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Speaking of older vs newer cars

Overall, I like much about newer cars but one thing I don’t like is electronic throttle control. I hate the lag time between tromping the gas and the computer deciding that the engine and transmission have permission to launch in situations when I need immediate fast response. My 2007 Impala had especially slow response. My current 2014 Camry is much better but still has that momentary hesitation while the computer thinks. All cars I test drove with electronic throttle had that same “I’m thinking about it” computer delay.

Both my earlier cars, 1973 Corolla and 1987 Olds, had mechanical throttle linkage (if I have the correct term) which gave immediate response. As did my parents’ cars. Granted, the four anemic hamsters powering the '73 Corolla were s.l.o.w. to gain speed but the throttle response was immediate. Oh and how the impressive low end torque of the '87 Olds 3.8 L engine paired with mechanical throttle linkage made for very satisfactory rabbit leaps when needed.

So why does computer controlled electronic throttle have that brief hesitation when there is need for sudden maximum response?

In this particular instance, computer electronic control of systems seems less effective than old-fashioned mechanical linkage. Am I missing something in the bigger picture that is truly better with the electronic throttle?

Just wondering.

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One reason - the computer is making sure that the engine is running at optimum air/fuel ratio, so maybe it ramps up the throttle opening more slowly. Just a guess…

Another reason is that it is constantly and actively monitoring wheel speed… on each wheel… looking for anything indicating slippage or being “out of control”… you can bet that system will not allow you to accelerate. Most wont allow it when you have your foot on the brake either… Like the old Power Braking back in the day…not anymore.

Another still is Turbo Charging and all the parameters it has its eye on…

There are aftermarket tuners that can modify that response parameter to be more “Cable like”… But that takes ecu tuning to accomplish.

When “drive by wire” throttle bodies first came out in the early 2000s, there were a lot of complaints about unintended acceleration, which the manufacturers blamed on the driver, floor mats, and other B.S. explanations. Of course if those explanations were really correct, then one would have expected the same problem to occur on older cars with a cable-operated throttle body.

Personally, I would rather own a car with the tried-and-true mechanical linkage, rather than trust a computer to decide how hard I’m pressing the gas, and to then accelerate for me. With the cable-activated throttle body, unintended acceleration due to sensor malfunction should not be possible. If, for some reason, the throttle position sensor, or PCM malfunctions and thinks you want to accelerate more than you really do, the result would be insufficient combustion air for the amount of fuel supplied, and the engine would stall, not run away to high RPMs.

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The old cars used very progressive linkages… 20% gas pedal gave you 45% throttle at the carb. It gave you the impression that the car was more powerful than it actually was. Great for “feel” but lousy for gas mileage as @texases guesses.

As a comparison… my 02 Avalanche had mechanical linkage, my 04 Avalanche has by-wire and gets better mpg’s than my 02 did with virtually no other changes. Same engine, same gear, same 4 speed trans.

I do notice my Av, Mustang and now Audi have very linear throttle by wire but I don’t notice any lag in the Av nor the Audi. The Mustang lags a bit at times in traffic but not if I am hammering it hard at the track.

Maybe you notice the lack of aggressive progressive throttle more than actual lag? Something to drive yourself batty thinking about while in stop and go traffic. :laughing:

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@bcohen2010 Then how would insurance companies know your exact braking and throttle inputs during an accident data collection ? You cant rob them of that now can you?!


My 2000 Cavalier was the first car I owned with traction control. Unfortunately, it was very aggressive traction control. I could swear if one wheel rotated even a degree more than the car thought was necessary the traction control would kick in. In the case of this car, that meant cutting off the gas. I could step on the pedal and get a wheeze as the car simply refused to accelerate.

As for newer cars, my wife is in the market for a new vehicle and one criterion is knobs. Knobs for the radio, knobs for the A/C, just knobs. If there’s a touch screen its functions should be minimal.


I am probably getting a new car next year, I am worried how the electronics will hold up. You need a computer to do anything, and miss being able to everything with wrenches and a screwdriver.

Electronic Stability Control requires that the computer be able to apply power under certain conditions.

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There is a great demand for pre-80s domestic cars and trucks and there are a lot of people who seem to be in business manufacturing and/or rebuilding components for those vehicles. As a matter of fact complete new bodies, frames, doors, etc can be bought to manufacture various brand new 1960’s cars. On the other hand 10 year old top of the line cars like Lexus, Mercedes Benz, Rover, etc are being trashed .as totaled due to various failures of highly technical components like system modules(there are lots of them on each car) and drive trains that are outrageously expensive to repair. I had my issues with a 1990 Ford OD transmission that seems to have been a disaster for quite a few people but if I had wanted to keep the old truck I could have installed a bullet proof C-6 and even installed pre’80 ignition and fuel system for less than $1200 and then enjoyed driving until gasoline was no longer for sale… or I died, whichever came first.

The more technically sophisticated and rare a vehicle is the more certain that it will never become a classic.Who will pay classic prices for a 10 year old Lexus that requires getting out and adjusting the mirrors or slap shifting the transmission?


Those older pre-fuel-injection cars tended to be slow on the uptake too as I recall. One benefit I immediately noticed with my VW Rabbit was how quickly it responded to the throttle, due to its fuel injection, compared to slower-throttle-response carb’d engines. I noticed some sluggish throttle response in a 2019 rental recently. I think you are correct that even w/fuel injection the electronic throttle isn’t as responsive as a simple mechanical linkage.

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Thank you for the explanations. :slightly_smiling_face:

Part of my problem is that I got spoiled driving that fuel injected 6-cylinder 3.8 L engine for almost twenty years. And occasionally driving my dad’s fuel injected 8-cylinder 1987 Mercury Grand Prix. Both powerful fuel injected engines with cable throttle linkage. I’m generally not a hot rod Annie type driver but neither am I shy about flooring the gas pedal when appropriate. And for the record, I’ve gotten only one speeding ticket in forty-four years of driving; a ticket I earned when young by being foolish enough to let my temper do my driving.

I confess there have been a few times I have driven far above the speed limit on the highway for good reason and didn’t get caught. Once I was driving the 2007 Impala hard about 85 mph to keep ahead of an incoming ice storm. There was a highway patrolman right behind me for miles. When I made a quick comfort stop at a rest area he pulled in behind me and asked where I was headed and then told me to keep driving that fast to beat the ice into St. Louis. A couple years ago I had the 2014 Camry cranked up to 94 mph briefly to get away from a jerk trying to play games on the highway. But the one that did scare me a bit was again getting away from a jerk, that time a semi truck, driving erratically. I was driving my mom’s 1965 Olds on the Garden State Parkway in 1978. Looking back, I’m amazed how well that heavy old land yacht handled at high speed. Of course, that carburated engine was gulping gas.

I was also skeptical on my first MY 2007 drive-by-wire car (trading 2002 Subaru Outback for 2007 Subaru Outback, same EJ253 engine).
What I found at a time: yes, slamming on the throttle in cable-controlled 2002 would get an immediate response… of engine gulping air and trying to dump more and more fuel, which it could not properly swallow until RPMs would get high enough, while electronically-controlled throttle did not have that effect.
Performance was pretty much the same, 2-3 additional horses new model had on the paper were barely noticeable.
I bet that not only MPG was improved, but an unproductive shift in air/fuel was worse on the emissions, only my guess.

@Marnet, you would love my 62 Caddy, it’s a trip back in time.

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Those land yachts had smooth rides and such comfy bench seats. But for a daily driver I’ll take modern brakes, suspension, radial tires, fuel injection, hugely better miles per gallon, better lap/shoulder seat belts, crumple zones that protect the integrity of the passenger cabin, etc. :grin:

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There is nothing safe, reliable, or fuel efficient about this car. It’s the automotive equivalent of having a Triple Bypass Burger at the Heart Attack Grill in Vegas.


I love the old Corvettes I had a '59 at one time and have also driven a '67 Big Block and a '68 Big Block. They’re neat cars but they are not comfortable, Spine jarring ride and no amenities especially AC on a 100 degree OK day will have you boiled like a lobster in no time.


Part of the problem is probably in the transmission. They program the shift points for fuel efficiency, not for merging on the freeway. My 2005 Camry was notorious for this. You could kill yourself but would not downshift to 2nd and would almost skip the 2nd on the way to 3rd.
My current car is a manual, has a Turbo, kicks in at 1750 RPM and my brain has learned to take it there when I need to GO.

@galant I’ve wondered about that. For around town driving, stop and go at red lights, etc. the acceleration up through lower gears of my 4-cylinder engine is ok although the rpms spike higher than in a 6-cylinder. It’s when I need a rabbit jump such as making a fast left turn from a stop, or when merging onto the highway, or especially if I braked or eased off the gas but seconds later need to speed back up that the drive by wire takes times to think and revs the engine to 4000 rpms or a bit over, almost up to the red line. But by the time it hits fourth gear it then shifts seamlessly up into fifth and sixth gears without the high spike of rpms. This is true not only on my car but did it in several others I test drove.

The available 6-cylinder engine, of course, has more power and achieves shifting up from first through low gears without high rpm revving. I’d have liked to have that engine but it would have cost significantly more to purchase and maintain. For my purposes the 4-cylinder does well and as I commented before is actually more responsive and lively than the 6-cylinder Chevy Impala it replaced was.

@ok4450 I got to ride in an early '70s Corvette Stingray back at the time. Looked snazzy, had very throaty sounding engine, etc. but like you note the ride was spine jarring. And it was visually disconcerting to be that low to the ground although it gave the sense of traveling much faster than the same speed did in the big boat sedans I was used to riding in.