By on July 13, 2006

52567_3mg.jpgIn addition to more and more horsepower, automobile manufacturers are seemingly locked in a desperate struggle to load their vehicles up with more and more, well, stuff. Supposedly to help you drive better. After all, modern supercars are essentially porky Le Mans racers with power windows. But which feature is the most oversold, the most useless? Which does nothing but fill promotional material and empty your wallet? Is it AWD used mostly in dry conditions? The empty promise of 50/50 weight distribution? Manumatic gearboxes (or dare I say it… DSG?). Ceramic brakes that catch on fire and cost more than other cars? Nav systems that point out the nearest casino? Carbon fiber door inserts? Massaging seats? What? You tell us: what is the most oversold and useless car feature/characteristic currently on the market?

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!


135 Comments on “QOTD: We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ [BLANK]...”

  • avatar

    tiptronic/sport shift transmissions
    long tread life (read noisy slippery) tires
    drive by wire

  • avatar

    Oh hands down it’s navigation systems. If you’re too dumb to use a map you’re too dumb to drive, let alone use a navigation system.

    After that, perhaps AC cause chilled cup holders would be better ;) heh

  • avatar

    Fog lights for BMW owners.

  • avatar

    I agree with Noah on the Nav,But I think the built in cooler in the butt ugly Aztec was good for cruzin and boozin road trips,not that I would endorse such behavior

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    I think Nav Systems are great for people like me — journalists. Why? Well, I jumped into that GL 450 with a friend and we just started driving to somewhere out in the desert — no plans, his wife wanted him home by 8:00 pm.

    “How about Palm Springs?”

    “Cool — hey, I know this great diner called ‘Rick’s’ — though I don’t know exactly where it is.”

    “Try the Nav system.”

    Then, after lunch

    “Dude — it’s 110 degress out — this sucks”

    “Lets go up to Idyllwild — it is bound to be cooler 6,000 feet up”

    “OK… how do you spell Idyllwild?”

    But, for day to day driving… not so useful.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    I vote for AWD as being essentially useless, unless you’re Colin MacRae or live in the snowbelt. (And even in the snowbelt, we’ve all seen the SUV-moron phenomenon, “I can drive faster in the snow because I have four-wheel drive.)

    Think about it: AWD only helps under positive torque. Coast or decelerate and it’s only along for the ride, burning extra gas, adding unsprung weight and extra complexity, and muddying up the steering. You need to be into the throttle for AWD to help.

    So there you are, in the rain, in your Subaru, the corner’s tighter than you thought it’d be, oh jeez there goes the rear end and why can’t I steer? A huge wash of hot adrenaline and what do you do? Apply power? You wish. You probably go for the brakes, if it’s scary enough, thus compounding your misery. Yet Subaru advertises that its AWD “helps prevent accidents.”

    Nah. It does a wonderful job of getting you to the ski resort in mid-February, but on a rain-slick Florida road with a non-competition-trained and skilled driver at the wheel–somebody way better than me, for example–it won’t do scheiss.

    (Confession: we own an Audi A4 Avant quattro but have a steeply uphill, quarter-mile-long driveway in Upstate New York. We’re in the mountains, small as they may be, and it snows here.)

  • avatar

    Lane departure warning systems, and backup/reverse sonar & cameras!
    I have just three words to sum up how I’d feel if ever I came to need them:
    “Just shoot me”

  • avatar

    in no particular order:

    traction control
    nav systems
    power windows
    drive by wire

    it’s not that these things are available, it’s that i’m forced to get most of them when i get a new car. i want a stripped down fun go machine, i don’t need abs (i hate abs), i don’t want the handling nanny to take my fun away, i don’t need a gps to tell me where i am (and tell the cops how fast i’m going), i can roll down the windows my self, and i hate it when the computer thinks it knows better than me what the throtte should be doing. i wish we could order cars how we wanted them! of course, that’s why i haven’t bought a new car in many many years – my daily driver is an ’89 toyota 4runner with over 250K miles.

    there are ton of other things that i hate and complain about on a daily basis to anyone who will listen, but i can’t think of them right now.

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    Radar- or sonar-controlled cruise control. I mean… come on. If you’re paying so little attention to your driving you can’t tell you’re getting too close to the car ahead you need to pull it over and park it!

    Followed closely by multifunction control systems like iDrive and MMI.

  • avatar

    Where to begin?
    1. Navigation system for reasons already stated. For $2000 can buy many road maps and a Zagat’s guide.
    2. Rain sensing windshield wipers. Am I that stupid that I won’t know when to turn them on?
    3. Leather seating surfaces. Too slick for spirited driving and wearing shorts in the summer leads to legs cooked longer than a McD’s burger. I’ll take good cloth seats any day.
    4. Electric adjustable seats with 2 or more driver memory. Let’s see, I get in the car and adjust is ONCE and I am the only driver.
    5. Dual zone climate control. Unless you drive a gigantic SUV and need a separate a/c unit for the back county the kids sit in. I set mine for 65, the wife 75 and the car ends up 70. Hmmmmm.
    That is all I can think of for now but I’m sure there are many more. Give me a simple, reliable, practical and fun to drive car with out all of the crap.

  • avatar

    Fog lights that people use in clear weather and refer to as “driving lights”. Of course, that is just people being idiots.

    Most useless…vanity mirrors (also one of the most dangerous) or the “gold package”. People shouldn’t need to do makeup in the car…

    Most oversold…”high end” factory sound systems (exceptions do exist). I find that most are no good and you could do better for less than half the money.

    Most dangerous…huge rims with spinners (too much unsprung weight and additional rotating mass without brake and suspension upgrades.)

  • avatar

    Third. Row. Seats. I’m not saying nobody needs them. I’m just a bit perplexed by the race to cram a third row into absolutely EVERYTHING.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    miked —

    you have obviously never been in a situation where you need ABS/Traction Control.

    They will save your life. They saved mine.

    I had a huge chunk of tire rip out of a tail-wagging 997 during a very hard corner. The steering input told me that I had lost control of the vehicle. I blinked, trying to think of what my last thought should be, and then the computer saved me.

    Luckily, it was 110 degrees out and the AC was useless and it was the end of a long day and i was beat, so I switched the Traction Control (Er… PSM in this case) on for the last few laps.

  • avatar

    nutbags, I agree with leather for the reasons you stated, but for kids, it is wonderful. We had an incident with a very dirty diaper that would have been a disaster on cloth.

    Also, I think rain sensing wipers are nice when the rain varies, so you don’t have to constantly adjust the speed. Having said that, I wouldn’t pay much for the feature.

    I think a seat with two memory positions is good. My wife and I may drive either vehicle depending what we need.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    As a single dude, me and only me drives my car.

    However, I was thinking how silly more than two memory positions are, when it hit me — they don’t have to be used for two people.

    I would actually love to have memory seats so I could have a “comfort” and “sport” mode.

    Seat back and low for highway cruising, and foreward and up for carving asphalt.

  • avatar

    Jonny, once you have another person in the car with you, why would you even need nav? They hold the map, you drive. I suppose if you’re alone, nav would be handy, and possibly less distracting than a map, but nav systems tend to make pretty stupid errors and can be far from accurate.

    I think sat nav is way too expensive for what you’re getting, especially if you don’t travel much, or know your city well. What else gets to me… headlights that turn around corners. Mirrors that swoop out and check your blind spot for you. Spoilers on minivans (or worse, trucks). Those are the worst. All those expensive little toys that sound good on paper, but are useless once you put them in real driving situations. Or the purely cosmetic toys that make Mr. Minivan feel just a little better about trading in his testicles for a waaaahhh-mbulance.

    I won’t say AWD is useless though, unless you live in the south. AWD is mostly useless in snowier parts of the country, but when you need it, you’re glad you have it. Of course, i’m moving from Omaha to Atlanta soon, and our snow tires will rot away in some storage facility (AWD doesn’t do a damn bit of good when your performance tires suck on ice).

  • avatar

    I’m going to agree on the traction control systems. However, I think it should be there, just not on as a default. Most cars are ‘smart’ enough at this point to have outside thermometers, so why not have the traction control come on automatically only when it hits 40F or below? If you need it when it’s above that, then you should be able to turn it on with a button press. Driving in a horrid downpour? If your rain sensing wipers are flying all over the place, the traction control should be smart enough to turn on.

    But Nav systems are the most oversold…most of the members of the Acura TSX forum I belong to are all “oh, the nav is a must blah blah”, where I’d rather spend the $2k extra it costs on things that mattered (well, somewhat…but more than a nav) like tint to get that temp down on the Ebony interior, and 3M clearbra on the front end to keep those western PA rocks from chipping my paint. The rest went to…paying for the damn vehicle. $2k nav? try google maps and print it out first…for free.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman


    I already explained — we were going to a restaurant in Palm Springs that I had never been to, and that he had been to once and couldn’t remember where it was.

    That would not be on a map. Yes, we could have called and gotten the street address. Assuming the street would be on a map. We could have asked for directions.

    Still — for things like that, Nav Systems are pretty useful.

    Another example — in BMWs, the sat Nav will give you two or more possible routes. Again, prety useful.

  • avatar

    I agree that Nav systems are very useful, but I also agree that they are way overpriced.

    I think that stability and traction control are good things, but should always be FULLY defeatable.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    No way — they should develop AI so the car can determine if the driver is skilled enough to justify turning all stability and traction programs off.

  • avatar

    jonny – my dislike of abs and traction control comes only from a few limited experiences, and in those cases i would have been better without them. i’m sure if i was manhandling a porsche around corners then i’d want traction control because i’m not that great of a driver, but in my every day situations i want to tell the car what to do. e.g.: last winter i was heading down a short but steep hill. the roads were dry except for a 2foot long patch of ice spanning the width of the road (most likely broken city water line). at the bottom of the hill just after the ice, i need to stop to make a turn into a parking lot. so i go down the hill in my trusty old 4runner, i see the ice, but since it’s not too long i don’t worry about it. my front wheels hit the ice and lock up (i fully expected that), but i maintain control because the back wheels are still on dry pavement and keep me going slow. likewise when the back wheels are on the ice, the front wheels are doing the braking for me. after the ice i stop and make my turn, all is well. the next day, the conditions are the same but i have my subaru with me. guess what happens when the front wheels lock up on the ice? abs says “hey, the wheels are locked up, time to reduce braking pressure” so i lose brakes on ALL 4 wheels!. the same thing happens when the rears lock up! it was not a disaster because i had enough room to stop and turn around and come back up to my turnoff, but in a situation when i had to stop sooner, it would have been a problem. i don’t own a car with traction control, but i did test drive a vw gti with esp and i was very disappointed. i know if i owned one, i would have the switch off all the time.

    my major gripe is i want choice in the ability to purchase or not purchase the accessory. and if i do have it, i was the ability to turn it off. i’m sure abs is great for panic stops dry roads, but the only time it comes on for me is when i would rather do a (more) controlled skid in the snow. i’d just pull the fuse for abs, but i know if i ever got in an accident, insurance wouldn’t pay.

  • avatar

    1. Power windows, because they will fail at the worst possible times.
    2. Front wheel drive on large cars (i.e., anything bigger than a Camry). What has the big front-drive car done for anybody besides run up maintenance costs?
    3. Expensive high-powered stereos in cheap cars with almost no sound insulation. They’re great, so long as you never drive over 25 MPH.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Let me be clear — I don’t think ABS by itself is all that useful or safe.

    But, coupled with a traction/stability control system, it will save lives. And, traction control systems all work off the fact that ABS can brake and release, brake and release.

  • avatar

    $4000 rims on a $500 car. Why bother?

  • avatar

    The most over hyped in my opnion? EPA fuel economy ratings. They are un-realistic at this time, and they are used in a never ending pissing match when in fact they never live up to real world testing.

  • avatar

    ooh, ABS is also a good one. I took the ABS fuse out of my RSX in the winter, because it drove me up a farking wall.

  • avatar

    More cars are including four-channel ABS now which would NOT reduce braking force on other tires with traction. I’m not sure about your Subaru, but the new Imprezas even come with four-channel, four-sensor ABS which would not do what you described.

  • avatar

    Low profile tires. Especially on generic sedans. (I happen to think they look stupid, but that’s just my taste.) On crappy, crater-filled Midwestern roads they’re unreservedly awful. If you’re on a track or an immaculate German road, ok, maybe. Otherwise, stick to real tires, not rubber bands on rims.

  • avatar

    Day. Time. Runninglights.

    Should have been “we’re too cheap to change the lighting harness from our Canadian models to something else, so we’ll just tout it as a safety feature.”

    That, or air conditioned glove boxes. you know who you are.

  • avatar

    I bought a VW Passat GLX a few years ago and it has power everything. My goodness. I thought I was getting married and am now single. Have realized that I do not need nor want a lot of this stuff:

    1. Climate control – the car is continually trying to adjust the inside temperature. I open the windows and it goes crazy trying to get it right. Have realized plain old heat/AC controls work just fine instead of the computer continually trying to adjust it. Very annoying when you want a manual mode.

    2. Power seats – I adjust it and am done. In all the time I have had the car I think have played with it 2 times. Adds unneccasary weight.

    3. Seats with memory – my Passat has 3. I am the only driver. Who cares.

    4. Power mirrors – adjusted it once, never touched it again.

    5. Rain sensing wipers – 1/2 the time it is confused whether it is raining hard or whatever.

    Have not made up my mind about leather yet. Am debating trading the Passat in for a GTI…

  • avatar

    I have to say the use of carbon fiber in any car not used for competition. It may be useful in an Audi R10, but there is no passenger car that benefits from the alleged weight savings that come from using carbon fiber for decoration. I find it particularly ludicrous when used in luxury cars that already weigh 4000-5000 lbs.

  • avatar

    The comments so far sound more like “Features I like.” As far as navigation systems, they do seem useless at first but they really do help a lot if one does a lot of driving. It gives you the freedom to drive anywhere without worrying about having to pull out a map or pull over and ask for directions. As for power windows, I read that downgrading to hand-crank windows in a Lotus Elise actually adds a few pounds. People who don’t beleive in air conditioning haven’t gotten stuck at a light for 15 minutes on a 110 degree day in Palm Springs.

    Hyped up features are things like:
    – Keyless start (not to be confused with keyless entry)
    – Automatically activating headlights
    – Casette tape players
    – 2 or more temperature zones (I’d like it if you could control the direction of the air in each zone though)
    – Massaging seats
    – Auto dimming mirrors (My Broadway mirror add-on doesn’t glare and my friend’s subaru’s ‘auto dimming’ mirror doesn’t do anything)
    – Audio systems with more speakers and watts than a rap concert.
    – Seats that can adjust in more directions than the audio system has speakers. (I stopped counting after 12
    – Automatically latching door hinges
    – Adjustable power rear seats
    – Cylinder deactivation for anything smaller than a V12
    – Ginormous rims on trucks and SUVs
    – E85
    – Infrared vision (since when did people who own expensive cars drive through the middle of nowhere at breakneck speeds?)

    Some people consider TCS and stability control detrimental to their driving experience. I feel that it depenends entirely on the tolerances set by that particular car manufacturer. Compare the overbearing Lexus VDIM to GM’s three-setting system.

  • avatar

    Those people who don’t like nav obviously don’t live in the Boston metro area. I’m good with a map, and never had any trouble in the DC area, where things are laid out with a little more logic (if much less soul).

    I also have avoided accidents twice in my old Saturn, because of ABS. Unfortunately, my current car, which was far too good a deal to pass up (about $3,000 under bluebook for a ’99 Accord at the end of 2004), doesn’t have ABS. When you lock the wheels, you stall, and you lose your power steering and power brakes.

    Regarding AWD, it’s amazing how well it goes in the snow even without snow tires. But my Accord does almost as well with the snows.

    Stuff I hate:

    1. shallow but extensive windshields that make it hard to see when they get the slightest bit wet or dirty and that function as solar collectors when you least need it.
    2. big turning circles. Why??? My late parents’ Dodge Caravan had a much smaller turning circle than my old ’93 Saturn. If the Minivan could have the small turning circle, why not the Saturn?
    3. sonar warnings for backing up
    4. any nanny stuff.
    5. Any kind of transmission that doesn’t have a stick and a clutch (am reserving judgment on DSG–haven’t tried it yet, but I’m skeptical). However, I wouldn’t want to see automatics disappear. My mother had MS and was able to drive probably 10 years longer than she would have without the automatic. One friend of mine needs the automatic because she has only one arm. etc.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Let’s get back on track a bit here — not to pick on Mr. Holzman, but a terrible turning radius is not a “selling point.”

    We’re talking steering wheel faux-flappy paddle shifters for 5,000lbs SUVs (I’m looking at you, Mr. Mercedes GL450). Or seven and eight speed transmissions.

    And for the record, the GL450 is so friggin powerful, that the I used the hell out of the thumb shifters while passing people on a windy two-laner. However, it’s 7-Speed tranny is so good, that I really didn’t need to.

  • avatar

    this may be the opposite, but what about things that should be there no matter what? Why the hell is any car sold anymore without ABS? We shouldn’t still be calling it ABS, they should just be “Brakes” and non ABS Brakes should be called “Sucky Brakes”

  • avatar
    MG Kelly

    You have to answer this question in different scenarios. If you are going to pay 90 grand for a BMW, you are going to want so many bells and whistles that they would have your average slack jawed yokle in a stunned state of shock. If you are going to pay 35K for a Evo or STI, the last thing you desire is any weight whatsoever.

    We need to pick a middle of the road car and then debate it. I’d recommend one but I’m a masochist that doesn’t even use his radio.

  • avatar

    I nominate Camrys and Accords

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    MG — I don’t know.

    Is 50/50 weight distribution in a RWD car ever actually a good thing, at any price point?

  • avatar

    Let's get back on track a bit here, not to pick on Mr. Holzman, but a terrible turning radius is not a "selling point." Sorry, I've just been dying to complain about turning circles for years. I forgot to mention drive by wire under stuff I hate. That GM skateboard thing is my nightmare for that and other reasons.

  • avatar
    MG Kelly

    Drive by wire is a great idea. The problem is that car buyers are being dragged through the mud as engineers figure out how to make it better.

    Look, the computer really can “drive better than you” ok, It can always react faster.

    example: Fuel injection/Direct injection over Carburetors.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Uh oh…

  • avatar

    Most useless feature in a car? Based on my experience driving in Massachusetts, I would say that it’s the lever mounted on the steering column that makes a clicking sound when you press it down or up. It also causes a light to blink on and off. No one ever uses it.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    RenaissanceGuy, that’s not carbon fiber any more than shelf paper is marble. Those decorations you see, no matter whether it’s an Audi or a Mercedes, are phony.

    It’s interesting what I’m reading here, though. I’ve just come back from testing the 2007 Lexus LS 460, in Austria (yeah, I don’t know why Austria either…). Fabulous car, though still short of a Benz S550 in a few key areas, but one thing it made apparent to me is that the Germans are absolutely right in their pursuit of some kind of iDrive/Comand/MMI system. They haven’t gotten it right yet, but they will, while the Japanese have a cockpit full of buttons–everywhere, literally everywhere–reading ASC off, DPI on, QRI cycle, PDQ choose, EMI fire, APTD select, ROFLMAO on, POS you choose, etc. etc. Believe me, one day we will look back on the first-generation iDrive as a glimpse of the future, at least for necessariuly features-laden luxury sedans.

    No, you won’t need on in your Elise or S2000.

  • avatar

    Fog lights and daytime running lights. To be honest, I use my fog lights in poor weather conditions, but not to see (it does nothing to improve my visibility) but rather to let others see me. As for DRL, I know where the light switch is and if I want my lights on, I’ll turn them on.

    I’d prefer a rear fog light, like some European cars have. Certainly it would save more lives than front-mounted fog lights, but it wouldn’t look as cool, I guess.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    I have to say… and maybe it is because I’m failry young, I found iDrive easy to use the first time I tried it. In fact.. it made a lot of sense to me. Intuitive, even.

    However, my friend owns a 545i — I recently asked him if he ever touches his iDrive. “No” was his response. “Never?” “No, never.”

    And then I picked up Davy G from Jalopnik and it him almost 2-minutes to tune to 107.9.

    I’m not kidding, either, as I timed him.

  • avatar

    Carbon fiber trim is so mornic on so many levels.

    Second place goes to everything else mentioned except ABS which is, in the real world, a good (if imperfect) thing.

  • avatar

    The speed alarm on the iDrive. You can set this function to alert you whenever you exceed an entered speed. Of course, hooligans like me like to set it to 10 mph after we drive a BMW with iDrive to annoy the drivers who drive the car afterwards, particularly friends. An absolutely worthless function.

  • avatar

    E85, ’cause is a CAFE scam passed off as patriotism.

  • avatar

    Apparently none of the sat-nav bashers travel much, for business or otherwise. Few things are more frustrating to me than trying to navigate an unfamiliar city in an unfamiliar rental car without sat-nav, mere minutes (or hours, depending on the airport) after stepping off an aerial rollercoaster ride thanks to yet another terrible early-morning biplane turboprop flight. Garmin International, Inc., I love you.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Hey, as a biplane (and turboprop) pilot, I take exceptional exception. But never mind…if you’ve ever driven in a city like Munich, laid out in the 12th century, you’ll realize how helpful a nav system can be. Maybe not in Des Moines, where you go north 12 blocks, west two and south five, but trying to follow a network of streets that follow 900-year-old goat tracks and you’ll bless the thing, particularly if you have a two-p.m. appointment at BMW’s engineering sub-offices and you know the Germans prize timeliness.

    Oh, and try Tokyo, where there ARE no addresses. Which is why the Japanese invented car nav systems, originally for delivery vans.

  • avatar

    In no particular order:

    – power windows
    – electronic oil sensor (i.e. no engine dipstick such as on the E60 M5)
    – iDrive
    – seats with more than 4 adjustments (esp. power versions)
    – electronic steering wheel lock
    – automatic climate control
    – beeping alerts (boing boing boing) to remind you of something or the other
    – sonar/radar cruise control
    – blind-spot checking cameras
    – infrared night-time vision systems
    – automatic braking systems (can’t remember the name for the Benz version)
    – drive-by-wire
    – SMG
    – LED compass displays (does anyone really use this?)
    – sunroofs which you cannot deselect when ordering
    – in fact, the whole freaking ordering process… for example, with Audi you have to select every freaking option package, in order, to be able to get the real option that you want. Why o why can’t you just order that one option by itself like you could if you were in Europe???! Man, this really pisses me off…
    – rain sensing wipers (making windscreen replacement ridiculously more expensive)
    – disclaimer page you have to accept on nav system before you can use it (freaking lawyers)
    – doors and trunks that close automatically that last centimeter (is it that hard to push it closed all by yourself?)
    – power windows that have express down, but no express up
    – single rear fog light (is it too much to have a matching pair?)

    ahhh, that’s all I could think of so far…

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t say sat nav is totally useless, but $2k will buy you years worth of internet access (even internet access through your cell phone, which you can use to look up routes and restaurants). It’s way overpriced for a nice toy. And as some of us have experienced, those things are notoriously inaccurate and not updated often enough… and if you’re in BFE Nebraska, good luck. $500 and I might put it in, but for $2k it has better be like having a direct line to God.

    7 and 8 speed transmission is another useless thing (IMHO). I’m not even that convinced that a 6-speed is worth the cash unless they can show me some real benefit. By the time you’ve got that many gears, why not just get a CVT? All you’re doing is shifting.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Sunroofs. For a couple of reasons.

    If you’re over 6 foot tall, these things drastically reduce the number of vehicles you can comfortable sit in.

    Sunroofs were invented for suburbia moms, but sadly appear as standard equipment on anything cool, without the option to delete.

    Can you imagine Steve McQueen’s Mustang in the movie Bullitt with a sunroof ? Or Warren Oates in the Two Lane Blacktop GTO ?

    Remember when cars made you feel……can I say it…..masculine ? No offence to Ask Patty and her gang.

  • avatar

    The “free” tank of gas that the dealer rep mentions about 200 times when you pick up your new $40,000 car.

    300 VIN Etching

    $1300 freight for a car built 20 miles from your house

    i-Drive any gen

    8 “coffee reservoir” sized cupholders

    any “sport” kit for a gutless car

    Bundled packages — having to buy a 300$ + upgrade just to get one desired option

    lifetime undercoating

    CVT trannys in a “heavy duty” vehicle

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Why are you people so down on seven- and eight-speed transmissions? You don’t have to shift them, they’re automatic (at least the only two I can think of–Benz and Lexus). The purpose of these is fuel economy, not increased shifting opportunities. How important is fuel economy to luxury-car manufacturers, you might ask? Well, Lexus has super-polished and balanced the new 4.6 liter engine of the LS so thoroughly that it uses 0W-20 oil. which is basically thick water. Less internal drag, a cup better fuel economy.

  • avatar

    Some may think nav systems are a waste…I say, to each his own which is why they usually aren’t standard equipment. Alot of Chevy owners think BMW’s as a whole are a waste too….after all, their Impalas will get you there safely and in just about the same amount of time.

    HOWEVER – if you’re like me and travel frequently on business, rental car nav systems will help make sure you arrive 15 minutes early to your meeting and impress your prospects who wonder how you could navigate through the maze of their city so effortlessly. By the way, Hertz Neverlost is best, Thrifty’s bag system is the worst.

    Also, having just relocated to LA from the midwest a few weeks ago, I can’t tell you how invaluable my navi system has been. If I make plans to meet up with someone in another part of town, all I have to do is plug in their address and let the car tell me where to go. I can concentrate on driving – not an easy thing to do in LA. All the while I do NOT have a paper map flying around the inside of my car, which is an accident waiting to happen.

    I have iDrive/Navi, and although you can’t touch the hot metal dork knob in the middle of the day in the Valley heat, it otherwise gets the job done and for me was worth every penny. Now if you want to talk worthless crap, please take a close look at the RFT’s BMW was nice enough to equip my car with. $250+ per tire, and for what? A ride that’s so damn punishing I almost need to see a chiropractor every time I get out of the car, all in the name of supposed safetly.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    I have not driven the Lexus 8-Speed transmission yet, but I can say with massive confidence that Benz 7-Speed is without question the best automatic I have ever had the pleasure to let shift for me.

    First, as Stephan mentioned, economy. OK, the GL450 was useless fuel-sipping wise around town, BUT, on my 100 mile trek out to Palm Springs with the AC on past full blast (I love how European cars go down to 59 degrees instead of 60) and an average speed of about 90mph, we averaged better than 20mpg in an Escalade-sized SUV. And there are plenty of hills once you get out in the desert — that’s frigging impressive.

    Second, with the exception of a proper DSG, the manu-matic shifters work really well. True, it took me four days to find them (behind the wheel!) but they actually helped turn that behemoth into something of a corner carver — always in teh right gear.

    Third, acceleration — I drag raced a WRX and lost by half a car length. The GL450 was holding on until 6500rpm.

    That transmission rules.

  • avatar

    “- LED compass displays (does anyone really use this?)”

    I personally find these extremely helpful and a much cheaper version of satnav. Usually when driving I know in what general compass direction I have to go, and with that little doodad in the mirror I can immediatley tell wether or not I am heading in the right direction. When driving around the country in the middle of the day where there are no street signs or any other way to easily tell where in the hell you are it can be a priceless tool to help you find yourself back to an area you know or the highway.

    A personal petpeeve of mine are buttons in cars that are just blank buttons and serve no purpose, both my 2003 Mercedes C240 and brand new Jetta have atleast four buttons in a row that are just blank buttons and do absolutely nothing. While its a small thing why not just design it so that if you do not need the buttons then they are not there.

  • avatar

    I don’t need no stinkin’…

    – Nav system for the pletora of reasons stated above
    – Climate control. Heck I still turn the knob to the left if too hot, and the right if too cold…duh!
    – Speed alarm. That’s what the radar detector is for
    – Extra sun visor. Last time I checked, the sun only comes from 1 direction at a time!
    – Compact spares which don’t work with limited-slip diffs.
    – Daytime running lights
    – Manumatic trannys
    – Bleeping beeping noises for anything short of an engine about to die!
    – Anything that operates automatically if there is a switch for it on the freekin’ dash!

    Instead, why not put the R&D $ into…

    – A jack that is easy to use and doesn’t act like it will give way at any time?
    – Memory mirrors to go with the memory seat. My wife is vertically-challenged and I have to adjust everything after she’s been there!
    Oil temperature guages. The engine ain’t warmed up until the oil is.
    – A torque-limited lug wrench to go with all those alloy wheels.
    – A fuel guage that actually tells you exactly how much gas is in the tank!
    – Calibrated speedometers
    – Rear fog lights like the ones found on Jaguars

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    What on earth could you all possibly have against daytime running lights?

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Anyhow — we are off topic once again — we are not talking about a compass.

    We are talking (er, supposed to be talking) about things like ceramic brakes — big selling points that are not worth the price tag.

  • avatar
    Chris Volpe

    Xenon Headlights on SUV’s

  • avatar

    Here’s a controversial one: Safety features.
    When I go to buy a modern car, I can assume that it meets the federal regulations for safety, including excessive crumple zones, air bags and whatever else. If I lived somewhere _without_ these federal regulations, I’d actually care what you tell me about them when trying to sell me a car. I don’t. I live in the parental states of america. Shut up about the mandatory safety features, and tell me what makes your car different from every other car sold in this country.

  • avatar

    My vote is for anything other than a Prius as a hybrid. Studies show that you would have to own the thing for 10 years before you realize a savings, even after counting the tax break.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Just for the fun of it, I tried to collate all of the above gripes and see which ones were the most loathed. Nav systems are most universally disliked, followed by complex climate-control systems, manumatic transmissions and daytime running lights. After that, it’s a whole lot of different stuff that gets three, two or one vote.

  • avatar

    1/ Power seats: How come a power seat always seems to sit higher than its non-powered counterpart in the same model of car… And why does it take me 5 minutes to dial in a position it takes me all of 5 seconds to do by hand.

    2/ “Sport” packages that include stuff that does nothing to make the car faster: Sorry but leather seats, chrome trim, and a sunroof don’t make a car any “sportier”.

    3/ Power rear view mirrors: Your kiddin’ right? I don’t care how much you pay for the car, this is just laziness.

    4/ Any wing or spoiler bigger than 3″ wide or 2″ tall… Even then…

    5/ Chrome wheels: Let’s see, you want all that shineyness on the part that gets dirty the fastest?


    1/ ABS: As was said brakes without ABS should just be called “sucky brakes”

    2/ MP3 player hook-up: For us guys who don’t like scrambling for CD

    3/ One cup-holder per passenger: Yes, even sports cars. We all commute.

    4/ A tachometer: ’nuff said.

    5/ A way to shut off any “nanny feature”: Traction Control, Brake assist, whatever.

  • avatar

    I think the problem with the navi systems is that they’re just too expensive right now. As I said above, I don’t dislike it, I just didn’t think a $2k option on it was the best use of money, especially when one can purchase a portable unit for $500 that will get the job done, and well. Which can also be taken from vehicle to vehicle for those who travel for business.

    If you bought your car and use it for business to drive everywhere, it makes perfect sense. But in my case, I know most of Pittsburgh and the surrounding 2 or 3 counties very very well, so it made sense to put that cash toward other stuff. If I start driving for business more rather than flying and renting (and asking for a nav unit at the rental place), then I’d have one.

    Johnny Canada – sunroofs? I will never own a vehicle without one, unless I purchase a classic car…But your example is what I wanted to address – I think it’s completely invalid. Of course I wasn’t around when Bullit came out, but being a film buff (more so than car buff…), I of course own it on DVD and love it. But it wasn’t about comfort and utility then. It was about attitude and style. I fail to see where sunroofs equate with femininity and and suburban soccer moms. While I think there should always be the option to get a vehicle without it, there are people, masculinity aside, who prefer them…

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    I disagree with everyone who has complained about power mirrors. They are a godsend if you have two or more persons driving the car who are different heights and everyone wants to use the right hand mirror when they’re driving. If you don’t have power mirrors, you get to lean over, stick your arm out in the sun, rain, sleet, or snow, adjust the mirror, sit back up, see if it’s adjusted properly, and if not, repeat the process until it is. Personally I’d rather just juggle a little joystick for a couple of seconds.

  • avatar

    Passenger side sun visor

    A)92% of driving done without passenger
    B)when wife in seat , the mirror on back Never helps(she’s still ugly)

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    Jonny L: 59 degrees F just so happens to equate to an even 15 degrees C. Think German.

    Auto closing trunks: Not so much for lazy drivers but to allow tighter margins to things like rear lamps. (Eliminates “overslam” clearance.) Styling above all else you know…

    DRL, Xenon, Adaptive Front lighting (or for that matter ABS, drive by wire, adaptive cruise control) can all be seen as improving safety for MOST drivers. Not everybody out there is a car guy, performance enthusiast with young eyes and John Force reaction times. Think about dear old Grandma. (Disclaimer: My employer supplies all of the above features.)

    Most useless, unsafe, oversold, can’t be justified by any means: Dubs. Performance, weight, safety and comfort penalties at a cost of $1,000’s. We’ve got a ’07 Escalade in the garage now with factory 22’s (that were hoplessly out of balance from the factory.) Ridiculous.

  • avatar


  • avatar
    Dr. JP

    This is assuming I am buying the car (i.e. not a rental) for my personal use. (I don’t do a lot of driving for business purposes, either.)

    Least needed expensive items:

    1) Nav system
    2) Traction control
    3) Sunroof (I’m bald, so I never open the one I have)
    4) performance (ceramic) brakes (maybe if I was driving my everyday car on weekends at the track)

    Expensive things I will pay for:
    1) Power windows (I have secured parking at work and must use a key card every day)
    2) Power outside mirrors (at least the right side)
    3) ABS (I’ve needed it at a dry but leaf covered intersection several times)

    Daytime running lights: Aren’t these federally mandated on passenger cars now? I don’t think we have a choice and it is not like having them is expensive.

    And completely off topic (since someone brought up the Prius): Isn’t a better idea for a hybrid an all-electric drive vehicle (w/ regenerative braking) with a small highly efficient turbine to recharge the batteries?

    Just my 2 cents.

  • avatar

    What can we do without?

    Any electronics item not having something to do with the ignition system or starting of the car. ;-)

  • avatar

    Just a comment. Seems like we’re getting more and more of these “What does the readership think?” posts where there were none before. Its neat and all, but don’t think these can take the place of actual pieces (especially if theres some future plan for subscription based revenues). No one is going to pay for a mere forum.

  • avatar
    Frank Williams


    Thanks for your comment. This is just a stopgap measure we minions are doing for a few days until our Fearless Leader is back on his feet and at the helm again. Trust me – there’s no plan to continue this once things are back to normal (well, as normal as they ever were) around here.


  • avatar

    Mr. Lieberman,

    I have owned a BMW before (2001 325i 5-speed manual). I would say that the 50/50 weight distribution is worthwhile. I found it noticeable in daily driving and especially in hard driving. Traction was never an issue. I encountered rain, snow, and ice and never had a problem. In my opinion, it was easier to drive on slick surfaces than a front wheel drive car. When driving front wheel drive cars on ice or just wet pavement, I found I was more likely to lose the ability to control the direction of the car.

    That is MY opinion.

  • avatar

    Lots of ripping on the rear-view camera…

    Personally, I think this is a fabulous system, and I’m only sad that it’s tied to the overpriced Sat/Nav systems because of the display.
    If you live in suburbia and there are small children running around, and you back out of your driveway in anything bigger than an S2000 with the top down, I think this is an extremely valuable safety feature.
    If you think kids don’t get run over by parents that are distracted by a million other things then think again – I’ve personally taken care of several kids that have accidentally been run over by parents.

    Hopefully all these gizmos will become cheaper as they become more efficient and more standard.


  • avatar

    While this is an entertaining flame fest, features do not get on cars unless someone finds value in them. You think OEMs want to increase the cost of designing and building a car?

    As for AWD – it has saved my familys’ life more than once
    As for 50/50 – i find it satisfying at the track, if not a little short of excitement compared to cars that are not balanced
    As for Nav – it has saved my marriage

    New feature that should be mandatory on all cars
    – Left lane detection system to keep all you idiots (you know who you are) in the correct lane, except to pass.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    TexasAgo3, the point about 50/50 “perfect balance” is that it’s a fallacy, an oversimplification put out there by people like BMW because it seems intuitively correct and is easy to comprehend.

    You’ll never find a racecar with “50/50 perfect balance.” They’re more like 47/53 or an even greater rearward bias. this is because what you actually want under acceleration is rearward bias, to provide more weight over the driving wheels. And under hard braking, you want the inevitable forward weight transfer to _then_ make the proportions 50/50, when you really need it. You don’t want a car with static 50/50 balance to dynamically go to 55/45 front/rear.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    The only left-lane detection system I’ve driven, in a test Infiniti, didn’t work very well. They need to develop a better way to have it signal, because driving around with something that sounds like a seatbelt chime going off all the time is infuriating. And there are a variety of things that can set it off other than unknowingly straying into the left lane.

    In the Infiniti–as I remember it was an M45–they unfortunately bundle it with the nav system, so if you insist on nav, you get the lane-departure warning system. And as I remember, it defaults to “on” every time you restart the car, even if you shut it off in annoyance last time you drove (via a switch very low and to the left of the steering column, apparently purposely located so you need to feel and fumble for it…).

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Now we’re talking — 50/50

    Psst… Hey guys, 50/50 weight distribution is marketing baloney.

    And I’m going to just go ahead and let Mr. Wilkinson do the talking for me

    “…Another is “perfect 50/50 balance,” which companies like BMW boast of. What you actually want is something more like 46/54 front/rear balance, so that under hard acceleration you get big weight transfer rear to aid traction, and under hard braking the reverse, to temporarily achieve 50/50 when you actually need it. (It’s one of the little-mentioned
    reasons 911s actually perform so well.)”

  • avatar

    The most over-rated feature would be AWD. It costs extra, uses more gas 365 days a year, provides extra parts to break and might be useful twice a year (and I live in Minnesota). If the weather’s that bad, well, you’re not as skilled as Speed Racer and your AWD car’s still not ast good as the Mach 5. Stay home.

    The most under-rated feature, however, would be the limited slip differential. In the snowbelt it will often be the case that you park on – or parly on – ice and limited-slip can help you get moving wihtout the fuel economy penalty of AWD.

    Other usless features would include the power seat, low-profile tires (a way to increase dealer profit selling replacements for bent rims), trunk-lid spoilers, hood scoops (even if they do something, unless it’s actually a drag car), automatic climate control, defrost settings that engage the A/C (but you should be able to engage the A/C yourself in defrots mode, if you so choose), multi-zone climate control (somebody should put on a sweater)
    rain-sensing wipers (I can see that it’s raining), heated washer fluid (but heated nozzles make sense in MN), Always-On Daytime Running Lights (although I’d endorse a switch position for DRL – and I’d make the kids use it), power mirrors (older Volvos had a non-powered joystick adjuster arrangement on the inside adjacent to the mirror – that made sense), hideaway seats in minivans (just take them out, in hiding, they’re adding weight and using valuable space).

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Stephen — yup, exactly right on the lane-departure system, though, if you drifted to the right it also beeped.

    In the car I drove (an M45 with every bell and whistle), it worked rather well, but… I don’t drift out of lane very much, and obviosuly since I am still alive it is not a big deal when I do. Agreed that it is annoying, but it beeped at me maybe twice the whole time I had the car, when I wasn’t intentionally trying to set the thing off.

    The M45 is a car in need of an iDrive. Buttons EVERYWHERE! And the very worst voice recognition system on the market. I had a British friend try and talk to the car. I kid you not; he spoke a phone number to the computer and it tuned the radio.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    What on earth is wrong with power mirros?

    How are they bad in any way?

  • avatar

    re sunroofs: I agree with the comment. I’m 5’10.5″ but with a long torso, and I don’t fit in most cars with sunroofs. It makes it hard to car shop. I also do’nt see the point of a little window above my head. Waste of headroom and money.

    It’s been great venting and seeing what other people hate on cars. Thanks, Jonny

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    You know, if this had been 30 or 40 years ago, the list probably would have been:

    air conditioning
    power steering
    power brakes or disk brakes
    FM radio/tape players
    power windows
    power or automatic locks
    4 speed transmissions (manual or automatic)

    It would be interesting if we could look into the future and see what items everyone talked about here became “necessities.”

  • avatar

    Good handling in any car not destined for the racetrack. Seriously. I live in Southern Ontario which, like most of North America, is laid out on the grid system. Every corner is either a right-angle intersection or a freeway interchange designed to be navigated by top-heavy tractor-trailers at ninety kph.

    Unless you live in the mountains, or in Europe, or you race your car, you need good handling like you need driving advice from your mom.

    Honestly, reading car reviews you’d think that everybody’s drive to work involved a cone slalom at speed.

  • avatar

    Dubs. Dub deuces. I totally forgot about these until I read Sid Vicious’ post. Can we stop this? Please? What’s the point of taking a nice-looking car and making it look like a stagecoach?

  • avatar

    Some nots that aren’t really nots:

    Power Mirrors: Agree with JL: What the hell is wrong with power mirrors? For anyone who has had to park an inch and a half away from a six inch high curb on the right side, power mirrors are a God-Send. Not necessary, maybe, but not completely useless, and in fact, not much of a liability, pricewise or weight-wise.

    Back-up Sensors: Now try parking an SUV or a car with no rear-quarters view at all… (that car would have one of the aforementioned trunklid spoilers) or in a dark garage. I know I can do it… but would you trust your wife? Your cousin Ed? Your little brother? How about if it were someone else’s car that backed into yours?

    ABS: There are pros, and there are cons. I actually think the pros outweigh the cons.

    Sunroof: Would be wonderful if you could tick the box saying “No”, but it helps keep you cool at the racetrack… Okay… it’s useless.


    Useless items?

    -Third row seats on a vehicle just big enough for two rows.

    -Big rims… but then, shame on automakers for making such huge wheel wells…

    -Paddle shifters on slow cars… now really…

    -Run flat tires: Now what do we do if we get a flat over 100 miles from nowhere?

    -That 50:50 weight distribution… or any claim of low weight: because it often means that you’ve got a safety spare or a can of fix-a-flat instead of a real spare.

    -Swoopy looks, spoilers: Used to be I couldn’t see out of the back of a Volvo thanks to that small rear window. Now, with many new cars, I can’t see much out of the front or the sides either. Add a trunk spoiler and I’m safely cocooned inside the car, oblivious to the world outside.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand the hatred towards Daytime running lights. They have been required on all new cars in Canada for at least 15 years now and I think they are a useful safety feature. It is much, much easier to see an oncoming vehicle with a quick glance (i.e. when making a left from a stop sign onto a busy street) even on a bright day, let alone a dull, cloudy one. And as a pedestrian I find the lights register much more quickly than the car itself.

    And at what cost is this feature? The DRL module probably adds $1.50 to the cost of the car. Maybe your headlights burn out a little faster, but I’ve got a car that I’ve owned for 10 years and changed exactly one headlight bulb. The daytime lights are reduced Wattage, so maybe it decreases your fuel mileage by .001 mpg. Big deal.

    If anything, I’d like to see the DRL also activate the tail lights. Then I never have to turn my lights on (or off) in the city. You don’t need bright low beams when you’ve got streetlights everywhere.

    Here’s a feature I’d like to see – ambient light detecting headlights that will vary brightness according to ambient light. As cool as HID lights are, I don’t need to be blinded by an oncoming car when the streetlights are bright enough that the other guy can’t even tell that his are even on.

  • avatar

    Hands down drive-by-wire throttle on a sporty car. The “minute of silence” reaction I get every time I step on the gas in my 06 SC430 is for the dogs!!!

    Over the w/e I jump with glee in my Morgan with its old fashioned 2.o liter with 2 double downdraft carbs, less then half the gross weight, and make beautiful SEAMLESS music with the loud pedal!!!

  • avatar

    in no particular order:
    – front windows (i like bugs in my teeth)
    – brakes (cmon i just want to go faster)
    – tires (it’s 2006 already, shouldn’t we be floating on air by now???)
    – steering wheel (shouldn’t cars be driving themselves by now?)

    i think this proved that what is deemed useless by some is appreciated by others. personally i hate navs, especially after i took a ride with someone who was playing with his brand new nav system while he should have been looking at the road. but hey if you like em – that’s fine by me…

    also there are different kinds of abs, some good, some not so good. one time i was driving down a steep gravel hill in my ex-gf’s terrible hyundai elantra, when the abs kicked in and the brakes stopped working completely! the thing just kept going while the pedal vibrated like mad. it was insane, the brakes would totally have stopped on the gravel.

    on my current car (an integra) it says abs, but it barely does anything. i can still skid to a stop when i want to with just a touch of vibration in the pedal. i’m much more comfortable with it.

  • avatar

    I forgot some more:

    Steering wheel mounted radio controls – To be quite honest who cares. Is it that difficult to reach over and touch the radio? Dont give me that stuff its safer because your hands are on the wheel. Instead you are busy fiddling with the buttons trying to remember which one does what.

    Steering wheel mounted cruise control – I have a stalk for the cruise control, why do there need to be controls on the steering wheel as well? One is literally right behind the other.

    Rear Cameras – why do you need this. Turn your freakin head and either look out the side or inside mirror.

    Rear Sonar/Radar – car is telling you the distance to the car behind you. If you cant tell, you probably shouldnt be driving.

    Dual Zone Climate Control – its not like you can segment the air in the car.

    I think the cars have way to much electronics and its all intertwined. So one thing can impact the other. The windows breaks and it impacts the transmission or whatever. Who needs this…

  • avatar

    Stephan and Jonny,

    Of course, a better performance setup would be a rear weight bias, such as 47/53 (which is the balance of an F430, I think). However, in a four-door sedan, that may not be so easy to achieve. I think that a 50/50 distribution (I realize it may not be exact, but it was close to that) is a good thing. You can alter understeer/oversteer characteristics with tire pressure. As a matter of fact, the recommended pressure on the 325i I owned was 33/38 (this may not be exactly correct, but there was a five psi difference). Essentially, this creates an understeering setup under static conditions (going down the road at constant speed). However, I reversed my pressures for a slight oversteer balance.

    Of course, you can alter tire pressure on any car, no matter the weight distribution, to change handling characteristics. Generally speaking, the desirable characteristic is understeer, from a legal department point of view. Most people can recover a car that has started to push easier than they can recover a car that is skidding, although not always.

  • avatar

    A few things I can think of:

    – Run flat tires. I have them on my 330xi (E46) and they cause an uncomfortable ride, tramlining and poor directional control in wet weather. I will go with regular old tires the next time around.
    – Carbon fibre trim. The is the “gold package” of the ’00s.
    – Chromed wheels. Hey, I just hate them. If everyone stopped selling them overnight, I’d never notice. While we’re at it, spinners have had their 15 minutes of fame. Buh-bye.
    – Any package a dealer puts on. This will probably be overpriced garbage that adds nothing.
    – Car salespeople. The most overpriced and generally useless part of the car buying experience. Most of them know bupkes about what they are selling. I know we can never get rid of them, and there are a few salespeople who do their job well, but 90% of the ones I have run into over the years were useless.

    As far as some of the other comments people have made, I use a Garmin 2610 in my cars, rather than having a built-in NAV. I move it from car to car, and take it when I have to travel. It works well and I get the same interface where ever I go!

    I have one car with AWD and one RWD car; I will never buy an AWD car again. Maybe I have a comfort level because I learned how to drive on RWD cars, but I like the feel of them in all weather so much more. With snow tires, most will go pretty much anywhere. A case in point: I live in Northern New England, and back in the ’80s, we had a 1982 RWD Toyota Corolla that had a near 50/50 weight distribution. With snow tires, it would go up and down the worst hills in the area; only its ground clearance stopped it.

  • avatar

    Any Saturn Appearance Package – Redline, I’m calling you out.

    $5k for what, ground fx & rims? Give me a break.

  • avatar

    Hey, the little saturn ion redline also got supercharged, it’s not a slow car once blown.

  • avatar

    The number one stupid feature on a car is that flower pot in the VW bug. My ex has the car and that car and little feature says volumes about how mindless she is………..

  • avatar

    Oh, and number two is a rear spoiler. The vast majority distroy the look of the car. I had a 95 SHO that always looked like I left a skate board on the trunk lid.

    Oh and ex’s VW has that stupid one that come out at a certain speed and makes a god awful noise

  • avatar

    Third……how about the vinyl tops Buck and Lincoln delaer paste on cars?

  • avatar

    As terrible as the vinyl tops are on a Lincoln or Buick, it sometimes at least meshes with the car. No modern car with a sloping roofline can possibly get away with it (I’ve seen a Nissan Maxima with one – just wrong).

    I’m not against iDrive itself, but do we need the plethora of features and choices that iDrive justifies itself?

    I don’t like power seats either, just because they’re slower and more expensive than manual adjustment (although I suppose if they were all offered with the memory function, they’d make more sense).

    And any “SUV” that can’t either legitimately go offroad or haul massive loads should immediately be destroyed. It’s no different than the “sport” package on a gutless car.

  • avatar


    I saw a new Honda Accord with one of those hideous vinyl tops a couple weeks ago. If anything, it looked worse than any similarly blighted Town Car I’ve seen.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    OK… like power mirros… power seats?


    This isn’t just macho tough-guy posturing. You know, “I don’t wnat no fancy latte… give me a cup of gas station coffee… git ‘er dun. Three creams and four sugars, please.”

    Really? You actually get in a car and go, “man… I really got sold a bill of goods with the darn power seats.”

    If the seat is good (that’s another issue), I really dig 97 way adjustable seats. REason being, on long drives, you can tweak around and tire another part of your ass out. Plus, as the drive drags on, I love being able to raise the driving height as my posture goes out. And inflatable lumbar is greeat, too.

  • avatar

    I was really surpised to read this. Ragging against power windows? Who the hell wants to lean over and roll up or down a window, depending on your speed or rain? I have a full size truck. I actually have to unbuckle and scoot to the other side to roll it up or down. CLimate control? I set it on 72 degrees and never look back. I get in anyone else’s car, you have to foll with the ac button, fan speed, and temp to get the right balance, only to hit a bend in the interstate, the sun hits head on, and then you have to readjust everything. Shouldn’t we be driving instead? Daylight running lamps? I hated people with them until I just turned mine on for a week to see a difference. The amount of people that pulled out in front of me was drastically reduced. ABS? it works different between the makes. I love mine. Traction control is a joke in my honda. i could care less about nav. I could go on, but time to go home.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Waht Schmu said, PLUS dual climate zones rule.

    I’m a big fat jerk.

    All my friends are skinny stick figures (It’s LA, what do you want).

    So, I am always sweating and they are always crying about the AC. When I have a car with dual, I crank my side down and their side up — happiness results.

    Though, as I’ve said a few times, manufacturers need to stop sticking critical driver aid buttons anywhere near a passenger’s hand. Like Porsche’s ill descision to stick the damn seat heater button right below the PSM button. My friend thought she was heating her seat — I dropped clutch around a corner and was shocked as the back end began rotating past me.

    Luckily it was a Boxster… in a 911, I’d of crashed.

  • avatar

    Most useful car items:

    Cruise control (I drive all over the Midwest)
    Air conditioning, with or without automatic control
    A place to plug in my iPod
    Good visibility (minimal blind spots)
    Comfortable cloth seats (for my ever growing rear end)
    Respectable mileage

  • avatar

    OnStar – The governments trackingtattling system…

    ABS brakes – Or, more accurately, the “I’m a moron that doesn’t know how to drive” brake system. It should be OPTIONAL, ALWAYS.

    Traction Control – It should be OPTIONAL, ALWAYS.

    Speed limits on highways – The epitome of big brothers arrogant “You’re too stupid to be capable of driving” mentality…

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Wolven — have you driven a car with big horsepower and torque… like say a Viper… that doesn’t have traction control?

    A nightmare.

    Having no traction control is fine for racecar drivers… but for the rest of us… it will save your life.

  • avatar

    Does a 70 Challenger with a 440 sixpack count? Does having it sideways (well, half sideways) at over 100 mph more than once and not losing it count?

    I understand your point. But what about all the vehicles with traction control that AREN’T Vipers?

    That’s why I said it should be OPTIONAL… For those that wantneed it, GREAT! For those that don’t, they don’t have to pay for it. GREAT!

    And even if I did choose to buy it, I would want the ability to turn it OFF, COMPLETELY off…

    A padded room might “save your life”, but does that mean they should be mandatory?

  • avatar
    David Yip

    I gotta say multizone automatic climate control is useless. The three knob (fan speed / temp / direction) climate control system in my Civic is way more useful and intuitive than the button pushing automatica in my E46.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman


    if you actually had a challenger sideways at any speed, you are a better driver than I.

    However, I’m talking more for emergency situations. My friend’s Pathfinder recently lost a tire at over 80 and she went across four lanes of traffic, then back across the four finally pointing backwards against the dividing wall. Luckily, she was fine.

    However, she could have hit and injured/killed lots of other people. A traction control system would have kept her car in check.

    I agree, that if the driver wants to, they should be able to turn the systems off.

    However, for 99% of the time, they should be on.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Whoa cool, I can post again!

    Anything bigger than 18″ wheels. Even they are pretty pointless except on some of the most performance-minded autos. Even the highest quality 20″ hoops are a huge step backwards in performance, no matter how cool they look and how well they sell.

  • avatar

    Six speed manual trannies!

    Why six speeds? I mean when I get on the road I go from zero to 65, not zero to 200. Who says we “need” to row through six forward gears? This sort of useless gadgetry almost always starts out with Madison Avenue at work trying to differentiate some customer’s lame automotive product with useless gadgetry, and now it is becoming mainstream. Now it is a cold war of sorts to see who is the fastest to ten forward gears. (Lexus is leading this impetus with their seven forward speeds automatic tranny.)

    This is no different than leather interiors. It used to be that if your car had leather you had a luxury car – not a near-luxury car, not a non-luxury car – but a real luxury car. Now even plain Jane four door sedans can be equipped with leather. At this price point you get a very torturing cheap grade of leather that burns you in the summer and ices you in the winter and clings to your sweat moistened skin.

    Be on the lookout for the next Madison Avenue innovation – the marketing of this cheap torturing leather as “an industry leading first; a breatheable, more comfortable leather.”

    This leather thing is very disturbing to me because if I want a Honda Accord (my plain Jane of choice) fully decked out with everything minus the leather – well – it is not available. It would be up to me to find a custom interior guy who can redo the driver’s seat in cloth without destroying the side air bag and SRS sending unit imbedded in the cushions.


  • avatar
    Frank Williams


    I can tell you why 6 speeds. FUEL ECONOMY. You don’t have to “row through six forward gears” unless you’re cruising. The 6th on my Corvette is a very high overdrive. True, I don’t use it around town, but on the highway I slip it into 6th and the engine is turning about 1850 RPM at 70 MPH and giving me around 30 MPG.

    How many other cars giving that kind of highway mileage will top out at 175 MPH?

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    The top gear in a six-speed box is invariably an overdrive. With the new seven- and eight-speed automatics, the top _two_ gears are usually overdrives, and pretty extreme ones at that; in the new Lexus LS 460, eighth is a .685:1 ratio, seventh is .824:1 and sixth is 1:1.

    So you really don’t have “a six-speed transmission,” in the classic sense. You have “a five-speed with overdrive,” just as cars and trucks have had since the 1930s (although it was usually a three- or four-speed with overdrive).

  • avatar

    I have to disagree about fog or “driving” lights. I live in a city with lots of parallel parking and often poor street lighting. My fog lights are generally on because the provide extra light between the bumper and where my headlights fall. More importanly, they provide several extra feet of lighted space to the side. Very useful in tight spots and cornering. Try yours at night and see if they bring a little relief in a narrow, dark road.

    Oh, and NAV systems are lame unless you really need it. If not, your co-workers are not really that impressed when you demonstrate it on the way to Chili’s for lunch.

  • avatar

    This is the opposite of the poster’s intentions, but what I really miss in more current cars are the “Oh Jesus” handles. You know, those really useless handholds on the interior of the A-pillar? The ones you only grab when screaming “Oh Jesus”? Whatever happened to them? Victims of penny-pinching RenCen accountants?

  • avatar

    I going to have to say the most useless is the electric folding rear seats. How much extra weight are those motors. How about a smoother system with springs or something. It’s not like you are going to put the seats half way down or something…

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Re. the Oh Jesus handles, they’re actually quite useful to people with limited mobility. I have a friend (Kevin Wilson of AutoWeek) who has a hard time getting into the driver’s seat of a car without some kind of grab handle either on the A pillar or the upper doorsill, because of a damaged hip and one slightly shorter leg. Who’d a thunk?

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    I wish more than anything my WRX had a sixth speed.

    It’s a 2.5 liter engine moving just over 3,000 lbs. and I barely get 25 mpg on the highway.

    Again, a 7.0 liter, 505hp Z06 gets better highway mileage AND it weighs more. Not much, but more.

  • avatar

    I really have to LOL at some of these ridiculous comments! It sounds like for many of you a 1967 VW Beetle would be the perfect car. Drum brakes w/out ABS, crank windows, no electronic nannies and so on. If that doesn’t suit you, perhaps a 2006 Kia Rio would work…?

    For me the Nav has been very helpful. I don’t use it daily, but the once a month I do need it, it has proved invaluable. Any future car I purchase will have Nav.

  • avatar

    In-car DVD systems. I don’t care if they’re useful if you have kids as it’s shuts them up. I don’t have any little brats nor do I want any either.

  • avatar

    If the seat is good (that???s another issue), I really dig 97 way adjustable seats. REason being, on long drives, you can tweak around and tire another part of your ass out. Plus, as the drive drags on, I love being able to raise the driving height as my posture goes out. And inflatable lumbar is greeat, too.

    I bet that’s true. I once bicycled across the country and a brand new (read hard) leather seat, and the thing that finally saved my rear was figuring out that I could leave the nut that tightens the seat position slightly loose, so that I could adjust the tilt as I rode. I don’t have trouble on long drives, but I know lots of people who do. (The bicycle seat was finally broken in about the time I reached Vermont (from Seattle).

  • avatar

    >>I wish more than anything my WRX had a sixth speed.
    >>It???s a 2.5 liter engine moving just over 3,000 lbs. and I barely get 25 mpg on the highway.

    Ha. I get 33+ mpg on the highway at 70 in my ’99 Accord with the 2.3 and 5-speed, at least partly because the car is geared so long. Of course, I’m sure you’d leave me in the dust w/ the WRX.

    I really like the notion of having the very long 6th on the Corvette. The RX-8 needs something like that.

  • avatar

    Where to begin, though I am old school in my view of automobiles:

    Navigation systems – if I was a salesman or something
    autotemp systems – I always override the one in my car
    self dimming mirrors – have that as well, but don’t really like it
    side airbags, etc. – I don’t go through life afraid
    deluxe sound systems – I listen to talk radio

    You get the picture – basically if car development had stopped 20 years ago, I’d still be happy.

  • avatar


  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Any type of cell phone device. Automobiles and cell phone use don’t mix, unless you want to drive impaired. The United Kingdom is one of the few countries in the world that got this right. Meanwhile, we have people in America who lack many of the basic abilities to drive well, trying to drive while talking on a phone. It is, as a character in the movie “40 Year Old Virigin” said, “This is the bullshit of all bullshits!”
    Of course, the reason they aren’t banned is the cell phone lobbyists. I believe it was Shakespeare who reportedly once said, “If you want a change, kill all the lawyers.” Amend that to “all the lobbyists” and there you are.
    There have been several accidents in the Puget Sound area – that inlet from the San Juan Islands down to Tacoma, Washington and environs – involving cell phones, one in which an entire family was killed by a woman chattering on her cell phone while she drove her Ford Explorer into the back of the family’s car. Of course, with manufacturers pushing the benefits of On-Star and similar systems, don’t look for change to come soon.

  • avatar
    Jack Shry

    Well this was certainly a good idea. A lot of spirited exchange on both sides of every assessory imaginable.
    I have spent a disproportionant portion of my lifes income feeding my ‘gotta have this car’ addiction.
    Spitfires, MGBs, Sunbeam Tiger, 300Z, Z06 etc. etc.
    My current whip is a 2006 Maxima. . . Loaded with every thing thats available.
    GPS not nearly as accurate and dependable as Microsofts Streets and Trips; enough torque steer to discourage turning and accellerating and the turning circle of the Queen Mary.
    But is satisfies my current 63 year old driving needs, i.e. ego. Go figure!

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    The first time I really understood the meaning of “Torque-Steer” was at the helm of a Maxima.

    They really need to make that sucker RWD.

  • avatar

    1. Systems in which the buttons are the same size.
    2. Toggle buttons where the functions on either side are not opposites or even related.
    3. Buttons where a slider or dial would be more logical.
    4. Digital controls for a function that is analog (especially HVAC!).
    5. Inaccessibility to an OBD code by the user (without scantool). You should be able to count the flashes on something.
    6. Big tires on cheap cars. I like my 14s.
    7. Bumpers that are fancy and expensive. Make ’em cheap and bumpable!
    8. Big engine/heavy car market assumptions. I want a 600cc minicar and I am an American who drives in Michigan!

  • avatar

    Hah! No-one has mentioned yet that most annoying “feature”


    Get in, insert key, turn, idiot lights come on, and then you have to press the big red button to start the damn thing!

    What’s wrong with turning the key a bit further to start the car?

  • avatar

    What’s wrong with turning the key a bit further to start the car?

    On my Lexus you just have the key on your body, backpack, purse etc. to both open, and start the car. No more fumbling for keys in the dark, or cold, and no more keys banging and rattling while you are driving. It took a few weeks to get used to the feature, but I love it now.

  • avatar

    CAsterOil wrote: Hah! No-one has mentioned yet that most annoying ???feature???


    Get in, insert key, turn, idiot lights come on, and then you have to press the big red button to start the damn thing!

    What???s wrong with turning the key a bit further to start the car?

    NOW that’s funny! I can remember back in ’57, the old Studebaker was in the shop, they gave my father an aged loaner, the brand of which escapes me. He had to press a starter button, and I can remember thinking, at the age of four, that it seemed superfluous.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    BMW has an odd take on that in the new 3 series.

    the “Key” is like a USB drive and you stick its plastic ass into a slot. Then you press a starter button.

    Really, big deal, who cares.


    Under hard cornering, the damn thing flies out! The car doesn’t shut down, but a light comes on and a boing bongs and there’s this stupid plastic thing under your feet.

    Saab still has the best idea., followed by Porsche.

  • avatar
    testy test

    Doors. We don't need no stinkin' doors.
    I have a Jeep. The best thing about it in the summer is to watch the lines go by – or even better the rocks.
    That's it. I'm done. Just don't need door.
     Except the winter sucks.

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote


  • Contributors

  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Seth Parks, United States
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Kyree Williams, United States