By on August 26, 2008

You know what grinds my gears? This Lindsey Lohan. You just get up there half-naked and what? Jiggling them little things about. What do you want? What do you, Lindsey? I\'ll tell you what you want: nothing! You want nothing that\'s what you want. And that\'s \"What grinds my gears.\"Psychologists tell us it's important to vent, so every so often I have to clear the air and discuss what really grizzles my gristle. I can't take it anymore, and it's possible– even likely– that I'm not alone on this. So, without further ado, you know what really grinds my gears?

For starters: Edmunds' Inside Line. While all the rest of us in the internet-car world (by which I mean all of us– TTAC, WorldCarFans, Jalopnik, Autoblog, whoever) are busy posting pictures of some car released at 12:01 AM, EIL already has a review of that car up. I mean, for heaven's sake, even Pulitzer Prize-winner Dan Neil is often stuck waiting behind them in the queue. Just yesterday, for example, InsideLine posted a drive of a Camaro mule and reviews of the Cadillac CTS-V and the new European Ford Fiesta. They can go straight to hell.

The upshot, however, is when Edmunds described the 2008 Lancer: "This weightiness similarly describes the car's ride quality and chassis reactions, but in a good way." I more candidly reported that "Mitsu has fitted the base car with a suspension made out of Twinkies." I'll always take free market capitalism over a well funded command economy.

You know what else really grinds my gears? The lack of good seat coverings in cars. If you're buying a regular car, you can choose between cloth and plasticky over-treated leather. On the other hand, in nearly all luxury cars you're limited to Dow Chemical leather– or the occasional cheap-ass vinyl posing as leather. Where is the nice cloth in a luxury car? Especially the cushy cars that deserve cushy cloth seats. You wouldn't wrap yourself up in a leather blanket when you're cold, and I'm not sure that leather chairs in the car are much different. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter, they seem to be frequently uncomfortable. What they do have going for them is that they're pretty stain resistant and take longer to show wear. But can't they do something about the hide? If they have to use leather, at least use quality leather. I'd pay more money for a car with leather seats if they felt like my girlfriend's Coach purse.

The next issue that's been grinding my gear this week is crummy car websites. It seems like the manufacturers have no interest in leveraging the benefits of the internet at all. The web interface on so many manufacturers' sites appears to have been designed by a ninth-grade kid. Bandwidth is apparently so expensive that we are limited to only 6 photos, including an obligatory picture of the plastic shroud that covered the engine.

This last one is even more useless than when the dealer tries to show you the engine, as if it means anything at all to see "Honda V6" under the hood. The "estimate payment" functions tend to be so useless that it's better to leave them off entirely. What I want in a manufacturer's website: easily accessible stats (which aren't buried in sub menus), tons of photos, and a functional inventory locater.

Special tuner-edition German cars also grind my gears. Every day we learn about yet another ABC Tuninghaus that has a new version of the Audi A6/Mercedes SL/BMW 5-Series that has 904 horsepower and a tragically ugly bodykit. And, it's only $100,000 more than the original version of the car, which the manufacturer spent billions developing. But hey, a few guys say they can crank your new German sports saloon up to methamphetamine levels.

You know what I want to see them tune? My Volkswagen GTI. I want it to drive exactly the same, but to get 80 miles per gallon on regular 87 octane (on the tow truck on the way to the mechanic doesn't count).

I close by giving a nod to all the "midsize" luxury SUVs out there– the Mercedes ML, BMW X5, Audi Q7, Acura MDX, and all their cohorts. They all grind my gears. I don't care how carlike their are to drive, or how decently they handle, or that when equipped with the optional $10,000 V8 (sorry Acura), they can out-accelerate a Honda Accord, ten year old Porsche or attack helicopter.

I don't care because they are ugly. They are not as good to drive as sedans and wagons. They are not ideal off-roaders (in spite of gadgets) because the bodywork costs trillions to repair, and because they all weigh 15,000 lbs. And they are all chasing some holy grail of the most sports car-like SUV. I like sports cars too, which is why if I wanted one, I'd buy one. I wouldn't buy Pringles Pizza Flavor chips because they taste "just like pizza"; I'd buy a pizza.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what grinds my gears. For now, at least.

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86 Comments on “What Grinds My Gears...”

  • avatar
    Michael Ayoub

    Excellent post. I have a really long rant forming just like this… it’s really long now. I have to edit it.

  • avatar
    Michael Ayoub

    Err, that second sentence of mine doesn’t really make sense. The Edit function is not showing up, either.

  • avatar

    Bravo! The last two paragraphs alone are worth the price of admission….wait…there was no price….thanks for the freebie!

  • avatar

    I totally agree with you, especially about the leather. In fact cars with leather no longer have that leather smell. I think the leather being used these days is actually a synthetic. It feels more like vinyl than real leather.

  • avatar

    Driving lights…and the idiots that use them in traffic… on a busy interstate… in excellent visability.
    Also ever notice how every 3rd or 4th GM truck/suv regardless of make has one of its indicator lights out??…same vendor for the last 3 generations of units and no one at GM has caught on to the quality issue??
    Seats that do not have enough rear travel…why can’t they go back further and if needed I will move them up. Since most people ride alone who the hell are they worried about in the back seat.
    Radios w/ far too many buttons that are by extension too small to adjust tooling down the road.
    Horns that need to be struck with a sledge to go off and/or have a sweet spot the size of a stamp. oh and the noise level of the horn….Vespa’s have a horn that makes more noise than do many oem horns.
    Mirrors with more info than the dashboard.
    Cheap sideview mirrow adjustment buttons that go south w/i 6 months of vehicle purchase.
    gloveboxes that could not hold Barbies gloves.
    Short lug nut whenches that afford no leverage.

  • avatar

    Your seat rant really struck a chord with me. Apparently, vinyl is the new leather for $30k to $60k Eurocars. Even Caddy has jumped on the plastic bandwagon. Another thing that grinds my gears is the marketing of Alcantara fabric as some kind of exotic material, like it was Amur tiger pelts. Get over yourself Alcantara, you’re FAKE SUEDE! Or how about real exotic wood that’s so plastic-coated that it looks like, well, fake plastic wood (Lexus, anyone?). What’s the point? So somebody can brag that that’s real 1/16″ thick bubinga wood underneath that 3/4″ of polyurethane? Then there’s the fake carbon fiber. It’s cheap plastic masquerading as expensive plastic. Yippee!!

    Another thing that grinds my gears is all the newer cars out that are ‘retro’. PT Cruiser, HHR, Charger, Challenger, Mustang, Camaro, New Beetle, Thunderbird, Mini. The list seems to grow every year. It’s getting old. Again. And it shows an abject lack of artistic creativity. Especially when the carmakers take ‘styling cues’ from the craptastic interiors of the originals. Move on, already…

  • avatar

    Give ’em hell, Justin! Yeah!

    The Internet really is getting to the point where some of the larger sites (car sites and news sites especially) feel like a gigantic retail store.

    An example is necessary to explain – do you ever go on vacation and, for some reason, need to go to a Walmart, Target, or some other retail giant? If so, I don’t know about the rest of you, but there is always a point of vertigo for me, where for a second, I feel like I’m in the Target back home – usually because the store layout is so similar, the products are similar, and often in the same exact places.

    THAT is how some of these websites feel. I’ve long given up on one of them trying to break the mold and making a site without Flash.

    Until then, the result is just that I go elsewhere for the details I seek.

  • avatar
    aunt jemima

    The Audi & Lexus “build a model” websites are really poor and lack functionality.

  • avatar

    What grinds my gears on this site is the lingo among the best & brightest, or should I say, the me too comments from all the people that don’t have the imagination to be original.   The Big 2.8, Toyondasan, Rabid Rick, the creative Lutz-bashing, not poking a domestic with a ten foot pole, Dumbler, Chryslerberus, and so on and so forth. It may be funny the first time, and perhaps a second and a third, but not for the umptieth time, in a futile attempt to jump the bandwagon. I mean, come on… How hard is it to spell out Toyota, Honda and Nissan? Or to find some new creative expressions? Call 'em the Big 3 Japs or whatever. But not another portmanteau, or I will throw up. In Your lap. TTAC is a funny place to be, and there's a really big amount of creative writing on this place. But repeating a joke ad infinitum doesn't make it any funnier. Unless Bob Lutz tells it.

  • avatar

    I could never understand the appeal of the luxury SUV.

    I understand the need for an SUV. I understand the desire for luxury. But why combine the two? Buy a bare bones truck or SUV for the rough stuff and a proper luxury sedan. Probably cheaper in the long run.

    The seat thing is crazy too. Just try and order a new car with heated seats but no leather. Nigh impossible.

  • avatar

    How about the mere existence of those plastic engine covers? WTF? And the double-WTF of the clear plastic window in the (plastic) hood of the Corvette that shows… a plastic engine cover? Why put a window in plastic just to show you a fake plastic representation of what is hiding under the plastic? WTF?? WTF!!??

    Donut-sized spares, or even worse, “Run flat” tires. Jeesuz H Krist… a flat tire in the old days would cost you 10 minutes and a couple of bucks… now, because people are too damn lazy to operate a jack and a lug wrench, a tire problem now costs thousands of dollars. WTF!? Just give me a gawdamn full-size spare tire and let me change it myself. I am a grown-up.

    Conestoga wheels and rubber band tires… WTF? Sidewall is an integral part of a car’s suspension. I’ve never seen any race car with this looney combo, yet the street car scene seems to think this is some sort of “performance mod”… WTF?! Just give up and admit it, this is purely a fashion statement.

    Speaking of goofy tire/wheel combos, why is it that EVERY “concept sketch” of a car these days looks like a cartoon-superhero caricature? You know, impossibly wide shoulders become impossibly low rooflines, while impossiblly narrow and ab-filled wasp waists become outrageously huge wheels completely filling up wheel wells with a molecule’s width of rubber visible, offering no possibility of suspension travel. Such a car is impossible to actually create and use, so why bother selling EVERY DAMN CONCEPT this way? WTF??

    I could go on like this for days, even on just SUVs… for days, but I’d wear out two keys on my top row, and one in the center row really fast.


  • avatar

    “Driving lights…and the idiots that use them in traffic… on a busy interstate… in excellent visability.”
    Umm… it does make a difference. a few fractions of a second is worth it too me, why do you think motorcycles have had this feature for years? I have drivin with my head lights on since i got my first car and I for one can say it makes a difference for how quick i see a car. So…
    It doesn’t matter if you can see me with my headlights off if i hit you cause you’rs were off and i didn’t see you! (its my fault.. but you still got hit)

  • avatar

    How about the mere existence of those plastic engine covers?

    I’m no fan of those either, but isn’t the function of those plastic engine covers to supress noise from under the hood at idle and when you start the car?

    Although why would you want that in a Corvette?

  • avatar

    Justin and Chuck, you made me laugh so hard, my spouse wants to know what I’m up to. I’m glad I’m not the only who feels this way.

  • avatar

    I soo agree with Chuck about the concepts, especially the sketches they make. They should make the wow me sketch and then the base model rental fleet looking one so I can have an idea of what it will be like in a practical sense. Who thought of this selling people on something they will never be able to buy, oh yeah the marketing geniouses.

    I can’t put down all my gear grinding comments or I will break the comment window.

  • avatar

    Spot-on about the leather thing.

    The day the first investor gave up on his herd of Corinthians is the same day that marked the beginning of the flogging of the luxury vehicle customers. My attitude is that if they can’t do leather right anymore then the least they can do is offer a rich velour cloth, which they refuse to do, so I refuse to buy luxury.

    And also, race car pilots row through 7 gears when they move from zero to 200 mph, so why do I need to row through six gears if I move from zero to 70? Three is not enough, five is too two many, and four is the sweet spot.

  • avatar

    People who drive a 100 mile daily commute in a Prius and still think they are “conserving”
    It’s how much you burn that counts, not what you drive.

  • avatar

    Gee Justin, if that cranky guy at the end of 60 Minutes ever croaks, you’re in!

  • avatar

    +1 on crappy leather seats.
    And why the f$@##!! haven’t Volvo’s T-Tech seats been copied?!?

    Yo Mulally!! Need cash? How about a license agreement or ten on T-Tech seats???

  • avatar


    Now that’s funny.

  • avatar

    jim: Also ever notice how every 3rd or 4th GM truck/suv regardless of make has one of its indicator lights out??…same vendor for the last 3 generations of units and no one at GM has caught on to the quality issue??

    One of my pet peeves. You mean the DTRLs I think.
    They look like white parking lights in the grilles of Chevy full size utes and pickups. One of them is out about 80% of the time, you are right. The owners don’t check them, and the dealers don’t either, apparently.

  • avatar

    Vis a vis the leather vs cloth thing, no furniture manufacturer charges extra for leather, why should the car makers? Because of the McDonaldization of the world (and the concommitant increase in cattle killed for burgers,) the world is awash in leather and has been for years.
    I wouldn’t mind if it was quality leather being offered, but it isn’t. Looks like vinyl, but doesn’t even wear as well.
    And the Germans charging extra for metallic paint. Are we to believe that a pound of fish-flakes is worth $500 plus??

  • avatar

    The new Camaro is insanely overweight. Pump up the power and give it traction. All that weight is extremely hard on axles, clutches, and transmissions.

    They aren’t given all that weight away for free(free steel?).

    Lighter weight would mean less cost?

    Curb weight for a 1982 Toyota Tercel is 1900 lbs.

    I’d like to take a new Camaro, strip out everything I don’t want, and then re weigh it and re price it based on whats left. The price would be impressive.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Heh heh, my old 88 528e had leather seats. Cold in the winter , sticky in the summer. The new 88 528es both came with cloth seats. More betterer in hot and cold weather. So far, they are wearing well too. I may never have to switch to the leather interiors I have waiting for them to wear out.

  • avatar

    I am surprised that highway MPGs isn’t listed here. Nothing grinds me gears more than when on a commercial, a car company promotes their gas guzzling, environment destroying SUV as “green” because it gets 20 highway MPG.

  • avatar

    The “estimate payment” functions tend to be so useless that it’s better to leave them off entirely.

    That bugs me. Toyota Canada is the only manufacturer that’s totally up-front with this information throughout the process.

    Go try it, seriously. It’s by far the best configurator. It may be ugly, but at least it works and works well.

  • avatar

    Absolutely agree on highway MPGs. Yeah I can get better than that in my car on those rare long distance trips, but in my real life driving, city is what I get. Don’t tell me 30 when you mean 19 :)

  • avatar

    I am with you on the leather. While I prefer leather myself, and am a big fan of alcantara, I want some high quality stuff. Even leather within a certain manufacturer can vary wildly. Open up the door of a leather trimmed Ford Escape on a hot day and you get a plasticky smell, and the leather itself lacks the texture that leather should have. Do the same thing on a Lincoln MKS and you get a rich leather smell, and the leather feels like real honest to god leather. Why can’t they use the good leather in the whole lineup?

    I remember my parents old Grand Marquis with soft red velour interior fabric, not only does no one do velour anymore, outside of a few ultra-lux brands and rare special packages the only interior color options are grey, black, and beige. What ever happened to the reds, greens, blues, etc? I saw some photos of a Euro-spec VW GTi with plaid seating, and I would love it see something like that over here. Give us some new materials _and_ some new color options.

    Also, it bugs me that people automatically assume anything made by Toyota is super-reliable and well made, and anything made by Detroit/Dearborn/Wherever-the-hell-Dodge-is-from-now is crap. The new Toyota Tundra has had more recalls than the F-150 or Silverado, it has a frame that is much more prone to bending and twisting, and has cut out rails that actually catch road salt and will rapidly accelerate rusting, but because it has that Toyota badge everyone assumes it is built better and more reliable than anything else.

    Finally, I miss cool car names. The alphanumeric thing was OK back when it meant something (like a 330i was a 3.0 liter gasoline 4 door small sedan and a 330d was the same thing in a diesel, or an S500 was a 5.0 liter big sedan, an S55 AMD a 5.5 liter hi-po version) but now the numbers don’t match displacement anymore, and other manufacturers are tossing out numbers and letters that have nothing to do with anything. Give us back the Marauders, Country Squires, hell, even the Probe gave you a mental picture. I want to sit behind the wheel of a rumbling rip-roaring Pontiac Penetrator, slide through the night in a practically silent PHEV Saturn Stalker, or melt into the seat of a gentle tourer by day canyon carver by night Lincoln Lycanthrope, give us some imagination people.

    And finally, if you have an amazingly cool design in a concept car actually carry out some of the coolest bits (especially the interior stuff) into the finished product. While Chrysler did a lot wrong, they were for a period very good about seeing concepts through to the showroom floor without loosing too much in the process (Prowler, PT Cruiser, etc).

  • avatar
    Michael Ayoub

    I agree with the Toyota/Detroit delusion. If I’m in the market for a truck — you know, to actually use it for its intended purpose — I’m going to buy the best truck: The F-150. Those things are beastly.

  • avatar

    Auto shots on homesites of auto manufacturers is completely ridiculous. I love the Cadillac closeups of the headlights, a door handle, and some door crease reflection shit. Oh yeah, most of this stuff is photo-realistic; meaning a very talented artist in photoshop re-created this stuff so that it appears in the amazing pristine condition you see in the photos (both online and on billboards, magazines, etc).

    Then you can go the Jaguar route and have blury photos of the car driving down the city, partial shots of it parked somewhere in a far-away 3rd world town, or just plain missing from the photo altogether (can’t find that one now, must have been a previous model. Photo was a picture of a woman coming out of a fancy house in the city).

    And I agree on the ridiculous amount of coverage on yet-another tuner. Do people with that kind of money even look at these sites to begin with?

    I disagree on the leather seats however. I love leather seats. Seatwarmers and Seat airconditioners (or just the regular airconditioner) do just fine with the temperature of them. I hate cloth as much as I hate carbon fiber on the dash.

  • avatar

    Camry XLE has nice cloth treated with fraichair which is soft, smooth, unlike the LE’s fuzzness. Too bad the price difference between the two is 5k. :/

    ES has cloth standard, too, but I’ve yet to see one on the road with cloth.

    Lincoln Lycanthrope! that made me LOL.

  • avatar


    Some roadsters, and maybe other sporty cars, have colored interiors, such as the S2000 & Z3 & Z4 (to an extent).

  • avatar

    I should remember to leave the rants to professional writers. You do it so well.

    OTOH, it feels good to rant, even if it pains the rest of you.

  • avatar

    Special tuner-edition German cars also grind my gears. Every day we learn about yet another ABC Tuninghaus that has a new version of the Audi A6/Mercedes SL/BMW 5-Series that has 904 horsepower and a tragically ugly bodykit.

    Yes!! I totally agree. I am so TIRED of seeing headlines about these. I want to read about everyman’s cars (and the occasional Corvette or Ferrari).

    Those one-eyed DRLs on GM trucks and SUVs — how is it that this had gone on so long unsolved?

    Alphanumeric names — may they burn in Hell! Lincoln’s now the worst, with every new model starting with “MK.” Cadillac is almost as bad. Why when such glorious names as Continental, Fleetwood, Seville, Deville, and Eldorado could easily still be used? I don’t think these names have been “tarnished.”

  • avatar

    The last sentence in this wiki article answers the question of there being no decent leather in cars:

  • avatar

    Just when I was beginning to think that I was the only one that disliked leather interiors. I am convinced that black leather, is in fact, the Devil’s plaything. The last high quality fabric seat I sat in was a ’98 vw beetle (though the grey stained too easily).

    This one may well be just me, but where are the fuel efficient sporty cars? In the days of $4 dollar a gallon gas, surely somebody can great a fun to drive car that doesn’t look like a minivan or just plain ugly besides MINI. Where the hell is the Suzuki Swift Sport? Is there are chance the interior of the new fiesta will cost more than 12 cents?

    Which brings me to my next point…why are so many 4 cylinder cars getting such terrible gas mileage (less than 30 mpg) ?

  • avatar

    Justin, I’m with you on seating material.

    If the world is awash with dead cow skin, it makes great dog chews.

    Otherwise, animal remains inside a car are about as appealing as tree remains.

  • avatar

    I think you people need anger management counseling.

  • avatar

    And here I thought I was hallucinating with the GM running lights. I always thought it was funny that I have never seen a GM truck or SUV with TWO working ones. Even ones with temp plates straight off the lot. I had just about convinced myself that they were only supposed to have one light since it always seems like the left one (looking from the front of car) is the only one that ever works. Glad I’m not crazy.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    Here goes mine: You read this breathless byline about first photos of the new Appolo 12 SUV, only to be led to a collage of 10 pictues of a perfectly shrouded by a padded cover vehicle with only it’s headlights and windshield sticking out. Then many comments about it’s new looks good or bad. In years gone by, a sketch artist would take the picture and flesh it in with a charcoal rendering that gave you some idea what you were looking at. Can we do that again please?

  • avatar

    I saw a 1971 Lincoln at a car show that was all original and meticulously maintained, the leather was fantastic. Exactly like a Coach product only covering about 3 acres of seating area.

  • avatar

    What grinds my gears is repeating the common lingo.

    The Big 2.8, Toyondasan, Rabid Rick, the creative Lutz-bashing, not poking a domestic with a ten foot pole, Dumbler, Chryslerberus, and so on and so forth.

    Not specific to TTAC, I’m getting really tired of automotive news articles using the terms “fuel sipper” and “gas guzzler”. Regardless of whether they are applicable to the vehicle in question, find a new way to say that a car gets good/bad gas mileage!

  • avatar

    Another vote against the leather seats. Are your seats too cold in the winter? No problem, we have seat heaters for you. Are they too hot in the summer? No problem, we installed a cooling system.

    So you wind up with a huge, heavy seat that doesn’t really keep you any more comfortable than a cloth seat.

  • avatar

    Count me in on the anti-crap leather seat bandwagon.

    I drove a BMW 750 Li last weekend, and at $80+k I was expecting a comfortable seat, but no! I felt like I was at the dentist. Tough, petrochemically-derived ‘leather’ on hard seats.

    At least the wood trim was real.

  • avatar

    I hate how BMW is always looked upon like some sort of gold standard for luxury sports sedans. They’re not that great.

    I hate how Toyota is somehow a “green” company because of the Prius while they have a whole mess of fuel guzzling trucks & SUV’s.

    I hate how a car with horrid reliability gets a pass on TTAC because “it’s fun to drive.” I’ll take all the boringness of a reliable Camry over being stuck in the shop every other week with a “fun” car.

    I hate how TTAC’s Ten Best poll has several winners that the people voting have probably never driven and 99.9% chance they never will – I’m looking at you Audi R8, Nissan GT-R, maybe even Corvette. A readers poll should have cars that readers drive, things like Accord, Camry, Silverado, etc.

  • avatar

    What grinds my gears is the assumption that using less gas and emitting less pollution is only worth doing if you also save money in the process. People trip all over themselves calculating the number of miles you need to drive to “pay for” a hybrid or diesel.

    Why isn’t less consumption a worthwhile goal in and of itself, like better performance or more comfort/convenience? I never see anyone trying to figure out how many miles you’ll need to drive to pay for your optional V-8 or (crappy) leather seats, yet people gladly pay for them (and aren’t snickered at for their lack of financial acumen).

    Are automotive features only worth paying for if they benefit you and no one else?

  • avatar

    The “Build and Price ” functions of the GM web site. The price of most options is along with most the configurations is missing. Just some very basic prices with the “see your dealer for full details message”.
    I want to be able to go to my local dealership with the information at hand and not have to hope that a sleezy-slimy salesman to provide the correct information.

  • avatar

    Some things that chap my ass:

    Every time a new car comes out, everybody is suddenly a professional automotive aesthetician, and big fat surprise, “Oh God, this car looks like these two other cars.” Everything is SO derivative, and people love to bla bla bla about how there’s no originality in any auto design and the new Forte is trying to be a Civic (ZING! Brilliant!) and even though Aston Martins look just like Jag XK8s, those are beautiful and unique and perfect.

    People that say, “OH MAN MY 1983 Caprice rusted out I will never buy a Chevy again they are all garbage,” or a similar assessment of any brand, folks really can’t get past the fact that Big 3 cars built in 2008 are significantly better than those built 20-30 years ago when Detroit wasn’t feeling the competition from overseas.

    My dad thinks German cars are well-engineered even though Volkswagens and BMWs are known all over for their complete lack of reliability. Making a powerful car isn’t hard; making a reliable powerful car is. These performance brands take the easy route and get all the glossy mag-covers for it.

    Cars are this status symbol so idiots can parade around impressing other idiots with the fact that they spent $60,000+ on a depreciating asset that serves the same purpose and performs, in actual function, barely better than a $10,000 Aveo. This status crap makes me feel like I’m living in some idiot tribe where we all stick feathers in our hair to attract mates. The only people honestly impressed by wealth and status symbols are A) The Stupid and B) The Rich.*

    Scion keeps trying to be so cool, it’s the saddest, most desperate thing I’ve witnessed in a long time. Really, it’s pretty embarrassing; the only thing more embarrassing is that there are some people who buy this new image and think it’s so cool. Barfo.

    There’s all these great cars coming (Cruze, Euro Focus, Volt, etc.) but not for 2 years. 2 YEARS! That’s a damn lifetime! Also, the transmission on my Lumina will probably go out before then and I’ll be stuck buying something in 2009 knowing that the car I really want won’t be sold until mid 2010.

    “OH MY GAWD I WOULD NEVER BE CAUGHT DEAD IN A MINIVAN!” Really? Shut up. Minivans are super-functional, 1000x more useful than some weenie SUV or cute-ute and they get decent gas mileage. The minivan is a glory of functionality and should be respected as such. Oh, so moms drive them? Well, never mind then! I hate moms and the very idea of being a suburban homeowner with children! I am more of a mountain-climber and astronaut/racecar driver. BULL. Minivans FTW.

    Ethanol. I’m not even going to start.

    Fanboyism of any sort. No company likes you and it is foolish to love them; I maintain that every company, if it were not illegal and were somehow profitable, would kill you and your family in an instant, without a second thought, to make money. To say otherwise is PR bullshit.

    I’m sure there’s plenty more, but I shouldn’t go on…

    *But only if they are also stupid

  • avatar

    My biggest automotive pet peeve are red turn signals on the back of cars (North American only, I believe). You can’t tell if the guy in the next lane wants to change lanes or is tapping his toes to a Britney tune. Things get even worse when the turn light and the brake light are the same bulb, and like most 1990 era Fords the bulb on one side has blown so there is only one remaining light to signify all manner of different situations. Would it really kill manufacturers to have two lights; orange means “Warning, I’m about to do something”, red means “Danger, I’m slowing so if you’re behind me you’d better too” and the instance I see orange or red I know what’s happening, and don’t have to look at the other side or wait for it to flash to interpret it.

    This is all on the presumption that the driver actually uses turn signals, I’m not sure if Corvettes have turn signals at all because I’ve never actually ever seen one of them try to indicate.

  • avatar

    Justin, I have to say that a fantastic rant makes the ranter feel a damn site better for it; and yours is such a great rant I feel better just for reading it.
    Thank you.

  • avatar


    “People that say, “OH MAN MY 1983 Caprice rusted out I will never buy a Chevy again they are all garbage,” or a similar assessment of any brand, folks really can’t get past the fact that Big 3 cars built in 2008 are significantly better than those built 20-30 years ago when Detroit wasn’t feeling the competition from overseas.”

    I don’t get this one. You are entitled to your rant, but my family drove GM for decades. They made cars worse in 1983 than they did in 1973. The fact they had less competition doesn’t matter to the consumer who only remembers getting poor value and quality. The response is about integrity, not just quality.

    The fact that their newer cars are better doesn’t fly because the competition is STILL higher in quality and reliability. So even if you trusted GM, you would still see them as less competent.

  • avatar


    Thanks for reminding me of this one. If I had a nickel for everytime I’ve heard that line from a driver of a 4Runner, Explorer, Pathfinder, etc. The only segment that an SUV beats a minivan in is the race to the gas pump.

    Another one I hate is people asking me car buying advise when they clearly don’t intend to take it.

    “Hey I’m looking at the 4cyl Accord and 1.8T Passat, which would you go with?”

    “Hands down the Honda for the better reliability, no turbo to deal with, no premium fuel to pay for and better resale value.”

    A week later I ask, “What’d you end up with?”

    “I got the Passat, yeah, I don’t believe you about the reliability because I know a guy that has 300k on his 1978.”

    Six months later the engine seized and VW wouldn’t replace it under warranty because the dealer didn’t do the oil changes. Should’ve listened to someone who might know what they’re talking about.

  • avatar

    People who think BMW’s are unreliable because they had a friend whose neighbor knew some guys whose boss played golf with a caddy whose highschool history professor’s wide had a nephew who went to law school and got one of the first E46 Ms with the oil bearing issue.

    People who think turbos are an easy replacement for displacement in a performance setting.

    People who don’t think a properly modified VTEC motor sounds hellaciously awesome at full tilt.

  • avatar

    +1 on the “wouldn’t be caught dead in a minivan” from a mom. You know what, you are a mom. Get over the fact that you aren’t single and looking anymore.

    This may have been mentioned, but I always cringe whenever someone disses one of the faster Honda products. In the racing world, every Honda with a VTEC engine is basically classed one or two levels above its displacement because this community does recognize the performance potential of the Hondas. Remember when the S2000 was paired with V8 Camaros and Mustangs in the Touring classes? Why does a 1.6L Honda compete with V6 Fieros in some classes? Or the 1.8L Integra against 6-cylinder BMWs?

  • avatar

    You know what really grinds my gears? Daytime Running Lights (DRLs).

    I looked this up a while back as part of a discussion on another forum and statistically speaking they don’t really help all that much, except maybe to shorten the life of your headlight filaments. I find it amusing to see a rather expensive (and relatively new) car driving around in the middle of the day with one headlight on. Add to this the number of times you see people driving around at dusk or at night with just their DRLs on (no taillights or dash lights) and you can’t tell me they make things safer.

    AND they make it more difficult to see motorcycles, which should have their headlights on at all times.

  • avatar

    What grinds my gears is the ever increasing size of cars. Today’s Yaris = yesterday’s Corolla. Today’s Corolla = yesterday’s Camry. Today’s Camry = barge.

  • avatar

    What we have to buy is the result of what we like to buy with help from the marketting departments.

    You know that and I know that but the average consumer doesn’t notice for quite a number of years sometimes. I talked to a couple of weeks ago who lamented the disappearance of the cars she grew up with. Where did they go? Where are the little convertibles? Stationwagons? Larger hatchbacks? Small trucks? Four door convertibles.

    Nobody bought them in their last years plain and simple. Folks either followed the herd to something else or listened to the marketing guys too closely. They sell what we will buy. The marketting guys have done an excellent job.

    There were once stationwagons. Some were ugly. People made fun of them. Then we had stationwagons on pickup truck frames and everybody thought they were cool. Now we have 20+ different SUVs to buy and no car based stationwagons.

    All we the consumer had to do was be good consumers (sheeple)and buy what they showed us (follow the herd) b/c we’d be tough or cool or cowboys in our suburban bound offroaders.

    I think we’ll get more options when folks think outside of the box more often or when gasoline gets hideously expensive…

    Yeah my gears are grinding a little.

    I’d like more vehicle variety (beyond 30 different SUVs) and add some EVs to the mix.

  • avatar

    Honda_Lover, I hear you. The 1er from BMW is supposed to be a real compact car. Its about the same size as my E46 was.

  • avatar

    The lack of good seat coverings in cars. If you’re buying a regular car, you can choose between cloth and plasticky over-treated leather. On the other hand, in nearly all luxury cars you’re limited to Dow Chemical leather– or the occasional cheap-ass vinyl posing as leather. Where is the nice cloth in a luxury car?

    Yeppers. I prefer the basic cloth of our Civic LX to leather anything. Not only are they too hot/too cold, but they look totally cracked, warped, and ghetto after just 5 years. When I was living the apartment life, some neighbor would blow his disposable income buying a 10-year-old 7-series. Beautiful from the outside with an interior that looks like furniture you’d find (and leave) on the curb.

    Leather = “I’m trading my car in in three years, before my massive American ass warps the captain’s chair to hell.”

  • avatar

    “How about the mere existence of those plastic engine covers?

    I’m no fan of those either, but isn’t the function of those plastic engine covers to supress noise from under the hood at idle and when you start the car?”


    That’s about the amount of flat rate labor time it will cost to take the cover off and THEN start the real work. 3/10 of $80 an hour is $24 just to start an underhood job, so the true function is to make your mechanic/dealer a few bucks. (yes, yes, I know, noise suppression and all that, but still…)

    Agree with all above re: hatred of alphanumeric names (I’ll also say that any alphanumeric with the letter X in it gets an extra dose) and annoyance at dealer and OEM websites (I could write a book as part of my job requires frequent visits to these appalling sites). I also despise the “I wouldn’t be caught DEAD in a minivan” crew. Almost everyone in an SUV would be far better served with a minivan.

  • avatar

    jim: Also ever notice how every 3rd or 4th GM truck/suv regardless of make has one of its indicator lights out??…same vendor for the last 3 generations of units and no one at GM has caught on to the quality issue??

    Never noticed it, but I have noticed the weird Toyota quirk when they burn out a brake light bulb. Hit the brakes, and the remaining good brake light gets super bright while all of the other tail lights die out.

  • avatar


    I’m with you on the questionable aesthetics of the new ZR1’s hood window, but the hood is carbon fiber, not plastic….and the window gives you a view of the top of the intercooler, which is aluminum, not plastic.

    Still cheesy, IMHO, esp compared to the view of an F430 or Ford GT, but at least you’re seeing metal, and not plastic!

  • avatar

    adam0331 :
    “I hate how a car with horrid reliability gets a pass on TTAC because “it’s fun to drive.” I’ll take all the boringness of a reliable Camry over being stuck in the shop every other week with a “fun” car.”

    That works. You take the Camry and I’ll take the “fun” car.

    Ain’t diversity great?

    But while we’re ranting, how about references to “Bangle-butts” and comparable Bimmer-bashing? OK we get it: you don’t like. Obviously, lots of people do. There it is again, more of that annoying diversity of opinion.

    And speaking of design, what’s with the humongoid grillage on this year’s models? First Audi, then Cadillac and Acura, and now Aveo. Aveo?
    Do you think maybe it has something to do with the cars behind the grills being completely generic? Do you think maybe if the car itself had even a detectable hint of style it wouldn’t need Jimmy Durante’s nose to be picked out of a crowd?

    Oh, but I like leather. Could be it’s a San Francisco thing.

  • avatar

    My big long rant got deleted because I was logged out somehow, midpost. :( I’ll just cliffnote them.

    You know what grinds my gears?

    The fact cars haven’t changed a lot in 100 years. You’d think we would have thought of something better by now.

    Special advertising sections in car magazines printed in the same font as the rest of the mag, with too-nice PR photos of a car, along with ludicrous faux-reviews about how wonderful and perfect the car was, while inserting brand names and trademarks where possible to the point of becoming garish and hilarious.

    Deriding hybrids for no real reason other than how they drive and their lack of speed and towing capacity. Most people care more about 41 mpg, than 10 seconds to 60.

    Advertising for cars that don,t and very well may not exist. No fingers need to be pointed for this one.

  • avatar

    Hearing people talk about how great their “Beemer” is. Especially when they have an X5…

  • avatar


    Sorry, but I don’t think we have much proof that lot’s of people like the Bangle lines. Just because folks buy them, doesn’t mean they aren’t buying them IN SPITE OF the Bangle sheet metal.

    If you ask me, it’s not so much the Bangle influence (the subtler butts look ok) as some of the other touches that really went south, like the headlights, ugh.


    Okay, they should be saying bimmer, but what’s the hate for the X5 owners? I test drove a couple of them. Went a different direction, but I think they were both nice vehicles and very BMW.

  • avatar
    Michael Ayoub

    “The fact cars haven’t changed a lot in 100 years. You’d think we would have thought of something better by now.”

    Oh come on. You can’t really believe that.

  • avatar

    1. Push-button ignition – useful on a racecar, ridiculous on a Lexus ES.

    2a. Car commercials with a shot of the driver ‘shifting’ the automatic transmission and the car surging forward.

    2b. Manumatics – exceptions exist but most act like a cold shower.

    3. Centre-mounted gauges. They’re wrong on every continent.

    4. The new TSX.

  • avatar

    My center mounted gauges are awesome thank you very much.
    I won’t say bad things about leather because if I had a car with leather it would mean I was driving a nicer car than I am now.
    Any votes for 1970s/1980s GM velour fabrics? I remember a few cars with very soft cloth and the colors were coordinated with the body color.
    Right on about the luxury crossovers- dumb
    nullomodo- don’t worry about the names, when the Chinese come into play we’ll soon have the Awesome Super Car, Golden Sun Best Car Ever, and various superlative words like Superb, Sublime

  • avatar

    “Any votes for 1970s/1980s GM velour fabrics? I remember a few cars with very soft cloth and the colors were coordinated with the body color.”

    When I was a kid in the 70s I always thought the big Buicks and Oldsmobiles my grandparents drove were the epitome of luxury. Wire wheel covers and deep red cushy velour were as good as it got.

    I’m still a little bummed that they sold the ’79 Delta 88 to one of my cousins and not me.

  • avatar

    p00ch wrote 1. Push-button ignition – useful on a racecar, ridiculous on a Lexus ES.

    Really? Just drive a keyless ignition car for a week, and then wince when you have to fish your keys out of your pocket after you get belted in….the convenience is well worth it…now buying a Lexus ES is a ridiculous prospect, key or not! ;-)

  • avatar

    Well, you pretty much nailed it for me. Of particular note, the bit about the GTI with 80mpg. Perfect.

    Also,I got an new DTS for work, there is such a strong smell of whatever it is inside, i have kept the windows open for a week now! I am positive that it is an added “scent of new car”, which got spilled all over buy accident.

    And I MUCH prefer fabric in cars. My uncle had a mid 80’s lincoln sedan that had wonderful cushy cloth seats.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    adamo331: Your last paragraph is the exact reason Car and Driver no longer has my business. Always a BMW or one of those tricked-out aftermarket jokes on the cover. Got tired of having to dig through to find an article on a REAL car that REAL people can afford to buy and drive. Hell, once you look at the Accord, you need look no further, anyway.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    1. The obsession with sunroofs. Sure they are nice but they rob 1-3″ of headroom, depending on the model (which sucks for those tall of stature like me). As a result, carmakers force sunroofs on every one of the cars apart from stripper models. So if I want to buy a nice car with some nice interior features, I need to hope and pray that their sunroof does not ruin the party for me. Kudos to Mazda for making their excellent CX9 available in Grand Touring trim without a sumroof (albeit only because they can’t fit both the roof and the rear entertainment system in the same car).

    2. The overwrought overstyling trend that Bangle brought upon us. The Dame Edna headlights and bustle-butt trunk of the 5- and 7-series and the slash-wounds on the Z4 have “liberated” designers from making handsome cars, freeing them to inflict upon us abominations like Acura’s MDX/TL/TSX shield-grill fest and misshapen RDX, Audi’s gapmouth grille obsession and woefully awkward Q7, Mercedes’ ugly wheel wells and lumpen shape of the S-class (as well as the awful lines of the new C-class), Honda’s tumor-infested and proportion-lacking Accord, the asphalt-barnacle-look of Toyota’s Matrix Corolla and Camry, the blob-of-cirsscrossed shapes and lines that is the Sebring, and countless other design disasters. Thanks, Chris!

    3. SUV’s that are more compromised in interior space than smaller cars. When cars like the Fit, Mini Cooper and Versa can offer headroom and legroom that bests a Yukon, what does that say about sloppy engineering in the Yukon? As a 6’6″ guy, I’m constantly shocked at the wide range of cars I don’t fit into (e.g., Yukon, GM Lambda’s) and those that I do (the aforementioned three).

    3. The word “crossover”. 95% of the vehicles to which this new marketing-inspired word are assigned are SUV’s, and a good chunk of those are bigger than true body-on-frame trucks. Which brings me to “SUV” – aint nothing sport about one of those, unless you’re talking about the Cayenne Turbo or an AMG Benz.

  • avatar

    Ashy Larry:

    Agree completely on the term “crossover”. Transvestite would be a better word.

    I drive a CR-V. I don’t think of it as a crossover or an SUV. It’s either a station wagon or a five door hatchback.

  • avatar

    Michael Ayoub : I certainly do believe it. As an enthusiast, I’m actually fine with the way things are now. On a logical and practical level, it grinds my gears.

    Are cars better in every respect than 100 years ago? Absolutely and undoubtedly without question.

    Have cars changed, fundamentally and conceptually? Not at all.

    If you came from an alien planet that didn’t develop cars, a ’32 Ford Model A and a Bugatti Veyron, would appear to be conceptually identical: Metal enclosures on four doughnuts of rubber or a similar petrochemical product.

    Enter through a hinged door, sit on a seat. An operater manipulates a large circular gear which manipulates the direction of the front two doughnuts. One pedal controls the ICE, which compresses and ignites a vaporized mixture of air and combustible fluid, converting it into motion through metal rods and a shaft. That is, in turn, transmitted to the rubber doughnuts via a set of gears to create motion in one of two directions. The other pedal, mounted to the left side in both cars, applies friction materials (via hydraulics) to scrub forward motion into heat. Even things like radiators are the same: Forcing fluid around the combustion chambers and through a series of metal tubes.

    (I’d still take the Bugatti)

  • avatar

    When I don’t push the clutch all the way in…

  • avatar

    What I dislike most (and I’ve said this before) is when people try to pigeonhole the people who buy a certain car. Also, I can’t stand it when one part of the enthusiast population looks down their nose at another, or the average car buyer.

    Oh, and tying certain trim levels and engines to bodystyles. If I wanted a Mazda3, for instance, I can have the 2.0L in the sedan for $15,000 or the the or the 2.3L in the sedan for $18,500 or the 2.3L in the hatchback for $19,000. Why can’t I have the 2.0L in the hatchback???

  • avatar

    What grinds my gears? Nearly every article on TTAC , no matter who’s writing , has to use the “That said” phrase …..That said , TTAC’s is a great website!

  • avatar

    I still prefer leather in my cars, with reservations:

    For some reason, new Mercedes leather smells like a petro chemical plant. I sat in a showroom E-class and almost vomited from the noxious smell. And I’m an in-car smoker, that’s how awful it was. The poor salesperson just didn’t know how to react – I suspect he was just peeved that MB was making his job that much harder.

    Some of the most buttery leather I encountered was in, of all things, a used BMW 528i. I think it was a 2000 or thereabouts. It was firm but had a perfect surface texture, it felt like silk with a touch of gun oil. Mmmm. Next up was my father’s 2003 Altima, which was very similar to the 528 – firm but soft to the touch. Surprising considering the leather was probably sourced from a McDonalds abattoir.

    Then there is the inch-thick everlasting leather you get in a truly hewn-from-granite car. Not as comfy, but so reassuringly well crafted. Best here was the W140 S-Class. Those interiors were simple but felt so good – thick carpet, thick leather, Teutonic slabs of wood, and double paned windows. My Infiniti Q45 has a similar type of leather (17 years and 150 000 miles and it still isn’t cracked or faded), but the rest is JapanInc and the dash fascia is falling off.

    As for engine detail, every engineer should be given a picture of a Ferrari 250 TR engine bay and told to beat that. If that’s too spartan then emulate the 365 Daytona.

  • avatar

    I hate the way people use “hybrid” as a verb. Cadillac has an ad where this guy driving a Escapade ranting about how hybrids are always small cars and says “You know what they should hybrid? This! This is what they should hybrid.” I feel sorry for the actor; I’m sure he’s a decent guy. But he sounds like a complete idiot for misusing a common English word. Leave it to brainless marketing to abuse common words (hybrid) and pieces of music (United Airlines and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”).

    Lexus had this test driving event, and they had a section called “Hybrid living”. What the heck is “hybrid living”??? Buying a 5000 lbs 22 HW mpg $110K luxo-barge and equipping your penthouse flat with bamboo coffee tables!

    And what’s with GM putting their newest high-tech two mode hybrid drivetrain into full-size SUVs? All that accomplishes is to make an ungainly, heavy vehicle even heavier and more ungainly, with a slight improvement in fuel economy. Anyone who is really concerned about fuel economy isn’t going to be shopping in this market segment.

  • avatar

    Re upholstery: The best thing I’ve sat my arse upon automotively is MB-Tex. The feel and easy (even easier than the) cleanability of leather, but ventilated and more breathable, like cloth. Wears like iron, still looks good after 20 + years when the real leather has long ago cracked and faded. Doesn’t collect stains and tear like cloth. Does anyone know of a better vinyl seat covering? I almost hesitate to call MB-Tex vinyl.

    +1 on the “wouldn’t be caught dead in a mini-van” comment. I don’t own one either, but it’s getting to the point where I wouldn’t be caught dead in the vehicle that most of the m-v haters likely drive – the SUV.

    +1 on the engine covers. WTF? I guess since these days your really not meant to work on your own car anymore, or at best chuck-and-replace, they just part of deal now-a-days. (and why I trogoloditically prefer older cars).

    What Grinds my Gears are most car commercials. From the SUVs supposedly letting you conquer mountain tops to the luxury car that clearly you must have to defin your own wonderful sense of self-importance, they just give me a weird sense of embarrassment to watch.

  • avatar


    Okay, they should be saying bimmer, but what’s the hate for the X5 owners? I test drove a couple of them. Went a different direction, but I think they were both nice vehicles and very BMW.…

    Sorry, no “hate” intended. The X5 is good, but when I hear some talk about how great it performs – like a M3 that goes off road…IMHO a Range Rover off road it is not. That is all I meant.

  • avatar

    I absolutely detest marketing departments that think by popping a badge on a car, it suddenly gains an image. “Look, we just slapped a Pontiac badge on this Cobalt. Now it’s a performance car.” Actually, it’s more like “Look, we slapped a Pontiac badge on this Cobalt. Now we’re dragging down two brands.”

    I detest Detroit management that for 30 years has lost market share pretty much every year and considered it “business as usual.” Yeah, I’m looking at you, GM, Ford, and Chrysler.

    I detest the use of the word ‘competitive’ when the product is not. “Our new Pontiac Troglydite is class competitive with Camry and Accord.” No, class competitive is selling at least half as many. If you sell 20% as many and half go to Avis, you are not ‘competitive.’ You are toast.

    I detest buzz by PR. I don’t care if you are going to be selling the Millennium Falcon in 2010, don’t run your PR mouth about it until I can buy it in the showroom. This goes double or triple for hybrids. Especially if the competition for your $40k car prices at $25k, has been selling them for 15 years, sells them in massive numbers, and makes money.

  • avatar

    In taking a new job my commute miles has doubled. Said many times before: Why do people get in the left lane where they match the speed of the car to their right? When the sign says merge right why do people pass as many cars as possible then cut in at the last minute? Why don’t people put down thier cel phones long enough to signal?

    I like leather as much as the next guy but in both the Miata and Subaru it has the texture of an old canvas sail. I am told if it were buttery and soft like my coach briefcase it would wear out too fast.

    Just because you have a Jetta don’t try to drive it like a BMW. Wait that’s an insult to BMWs. Havinga 5-10 YO Jetta even with an oversized exhast isn’t going to make you go much faster, lowed or not. So stop trying to cut in and out.

    And yes paddle shifters NOW gring my gears. I guess I felt better not having an automatic but it’s a poor substitute for a true stick. (You can’t get the revs up between downshifts) That said (sorry) Auto is a pleasure for the traffic

  • avatar
    Michael Ayoub


    “I hate the way people use “hybrid” as a verb. Cadillac has an ad where this guy driving a Escapade ranting about how hybrids are always small cars and says “You know what they should hybrid? This! This is what they should hybrid.” I feel sorry for the actor; I’m sure he’s a decent guy. But he sounds like a complete idiot for misusing a common English word. Leave it to brainless marketing to abuse common words (hybrid) and pieces of music (United Airlines and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”).”


    Well, this is a feature of English. Get over it. It’s not uncommon for nouns to become causative verbs.

    “You know what they should hybrid?” < “You know what they should make a hybrid?”

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