OK, folks: here’s the second part of my latest series, which is entitled: “I’m on a roadtrip so actually I wrote this a few weeks ago.” This one covers the worst automotive details. You know, the ones that really upset you every single time you get into your vehicle, turn the key, and think to yourself: I’d rather have a crank starter than this crap!
The initial question on this topic received a total of 373 responses, which is almost more than that post about how Bertel was leaving and Jack Baruth would soon be un-banning everyone, including penis enlargement pill spam accounts. So I can only assume that you take bad details very seriously. As a result, I’ve used this post to round up my favorite of your suggestions. Here goes:
Non-Flush Exterior Lights – Marcelo de Vasconcellos
This doesn’t bug me that much, but boy does it seem to bug you guys. Here’s what Marcelo means: many modern cars, especially Japanese ones, have headlights with contours that stick out way past the contour lines of the vehicle itself. Toyota seems to be the king of this, using these headlights as if no other headlights exist.
Interestingly, I was recently on a press drive for the Nissan LEAF, which has the worst non-flush lights in the business. I asked about this, and they claimed the design benefits wind noise. It sounds plausible, but who knows: maybe they just wanted to piss off TTAC commenters.
Brake Light / Turn Signal Combination – OliverTwist
The best suggestion in the entire comments section goes to OliverTwist, who accurately described possibly the biggest thing I hate about most modern German cars: brake lights that double as turn signals. Many modern German cars have this feature, including virtually all Audis. WHY? WHY????
The most annoying thing about this, I’ve noticed, is that a lot of the German cars with this feature do not have this in Germany. Instead, they have normal amber-colored turn signals which may be required by law. So why are Americans stuck with brake light/turn signal combos, like a full-size Chevy sedan from the 1980s?
Daytime Running Lights and Illuminated Gauges – redmondjp
Boy, is this one annoying. A common feature of many cars – especially Japanese models – is illuminated gauges. These gauges are always backlit, regardless of the time of day or the lighting conditions.
The problem is that most cars with this feature don’t use automatic headlights. And with the growing number of vehicles that have daytime running lights, well… you get a lot of people driving around with their dimly-lit daytime running lights on, their gauge cluster illuminated, and their taillights completely dark. This is one of the most dangerous scenarios imaginable on a wet road at night.
Blank Switches – madanthony
Another great suggestion, this from user madanthony, is blank switches. Blank switches, to me, are the single biggest determinant of whether an interior is high quality. No blank switches? High quality. Lots of blank switches? It doesn’t matter if the interior is made of the same material as the Crown Jewels… this interior is awful!
There are tons of great blank switch examples (*cough* Volvo *cough*) but my favorite by far is the Porsche Panamera. Because some models had independent features (think Hybrid vs. Turbo S), there wasn’t one configuration where you could eliminate every single blank switch – even if you spent over $200k. There’s nothing like buying a car for the price of a home and being reminded that you’re still a cheapskate.
Buick Portholes – Silvy_nonsense
Buick portholes are bad for several reasons, including the fact that they’re not actually functional. But Silvy_nonsense succinctly sums up the very best reason they’re bad, namely that “nobody under the age of 900 cares that Buicks had portholes back in the 1720s.” So true, and let’s be honest: even those 930-year-olds running around (slowly) and reminiscing about the portholes on their old Buicks aren’t exactly going to go crazy when they see a three-hole Lucerne CXS.
Volkswagen Tachometers – LeMansteve
Here’s a good one I hadn’t considered. In nearly all Volkswagen models, the tachometer lists the RPM in double digits – i.e. 10, 20, 30, etc. instead of the usual 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. The problem comes when you glance down, and both the tach and your speedometer are reading double-digit numbers. This probably won’t confuse you for long, but it’s a pointless detail that certainly doesn’t make you any happier about owning a 5-cylinder Passat.
Navigation Systems That Don’t Operate in Drive – Ron
We’re talking to you, Toyota. Few things are more annoying than a navigation system that won’t let you enter a destination unless the car is either a) stopped, or b) in “park.” Obviously a result of liability concerns, it’s hard to understand the reasoning behind these things considering that many cars do, in fact, carry passengers.
Of course, there are many, many more, and we could really list these all day. Some even gave me ideas for future columns. But these are the highlights. As always, feel free to share others below.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.