QOTD: What's the Stupidest Automotive Feature?

Doug DeMuro
by Doug DeMuro

I think it’s time to discuss something that we should’ve brought up a long time ago: the stupidest automotive feature.

Oh, sure, we’ve discussed the worst automotive feature, and the best automotive feature, and the automotive feature you wish you had, like spiked tires that could cut through ice and offending road users.

But what about the stupidest feature?

I ask this because I think there are a lot of unnecessary automotive features out there in today’s world; items that have no basis or bearing for real life use, or customer desire, brought to us by automakers who are hellbent on coming out with a vehicle that offers the highest possible level of gadgets and equipment so they can use the phrase “BEST IN CLASS” over and over in their ads.

Interestingly, however, I don’t believe the stupidest feature is one of these newfangled ideas that seems to exist for the sheer sake of existing. I believe the stupidest feature is actually an oldie. And it is: a retractable spoiler.

For those of you who don’t know what a retractable spoiler is, allow me to explain. You’re cruising along in your Porsche, or your Bugatti Veyron, or your Volkswagen Corrado, and you hit a certain speed, which is usually something inexplicable like 47 miles per hour or 87 kilometers per hour. And then the spoiler shoots out for no apparent reason other than to alert drivers on the road that you’re in a sporty car.

I’ve never really understood the purpose of this retractable spoiler. Ninety-nine percent of the time, when you see it sticking out on a Porsche 911, the driver is just cruising down the interstate. That’s because the spoiler is designed to deploy based on speed, not driving style, apparently in some bizarre effort to keep your car on the road should you begin to experience the effects of a massive windstorm.

The funny thing is these spoilers are never adequately sized to actually do anything. They’re just there to be spoilers, so you can tell your friends you have a cool spoiler that extends out at speed as if you’re in a race car, when in reality the spoiler is the size of a license plate and it wouldn’t have any effect on any vehicle larger than a Hot Wheels.

So why does this spoiler exist? I really do think it’s for bragging rights. But that’s not the worst part.

Oh, no. The worst part is that the retractable spoiler in most modern Porsche models actually can be extended at the push of a button. I want you to consider this. If you decide you need a spoiler on the back of your car, Porsche actually lets you push a button in order to extend it and get you ready for all that serious track use.

Except, of course, this isn’t how anyone uses the spoiler. The only people who actually push that spoiler extender button are the same type of people who drive around wealthy shopping areas looking around to ensure people are looking at them. These are the worst people in the world. The spoiler button is not a spoiler button. It is an asshole button.

So what people do, when they push the asshole button, is they cruise around — not on the race track, or even a drag strip — but just around town, driving like normal, making sure everyone sees how cool their car is because they have a spoiler. Nothing makes a Panamera V6 look cooler, they think, than if you extend the rear spoiler.

But surely, the retractable spoiler is not the single stupidest feature in the world. There are a wide range of stupid features, and I’m sure I can count on you to inform everyone of your personal favorites. However, I must warn you: it’s going to be hard to top the asshole button.

Doug DeMuro
Doug DeMuro

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  • Wheatridger Wheatridger on Aug 03, 2015

    Respectfully, Doug, this is the Dumbest Feature Automotive Article I've ever read here. There's no foundation for anything you say. You admitted that, as you repeatedly told us that retractable spoilers are "inexplicable," "for no apparent reason" except for "bragging rights." (You may arrive near a valid point when you mention the Porsche's spoiler-fashion button, though.) However, since you're so confused about this feature, how are you qualified to say that these spoilers are too small to be effective? Says you and whose wind tunnel? The Audi TT was the first common car I remember to use an active spoiler, as part of a number of stability improvements after several fatal accidents where the early cars acted like flying wings at high speed. Spoilers are most necessary at speed, but in everyday use they tend to add drag that cuts fuel economy. Making the spoiler retractable solves both MPH and MPG goals. There, that's a purpose! At least these cars don't come with user-adjustable spoilers. I've long made a sport of spotting mid-'70s Mustang fastbacks on the road. I see them less often now. Some of those, I bet, wound up crashed because of their owners' misunderstanding of the most basic aero principles. EVERY Mustang I've seen had its spoiler, adjustable by just one bolt, with its leading edge tipped up towards the sky like a an airplane wing at takeoff. But hey, that matched the slope of the fastback, so it looked right. Back in the day, did you drive one of those Mustangs, Doug?

  • Kadajawi Kadajawi on Aug 05, 2015

    Doug, the original TT used to crash regularly, it would just spin out of control on the highway. Audi fixed that by attaching a tiny spoiler to the rear... and it is tiny, far tinier than those spoilers that extend at speed (which is where they are needed!). Ever since the TT can be driven without it just crashing out of nowhere. But those spoilers are bad for fuel consumption, and can ruin the lines of the car, so having them only come out when you actually need them makes a lot of sense. My stupidest feature is keyless go. If finding the key takes so much effort, learn to organize your stuff. It is quite a security risk, police forces around the world issue warnings because they see a spike in keyless go theft (it makes theft easier...). And all just so that you don't have to find a key when you get closer to the car?

  • Wjtinfwb Funny. When EV's were bursting onto the scene; Tesla's, Volt's, Leaf's pure EV was all the rage and Hybrids were derided because they still used a gas engine to make them, ahem; usable. Even Volt's were later derided when it was revealed that the Volt's gas engine was actually connected to the wheels, not just a generator. Now, Hybrids are warmly welcomed into the Electric fraternity by virtue of being "electrified". If a change in definition is what it takes, I'm all for it. Hybrid's make so much sense in most American's usage patterns and if needed you can drive one cross-country essentially non-stop. Glad to see Hybrid's getting the love.
  • 3-On-The-Tree We also had a 1973 IH Scout that we rebuilt the engine in and it had dual glass packs, real loud. I miss those days.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Jeff thanks. Back in 1990 we had a 1964 Dodge D100 with a slant six with a 3 on the tree. I taught myself how to drive a standard in that truck. It was my one of many journeys into Mopar land. Had a 1973 Plymouth duster with a slant six and a 1974 Dodge Dart Custom with 318 V8. Great cars and easy to work on.
  • Akear What is GM good at?You led Mary............................................What a disgrace!
  • Randy in rocklin I have a 87 bot new with 200k miles and 3 head gasket jobs and bot another 87 turbo 5 speed with 70k miles and new head gaskets. They cost around 4k to do these days.