A snowy, single-track Austrian mountain road. Photographers strategically positioned on a number of hairpin bends. Me, a pretty average driver at the wheel, told to get the four-wheel drive SEAT Leon X-Perience as sideways as possible for killer photographs.
What could possibly go wrong?
In truth – not a lot. With its nifty Haldex all-wheel drive system sending up to 50% of power to the rear wheels when a loss of grip is detected, it’s almost impossible for the X-Perience to end up facing the wrong direction, even in snowy conditions.
With the electronic stability control (ESC) left on, it’s almost too good. Any sense of the driver enjoying themselves in the snow and power is cut. Dive deep into the Leon’s menus and, although you can’t turn the ESC off entirely, you can put it into ‘Sport’ mode.
This’ll allow you to get the car moving about more in the snow, should that take your fancy. But don’t worry – if you get carried away, it’ll cut in at the right time to bring the X-Perience back in line.
It’s not just when you’re being an idiot in the snow that the Leon X-Perience is almost impossible to crash.
On the motorway returning to the airport, I set the adaptive cruise control to the speed limit and take my feet away from the pedals. Catch up with traffic? It’ll slow down. Want to overtake? Change lanes and it’ll accelerate back up to the set speed.
Combine this with lane assist and you could, theoretically, let the car do its thing entirely. Take your hands off the wheel and, after a few seconds it’ll warn you to stop being lazy, but it does an impressive job of keeping you in your lane.
Of course, the SEAT isn’t the only car to get this technology. Adaptive cruise is widely available now across VW Group products, as well as many Volvo, Fords, Mazdas and Toyotas.
Last week, I also tried out a Citroen DS3 equipped with Active City Brake. In this case, if you’re in slow moving traffic (up to around 18mph) and don’t react to the car in front stopping, the system will slam the brakes on hard to prevent a minor crash.
Again, this isn’t entirely new – a number of manufacturers offer similar tech. But how long before driverless cars hit the roads? The technology’s there – it’s just a matter of letting legislation catch up.