A few days ago I turned over the keys to my beloved red 2007 Ford Mustang. Its time had come: The lease was up. In its place in front of my house now sits a blue BMW 135i convertible. Yes, I was tempted to get another Mustang convertible, which would have been my fourth, and was even considering getting a third red one in a row, and debated whether doing so would signal a complete lack of originality, or a complete command of originality, because after all, who would get the same model car in the same color, three cars in a row? But I snapped back to reality when I realized that none of that mattered, that what mattered were things like features and price.
I was fine with the features on the old car. The features on the new car are comprehensive and frequently inexplicable. Because the car is linked via Bluetooth with my iPhone, if someone calls my cellphone while I’m driving, the sound system immediately switches over to the sound of a ringing phone, which I can answer (or not) from my steering wheel. That’s easy enough. But until someone who works for me figured out the correct way to place an outgoing call, every call I tried to make meant first calling home and hanging up. Given that my wife sleeps during the day, this can’t have been amusing. The first time I refilled the car with gas, I couldn’t figure out how to open the gas tank door. There are also three soft rubberized buttons that line the bottom of the rearview mirror, and I have no idea what these do. I’ve pressed them numerous times with no discernible effect, but for all I know, I’m activating landmines in Bavaria. In an effort to resolve these and other riddles, I was recently reduced to reading owner’s manual; even writing here that I read the owner’s manual seems a shameful admission, but I did. And I still can’t figure out half the features.
If it seems I’m complaining about the car, I’m not. I actually love the car. I love the 459 electric seat adjustments, and I am confident that by the end of this lease, I will have that seat perfectly adjusted. (I make a little progress every day.) No, what I’m complaining about is yet another indication of my own future shock; first I couldn’t figure out advancements in video games (I think it was “Donky Kong Country” that left me behind), then I couldn’t make a web page (this site in its current design is testament to that), and now I can’t properly drive my car. Prepare the wheelchair, tartan blanket, and grassy hillside behind the rest home.
The only feature I actually don’t care for is the one that has me thinking there’s a bit of overkill going on in automobile advancement. The first few times I took the car out, whenever I was backing up it seemed there was something happening in my peripheral vision. I’d start to back up, then jerk to a stop because something was moving over there on the right and I didn’t want to hit it. By the third time, I realized what it was: the passenger side mirror. The car does many things for itself, not least of which is decode the approximate amount of ambient light and conclude whether or not it should put its own headlights on. Never mind that I’ve been putting the headlights on — or not — for myself for three decades with no problem. It seems it does a similar thing for the passenger side mirror when engaged in reverse: It swivels that mirror down to give you a “better” look at what might be there for when you’re backing up. Only problem: My human brain, being engineered to react to movement, sees the movement and instructs my brain to stamp down on the brake. How I ever reversed the previous thirty years without this technological advance I don’t know, but I do wonder if there’s some way to disable it. (Which will necessitate another look at that Tolstoyan owner’s manual.)
I should also add that the car has sonar.
That it has some sort of James Bond tires that you can continue to drive on after a puncture, and that that mitigates the need for a spare.
That you can program the seats to automatically readjust to different people’s preferred settings via their electronic keys.
And that the front seats have leg extenders, or a shortened version of the footrest that comes up on a La-Z-Boy.
This is the sporty BMW convertible that still has a back seat (which I need so that I can occasionally transport children — mine). This isn’t the top of the line “touring sedan” 7-series BMW. I wonder if that model has a jacuzzi, a raw bar, and photon torpedoes.