The big things, they’ve fixed.
You know . . . brand-new cars that won’t start – or stall out at the worst possible moment (like in the middle of a busy intersection). New cars used to do stuff like that pretty routinely, but only rarely nowadays.
It’s the small things they’ve made worse.
Some of these low-grade tortures didn’t even exist back in the days when cars would stall out – or refuse to start. No, they had to be invented. And continue to be perfected.
* The Curse of the Phantom Passenger -
You’re duly buckled-up and yet the electronic safety Fuhrer is on a tear, buzzer buzzing and warning light flashing. What gives? Apparently, very little. Weight, that is. In some new cars, it only takes a foot-long sub to trigger the passenger seat air bag sensor – and no, I am not making that up. One Hawaiian pork footlong from Firehouse subs did the trick. So will a purse, sometimes (ask my wife). Just this week, I had that happen in a new Scion FR-S. The seat sensors are that sensitive. And it means that you either have to buckle-up your groceries – or figure out some other way to defeat the electronic nanny. It’s either that – or turn up the stereo loud enough to drown out the incessant BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Safety first, you know.
* Mr. Intervention -
Traction/stability control has its virtues. It keeps the low-skilled out of trouble (though arguably, they remain forever low-skilled as a result of never learning about such things as grip threshold and how to deal with it themselves). But doesn’t it drive you to crawl the walls when they make it so you can’t turn the damn thing off? Or not all the way off? Or only after you’ve stopped the car first? Arghh! You’re the one making the payments. Shouldn’t it be your option to decide when – and if – the traction/stability control is on? There’s 100 proof automotive effrontery in this business of a car deciding for you – or rather, against you – whether the tires shall spin (and how much they shall spin).
Enough with the Byzantine steps and menus. A simple On – and Off – button. Or switch, if you must.
* Ray Charles Edition B (and C) Pillars -
New cars may be super safe – which is a good thing, given you’re probably more likely to wreck one. Because you’re more likely to pull right in front of someone. Because you won’t be able to see him coming. Because of these I-beam thick B and C pillars – which will hold up the roof if you roll the thing – but which also make it damn near impossible to see what’s coming at you from the side. It is a huge “safety” problem that affects almost all new cars – courtesy of the need to comply with roof-crush strength mandates.
* No part-way power windows -
It’s either up – or down. No in-between. At least, not without some back-and-forthing. Which of course is super annoying. Blame the “one touch” idea. Rather, blame the people too freaking lazy to hold the switch for the two seconds or so it takes to roll up the window – who demanded a system that would enable them to just touch the switch and have the window roll up all the way all by itself. Great. Except now you’re wanting half-way up (or down) and the wretched contraption is fighting you all the way. You end up with an approximation. Not quite where you really wanted it – but close enough. I miss the gen. I power windows of the ’70s. They’d power up so fast they’d take your fingers off if you weren’t careful (no saaaaaaafety auto-stops back then) but at least they stopped when you wanted them to.
* Girlie-man brake rotors -
Back in the day, most cars had mediocre (or worse) brakes. They were – typically – just barely sufficient to stop the car competently under normal, routine conditions. Forget panic stops. And they’d fade faster than a December sunset, too, when descending grades. But, they were made of tough stuff that was very hard to damage. Massive, thick rotors that could be “turned” (shaved down, by a special machine, to re-create a nice flat surface) multiple times. New cars have fantastic brakes – and fragile rotors. They are easy to damage (as by a greasemonkey with an air gun over-torquing wheel lug nuts during a tire rotation) and when damaged, often can’t be turned (cheap, easy) but instead must be replaced (expensive). Why so? The main reason is the need to shave weight from a car’s bottom line wherever possible – and that includes brake rotors. They’ve been made less substantial to make cars lighter – and get better mileage. This saves you money at the pump – but may cost you a fortune at the shop.
At the typical $100-plus a pop for new rotors, the math rarely works out in our favor.
* Side-fill gas caps -
One of the things I love about my old (’70s-era) Trans-Am is that the fuel door is both hidden – and convenient. Two things you can’t say about modern car fuel doors. The TA’s gas cap is tucked behind the license plate – which is mounted in between the tail/brake lights – which means it doesn’t matter which side of the gas pump you pull up to. Either left or right works just as well. In a modern car, with the fuel door on the left – or right – side of the car, you’ve got make sure to line up with the appropriate side. When the pumps are busy, this limits your options – which means an additional layer of hassle and time-wastage. The side-fill fuel doors are also ugly – they break up the lines of the car’s flanks – and inevitably, you’ll spill fuel while filling. On the paint. Not good.
So why was this great idea – centrally mounted fuel caps hidden behind the license plate – thrown in the woods? Chiefly, it’s because of the relocation of the fuel tank – ahead of the rear axle rather than behind it.
For – you guessed it – reasons of saaaaaaaafety.
Your car’s less likely to spill gas everywhere if it gets hit from the rear. But now you’re more likely to spill gas everywhere when you fill up. And it’s more of a pain to fill up.
Throw it in the Woods?