By on August 26, 2013


Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 11.55.04 AM

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

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 11.48.22 AM

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

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 11.56.08 AM

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

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 11.50.02 AM

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

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 11.51.01 AM

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

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 11.51.37 AM

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

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 11.52.24 AM

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

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 11.52.54 AM

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.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

252 Comments on “Answers: The Worst Automotive Details...”


  • avatar
    ash78

    When I had a brand new VW in the mid-90s, I never thought anything of the tach until my wanna-be girlfriend looked at the tach and said “Your car only goes up to 70?”

    Red turn signals are the work of the devil. Especially the Ford Mustang’s cutesy three-step version. Amber ueber alles!

    I don’t mind blank switches so much, but maybe it’s just my appreciation for mass production and efficiencies. If it gets out of hand, then it’s obvious, but a few of them from time to time don’t bother me.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      The Mustang’s is fine because it grabs your attention with the sequential flashing. My issue is with all the other red only designs. My favorite is when a model starts out with amber lens and then looses it in a redesign like my 82 Celebrity had amber turn lens and then they were gone a few years later, same with the 1st gen Pontiac Vibe, amber in the early years and then red at the end.

      • 0 avatar
        old fart

        It must be a young guy thing , as I hate the amber -but I am an old fart

        • 0 avatar
          ash78

          I’m 35, but an old fart at heart…my memories of 70s and 80s European cars made them the pinnacle of safety and innovation, even in the face of high sticker prices and terrible reliability. I remember thinking “Why doesn’t every car have amber signals?”

          They seem to come and go from all cars in phases, I can’t figure it out.

        • 0 avatar
          Ion

          Focus groups says amber taillights remind people of the cheap 80′s cars and imports. Outside of the new ’13+ fancy dancy led taillights I always preferred the ’86-93 LX taillamps for Mustangs. They kept the amber lamp hidden behind a clear plastic lens instead of a cheap amber one.

          • 0 avatar
            Motornik

            99% of the drivers don’t bother with turn signals anyway so they could be green :-) On more serious note – this is THE biggest peeve of mine

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            I love the amber-incorporating tail lamps of the new Lexus GS. But at the same time, they just fitted the GX with horrible altezza tail lamps, so Lexus giveth and Lexus taketh away…

        • 0 avatar
          Roberto Esponja

          Most of the time I don’t have a problem with red and amber tail lamps, but I myself hated it, absolutely hated it, when they switched the ones on the last RWD generation of the Olds Delta 88 from all red to red and amber. They looked like crap!

        • 0 avatar
          Streetcruiser

          I think it depends on where you grew up. If it was in Europe you only know amber turn signals. Red ones are in movies or the rare occasions you see an older american car. And you immeadiatly think they’re cool because it’s something exotic.

          When I got my Trans Am in 2007 I wanted to keep the red turn signals. It wasn’t possible. European Union doesn’t allow cars to be registered in Europe after 2005 to have red turn signals. After weeks and weeks of not getting the car on the road with red ones, it got smoked amber motorcycle turn signals on it – just to get it through inspection. Looks kind of strange but it was the only way of keeping the honeycomb taillights. Amber might be safer because they are more distinguishable but sacrificing the look of a car for that extra little safety is really bad… especially if you have to by law.

      • 0 avatar
        boomhauer

        The “new” sequential turn signals are actually a call back to the 1st gen Cougars from the 60s.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bUNpuHmVr4

        They had a little motor that spun around and manually hit all the contacts.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        What does a new ‘Stang look like from the front? Is the blink rate fast enough to catch your attention?

    • 0 avatar
      SwingAxle

      And when used as emergency flashers, ever notice which signal color penetrates heavy fog waaaay better? (HINT: It ain’t the red ones) Definitely a safety item, and I’m an old fart, too.

      • 0 avatar
        mjg82

        Further to that, though, I once heard the theory that having Red flashers in the back and Amber in the front can help you know which side of a stopped car to pass on, in heavy fog when you can’t see the road well. If you’re approaching flashing red lights, the road is to the left. If you’re approaching amber flashers, the road is to the right.

        Of course this would require standardization which would take years, for a particular case where a better argument is not to drive in fog that bad. My personal preference is amber in the front and rear.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        I would take amber brake lights then! Would much rather see a brake light than a turn signal in just about every situation.

        Which reminds me, one of the worst things I’ve ever seen, day time running lights in heavy rain. Not so much in an oncoming situation but coming up from behind with no running lights on at all.

        Was traveling back from Pittsburgh PA the sunday before Ryan Dunn decided to get aero in his Porsche (since the date escapes me) in a really bad rainstorm and ran up pretty close on an MDX if I remember correctly with only the DRLs on as the rain obscured the vehicle until you were right on top of it (woohoo dark gray rain camo!!!).

        I don’t know if PA has a law like VA where you are supposed to turn your lights on in inclement weather, maybe not, but I think its just good practice.

    • 0 avatar
      KindaFondaHonda

      Here is my rear signal OCD peeve(s):

      One of two things while sitting behind a car/truck waiting to turn with the signal flashing is having an amber signal flash in the rear lens and a RED flash from the mirror housing (or vise versa). It looks soooo stupid to me, I can hardly stand it.

      A close runner up is having an incandescent bulb in the rear lens flashing and an LED in the mirror flashing supposedly together. But we all know the LED flash is instantaneous and the regular bulb is not. Therefore it is all too apparent to me that the flashing is just slightly off between the two. Drives me kinda crazy… and it looks cheap to me.

      Finally, I love amber turn signals in the rear, but ONLY when it’s an amber bulb in a clear lens. Orange LENSES scream 70s/80s to me. Clear ones do not.

      *** Fun fact: Ever notice Chevy added rear orange turn lenses to the 1976-1977 Vega but but never had bulbs in ‘em? Yep, the rear signal still flashed red. The orange lens was a dummy.

      How pathetic is that?

      • 0 avatar
        galaxygreymx5

        If I’m not mistaken the Dodge Spirit had the same fake amber lenses towards the end of their run.

        Someone went to the trouble to include an amber lens and then Chrysler cheaped out and just had the red brake lamp flash instead.

        My Volt (like many GM cars) exacerbates the flashing red brake lamp nonsense by having a CHMSL that doesn’t extinguish at the same rate as the other two brake lights. Get behind a Volt (or ATS, or Camaro…) with the driver getting on and off the brakes while signaling and you have three red lights turning on and off at three rates and telling the traffic behind virtually nothing about whether the damn car is stopping, going, turning right, or turning left.

        Dedicated amber turn signals make it much easier to determine what the driver ahead is intending to communicate. I see combo brake/signal lamps as an automaker cutting corners. The fact that Audi has embraced it is appalling.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Speedometer where multiples of 5 MPH cannot be determined easily. I’m talking to you, Honda Civic.

    Speed limits that end in a “5″ are very common…I require a clear speedo that will inform me with a quick glance that I’m doing 55 MPH, instead of having to count all those small divisions between 40 and 60 MPH -which by the way, are in multiples of 2.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      My Z suffers from this problem too: 20 mph between numbers, a pretty wide gap for residential areas which are often 35 mph. Thankfully a digital readout is available.

      Another I’d like to add is a speedo that goes to a number the car couldn’t reach downhill in a hurricane. Seriously most speedos should top out at like 120-130 max as anything beyond that is way beyond what any sane person should be doing on ANY highway in the US.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Detroit was always notorious for this. My sister’s 1992 Acclaim with its well-worn 2.5 TBI four cylinder could never possibly reach the 120 miles per hour its speedometer stops at. My 1995 Buick with 60 more horsepower might be able to reach 120, but it would take a lot of road.

        And then you have the FWD Grand Prix with 140 mph speedometers!

        • 0 avatar
          typhoon

          The third-generation Taurus came with a speedometer that topped out at 120 MPH. Ford actually gave the SHO a unique cluster that went to 150. I always thought that was funny, because I’m pretty sure it governed out at 105 or so (who would dare take a Taurus any faster anyway?) and would’ve been completely fine with the standard speedo.

        • 0 avatar
          Russycle

          My Grand Am’s goes to 150. Hey, it’s a GT!

        • 0 avatar
          JMII

          My wife had an ’80s Chevy Cavalier (stop laughing) which featured an 85 mph speedo. Sadly the car couldn’t reach even that speed.

          My Z’s gauge goes up to 160 and is electronically limited to 155, so that’s a reasonable match up.

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            My Mustang goes to speedo 160 and you can peg it, well with the speed limiter turned off.

            Fun Fact: banded TPMS sensors aren’t really designed for speeds above 155 (I guess) or maybe its 160, but the adhesive backing on the cradle does separate from the rim and the straps do fail some point afterward evident by a really bad vibration from time to time.

            The 2013 supposedly had an issue with the stem mounted TPMS sensors at warp speed so its supposedly equipped with dedicated TPMS sensors compared to older cars with banded or stem mounted sensors.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Of course, the best was when digital speedos were first all the rage in the ’80s (and might have even had three digits which came on as a check at startup), but flashed “85″ at that speed and over!

        • 0 avatar
          FuzzyPlushroom

          My mother has a New Beetle 1.8T. Every time I drive it, I’m struck by the uselessness of the 160 MPH speedometer – I could easily understand 130 or even 140 MPH, but above that speed I’d imagine the car would be blown off the road, even if it was tuned to achieve the necessary level of power.

          The unrealistic suggestion isn’t what bothers me, though – it’s 80 MPH being at the top of the speedometer, where I normally expect 65-70 MPH to be. My Saab’s speedometer goes to 155, I believe – similarly ridiculous in a non-turbo car – but 65 MPH is at the 12 o’clock position, and 150 is down near 6 o’clock… so it reads like a normal speedometer, proportionally speaking, for the 0-85 MPH range that most drivers will ever use.

          • 0 avatar
            Hobie-wan

            I had a 2000 Turbo Beetle. It seemed to top out at 122 MPH the one time I tried it *cough moment of stupidity cough*. Not sure if that was governed or because of drag. It was certainly a little light on its toes even with that little factory spoiler popped up.

        • 0 avatar
          PonchoIndian

          yeah, but that Acclaim shared its gages with the turbo Acclaims, which could probably do 115mpg, and the 91 Spirit R/T that could do 140+.

          The Grand Prix has a 140 mph speedo, but it also shares its cluster with the GTP (easily a 140 mph car) and the GXP.

          Plus, lots of gm cars have a button to switch between english and metric so that same 140 mph becomes 140 km/hr with the touch of a button. Nice if you are ever crossing into Canada.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I can’t imagine being challenged by a speedometer. I used to drive a German car with 20 mph increments, but it was still easy to estimate quarters. Considering how inaccurate German speedometers have been since TUV revisions decades ago, it matters not anyhow. Starting in 2006, Civics have had gigantic digital displays that allow cars in neighboring lanes to tell exactly how fast you’re going, so I doubly miss your point.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Kind of like how “accurate” the fuel economy gage was in my old E30…

        And as for portholes in Buicks…sheesh…my mother bought a new Verano last fall (rather good car, actually), but the fake portholes HORIZONTAL ON THE HOOD…really? It would have looked better to just keep them off. Period.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      If you can’t read the speed off the tach, then you probably shouldn’t be driving.

  • avatar
    AlfaRomasochist

    Re: non-flush exterior lights – I noticed that on one of the new Cadillac (XTS? ATS? CTS? who knows) the taillights aren’t even close to flush with the trunk lid – they stick out a good inch or two. This made me wonder… would it be possible to install a tail light lens that replicates the tailfins from, say, a ’59 Caddy? I think that would be awesome. And awful. All at the same time.

    Aftermarket, you’re welcome.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Caddy is trying to evoke the tail fin with its latest taillights. The one that makes me laugh is the new RAV4 with taillights that mimic tail fins – on a Toyota! Either tail fins or a bad metaphorical “popped collar”. Perhaps there going for the douche bag frat boy market?

      • 0 avatar
        sckid213

        @PrincipalDan: Haha you are so right about the taillights on the RAV4. That whole back end is so strange looking. Like a big shelf across the back of the vehicle. They should bring back the exterior spare tire to cover up that mess and call it a day.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Brake/turn signal combos are not an annoyance, they are a major safety flaw, and for no reason whatever. Not like they ran out of the tail light real estate back there. which is how this trend started.

    But as to Buick’s fake vents, there is a reason for them. If they did not exist, what other car trim details would all those poor people are going to rip off other cars and paste on their beater Civics, Mustangs and Tauruses right after they apply black trash bags to the windows’ interiors and call it window tint? But for those fake vents, the branding insignia on your car is safe. Did you know that a Mercedes on-grill stick-on plastic star costs $80? Thank you, Buick.

    • 0 avatar
      old fart

      Isn’t that called Ghettofication (true word) of cars

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      “Brake/turn signal combos are not an annoyance, they are a major safety flaw, and for no reason whatever.”

      y’know, I see/hear this every now and then, but never see the claimants produce any evidence to support. Only assertion that it’s self-evident.

      mostly I think it’s just whining from euro-snobs who complain that cars here aren’t exactly like the ones they see on Top Gear.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811115.PDF

        “The principal finding of the report is that amber signals show a 5.3% effectiveness in reducing involvement in two-vehicle crashes where a lead vehicle is rear-struck in the act of turning left, turning right, merging into traffic, changing lanes, or entering/leaving a parking space. The advantage of amber rear turn signals is shown to be statistically significant.”

        • 0 avatar
          bk_moto

          Zing!

          • 0 avatar
            aristurtle

            Seriously, people, we live in the future now, where you can back up your arguments with actual information after two minutes of searching the Internet.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          It makes total sense to me, the amber being a different color then red would be more apt to get your attention to the fact that there is something different then just braking going on. Where as the first couple of blinks of a red turn signal could at first appear to be just a brake tap

        • 0 avatar
          let_that_pony_gallop

          I would be curious to see how situations where the blinker is not amber but is somewhat seperated from the brakes, such as sequantial blinkers(mustang) or multiple brake lights(camaro, corvette, GT-R)would effect the numbers.

      • 0 avatar

        I was spooked by people braking a few times, so I’m a claimant. A common case is when you move in a parallel line and do not see whe whole rear of the vehicle signalling.

        When I was younger, this was so self-evident, that I thought the red-light lovers were blithering morons. Now I see that a person can get used to any kind of abuse, even red blinkers. Heck, in most of wrong states people maneuver without using blinkers of any kind and it’s my fault that I live in a polite state with courtegeous drivers anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        Wodehouse

        I think your last sentence nailed it.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Are the ventiports functional on newer Buicks? I always heard the urban legend that the original ventiports were functional back in the 40s but after a few teen boys took turns urinating on the headers of the principal’s Fireball 8, Buick closed off the ventiports to protect owners from mischief.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The portholes are functional in a way, three per side means you have a 6-cylinder, four per side is a V8, or was. With 4-bangers, I think they leave the portholes out altogether, and for a few years they left them off no matter what you had under the hood. They’re just tacked on, so you’d have to drill holes in the sheet metal if you wanted to squirt something out of them.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Buick portholes = bad
    Maserati Quattroporte portholes = good

    Also the bit about the non-flush headlights and wind noise is true as far as I know. The bumps have something to do with affecting the flow of the air before they hit the mirrors, which are the big noise culprits.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    Plastic cladding on the underbody of the car that’s held on with crappy plastic fasteners that break when you try and remove them.

    I swear, my wife’s Saturn has lost enough plastic from the bottom of the car to build a whole new car.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I actually like the portholes on the Buick, especially on that rare V8 car. At least Buick’s had them! My problem is with the copycat stick on ones that came after.

    I remember my folks bought a new Horizon once and the tach was the same as the VW. I remember my Mom being confused by that. Runner-up: Fords with no redline. I know, everyone drives some sort of slushbox today controlled by a rev limiter and most folks rarely go beyond 4,000. Still tacky to me.

    The amber turn signal would be greatly appreciated. With all the tricks you can do with LED lights, isn’t changing the color of the bulb easy?

    Along with the DRL/ dashboard thing, can we please be allowed to run the fog lights without the headlights,NHTSA? Without having to “hack” our cars to do it.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “The amber turn signal would be greatly appreciated. With all the tricks you can do with LED lights, isn’t changing the color of the bulb easy? ”

      Yes and no. You can’t really “change” the color of an individual LED*, but you can sure put in yellow/orange ones instead of red if you want.

      It’s purely a design decision at the tech level; I prefer a separate amber turn signal, myself.

      (* “Color changing” LED systems are really three or more emitters, RGB and possibly white, with individually varying brightness, visually blending to arbitrary combinations.)

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        I’ve always thought that a really tricky, cool taillight system would have red, green, and blue LEDs. Have large sections that are red only, but put a section above or below with green and blue. The turn signals would be red and green firing together, and the reverse lights would be all three.

        It would only work with a tight matrix of small lights, but it would work!

        Also – doing that with traffic signals – one big unit with red and green LEDs interspersed. Shine both for yellow.

        • 0 avatar
          majo8

          Using a single bulb with red and green led’s for traffic signals would never fly……people with red/green colorblindness ( up to 5% of the population )would not be able to differentiate the two colors. I believe this is why we don’t see the sideways (000) traffic signals anymore, and all signals are stacked with green on the bottom and red on top.

          • 0 avatar
            porschespeed

            The current ‘fashion’ is to replace the left-turn solid green with a flashing yellow arrow.

            Dumbest thing I have seen in a while.

        • 0 avatar
          Tinker

          Having ANY blue light showing in Texas will get you pulled over for illegal lighting. Blue lights are reserved for cops.

          Remember those blue dots, that were produced for customizers to fit into brake light lenses? We had a local car show, lots of custom vehicles, and a cop parked within a block pulling over every vehicle for light inspection. Tickets for every one.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    The gauges lit up like a Christmas tree when the headlights are still set to off get my vote.

    Whatever was wrong with normal backlit gauges that are illegible when dark? It almost cries out for federal intervention with a standard requiring automatic headlights (it’s what, a fifty-cent opto-sensor and a length of wire?) for always-on dashboards.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      I just got a new-to-me Corolla that’s like that. Fortunately it has a sensor and automatic headlights.

      I’m getting into the habit of leaving it on auto, because otherwise I’d have to adjust brightness every time it got dark out. And I hate having to re-adjust that every time the sun goes down.

      Why anyone would sell a car with DRLs and a lit dash WITHOUT automatic lights to prevent people from not realizing their headlights are off is beyond me. I agree, it CAN’T be very expensive, and it’d be a selling/safety feature…

      (In manual mode, you have to set brightness with a knob, and of course “not too bright at night” is also “too dark on a bright day” – and since it’s visually flush and under a cowl it’s poorly lit by ambient light.

      In auto mode, things are nicer – when the sensor sees “day” the DRLs are on and the dash is bright. At night, the sensor turns on the headlights and the dash dims to the knob setting.

      My old Toyota pickup, I just turned the lights on every time and used ambient light to see the dash…)

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        This is obviously a real safety hazard and a common issue, why hasn’t this been addressed?

      • 0 avatar
        alexndr333

        Of all the features denied the auto-buying public by GM’s bean-counters over the years, somehow automatic headlights got through. My 2000 Chevy Blazer LS had crank windows, manual locks, and automatic headlights. Maybe their lawyers and accountants found something they could agree on.

        • 0 avatar
          afflo

          Oh yeah… My Sonoma had the same. I used to get nasty looks from t he gate guards driving it on base because I could not dim my headlights. Eventually, I learned that there was an override – push the dome override button 3 times in 10 seconds or something like that.

          What an ergonomic nightmare. GM crammed everything on the signal stalk – cruise, wipers, washer… Except the one non-signal function that is expected there: the headlights! Those were relegated to the dashboard, though the dimmer was still on the stalk. And it seemed that they just couldn’t leave well enough alone, because the dome light was controlled by the headlight knob.

        • 0 avatar
          raph

          Canada is probably the reason why, when Canada required DRLs, GM went across the board with them.

          Speaking of DRLs, I don’t mind them at all, the intensity of the light works well but man do I ever hate it when people run standard headlights during the day, especially in high beam mode ( this goes for motorcycles as well) .

          I’ve got an auto dimming review mirror ( essentially worthless, I’m surprised it didn’t get on the list) and when somebody with their brights on comes up from behind, I just get beamed right in the eyes creating some dazzle. If its bad enough, I just flip the mirror up which negates their safety effort anyways.

        • 0 avatar
          PonchoIndian

          Feature denied? huh?

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      This. Can’t tell you how may times I’ve driven off in my Honda thinking I had the lights on, especially when we first got it. It’s just stupid.

      • 0 avatar
        kmoney

        The even more pathetic thing about this is that most cars with air conditioning have a “sun sensor” already standard as part of the air conditioning system — it uses it to calcuate solar energy in, in order to know calculate much is needed to cool. Why they cant just make this do double duty is beyond me.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          (scratches head) Why would any car maker use a light (solar) sensor in relation to a climate control? You need a thermostat. This is saying you have no A/C on a hot summer night because it’s dark out

          • 0 avatar
            kmoney

            It gives it an element of predictability vs just being reactive like the thermostat — i.e., if it senses greater insolation it knows the car will be getting hotter in the immediate future from the incomming sun and can increase fan speed/adjust cooling accordingly. Obviously it is there to augment the thermostat, as it couldn’t stand along for the reason you point out. The net effect is more steady temperatures. It actually works quite well.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            As a matter of fact, sunload sensors are helpful in regulating cabin temperatures and comfort, but the t/stat is the main control.

          • 0 avatar
            porschespeed

            Why? Because it gets 140F(+) in a car when the sun is shining. When it isn’t, not so much.

            Go live in PHX and you’ll understand.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Doug, thanks for posting the lawyer message that appears on my nav on startup. This is the first time I have ever read it. I nominate these nav warning screens as the most annoying feature ever.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      That’s reason #2 I don’t get in-dash nav (when upgrading stereos; I’ve never gotten a vehicle with a built-in).

      Reason #1 is that it’s much safer to use (I think) when it’s up on the dash or next to the mirror, rather than down and off to the right on the car’s centerline.

      Not even talking data-entry safety, just looking at the map… eyes closer to ahead is always better.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Our 2005 Nissan Murano SL locked you out of the nav system once you got above 5 mph. Our 2012 Hyundai Sonata Limited gives the disclaimer, but lets you do everything—including entering destinations—at any speed.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Along with always lit gauges, cars that don’t turn the headlights on and off with the ignition chap me. I live in Maine, it’s dark and dreary all winter, I want the lights on all the time when I am driving, why should I have to mess with the light switch?

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      I’ve yet to owned anything with auto headlights, just a stupid switch. But I’ll cut the ‘constant power’ lead to the HL switch and run an ‘accessorized” power lead off the nearest fuse box. Now the headlights are always ON when the truck is ON (when the switch is left in the ON position). But I can still shut them OFF at any time. This ends the possibility of forgeting the lights ON and killing the battery or forgeting to turn them ON when running multiple errands, or just running around at night or in the rain. It’s a safely thing, especially if I lend the truck to someone used to auto lights.

  • avatar
    David Walton

    Inability to open the frunk remotely in older 911s

  • avatar
    parabellum2000

    The tailpipes on Hyundai Velosters bug me to death. A bunch of other DI cars have the same issue. They soot up so bad it looks like they crapped their pants. My sisters Veloster has black tailpipes and black bumper by the end of each week, while my Golf TDI has no soot at all.

    If the pipes were going to be so sooty I would expect they would angle them away from the bodywork instead of ending them flush with the bumper.

  • avatar

    Kinda a theme with the all-red rear lamps: fake lamps.

    Look at the back of a current Durango or a 2008 GMC Acadia some time. They look like they’d have an amber signal, but nope. There’s just one big white/chrome strip and only a little bit of that is for reversing.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Everything you see here…

    http://www.graveyardhaulerz.com/263485564_e7be938ff7.jpg

  • avatar
    Lampredi

    A very annoying “feature” which seems to be standard on most modern cars is how it’s become nearly impossible to change headlight bulbs without dismantling half the front-end of the car (on my own car, for instance, it’s a bumper off job).

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      My wife has a facelifted version of my own car, yet headlight work is 10x harder in hers. Of any major sub-assembly on a car, headlamps probably get the award for the fastest “progress” in making things nearly impossible to DIY.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh yeah, that too. Our Sedona usually takes some dismantling to easily get to the bulb.

      However, our ’87 Ranger had the big rectangular sealed-beam lamps so the whole grille had to be removed. Now that I’ve put in a clear after-market, diamond-esque housing in there, it takes H4 headlights just fine with no grille removal needed.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Any car with a “II” in it’s name.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Well it isn’t a car, in fact “anything less is just a car” but I’d have to disagree with the II when the word proceeding it is Scout. So much better than the models that didn’t carry the II designation.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    SUVs that appear to have large windows behind the C pillar but when you get inside you see that the dark tinted glass hides the fact that the C and D pillars intrude several inches over the “window”. I guess back up cameras are cheaper than developing strong roof supports that don’t intrude on visibility.

  • avatar
    Apollo

    On GM vehicles, the way that the reverse lights come on when someone uses the remote control to unlock the car. I understand that you want some lights to come on so that people can see their car and the area around it, but throwing on the reverse lights is disruptive. When you’re driving through a parking lot or parking garage, you hit the brakes when a parked car’s reverse lights come on; it’s really irritating when that doesn’t signal that the car is backing up, but that a dude 20 yards away has pulled his keys out of his pocket.

  • avatar
    FordRangerFTW

    For God’s sake… Could you please lay off the VW five-cylinder??? It has proven itself to be both reliable and durable. Further, it’s 144-degree power pulses gives it a much flatter torque curve than any four-banger of similar displacement. Was it a technological powerhouse? No. But when did having less to go wrong become such a bad thing?

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Less to go wrong? Are you trying to say that reliability is inversely proportional to cylinder count?

      Sorry, IMO all 5-cylinders are an awful compromise. I’d much rather have a smooth 4 or 6.

      • 0 avatar
        FordRangerFTW

        No, no, no… Cylinder count is (mostly) irrelevant when it comes to reliability. I’m simply saying that people bagged on this engine primarily because it was just an average entry-level lump. The new 1.8 replacing it is turbocharged and direct-injected; i.e. more to go wrong. Yes, 4′s & 6′s are inherently smoother… But naturally aspirated fours are peaky in their power delivery, and sixes are more difficult to package transversely. The low-tech 2.5 was completely competitive amongst its peers when it was engineered. Its overlapping power strokes provided a much more linear power delivery than its contemporary four-cylinder competition, while still able to fit across the breadth of a compact car. Everyone calls 5-bangers a terrible compromise, but they’re missing the point. It’s an engine configuration with distinct advantages and character… I’m sad to see it go.

      • 0 avatar
        FordRangerFTW

        Besides, this engine set out to do exactly what it was designed to do… Be low maintenance, low cost, and flexible. VW couldn’t meet those objectives from the ground up, so… Tack another cylinder on the proven 2.slow block, machine it to accept a cylinder head from a Gallardo, give it a timing chain instead of a belt, and voila! Parts-bin special!

        • 0 avatar
          gslippy

          I’ll admit that despite my experiences with VW unreliability, their 5 has been pretty trouble-free.

          Thanks for your explanation. You are correct about the simpler nature of a 5 vs a turbo 4 or V6.

          As an aside, I remain impressed that Volvo stuffed a straight 6 (turbo, to boot) transversely in the S60 T6. It must be a bear to service.

          • 0 avatar
            FordRangerFTW

            Completely agree! I popped the hood on a test drive of one of those… I couldn’t even get my hand between the accessory side of the engine, and the adjacent components. Believe it or not, the T6 is actually an inch shorter than the T5 they stuffed in there!

  • avatar
    myheadhertz

    Could we please have some sort of voluntary standardization of cruise control location and button layout?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Not until we get all the gas filler doors on the same dang side of the car, thank you! I’m tired of the “pump” dance. Driver’s side would be fine.

      • 0 avatar
        myheadhertz

        Forgot about that one!

        I once saw a young girl pull up to the pumps, get out and realize the filler was on the other side. She got back into her car, made a U-turn, and pulled up to the opposite side of the same pump. Gets out and sees the filler is STILL on the wrong side! Jumped in her car and drove away.

      • 0 avatar
        cpthaddock

        … but on the list of “wonderful things” along with Tigger, are the long hoses at Costco that will reach to the far side of almost all non commercial/recreational vehicles.

        FWIW – I still find the filler indicator on the fuel gauge to be on my list of most useful features just about every time I fill up. A surprising number of people remain oblivious to that handy little triangle next to the gas pump icon.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          I don’t have a problem with the little arrow to find the door I have a problem with the fact that this wasn’t standardized back when cars moved away from the rear filler.

          First Engineer: “We will put the gas cap on the drivers side.”

          Second Engineer: “What about countries that have their steering wheel on the opposite side?”

          First Engineer: “Then we will put the gas door on that side when we design the export model.”

          SIMPLE, EASY, DRIVER ORIENTED!!!!!!!!!!!

          • 0 avatar
            morbo

            I loved the ’88 Caprice. The fuel door was hidden behind the license plate. The plate was spring loaded, drop the plate down to expose the fuel door. Didn’t matter what side you pulled up on.

            In retrospect, I’m thinking that was not the best safety design feature in case of being rear ended. But made life at Sunoco easy for me.

          • 0 avatar

            Like that Caprice, so did our ’76 Hornet Sportabout (and other Hornets) for the spring-loaded plate.

            The 1970′s Jaguar XJ’s had the two caps on either rear fender which always looked kinda cool/classy, symmetrical, and of course convenient on either side of the road.

          • 0 avatar
            sitting@home

            “Then we will put the gas door on that side when we design the export model.”

            The bean counters are probably responsible for shaving 50 cents off the cost of each car by having a combined brake/turn bulb, how do you think they would react if you said you wanted a whole different fuel tank, body panels and door latch mechanism for export cars instead of an arrow printed on the speedo ?

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Ever since I figured that little nifty info out I have been on the look out for them.
          Out of ~20 vehicles I have looked at, 1 had it, a ranger.

        • 0 avatar
          Yoss

          Our Costco has that same long hose, but the attendant came out and yelled at me when I actually tried to take it around to the other side of my vehicle.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    I love blank switch panels, gives me a place to mount the button for my NOS yo!

    Seriously though, blank panels are the perfect places for USB charging ports, auxiliary audio jacks and all manner of switches for fog lights, compressors, winches, etc. I’d much rather cut a hole in a blank switch panel than the dash or center console.

    I don’t see it as a reminder of options I didn’t buy, I see it as a reminder of options that I haven’t installed/dreamed up yet.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      +1/2

      I do like find to find uses for blank spots, but at the same time I yearn to know what was meant.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        You can usually find out what you missed by googling the car’s interior photos showing all the options. I prefer to fill the blanks with custom labels like “rocket launcher” and “smoke screen”.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I had a Mazda that didn’t have the blank spot where a button should be, it actually had a non-fuctioning button. Drove me crazy the whole time I owned that car because I had every available option (not a lot on a Mazda)that was offered that year. The only thing I could think of that it was for something offered in another country that wasn’t offered in the US. I would push that “button” every so often just to make sure it didn’t work

  • avatar
    bk_moto

    I second the one about DRLs + always-lit instruments.

    I’ve noticed that VW has made up for their double-digit tach faces by fixing the former problem.

    My ’13 GTI has DRLs and also follows the trend of always-lit instruments. But it has a neat feature via a photosensor built into the instrument panel whereby if you drive into a tunnel or parking garage (or it just gets dark outside), the instrument lighting gradually dims until it fades out completely as a reminder that you need to turn on your headlights. Not bad!

  • avatar
    Brawndo

    I’m sorry I missed the original post. I’d have nominated console mounted shifters for automatics, a pointless affectation of sportiness as the most hateful automotive detail. They rob you of storage space, possibly an extra seat and make the cockpit seem much less spacious. And for what? So we can pretend we’re rowing our own? So our ultra-manly, transmission-shaming neighbors might be momentarily confused? No thanks. Put it on the column where it belongs.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Not as bad as putting the shifter on the dash. Feels like your playing a slot machine

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      I always thought that was a throwback to the 80′s and early 90′s, when cars were still (mostly) available with manuals. Put the shifter for both on the floor, and you don’t have to design two different consoles.

      My ex-wife had a 2001 CR-V – it had a column shifter, and an emergency brake between the seats. Not on a console, but on the flat floor, between the captain’s chairs. Bizarre, but (aside from the E-brake to trip you) it had a flat floor and you could climb between the front and rear minivan style. There was even a flip-down food tray in the middle.

      • 0 avatar
        Brawndo

        I would love to have a built in food tray, also captain’s chairs.

        • 0 avatar
          afflo

          Those early CR-V were quirky, and dare I say, more interesting than the new ones. They also had the wet-well and fold-out picnic table in the back seat. The biggest downside was the engine – a de-tuned, bored out B-series engine with 146 hp, mated to a 4-speed automatic. Uphill in the mountains sounded like it was powered by a touchless hand dryer.

  • avatar
    nutbags

    Red is for brakes, amber is for turning. Should be law of the land.

    The illuminated gauges in my 2012 GLI dim as the ambient lighting dims. When dark or dusk conditions, you can only see the needles. Or you can just leave your lights on, no auto setting, and they go off when you shut off the car. But then you would be that guy driving around with your headlights always on.

    One detail that really bugs me is the lack of manual transmission (with the exception of the European cars) in anything but a base model, if they offer one at all. Perhaps you could compile a list of makes and models that are still available with a manual. I might have to divorce my wife and marry you if you did that.

    • 0 avatar
      Tifighter

      Awkward…

    • 0 avatar

      I’m going to stick with keeping my lights on during the day, thanks. There’s nothing like having the stark contrast of sun and shade, and not seeing the car in the shade because they don’t have lights on. Same goes for the afternoon: headlights when your cars ass is to the sun makes it much easier to see. DRL is standard for everything in Canada because of the northern hemisphere sun cycle being the way it is.

      • 0 avatar
        cpthaddock

        We get a similar effect in Phoenix in East / West am and pm commutes. Driving into the sun you’re partially blinded and if all oncoming traffic had lights on it would be much safer. Of course, when the sun is at your back everything is perfectly lit and the problem is not apparent to you.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Where I live no one likes to use lights except during total darkness. I don’t care if we have fog in a blizzard during a thunderstorm… no lights on, ever

  • avatar
    suspekt

    #1. Cut lines that are on the side of the hood (clam shell hoods)
    –> Merecedes C and E class…

    #2. Hood leading edges that don’t reach the grill or headlights
    –> Current BMW 3 and 5 series
    —> New Honda Accord does this perfectly with a tapered hood shut-line.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    On my ’09 Jetta, they decided to put 3 increments between multiples of 10 on the speedometer face instead of 4. So instead of reading your speed in units of 2 (50, 52, 54, etc) you read your speed as 50, 52 1/2, 55, 57 1/2.. Not the biggest deal in the world but weird.

    The main reason for 2 digits on the VW tach is so that during a malfunction the tach can be used as the speedometer.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    #3. Sport models where the “aero” kit is just glued on front/side/rear trim peices rather than wholly new front and rear bumpers
    –> Honda is BY FAR the worst offender here. They just won’t stop doing it and it pisses me off worse each passing year.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      The old Corolla S was notorious for this too. But I think eventually Toyota actually started making S-specific bumpers.

      • 0 avatar

        Indeed, the 2000+ Corolla S did bring that trend up quite a bit. Sure made the XRS quite the sleeper, though, since nothing more than a badge, wheels, and rear disks made it stand out from the normal S.

        The Yaris S continued that tradition of tacky kits. Fascia changes on the later Hatch S did a little more shaping in the lower grille and foglight enclosures for differentiation. Of course the ’14 Corolla S gets rear suspension and brake changes from the basic/eco models that the old S never received, and same with the Yaris SE and it’s quicker steering ratio, etc.

        Another body-kit clad econobox to mention: Lancer OZ. The body kit was actually functional on those, and the OZ wheels were very light and rugged from what I understand.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    #4. I believe JB wrote a peice on this one using a Venza, but I will restate it, OVERLY DETAILED headlight/taillight assemblies
    –> All I can think of when I see the ever-increasing complexity of headlight/tailight designs are the replacement costs should there be an accident OR a failure of a component part within the assembly years’ down the road. Makes no sense.

  • avatar
    brenschluss

    I haven’t read all the comments so I might not be the first to say it, but non-flush lighting is almost exclusively for aero, *not* styling. MFRs would probably love to make clean, flush looking lights.

    So, hate on them at your NVH peril.

    EDIT: And in fact it appears this was mentioned in the original article. Oh well.

    • 0 avatar
      bnolt

      MFRs can make clean, flush looking lights. If wind noise is that much of a concern they could spend another 59 cents an opening for better weather stripping. I guess manufacturers think potential buyers are now prioritizing NHV over styling. New marketing campaign: “Sure, it looks like s**t, but it sure is quiet!” Notice how many luxury models don’t have tumors? I don’t buy it. They could dimple all the sheet metal like a golf ball and it wouldn’t look much worse. Designers without any sense of design.

      • 0 avatar
        brenschluss

        Headlights on new luxury cars that I see have some strong creases and odd lines, not flush. They don’t look like tumors, but they didn’t say unstyled obtrusions, just non-flush.

  • avatar
    davidm_1

    The one thing that i find annoying especially on my Alfa Romeo 159 is the after thought of the usb port which is hidden in the glove Box. And, if you plug anything into the port you can’t close the glove box.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    “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”

    Good observation there, and a bit amusing.

    Buick Portholes as far as I can tell are actually genuine holes, I’ve seen a Lacrosse (I think) with a mis-colored fender and holes for the trim, custom portholes are almost always stickers and I can’t beleive that people pay over a few bucks for them.

    I personally think the worst automotive detail is huge fake vents up front on even Audis, they’re meant to look like ducts to cool the front brakes but nothing screams “cheap” more than seeing that your Audi has fake cheap plastc vents. Give me amber tailights any day of the week.

    And its true that Volvos have a number of blanks, my 240 has some huge ones beside the dash cluster but soon I’ll have them filled in.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Fake vents serve a very important function – they communicate to everyone around that the driver is a douchebag. That’s why stick-on aftermarket fake vents are sold, so if someone is a douchebag but buys a car that doesn’t have them, he can still let everyone know.

  • avatar

    BLANK SWITCHES- glad you called them out! Automakers should have panels fully customized to address this issue. Otherwise, they are trying to make people feel guilty for being poor!

    LOW BACK UP LIGHTS- why did Cadillac put the white backup light at the bottom of the bumpers in the ATS, CTS and XTS?

    That Panamera’s shifter looks so ridiculously phallic, it reminds me of the chestburster in ALIEN.

    • 0 avatar
      Rick T.

      I attended a focus group years ago where they were comparing (no driving) a potential new Porsche car against competition. Interestingly my major complaint about the car was that console and shifter which was basically unchanged from the apparent pre-production model.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Read something that the new Chevy/GMC pickups have a small bank of switches on the lower dash where each combination of controls will have its own layout.

      Of course, I’ll leave it to the rest of the B&B to discuss how that might be a problem during assembly!

  • avatar
    makuribu

    Stupidest “safety” detail: I can not start my manual transmission car, even when it is in neutral and the brake and hand brake are applied, unless I put the clutch pedal to the floor. Yet, if the engine is running, I can shred the starter pinion in a moment of inattention by turning the key, as long as the clutch pedal is on the floor.

    Why the FUCK can’t they equip a car with a “your engine is already running so I won’t engage the starter” circuit?

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Yes, my Leaf’s headlights make it look like a frog. I’ve never really gotten used to that part.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      The rest of the car doesn’t help much, either.

    • 0 avatar

      I always thought it was for aerodynamics just as much as noise reduction. The GT-R used different pieces to place wind where they wanted, so why not the Leaf? Juke does it too.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        It is for aerodynamics and noise reduction, and the results are impressive. The Leaf produces only 67.7 dB at 70 mph, which isn’t bad for a small car.

        • 0 avatar

          Ah, but that’s 67.7dB@70mph without a little four-cylinder running 2k-3200rpm ;) Would it be so quiet if it were so equipped?

          The funny thing is, the 2000 Toyota Echo is 71dB, and the current Fit, Fiesta, and Mazda2 are all sitting at 72dB at the same speed. Whoa, one more surprise about my car! Love it!

          Echo:
          http://media.caranddriver.com/files/toyota-echotoyota-echo-specs.pdf

          Fit, Fiesta, Mazda2:
          http://media.caranddriver.com/files/ford-fiesta-vs-honda-fit-vs-mazda-2-comparison-test-car-and-driver2011-ford-fiesta-2010-honda-fit-2011-mazda-2-ego.pdf

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      How about slapping some fake vents on it? That should help remind you that it’s a real car and not an amphibian.

  • avatar

    The *worst* example of blank switch syndrome has to be the blank plate GM put over the cassette player on most of its 2000-2005 era cars. (e.g. http://images.sc1.netdna-cdn.com/P/Chevrolet-GMC-R-1524-main-image.jpg)

    To me, it always looked like lazy, cost-cutting engineering…which is precisely what it was.

    • 0 avatar
      galaxygreymx5

      I don’t know man; have you ever been in a 2000-ish Jetta/Golf/GTI that wasn’t equipped with seat heaters or traction control? Three absolutely giant (soft touch plastic!) switch blanks right above the radio, directly in your line of sight, to remind you what a cheapskate scumsucker you really are.

      Maybe not as bad as GM but not too far off.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        Well, either the people who don’t buy them are cheapskates, or the people who buy cars with all switches operational are idiots who overpay.

        Why buy into the manufacturers’ strategy on this one? What are we, their marketing army?

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      That’s still leftover from when there was an 8-track player there

  • avatar
    redav

    Re: blank switches – is it better to have a blank or a button that does nothing?

    At least with the blank button, it gives you a spot for a custom switch if you want to add something.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    My wife’s MDX will re-set the HVAC settings to whatever was last active for that key fob, but it only activates when you unlock the car. So I’ll get into the garaged, unlocked car that she last drove, drive with my key in 100 degree heat with the AC blasting, stop the car, run a quick errand; when I come back and unlock the car, the A/C may or may not be on, or the heat may be on, depending on where the HVAC was set the last time I drove the car with that fob. This is stupid.

  • avatar
    redav

    I’ll go ahead and add one that really bugs me: cars that autmatically unlock all the doors when the transmission is put in park. I’m sure most people here have seen the video of theifs in gas stations ‘sliding’ to steal items out of cars. The whole notion is absurd if not dangerous. Personally, I’d rather car makers be fined for that type of nonsense than mistating mpg. (I do feel they should be fined for that, too, but I’d fine them more for deliberately adding features that make people less safe.)

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      I disagree. Assuming that all of us, all the time, are surrounded by thieves preying on us would be the wrong mentality to design a car. I do want my doors to unlock when i and my occupants are likely to be leaving the car. That is, i don’t want to press another button to do so.

      You could argue that the feature should be activated when removing the key from the ignition instead of putting the transmission in park, however.

    • 0 avatar
      baggins

      In both of my cars, this auto unlock when placed into park feature can be adjusted so that none of the doors unlock, only the driver door does, etc. I bet it can in your car too.

      Suggest you read the manual.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Nick_515: The “all the time” assumption is irrelevant. You lock your doors not because you are always surrounded by criminals, but because there may be that one time. It’s just like insurance. My mother has had, on multiple occasions, people walk up to her car and try to get in. (I don’t know why, but I assume angry/crazy has a lot to do with it.) Each time, it was the door being locked that stopped them. She was quite rattled by the experiences, and I don’t care to think how she would be (or what she would have done) if they had successfully opened a door. After going through such experiences, the notion of being stopped in a gas station or parking lot with doors that auto-unlock is unfathomable.

        A feature that unlocks doors–even when no one is there to get out–is a poor design. Several cars have latches that unlock the door when pulled. That’s a simpler and safer alternative. And since a better solution is readily available, there is no excuse for continuing with the worse one.

        baggins: My car doesn’t have such a feature, but I’ve had several rentals that do. And since they were rentals, they didn’t have manuals.

    • 0 avatar
      typhoon

      In my Explorer, there was some voodoo procedure that allowed me to disable the automatic door locks. Safety notwithstanding, they’re annoying.

      This poor guy wasn’t so fortunate: http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-02-15/world/35443271_1_jaime-zapata-mexico-city-victor-avila

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      RTMFM

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Rear wing on a 3 speed, 120 hp Corolla, WHY???

  • avatar
    morbo

    Floor mounted shifters for automatic cars. I learned to drive on an ’88 Caprice that had a column mounted shifter. I was great. Unobtrusive, eays to oeprate, and left plenty of space to my right for stuff, things, and items.

    Then manuals had to become hot ans sexy. And even though 99% of the population will never row their own (I don’t, it’s God awful to have a manual in traffic), the automakers just HAD to make it look like the automatics had manual style shifters.

    It’s 2013. Cars are rolling computers, increasingly drive by wire. Just have a couple buttons on the dash to select gear, or maybe make it voice activated. Return my column shifter. Hell, anything to get my floorspace back.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I was going to say, sounds like the MKZ might be the car for you without an obtrusive console mounted shifter. Then I remembered that they left shifterless console in the car anyway, for some reason. And here I thought Lincoln buyers liked the idea of buying a couch on wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      You can get the bench on the Tahoe….. For an EXTRA $800 OVER captain seats.

      Yea.. Makes a ton of sense….

      Obviously column shift as well.

    • 0 avatar
      johnny ro

      Wow I am now part of the 1%.

      Yes floor mounted auto mode selectors are bad. They are evocative of that which they are not; manual shifters. Sort of like fake boobs or a nickel roll in your pants.

      Pure styling at the expense of function. Good luck turning that one around in the public’s eye.

      Sorry, for me its more fun with a nice manual than with auto in traffic. As is the case everywhere else.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        A nickel roll in your pants? Well, if you can’t afford quarters…

      • 0 avatar
        morbo

        Manuals are more fun, no doubt, on twisty roads, highways at full speed, and backcountry blacktop. I challenge you to drive a stick through the Holland tunnel, through lower Manhattan, and up to the Bronx on a Saturday night around 8PM.

        Alternately, take I-66 Eastbound onto Rossyln-Alrington, get off for the Key Bridge exit, than walk the gears through Georgetown – DC to the Capitol at 8AM.

        Either way you will sing the praises of the automatic after that.

        • 0 avatar
          afflo

          “Alternately, take I-66 Eastbound onto Rossyln-Alrington, get off for the Key Bridge exit, than walk the gears through Georgetown – DC to the Capitol at 8AM.”

          I hear this all the time. Incidentally, I spent several weeks in ’12 in DC, with a rental Fusion (automatic, of course). I lamented the absense of a manual every time I got into the creeping bumper-to-bumper traffic of DC. When I’m in a stressful or hectic traffic environment, I want full control over the drivetrain. The automatic has a delay while the transmission downshifts, and a delay when starting due to the torque converter spinning up, and constantly strains against you.

          Driving in heavy traffic in a stick, you can usually just idle in first and have it push you along at a snails pace, and actually break up the stop/go cycle to some extend. In an automatic, the idle will push the car faster and faster, and you have to ride the brake to keep the speed under control. If you stop on flat ground and take your foot off the brake, the car starts pushing forward again. You can shift into neutral, but then you have an even bigger delay starting again.

          I lived in Cali for 5 years, and frequently took my stick shift into downtown San Francisco, down to LA, etc., and never regretted it for a moment.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      In other words, it looked sporty

  • avatar
    CowDriver

    The pull-out cup holder on the 1996 Volvo 850 is directly above the window switches on the center console. This means that (1) You cannot operate the windows while using the cup holder, and (2) The sticky goo from your soft drink cup drips into the switches, rendering then non-functional. Nice human factors, guys.

  • avatar
    KindaFondaHonda

    I love the nice bright, crisp LED lit gauge cluster on our 2003 Honda Accord EX-L V6. Back when we bought the car it was a really great selling point. But it became apparent after ownership that the lack of automatic-ON headlights, even on our luxury equipped model, was a terrible oversight/cost cut. Weirdly, the Accord has auto-OFF, just no auto-ON. Very un-Honda-like.

    That and no auto open/close on the power moonroof makes me wonder how those omissions slipped past the testing phase during development of the Gen7 Accord.

    Unless it didn’t and Honda just chintzed out on purpose. Ugh.

    Still, I absolutely love the electro-luminescent gauge clusters in our QX56, M35, and Accord. Wouldn’t trade ‘em.

    Only the Accord is missing auto-on control.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I hate the cheap plastic inserts used to cover up the spot where the buyer cheaped out by not buying fog lights. I have even seen this feature on entry-level luxury cars.

  • avatar

    You know, the short list was supposed to be the end of it, but it is amazingly eclectic. I am not bothered by the so-called “blank switches”, especially if they are as beautiful as the example in the picture. Hard to imagine where Doug got that idea, maybe in the interior of a Chevy. In fact, the only truly bad item on the list is the navigation lock-out.

    By the way, I drove a JDM spec rental yesterday, and in the same vein it permits to start the engine without the annoying beeping about being unbuckled. Because it’s obvious to anyone with a brain larger than a pea that legitimate reasons exist to start an engine while parked. However, on American cars — same models even — the buzzer will come on as soon as engine starts. The navigation lock-out comes from the same source.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    “So why are Americans stuck with brake light/turn signal combos, like a full-size Chevy sedan from the 1980s?”

    Simple. Because that’s the way brake light/turn signals SHOULD be! I’m not “930″ years old yet, but I hope to far outlive that age!

    I do like amber for front turn signals, however.

    I not only like full-size Chevy sedans from the 1960′s, but my 2012 is rather pleasing to me as well!

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    When I see a blank it reminds me the car costs less $ to get to next upwards level of car within the range without spending the max, instead of one level down with more “features”.

    I would rather have a stripped A4 than a loaded A3 at the same price. But then I don’t remember any blanks in my A4.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      Oh they’re there. And ours has over $4,000 in options, including rear heated seats. The grey interior (“platinum”) makes them more agreeable than the basic black Jetta interior I had previously.

      BUT, I would do the same thing – buy a basic A4 instead of a loaded A3.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      I would buy an A4 over an A3 just to get the engine oriented the proper direction.

  • avatar
    johnny ringo

    One automotive detail that really pisses me off is the integration of the front turn signal into the headlight assembly. One some cars depending on the time of day and lighting conditions I find it very difficult to see if the turn signals are flashing. I wish the manufacturers would put the turn signals in a different location. They used to be installed in the front bumpers, which in my opinion made them much easier to see. I suppose this is due to some arcane federal regulation.

  • avatar
    don1967

    The “mood” light in my 2012 Hyundai Veracruz. Basically a blue LED on the ceiling which you can only see while tilting your head way back as you drift into the path of oncoming traffic.

    The only redeeming factor is that it comes with a large button labeled “MOOD”, which I have decided is charming.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Woo hoo! My suggestion made the list. Thanks, Doug.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “… when they see a three-hole Lucerne CXS.”

    The CXS trim level came with the Northstar standard and had four holes. There is no such thing as a three hole Lucerne CXS!!!!

    /takes bite of Hot Pocket

    Call me ladies.

  • avatar

    I think VAG cars are the worse offenders of the switch blank problem. I remember some early 90′s vws actually had some fake rocker switches as well as the blanks. I was at a meeting with a boat builder a few years ago and we offered to build some switch panels for them. One of their requirements was no switch blanks even thou each boat was optioned differently, This meant we had to build a custom panel for every 3rd or 4th boat, yet some how it doesn’t make sense for Porsche to make 4 different center consoles and spread it over 25,000 units?

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    Put a 2012 MKZ in park and open the drivers door and the drivers seat will automatically move back several inches. A nice feature for the driver but I have crushed the feet of the passenger behind the driver in the already oh so spacious back seat.

    Just rented a Yukon XL and the cruise control is on the steering wheel – fine but the rear wiper switch is on a stalk that is identical to the cruise control switches the General used for 50 years in 100′s of different cars. Many times I looked in the mirror and noticed the rear window scraping back and forth.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    8. Smooth, touchscreen only interfaces. I’m looking at you Lincoln.
    7. Passenger airbag light. Make it go away.
    6. Wheels larger than 17″. THERE IS NO NEED FOR THAT.
    5. Center mounted instruments. No. It’s unnatural.
    4. Blanks. My Trooper had 9 and it was the mid-level model. I don’t want to be reminded what a cheap bastard I am.
    3. No radio knobs. Let me be a Luddite.
    2. Plastic headlights that fog/glazes over. I’m floored that this is not a safety recall issue with how much the light penetration and array changes.
    1. DRLs. If I don’t know when to turn my lights on perhaps I shouldn’t be driving.

  • avatar
    mars3941

    I read where daytime running lights were mentioned and GM has had them 12 to 15 years where as Ford Mtr. Co. still refuses to have them as standard on their U.S. cars. There are so many idiots who drive at dusk and close to dark without lights it’s scary. Come on Ford get with the program.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      There is at least as great a number of idiots that drive with their DRLs and nothing else in the dark, so DRLs aren’t a panacea. I have them on one of my cars and have been meaning to pull the fuse. EPA tests are performed with them defeated, which should provide a clue.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I want to say I believe GM has had them for over 20 years. I just think they cheapen the design of the car. If ‘idiots without lights’ is a major problem, then make the lights automatic.

      So, I’m with Ford on this. I also feel the same with all the new LED DRL designs. I think we’re going to look back in 10 years and say “hideous momentary style”. But I might be wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I don’t believe DRLs are for dusk conditions. Real headlights should be used then.

      I have a simple rule: If it isn’t bright enough that I feel the need for sunglasses, the headlights get turned on.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      DRLs are required by Canadian law. GM chose to make DRLs standard across all NA vehicles, in part to de-proliferate electrical designs, but also because they improve auto safety.

      Most, if not all GM cars have automatic headlights these days,iirc.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        As far as I’m concerned, even tho’ no one asked me – my FAVORITE detail on GM cars is the automatic “lights on” sensor, because too many idiots refuse to turn their lights on in less-than-ideal conditions.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Canada first used DRLs on motorcycles. What they found was that motorcycles were hit by other vehicles less often. Some medium thinker determined that what’s good for motorcycles would be good for everyone. It didn’t turn out to reduce car accidents, but it did return motorcycle accidents to where they were before DRLs had briefly made motorcycles conspicuous. By the time such ideas made it to the US, everyone involved knew they weren’t doing a good thing.

  • avatar
    agroal

    Toyota answered a question that I certainly didn’t ask. As one part of it’s S.T.A.R safety system when you unlock the doors of a Tacoma with the key fob, if you fail to open a door within 30 seconds they automatically lock themselves again. Thanks, but I can handle locking my truck by myself. Also, when locking/unlocking the truck with the fob there is no option to silence the annoying beeping sound other than disconnecting it. My neighbors must have really enjoyed hearing that at 3am.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    wow people are fired up over blanks

    they always intrigued me (to a degree) because its pure curiousity to know what is supposed to be there

    i notice that some manufacturers seem to have lots of these, mercedes and porsche come to mind

    even in the very top spec E63 AMG has them so i reckon its a norm for these companies

    a funny few i’ve seen… a cheap $12k runabout car… has 4 blanks with no buttons… i doubt people here could put up with that

    also one sedan i know has a blank in the middle of the console for every model… because there’s a wagon variant and that’s where they put the rear wiper button

    so make everyone suffer for that? just bad aesthetics

    also how badly ocd are people? if i have a row of six blanks, do you want them spread out in button 2 and button 5 like in a random order according to options? its looks a bit odd doesnt it?

  • avatar
    Mikein08

    My 2005 Honda Accord V6 with a 5 speed auto tranny allowed me to keep
    the tranny in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 5th gear, but not 4th. Annoyed me no
    end, along with the “fasten seat belt” buzzer which would not be
    silenced. Otherwise I loved that car …

    • 0 avatar

      You can do 4th by pressing “o/d off”.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Hondas don’t have the O/D toggle, as some of the other Japanese makes do. When they had 4-speed autos, you’d have the same thing–there must be some design thing which makes it easier to go to third gear. (All too easy, many of have complained, until you get used to the shifter.)

        What grinds my gears (pun intended) is when any manual option is taken away, e.g., no paddles or lower-gear selections, just another “Sport” setting, or the like, below “D.” My new Accord is this way–top-line V6 Sedan (even though Coupe V6 slushboxes have paddles). In the winter, I always found it easy to drive my Hondas around town (under 35mph, say) with the selector in “2,” which would lock second-gear for easy starts and TONS of engine-braking. In my new car, turning on “ECO” mode dulls the throttle enough for starts, but the engine-braking isn’t as effective.

        • 0 avatar
          PonchoIndian

          why would you want engine braking in the winter? That is a great way to lose any kind of steering control on snow and ice.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Just seems safer if I can let off the throttle and have the car slow down and not simply coast, as it would in a higher gear, and not have to touch the brakes until the car is almost stopped, thereby keeping more control.

  • avatar
    carrya1911

    I thought the idea of non-flush headlights was to control airflow around parts of the car that stick out like the door mirrors. Lessens wind noise and wind resistance…lower drag, better fuel mileage.

  • avatar
    mklrivpwner

    The only thing worse than blank switches is non-blank switches that don’t actually do anything!!! Chrylser.

  • avatar
    davidm_1

    Interior trim, especially when the sales guy trying to talk up mock carbon fibre or plastic wood trim.

  • avatar
    Marko

    Those gauges will not “make you any happier about owning a 5-cylinder Passat”, because no current VW has them.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I remember the Passat having the two digit tachometer. At least the 2009 Passat did. My 2009 GTI had it as well. I don’t know if VW still does that, but they did recently.

  • avatar
    Hillman

    I can’t believe that no one has said the seat belt reminder for passengers. Those things are the most annoying feature I have ever dealt with.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      You should be able to switch those “belt-minders” off if you wish (to nominate yourself for the Darwin award in normal driving).

      In Fords, there’s some kind of “turn-the-key-three-times-while-rubbing-your-stomach-and-hitting-the-service-brake-pedal” means to do this. In Hondas, there isn’t!

      (At least Honda uses the VSS to determine if you’re just moving the car around a parking lot or out of the garage, as opposed to Fords, which, as far as I know, will ding at you every so often until the belt is buckled, no matter what.)

  • avatar
    matador

    My least favorites are the fake “gauges”. My F150 has one- the oil pressure gauge is basically an on/off switch. Second would be the radios that cannot be changed out (Ford Taurus with Auto Climate Control). Also, cheap plastic parts. I need to keep a warehouse of door handles for my 95 F150! What is wrong with durable metal? Even my Audi has metal door handles!

  • avatar
    afflo

    A few more that come to mind – I’m not sure if they’ve been mentioned:

    Doors that do not unlock themselves when you pull the interior door handle.

    Seat height adjusters that move/tilt the seat forward as they rise.

    Console shifters that are rounded on top and feel like manual shifters, but are automatics (I’m looking at you Dodge Avenger).

    Controls placed opposite of the overarching convention. (Cruise is almost always operated by the right hand, on the right side of the steering wheel.) The worst is the Nissan Versa, with seat recline levers on the inside edges of the seats.

    Toyota’s chintzy Cruise-Control lever sticking out of the side of the wheel.

    The gawdawful GM “Shift Up Now” dummy-light.

    The even more gawdawful Skip-Shift on the Camaro. WHo buys a Camaro to save gas?

    Trunk lights mounted low in the side of the cargo compartment.

    Lock/Unlock chirps that cannot be silenced.

    Keys that are turned BACKWARDS for accessory (Hey GM! That’s you!)

    Manually Shiftable automatics that ignore your inputs.
    - Also Manually shiftable automatics that don’t rev-match when instructed to downshift.
    - Manually shiftable automatics that shift from 5th to 3rd if you push the throttle too far (Mazda3)

    Heater/A/C vents that don’t blow on your hands. Or just one hand. Because I want to be forced to take my hands off the wheel to warm them up!

    iPod/USB connections in stupid places (The Glove box? Really, Honda Fit?)

    Gas pedals with giant boxes mounted just above (Practically all new DBW throttles. Some people aren’t dwarves with size <9 shoes!)

    Consoles that invade knee space, usually for silly stylistic reasons.

    Seats that are limited in rearward travel just to boast rear seat legroom measurements.

    • 0 avatar
      PonchoIndian

      Some of you guys make me laugh…

      The gawdawful GM “Shift Up Now” dummy-light.
      You can thank VW for that one… they were the first to use them in the early 80′s

      The even more gawdawful Skip-Shift on the Camaro. WHo buys a Camaro to save gas?
      The Viper, Mustang and Challenger also have this. It is extremly easy to bypass, and it saves you from having to pay a $1000.00+ gas guzzler tax…so think about that one, buy a $15.00 part to bypass or pay big$$ for a tax…blame CAFE for that one not GM

      Keys that are turned BACKWARDS for accessory (Hey GM! That’s you!)
      They All used to be like that on the american brands

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        I’ve only owned Japanese vehicles, aside from a GM pickup. The GM pickup had the backwards accessory switch, and the “shift up” light. It seems that the more recent American vehicles I’ve driven have the Off-Acc-On-Start setup. If memory serves, that pickup also had a button you had to push to remove the key.

        That thing was so schitzophrenic inside. The controls were all in strange places (again, maybe it *was* normal for American vehicles at one time): A massive, crowded signal stalk (but no stalk on the right side, so the washers/wipers were on the turn signal stalk, as well as cruise, and headlights stuck on the dash by the vent), Emergency flashers on the steering column instead of the dash. The dome light was activated by turning the headlight knob backwards instead of a switch or button on the light. There was a toggle button next to it that would keep the dome light off when you opened the doors*.

        All that said, it was incredibly comfortable, even for a compact pickup. The seats footwells, even the steering wheel with no tilt/reach adjsutment, all felt perfect. I wish I could have kept it longer, but it was so shoddily built, and was already showing signs of lemonhood at 3 years old.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      RE: Chirps.

      Honda went to chirps (like Toyota) on new models, but at least they can be turned off! Why I can I no longer select a horn honk instead of the chirp for the lock-confirmation (a second push of the fob “lock” button, which I can hear more clearly in a parking lot, and which has existed forever on Hondas)?

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Over-engineering for the sake of over-engineering. My wife has a 2008 Mercedes ML550 (which I despise), and a few weeks ago one of the front parking lamp bulbs burnt out. Well, the mental giants at Das Faderland saw it fit to make it impossible to replace said bulb without removing the entire headlamp assembly. But wait! It gets worse! In order to remove said headlamp assembly, you have to remove the entire front fascia. No, I’m not kidding.

    And don’t get me started on the subject of fuse and relay replacement…

  • avatar
    mars3941

    The law in my state and many others is your lights are to be turned on during a rain and at dusk and many don’t abide by this.

  • avatar
    beefmalone

    The navigation thing REALLY pisses me off. If the car can tell when someone is in the passenger seat then it ought to unlock the navigation destination entry feature at least when the passenger is present. Nevermind that it will let you tune the radio, change the climate, and 50 other things on the touch screen that require you to look away from the road to accomplish but GOD FORBID you are allowed to enter a destination.

  • avatar
    kokomokid

    The only item on the list that I care about, is the gauges being illuminated when the lights are off. On one night, recently, I encountered 3 vehicles without tail lights, and it wasn’t just almost dark. It was DARK dark. Any vehicles with instruments that are illuminated all the time, should have auto-on headlights/tail lights.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States