Some people are mad at GM (and Chrysler) over the bailout bucks. I’m not happy about that, either. But lately, I’m mad at Ford – which bequeathed unto us the idiot idea of pick-up truck bed walls so high you need a ladder to access what’s in the bed.
I’m well over six feet tall myself – but I feel ten years old (and about 5 feet 3 instead of 6 ft 3) whenever I have to deal with a late-model pickup. Not just Fords either. They’re all like this now. But Ford started it – adopting the Tough Dude Look that first graced its Super Duty 2500 and 3500 series F-trucks for all its trucks. Not to be outdone, GM and Chrysler Ford – and Toyota and Nissan, too - aped the look – and now no one except an NBA forward can reach into the beds of these things without standing on a step ladder (which some of these trucks actually come with from the factory – no, really).
My neighbor has a brand-new Chevy Silverado 2500. He backed up into a brick retaining wall because he couldn’t see it over the slab-sided bed and tailgate of his truck. Three grand in damage. Now you know why most of these trucks – soon, all these trucks – come with closed-circuit back-up cameras.
Next item: I’d like to know why no one makes a hybrid or diesel-powered minivan. I just reviewed the ’13 Nissan Quest (see here) and vented about this at length. Can you think of a vehicle more ideally suited – both in terms of its layout (all that room for batteries/electric motors) and utilitarian mission? Most of these units are put to work schlepping kids back and forth from activities – or road-tripping families down the highway. The first type of driving (low speed, stop-and-go) is the hybrid’s ideal duty – the type of use where that layout is most efficient. The second type (steady-state highway cruising) is the diesel’s forte. But instead of hybrid-electric or diesel powered minivans that get 40 MPG we have gas-burning gas hog minivans that typically average high teens – worse than most current V-8 muscle cars. Really.
Meanwhile, you can buy a Porsche hybrid. A Lexus hybrid. Yeah, that makes sense. People who spend $70k on a car (Cayenne hybrid) are really concerned about their gas mileage . . . but family van buyers aren’t.
Which brings me to … lawyered-up GPS/audio rigs. Say what you will about the poor fidelity of old-school car radios. At least when I take my ’76 TA out for a drive, I don’t have to wait an obligatory 30 seconds before I can punch (and that’s the right word) the “accept” button and actually use the damn thing. My ancient dial-radio and 8 track turns on – and off – just like that. No LCD schtick; no shyster preambles advising me to “look out for safety” – yes, some of the them actually put it that way.
Good ol’ safety. Now, where’d he get to?
I am also bewildered by the impotent emergency brakes you’ll find in almost every new car – if it even has an emergency brake (many just have a parking brake . . . which is exactly that; a parking brake. It doesn’t even pretend to be viable for stopping the car if it’s actually moving).
If you do get an emergency brake – the kind with a handle you can pull up to – theoretically – apply (and modulate) the brakes manually in the event the hydraulic system has failed – the tension is typically set so lax that even jerked hard and all the way to the end of its travel, only the feeblest force is applied. It’s just barely got enough holding power to keep the car from rolling once it’s already stopped. Which means it’s effectively useless as an emergency brake. You know why, of course.
They don’t want any anti-social wheel lock-up. Forget bootleg turns. That’s so not acceptable in these fey days of saaaaaaaaafety first. For two, someone narced me out. For years, I end-ran Daytime Running Lamps (DRLs), those always-on headlights, by pulling up the emergency brake ever-so-slightly, to the first detent. Not enough to actually engage the brakes – but enough to trick the DRLs and turn the damn things off so you could drive down the road in the middle of the day without burning your headlights – which was something that, not all that long ago, only senile citizens and funeral processions did. Now, we all do. And you can’t defeat the damn DRLs using the emergency brake, either.
It’s only going to get worse. I just got a brand-new 2014 Acura RLX to test out. Guess what it does? A huge flashing orange BRAKE! light manifests in the gauge cluster if the car thinks you haven’t done so when you ought to. Which means, according to a completely Cloveritic uberly pre-emptive standard. Get within 20 yards of the car up ahead that’s in the process of turning left off the road and – safety first! – on comes the damn flashing light show. If you’re not ready for it, it’s the sort of thing that might startle a person.
Can’t be too safe, though.
Even if it means you drive the damn thing into a ditch.
Throw it in the Woods?