, but every article I read about it says the same things. No feel, no feedback, feels like an on/off switch. Same thing, what's wrong with "normal" brakes, and go replace a control module and one of 100s of switches and sensors in a decade.

MB Command and BMW I-Drive. Give me a break, is this really necessary? I have no problem with turning an actual dial for my HVAC, stereo and so on. When a full seperate owner's manual or a computer science degree is required to operate one "feature"....too much.

These are just a few. Now, I realize that when these cars are new and a couple years down the road, these features may be just fine. Anything goes wrong, the warranty is right there. But just think, the same thing is going to happen to these cars as what is happening to 126s and 124s now. They are going to trickle down to people who love MBs but cannot afford a new one. And they will have no warranty. So in a decade or so you'll have people similar to many of the people in this forum looking at replacing an ABC strut with a 4 digit price that is giving them problems, or control modules for the brakes or whatnot. So MBs are even going to get out of reach for many people even when they have over 100K on the clock. I like technology(I'm 20 too) when it serves a real purpose (emissions for example), but when it's technology for the sake of technology or when it's a competition between the computer engineers of two car companies, it gets ridicuous.
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  #8  
Old 03-30-2003, 06:26 PM
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You can say that again

engine controls are great as long as you direct them, when they act on their own it's a different story. But the truth here is that, no matter how you look at this, it will always be arace between two companies who want to sell more of their product by sticking just one more microcontroller under the seat and giving it a name that will distinguish it from the competitors car, but they can't stop there because the next model of the competitior will have something similar. This drives the prices of everything sky high. To diagnose a complex system it takes a lot of skill and very expencive machinery, not just diagrams and wrenches, but computers that have amind of their own. I'm not sure about MB, but I'm quite certain it is very similar, but I had the opportunity to take a look at some of BMWs equipment for diagnosis, they have a key reader that will ID your car and everything about it, sure nice feature, but when the key needs to be replaced it will cost you $300 to get a new one cut and programmed not $30 like it should.

All these features are great, but only when they work, and building a car that only lives to the day when it's warranty expires is polluting the planet and wasting your time, but then again, the people who make these cars don't care about that as long as they sell their product.

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  #9  
Old 03-31-2003, 08:56 AM
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One more point to add to my original post.

A lot of this stuff is implemented rather badly, even unnecessarily.

The more of this stuff that's added (especially if it's very noticeably there), the less character a car has. Sure, better fuel consumption is great, but if you buy a new SLK, do you want that? Or do you want to feel like you are controlling the car, directly connected to the thottle butterfly?

I guess they know which will sell more cars..



If I buy an Alfa Romeo GTV, or a Lotus Elise, I sure as hell don't want to feel like the car is being a HINDRANCE rather than a HELP, which won't happen until we get seamless, un-noticeable integration.


Russ

P.S. Anyone ever drive a Citroen XM??
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2.0E 8v 1986 107,000m Black 2nd owner
http://www.maylane.demon.co.uk/190esmall.jpghttp://www.maylane.demon.co.uk/190esmall2.jpg
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  #10  
Old 03-31-2003, 10:34 AM
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Not just planned obsolescence, but programmed...

At about the five year point, all cars built since say, 1990, require a crushing amount of maintenance (timing belt, etc), followed by burnout of electronic components that can often be obtained ONLY thru a dealer's service department. The cost of new electronics is criminal...$600 for a power seat control?

My two 1983 diesel Benzes represent "mature" tehnology that can be maintained reasonably, deliver reliable performance, comfort, and presentable style. Same for my '73 VW convertible...and my '49 Packard, for that matter.

Cars and all other consumer products are now expected to really be CONSUMED...not maintained. The BIC lighter morphed into vehicular form...use it up...toss...replace.
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  #11  
Old 04-01-2003, 11:19 AM
inspector1
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Most of you guys sound like my Granddad did when discussing the pro's and con's of mule team vers. ' then newfangled' tractors.
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  #12  
Old 04-01-2003, 01:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by inspector1
Most of you guys sound like my Granddad did when discussing the pro's and con's of mule team vers. ' then newfangled' tractors.
I have more new fangled ( expensive ) gadgets, than you can shake a stick at.
Just to clarify my personal opinion on the latest car-related " technological marvels ":

ABS = for people that don't know how to brake properly.

Traction Control = for people that don't know how to accelerate properly.

Electronic Stability Program = for people that have no car sense/control.

For my money, I would rather take a refresher course in skid control & avoidance maneuvers, than pay for the complications of the above mentioned " driving aids ".
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  #13  
Old 04-01-2003, 02:49 PM
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Does all the electronic crap in an engine REALLY save money in fuel costs and emissions? When it goes bad, how much does it cost to get it fixed? I'd personally rather spend more money on fuel than the bill your mechanic gives you for car repair. The complexity of a car over the years and the emissions it reduced are not proportional. The PCV system incorporated in the early 60's cut emissions by half and cost $20 (which was good). In recent times auto manufacturers were forced to build $700 worth of emission devices to clean the exhaust another 2%. I'd say we're way far to the right of the cost/benefit curve.

Remember when $500 would get you a new carburator, distributor, coil, wires, and plugs? What will $500 get you for your car nowadays?... and finding problems didn't used to take a whole weekend or $300 of a mechanic's time.

How about all the goodies loaded into a car? When I bought my 95 E320 last summer, nearly all the repair issues were related to "convenience" features (seat belt presenter with a mind of its own, inoperable motorized headrests, electrohydraulic top mechanism, funky volume control of the radio, inoperable vacuum seat locks, inoperable fog lights, cabin air filters that don't fit)! (Would it have killed Mercedes to add another inch between the engine and firewall!...Geez!)

Where's the "convenience"?

I read the automotive engineering journals about new technology that's coming out for cars, i.e., interior cabin sensors that'll open windows on a hot day for the idiots that put their kids and pets in danger in the sweltering heat. If you talk to most lay people, they'll say "What a great idea!... All cars should have this!" I try to explain that they'll have to pay for this technology.... not once, but twice!.... first with initial manufacturing cost, than again when it stops working, or when the jumble of wires gets in the way of another problem. I'm met with blank looks on their faces. They can't think that broadly! All I can do is cringe at the thought of how much time I'll be spending in the future keeping my cars in working order.

I can't put all the blame on automotive manufacturers. A lot of the blame must be placed on the public at large who don't realize what this technology creep is doing to the average car owner. What more convenience does a person really need in a car nowadays other than automatic, a/c, radio, ps, and maybe pb and pw? And even those conveniences are debatable!

Ironically, when I saved my money for a high-end car, the choice was either a Mercedes convertible or a hand-built 32 Ford from new parts. One of the factors I heavily weighed was that the 32 Ford would be simple to work on (IMO, a great "convenience"). The only reason I went with a Mercedes was for safety in the crazy freeway traffic in SE Michigan.

I can't wait for the day when a high end car is built without all the technological extravagances. Maybe someday the old Corvette Stingray will be built as a brand new vehicle. (I'm sure there's other choices). I'd be first to buy one.
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  #14  
Old 04-01-2003, 09:38 PM
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I agree with Kestas on the public at large. Car makers (or makers of anything for that matter) make what people will buy. And if I do say so myself, the people of "general public" are utter morons. Like the example about the explanations of the technology and the blank stares. Just watch these people drive sometimes!! We've all seem 'em!

You also have to take into account why a lot of people buy the cars they do. Most of the people in this forum, buy our MBs because we admire them for their build, engineering etc. Most of us probably couldn't care less if the neighbors didn't like our car. However, these new-money suburban america yuppies only care about how much their car will impress the neighbors or how high it ranks in their gated subdivision. Most of these people probably couldn't tell an engine from a transmission. The more "features and conveniences" the higher they and their car ranks on the food chain. 100% status. So long as the car lasts till the end of the lease (when replaced by the latest and greatest), that is all that matters. And since these people are the primary market for new luxury cars...and SUVs, that is what they build. I guarantee you if MB built their cars for people like us, they'd be building them a lot differently.

As far as the technology itself, I do see that some technology is necessary. I don't personally think that cars should be built like they were 40 years ago. A new Toyota can outrun, outhandle, and outbrake a stock late 60s Camaro. Also, if you were in a crash, would you rather be in a Camry or '69 Z28? So some is necessary and very beneficial, it's the go-go gadget crap that is well....crap.

As far as the $700 worth of parts cleaning the exhaust 2%....you can thank the EPA for that. And they're not done yet!
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  #15  
Old 04-01-2003, 11:19 PM
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It's interesting to see that most folks assume that the latest technology(concerning MB's)is limited to the drive-train! Did you know that on a newer MB, nearly every switch/button you touch is directly connected to the nearest control module(computer)? For example, a power seat switch on a late-eighties 126 has about 12-14 wires connected to it. A new S-class seat switch can perform the same functions with only 4-6 wires. The door locks, power windows, interior lights, etc are all computer controlled. About the only thing that hasn't changed is the cigarette lighter! If it weren't for "electronics" MB's would still be in the proverbial stone age. Keep in mind that these features are what MB refers to as "client driven". MB is simply satisfying demand. Hey Manny, "proper braking" to avoid lock-up is to pump the pedal as opposed to standing on it. ABS can pump the pedal much faster than any human. Traction control can intervene when you're least expecting it. Ever heard of "black ice"? ESP works by applying brake pressure only to the wheels that need it, when they need it. Let's see you apply the brakes to the right rear wheel to avoid losing control in a sudden evasive maneuver. Anyone who has experienced these conditions is sure to agree.
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