If you like new things

So if you like optimizing algorithms in diverse virtual environments– and I certainly do–driving in the future will be more fun than ever. At least in that particular aspect of fun as it exists. That is, if there is an objective existence at all. Maybe we’re in a simulation right now. That’s fun? If a compact, efficient, and elegant algorithm isn’t spinetingling, then nothing is. You’re a notorious optimist, but what could go wrong? Artificial intelligence is a term that will eventually fade away as we recognize that machine intelligence is increasingly indistinguishable from biological intelligence. But not all possible AI futures are benign, and it’s important that they be benign. For instance, what happens if an autonomous car decides that it’s not in its own best interest to accurately report an incident? How do we prevent machines from developing a sense of self-preservation? What if they develop obsessions that overwhelm humanity? I fear robots. And zombies. Are you in a hurry? I work with a high sense of urgency. We need to implant humanity on Mars. Now. We need to achieve energy sustainability. We need a more logical transportation system. Now. And we need a dessert topping that’s low calorie and tastes terrific. Well, soon. Batteries for electric vehicles are still expensive and still enormous. Will that change soon? Of course it will change. In the near term, that means managing the movement of ions from the lithium cobalt oxide across the electrolyte to the graphite anode. But in the longer term, I want to leverage the existence of voids. That is, moving electrons through the nothingness that must exist in between the component parts of atoms. Surely it will be more efficient to move through voids than through any substance. So, I believe there is a big future in nothing. Does the internal-combustion engine still offer any advantage over an electric? As a former McLaren F1 owner, I know how exciting a hydrocarbon-consuming engine can be.

Thus, in our little Goldilocks scenario, in which all the chairs were tried, the adoration inevitably fell back on the BMW. Not the 3-series, which has grown too large and too mainstream to any longer earn our passion, but the smaller 2-series, which is just under a foot shorter than an A4 and reminds us of E30s and E46s and the Way Things Used to Be. BMW is at heart a small-vehicle company, a course set in 1959 when Herbert Quandt saved the ailing maker of princely handmade bolides and diverted its resources into the 1961 1500, instantly creating the market for compact sports sedans. And oh, how BMW squanders an opportunity by giving us only a two-door 2-series. Just imagine a sedan and a wagon to choose from on this platform, with the same delightful cockpit and controls. Yes, small, but many things are shrinking these days (even SUVs), and BMW should follow, giving us at least one full product line in the catalog that plucks the same heartstring as that original 1500. Well, that’s idle dreaming.

The mostly aluminum Jag, and especially the 340-hp “35t,” works harder to make a show, exhibiting faster steering once turned off its significant center dead spot, a pronounced if not entirely exquisite roar from the engine (hey, it’s a V-6), and a hearty appetite for hard corners. Of the Audi, editors said they wished it had more driving character. It seals you up and sends you on your way, but it doesn’t thrill. Of the Jag, they wished it had more refinement and fresh thinking. Road noise and rattles were cited, as were frustrations with the fritzy InControl entertainment apps. Meanwhile, the M240i stood out, like the M235i last year, as an enormously athletic and capable little torpedo that romps around our test loop making joyous (and electronically augmented) sound and, in traffic, turns you into a stereotypical BMW schmuck in about 15 minutes. BMW drivers aren’t born, they’re made by cars like this, cars that encourage you to thrust and slash gleefully through the herds of plodding sheep. The M240i has a sporting suspension, but it won’t liberate any loose stuff. The rigid M2 will, this extremist shaking our fillings over the rougher sections as the steering sniffed feverishly for apexes. The M2 prefers corners to straights the same way a German shepherd prefers pork chops to applesauce, but that’s part of its hyperactive charm.