• Dec 21, 2006
(Ed. - The views expressed in this post are those of Dan Roth and not Autoblog in general. Dan asked if he could channel the grumpy old man inside of him, and for better or worse, we took off his leash.)

Our morning commute often gives us time to contemplate our navels, as the traffic engineers haven't spent enough time with TrafficSim around here. When the radio gets too boring, it's always interesting to analyze the vehicles around us. Here's some stuff we think is gangrenous, and some is just crap.

Toyota Camry Solara
Please go away. You're ugly. Yes, yes, you're a Camry, rah rah. You're ugly. Especially the convertible. Please just give us a two-door version of your only mildly less ugly Camry sedan sibling, if you must.

Big cars that were once small
The Civic was once a small car, now it's almost as big as Accords once were. The Nissan Versa and Dodge Caliber are similarly not-too-small cars being marketed on the pretense of being compact. The Fit is a step in the right direction, and we realize that all the required safety gear makes light cars largely a thing of the past, but the efficiency-lovers among us can't square the fact that these cars were once small and efficient, and now they're larger and less efficient.

Follow the jump for more items on the hit list.

Not enough glass
Apparently, people feel cocooned in safety when the doors come up to the top of their ears. We'd rather see out, thanks. This problem is compounded by the fact that rooflines often make concessions to style now, leading to tiny little windows and big, fat blind spots. Gone are the days of lots of glass and low beltlines.

Manu-matics

What useless pieces of crap. The only thing worse than an automatic with a "manual gate" is a poorly programmed automatic. A lot of times, you get a twofer with trannies like this - they're never in the right gear and constantly second guessing you, and the manual modes are dopey, slow and worthless. Maybe this is the easy way to make people feel like they can "drive real good." We'd rather have three pedals and a stick connected to something.

Nav systems
What, did everyone forget how to use a map? These things cost thousands of dollars, often can't be programmed while the car's in motion (by your co-pilot, of course), and vary widely in UI quality. We're carping on this one, though. Nav systems do make sense for some folks.

Auto-magic everything
Auto-dimming rearview mirrors never fail to blind the crap out of me. The auto climate-control tends to blow cold air on my feet when I wanted it to stay warm till I decide. Rain-sensing wipers? Come ON! All of this automation adds up to eventual failure points. Not only that, they remove the driver from the act of driving. If you don't want to be bothered to turn on the windshield wipers, perhaps you should telecommute.

Cheap gas.
This borders on heresy for an automotive blog, but gas is too cheap. Who among us wouldn't love to give up sitting in gridlock? You could drive for pleasure. Of course, this would have to go hand in hand with massive improvements to public transportation. Adding additional taxes on to fuel to fund light-rail improvements, offer incentives for developing biofuels and sustainable sources of energy would be wonderful and worth it. Pay now or pay later - and if we're going to have to pay anyway, we may as well attempt to be less beholden to energy sources from unstable regions of the world.

Drum brakes.
Why are these even used anymore? They're fiddly to repair, don't perform as well, and just plain old stink compared to disc brakes. They may be cheaper, but the only place a drum brake belongs is in the hat of one of the rear rotors, as a parking brake.

Well. We've spewed an awful lot of vitriol here. Perhaps it's time for another coffee to tame that edge. This has been cathartic, though. We feel better, how about you?


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 93 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      Please add to your list:

      People who gripe about gas prices
      We as a nation pay anywhere from $1.00 to $2.00 less than the rest of the world. maybe if you had to pay $5.00 per gallon for basic unleaded, you'd think twice about getting the huge, pointless SUV.

      32" tyres
      Is it just me, or are truck tires growing obscenely large? Who needs to be able to see over a Greyhound bus anyway?

      "King Cab", "Quad Cab", and "Extended Cab" pickups
      If you work in construction everyday and must haul people around, or if you live in the mountains and must tote your family and quad bike everywhere, then these are understandable. However, there are much to many present in suburbia. It would be much cheaper to trade in that waste for a sedan and get counseling to fix whatever you were overcompensating for when you bought that truck.

      Reader comment 4
      Thank you for expressing your personal opinion. Now if you could explain why, then maybe we wouldn't think you were such a pompous loser.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Agree on most points from the article. And that's one of the reasons I just love my TJ - automatic NOTHING and with the doors and roof off, it's a safety disaster but man oh man, the view and the feeling of wind everywhere (and with just the right pair of shorts, I mean wind everywhere!).

      Just the way it's supposed to be.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Yay! Dan. "Mad props" to you for saying what is glaringly obvious. Auto-electric everything adds weight and complexity - and how much "inconvenience" is it for me to crank my own windows? Or use a key in the latch? There are some neat looking shapes that I have driven and been appalled at the visibility issues (small glass/high belt). Gas is crazy cheap here - if we started paying closer to "world market" rates, there might be some social changes (and maybe more manual trannies (lighter, more efficient)!) I, too, really don't like the confusion of "features" with "quality". Just because the windshield wipers move when it's wet, or the radio volume goes up with speed, doesn't really mean the *function* of the car has been improved (ie, transportation of people/things) Just imagine a small/medium 4-door sedan, manual, rwd, front engine with grunt!, and nothing "fluff". Not in this market...
      • 8 Years Ago
      The Fisher-Price center console and the Pie plate size speedo on the new MINI Cooper. The butt-ugly Z4.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Just when did tax's on anything go to the intended purpose. In Canada we pay tax on tax to cover everything but what the tax was for. We pay a $1 per "liter". I drive for a living and spend a lot on fuel. If gas is only sold to the ritch, then they will figure a way to not pay the tax.

      My beef is those stupid plugs covering the space intended for the extra crap, you decided not to buy. they look cheap to make the buyer feel cheap. we don't need air-conditioning where I live and most of us can roll down a window manualy. Want a standard, then buy a standard.
      • 8 Years Ago
      > 14. Please add to your list:

      People who gripe about gas prices
      We as a nation pay anywhere from $1.00 to $2.00 less than the rest of the world. maybe if you had to pay $5.00 per gallon for basic unleaded, you'd think twice about getting the huge, pointless SUV.

      Those countries that pay that live under a socialist system. Be careful what you wish for.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Finally, someone else who'll admit they hate NAV systems. I had to fight with my dealer to find me a Mazda3 spec'd the way I wanted it which was basically every option except automatic (manu-matic at that) transmission and navigation system. He simply couldn't comprehend why I didn't want this 'must-have' option!

      Mazda and a few other makers have the right idea in making their systems out of sight when not in use. The most annoying effect of the nav systems is how they completely change the controls on the center stack. Often former button controls become touch screen items! UGH! Didn't Buick do this in the '86 Riviera? Not a good idea the first time around...

      iDrive should have made the list, too....my next car will be an entry level sports sedan and it won't be a BMW between the new styling, iDrive and higher pricing of the 3-series. Make mine an Infiniti G35!
      • 8 Years Ago
      There is nothing wrong with Nav systems except the built-in Factory Nav systems -- they are too expensive, they don't work as well as the portable units and because of the enviroment they are subjected to often break and the worst sin of them all is that auto makers try to link too many systems to the Nav causing more failures. These systems rarely last the useful life of the car. Its better to buy a portable unit than any factory unit.

      Aaaah the cheap gas argument. Anyone who says public transit is the answer has never really traveled within Europe. I don't mean going to one country, I mean really going to through Europe by rail. It is very expensive at best and ridiculously crowded at worst. A city to city ticket in Germany can cost $50 to $100 dollars which would be equal to a 30min to 60min auto commute. If the rails are the answer, then why is the I5 in the UK such a traffic mess? People who say mass transportation is the answer, are uninformed.

      Even if we say, sure lets build mass transit, the budget over runs would be massive, the "not-in-my-back-yard" crowd would be screaming -- you believe that the rich folks in places like Greenwich, CT would actually allow this to happen in their back yards -- please give me a break. Lets add to this the wink, wink, nudge, nudge politics were contracts would go to friends of senators and governors who paid for campaigns or free vacations. If anyone has tried to use the rail to commute knows, there is no parking at the station because there is no way to go from your home to rail stations.

      All rail infrastructure in the USA had been torn down with the invention of the car. There are too many people obstacles to make mass transit viable. My local library has maps from the 20s, 30s and 40s of where the rail systems in my state used to be -- they are now all paved over. Recently when some new road constuction had to be done in my town they problems because they found rail tracks that had been just covered over. That system in many area that was well designed is now gone and is never coming back -- get over it!

      I am all for raising the gas tax provided it is used to subsidize telecommuting options and staggered work hours. 20% or more of jobs can be done at home not the office. Not every company has to open up at 8am which is what causes a lot of the traffic. There are plenty of people who could start their work day at home and then go to the office latter.

      Finally, forcing a gas guzzler tax would go a long way. No reason any car should get less than 30mpg. Forcing inspections on cars on a yearly basis would go a long way -- many cars are poorly tuned and piss away more gas than is necessary. Legislators in Cali should get a clue about emissons -- picking a random number out of the air without science or engineering basis helps nobody. Finally, a single gasoline standard or a single diesel standard would go a long way as well as opening at least 1 new refinery. Public transportation in necessary as well but the government cannot run it -- Amtrak is a great case history of how the govt has no clue. Incentives to use a bicycle, moped or motorcycle at least three times a week would go a long way as well -- there are plenty of people who have a short enough commute where this would not be a problem.

      City planners screwed up a long time ago, the mess has been done and there is no fix for the stupid of the past so more creative solutions are necessary.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Yes, except for nav systems and uncheap gas.

      Nav systems have their uses. If you don't live in a downtown area and get turned around, a nav system with a decent (and up to date) map can be a real timesaver. But even an old GPS with a limited map will get you there much of the time - if you can at least see where you want to be and where you are, you can usually find your way there using the map display as a progress indicator.

      Cheap gas, on the other hand is a GREAT THING. The price of gas and diesel affects the cost of everything we buy. Transportation companies do not absorb the cost of the fuel they use. They pass it onto their customers who necessarily pass their increased shipping costs along to the end purchaser of whatever goods were transported.

      This means that countries with cheap gas have more money to spend on things *other than gas* and thus will have greater economic growth across the board as people use that money to consume or invest. Contrarily, countries with high gas taxes usually suffer from anemic economic growth and uncontrollable government expansion, since the consumers no longer have a choice of where their money is spent and it instead goes down an unproductive government rathole.

      If the roads are clogged it is because they are inadequate for the volume, poorly built, have improper signage, or are under construction. Add in inattentive drivers and things get even worse.

      In the US, mass transit like buses and light rail always sound good, but turn out to be expensive and underutilized because they are generally designed by politicians for political ends, not necessarily practical transport. As a result they rarely go where anyone cares to be, and are almost always the slowest ride to anywhere.

      Re: (14) SUVs and pickups aren't "pointless" unless you don't need one. If that describes you, DON'T DRIVE ONE! They're expensive and they suck gas at an alarming rate. But whatever you do, cease and desist complaining about those of us who drive these vehicles, for whatever reason. It's a free country and it's none of your business what your neighbor drives.

      One caveat: if you live in a place where there are lots of large pickup trucks and (as is often the case) inattentive drivers, make sure you are driving a well-protected vehicle. Getting T-boned by a pickup running a red light is all too common and is either fatal or results in serious injury. This risk can, of course, be reduced or averted by driving a large SUV or pickup yourself. They tend not to run into one of their own kind.
      • 8 Years Ago
      This guy is an idiot.

      Solara: I could care less if it stays or goes. If you buy one, it's your own punishment. But I've never had a problem with how they loock.

      Big Little Cars: I love the Nitro. Small cars are terrible. If efficiency is really that important, ride the bus.

      Not enough glass: Totally agreed. I have to put my elbow above my ear to rest my hand out the window of my LS.

      Manumatics: I LOVE my manumatic. Say what you will about my ego/libido but I love using the thing. I can switch it to automatic if I'm smoking or changing the music. But I can also switch it into Select Shift when I'm on the interstate to downshift into 4th to pass without the delay of the automatic tranny.

      NAV systems: If you commute regulary to different cities like I do, it's easy to get turned around trying to avoid traffic. Maps are cumbersome and cant be used while driving.

      Auto everything: I love gadgets. The auto rain sensors on my car work great and its nice not to have to constantly switch wiper speeds. My auto A/C works great and it's smart enough to not blow when the air is not warm enough. It also knows when the window is frosted in the mornings and turns on the defrosters for me automatically. My auto headlamps leave one less thing to fiddle with while keeping my eye on the road. My radio automatically senses when engine and wind noise gets high and turns up the volume so I don't blow my ear drums when I slow down at a light. All very nifty and heavily used features.

      Cheap gas: For those of use working minimum wage jobs to get through school cheap gas is a godsend. WHat about your local pizza boy?

      Drum brakes: You're the dumb ass that bought a car with drum brakes. That's punishment enough.

      Go get a Buick old man
      • 8 Years Ago
      Ack, I meant:

      "It's amazing how much sense you can MAKE WHEN YOU let your hair down and start ranting."
      • 8 Years Ago
      I should be euthanized because I don't like your car? I'm a jerk because I think the car you drive is ugly? No need to be so religious about it,the Solara is a Camry, making it a very good car, but to me, it's still ugly. The proportions are weird. It's okay to disagree.

      As for ugly GMs, the Monte is a rolling mullet. Trailblazers and Envoys are yucky, but the Saab 9-7x actually looks pretty good (too bad it's not equipped the same as the SS Trailblazer).

      DCX hit a foul ball when they coughed up the Compass. The Patriot is better, but pretty much the entire Jeep range has been fuglified. The Wrangler, not so much, but even it didn't make it out unscathed.

      Lincoln Town Cars are really, really ugly. They've got that bulbous thing going on from the late '90s. The Crown Vic's no prize, either, though far less ugly than the Lincoln. Please, please someone kill the Ford Minivans.

      So there, hope I've offended _everyone_ now.

      Dan
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