No one can argue that today’s cars are not in ways better than ever before just in terms of performance, comfort and quality that are unmatched by any decade’s automotive history. However, anyone who’s ever taken to the wheel can attest, no car is perfect. One particular set of annoyances the modern driver has to face these days beyond gas prices and vehicle recalls are the gaggle of gadgets automakers are including on models in virtually all classes and price points. It is true that many buyers specifically choose a model that comes packed with the latest high-tech amenities, some have a ridiculously stiff learning curve for users and the worst actually end up resulting in lower marks for many models in the latest U.S. Initial Quality Study conducted by the market research firm J.D. Power.
Though not all are technology based, the editors of Cars.com recently compiled a rogues gallery of the 10 most annoying automotive features that, based on our experience test-driving somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 new models per year for a week at a time, we attest can be especially exasperating to encounter. Here is what they found and what we think:
Touch-Sensitive Controls. We get it, endless buttons on your console are annoying but something must be done for how unresponsive and difficult to navigate these oddly cumbersome “touch points” are. It’s no wonder many drivers prefer to use their smartphones and tablets. At worst, these can be every bit as dangerously distracting as actually using handheld devices on the road.
Touchscreen Displays. To say nothing of the touch sensitive controls the actual displays do not fare much better. These systems are menu driven and are accessed by touch and/or an external device like a dial or joystick on the center console but often operate with more complexity than working a laptop or tablet computer while driving. The worst is when they make simple operations, like changing a radio station or engaging the heated seats an inconvenient multi-step procedure.
Giant Key Fobs. Remote-entry systems are undoubtedly cool, but the required key fobs have grown to the size of 90s flip-phones, particularly the ones we found among luxury cars such as Jaguar. Some drivers consider them to be status symbols but we’d argue that it isn’t the size of one’s key that matters.
Auto Stop-Start. This feature made it’s big debut in hybrid cars as a means of saving fuel. It works by switching off the vehicle’s engine while stopped and starting it up again instantly when the driver takes his or her foot off the brake pedal. Sure this technically makes all the sense in the world as a fuel saver, since an idling vehicle gets zero miles per gallon however it can be absolutely irritating in practice especially in slow moving traffic. Many hybrid owners find themselves switching it off regularly and the most notorious of these systems can be found on the new Porsche 911 that re-starts with a rumble at every stop sign.
Cup holders. Today’s work commuter probably needs these but Cars.com specifically refers to square cup-coddlers, a byproduct of automakers’ efforts to appease families by fabricating their cup holders to accommodate kids’ juice boxes and multiple thermos sizes. However, depending on the make and model and whatever it is you’re drinking, they’re either too big or too small and/or too oddly situated to be accommodating. Domestic cars usually do a better job in this regard, as European auto engineers still seem to have a hard time coming to grip with the fact that U.S. drivers like to enjoy a good coffee or bottles water when they hit the road.
Small Side Mirrors. These are unsafe. Plain and simple. Not only do “objects in mirror closer than they appear,” they can are made much more difficult to spot when they’re as small as makeup mirrors in some models.
Voice-Controlled Systems. It’s the butt of many jokes in the smartphone world but it extends to new cars as well. Not only are these unusually inconvenient for what they were made for, with many requiring motorists to speak as if they were controlling a menu-driven computer (“audio system…USB device…artist…Taylor Swift…track…uhhh ‘Bad Blood’ etc.), they tend to misinterpret commands easily especially from drivers with accents speech affectations.
Car Alarms. Now, these are useful and definitely have every reason to exist but…does anyone even pay attention to them anymore, outside of the authorities? Mostly the issue with this is the modern driver’s indifference to what could be a real emergency when these go off.
Navigation Systems. To be fair some cars have better ones than others but you would instantly recognize the bad ones easily. The worst GPS systems are difficult to program and while many cars disable this and other touchscreen-based functions while the vehicle is moving as a safety precaution it’s also unnecessary if there’s a front-seat passenger who can accomplish such tasks with low risk.
Audio Tuning Buttons Instead of Knobs. Making the simple action of skipping up or down the radio dial is now unnecessarily arduous thanks to the standard of advancing the tuner a single notch at a time, with the driver forced to emulate an old telegraph operator by rapidly tapping his or her way one tenth of a frequency per push en route from one station to another.
Do you have any gripes with the features in your car? What do you think car makers could do to improve them as they have many aspects of cars of the years? Comment below and let us know!