What annoys you most in a car? Is it exterior design features like face exhausts? Or do certain interior appointments like piano black time get on your nerves? Let’s examine 6 of the worst, most annoying car features.
Fake exhausts and vents
So often these days when examining the latest models, I find myself poking sticks and fingers into exhaust pipes and vents testing to see whether they are real or not. The vast majority are not. And that’s very irritating. Many manufacturers go to a lot of trouble to design cool looking aluminum or chrome tipped exhaust outlets and then forget to put the exhaust pipes in them. The most annoying ones are the exhausts that are actually blocked off with plastic, with the real pipe hidden under the body. And then you have the vents, or should I say ‘fake vents?’ Wanting to add accent to the car’s exterior surfaces, and in some cases actually generate airflow to cool brakes, engine bays and feed intercoolers, carmakers integrate air intakes into front spoilers and vents to the side profile of a car. On high performance cars, yes, these features are real, work and have merit, but on many more down-to-earth, every day vehicles, they are just there for show. You could say that fake exhausts and vents are like fitting traditional gargoyles—external grotesque features from Gothic architecture dating back to the 12th century that were used to convey rainwater away from masonry—to the roof of a small mundane two bedroom house. That’s right, totally unnecessary and annoying.
Back door windows that only go half-way down
What’s the most irritating thing that can happen to you in the back seat of a car? Apart from being stuck in the middle seat. It is of course not being able to wind your window down fully. I’m amazed at the number of times I’ll get into a small car or compact, try to lower its rear windows only to be disappointed when they stop half-way down. That is frustrating to say the least. I don’t know about you, but I feel kind of cheated when I can’t get my window fully down. It’s a claustrophobic thing. You almost feel like the person who designed it is trying to generate friction between back seat passengers and manufacturers. Sometimes a rear seat occupant wants to let the breeze in on a hot day or say goodbye to relatives as they leave their house. But the ‘half-way’ window gets in the way of those deeds and leads to definite irritation. In fact, just about the only merit to such a window is that it helps to keep your dog inside the car as it leans out for fresh air.
Piano black trim
A common feature found inside numerous cars today, piano black trim is supposedly used to elevate the luxury levels of a car’s interior. According to car designers, its higher carbon content makes it more durable and resistant to degrading than other plastic surfaces. I agree that on many cars it certainly looks good, but piano black also shows up finger prints and dust more than any other material on a car’s interior and therefor required constant wiping. And in many cases it also catches the sun’s glare blinding the driver. Just stick with matte plastics and synthetic wood finishes thanks guys.
Hands up if you have a voice recognition system that works flawlessly. Odds are there are not many people with their hands up. Occupants are required to initiate conversation with their onboard ‘voice’ by simply uttering things like ‘Hey Mercedes’ or ‘Hello BMW.’ To be bluntly honest, sometimes these systems work well and sometimes they don’t. There seems to be no rhyme or rhythm to them. More often that not they are temperamental and after you issue a command, you will either hear nothing in return or receive an entirely different response to what you expected. And yes, that’s irritating when you’re trying to input an address or lower the cabin temperature. The funny thing is that you find yourself repeating the command with a slightly different intonation or accent, or pronouncing the request slower or clearer than you did before. More often than I’d like to admit, I’ve found myself giving up stopping the car after the second try and inputting my request manually. You kind of wonder when they’ll get voice recognition right.
Many luxury models these days offer gesture controls that require the driver to wave their hand or finger, in sometimes flamboyant ways in front of the sat-nav display touchscreen to do things like turn up music or lower cabin temperature. Let’s get this feature straight—it’s only a gimmick designed as a talking point and serves no real purpose. Kind of like those fake exhausts. Why? Because they hardly ever work as they’re meant to. You may feel like you’re conducting a Stravinsky symphony as you swipe left and right while nothing happens. In stead of sending all that time and money on creating a working gesture control, why not spend the budget on developing piano black that doesn’t smudge or show dust.
Continuously Variable Transmissions, or CVTs, are a feature extremely popular with many Japanese carmakers but are avoided like the plague by European and American manufacturers. Technically speaking, CVTs are well designed and when combined with the right engine, most often in a hybrid setup, they do have their uses—normally married to small capacity engines and tuned for low average speeds, heavy traffic congestion situations and low fuel consumption driving. However, at higher speeds, especially when accelerating hard to overtake or at freeway entrances to merge with other traffic, CVTs can be loud—whiny loud—and create unwanted vibration. Yes, many are unpleasant and their drone sound can be irritating, but they have become a staple diet with hybrid powertrains over the last 20 years. In fact, a gasoline-electric hybrid married to a CVT goes together like sushi and wasabi. You can’t have one without the other.
So what are your pet peeves when it comes to annoying car features? Lane-keep assist? Low-res reverse cameras? Small cup holders perhaps? The list goes one.