First of all, I don’t mind rolling down the windows by hand. It never seemed like a major (or minor) chore. But I prefer manual windows chiefly because I have more control over them this way. I can roll the window up (or down) exactly as much as I want. With power windows (in many vehicles) you have to fight the system, which tries to roll the window all the way up – or all the way down. Getting the glass to stop just where you want it can be a hassle. Sometimes – in some new cars I’ve test driven – it is almost impossible.
Now, I readily acknowledge that power windows have their selling points, too. And I don’t object to them, per se. I just object to the marketing-PR riptide that’s convinced most people they simply must have power windows (manual windows now being taken as a sign of poverty rather than a nod to practicality) and so most – virtually all – new vehicles come standard with power windows. That means the additional cost has been folded into the sticker price – and it means you’ll have to eat the cost of new electric motors when they fail (which they eventually will) not to mention the cost of the higher-amp alternator and battery – both of which are necessary when a car is fitted with lots of electric-assist gadgets. There’s a cost-multiplication effect that goes hand-in-hand with increased complexity. I do my own internal cost-benefit analysis – and for me, the cost is not worth the benefit.
Same goes for another item I could do without – but won’t be able to, if I ever buy a new truck: automatic four-wheel-drive.
I just finished reviewing the 2014 Toyota Tacoma (available here). It’s a nice truck. But like most (and probably soon, all) new trucks and SUVs, the four-wheel-drive system is controlled remotely and automatically by a knob on the dashboard. Convenient? Certainly. Easy? Surely.
No doubt, these systems came into being at least in part to make trucks more female-friendly. But, I am a man – and it does not bother me – or even inconvenience me – to engage four-wheel-drive the old-fashioned way. That is, manually. By pulling back on a mechanical lever – as in my older model Nissan Frontier.
There is something pleasingly tactile about doing it this way. The feel of gears meshing under my direction. But there is more to it than the purely psychological. With the manual engagement, you know you are in four-wheel-drive High (or Low). It is not physically possible for the 4WD to engage by itself – without you reaching down and grabbing that lever and pulling it. With the automated 4WD systems, it has not been unknown for the servos and actuators and electronics to engage 4WD – or leave the system in 4WD.
Unless you’re in the mud and can see the wheels spinning (or not, as the case may be) the only indication you’ve got as to whether the system is operating in 2WD – or 4WD – is that little light in the dashboard.
I like to know.
I also prefer simplicity of function, which (usually) means a given system is less likely to break and (almost always) means that it will be easier – and cheaper – to fix if it does break. The mechanical lever in my old truck, for instance, may lose a washer or snap ring at some point – but the lever itself is almost break-proof. Not so much electric actuators. Which are also harder to get at (usually) and (certainly) will cost you more to replace than a few washers and snap rings.
I don’t consider any of the above Luddite-ism. To me, when something does it job well it ought to be left alone unless there’s a better way to do it.
Consider the steering wheel, for instance. The same basic design today as 100 years ago. Not square. Not triangular. Not replaced by a joystick (so far).
Or, the rotary knob to adjust temperature. Is digital automatic climate control really an improvement in a functional (rather than marketing/PR/psychological) sense? Can you really tell the difference between 70 and 71 degrees? I can’t. Warmer – or cooler – is good enough for me. And I much prefer turning another knob to increase – or decrease – the fan speed. Tapping buttons (or simulated buttons on a flat screen display) strikes me as going around the block to cross the street.
Maybe I’m just cranky – and stuck in the past.
But maybe I’m clinging to common sense in a world gone wacky.
What do you say?
Throw it in the Woods?
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