Electrification and electronics can lead to perfection – but is that what we want from our performance cars?

It was an interesting line from BMW M boss Frank van Meel over dinner last night, as he looked ahead to celebrating the division’s 50th birthday at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Talking enthusiastically about retaining the manual gearbox as an option, he described why some customers still prefer one despite the weight, fuel economy and shift time disadvantages that it brings.

“They want to play a part in taming the beast,” he beamed.

It’s a welcome attitude and one that stands in contradiction to some of the ways in which many car firms are currently using the possibilities of the instant response of electric powertrains, deepening understanding of active suspension systems and the opportunities for precision they offer.

Where once it was down to the driver to tame an compromised analogue set-up, so engineers are now able to broaden even the most powerful cars’ capabilities to the level of mere mortals, from coding in drift modes to ensuring the perfect amount of throttle for the conditions no matter what the driver’s right foot asks for.

Is that really what we want from our performance cars? And if not, should the endless possibilities of set-ups that data engineers can now conjure up include programming compromised setings into the systems to challenge rather than flatter the driver?

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