- Cupholders that don't live up to their name
- We're not going to go down the faux-macho path that proclaims "real cars don't have cupholders." Despite every pistonhead's notion that just because they have a three-year-old copy of EVO under a pile of magazines in the bathroom they are the next Schumacher, most of us are big, sweaty, pre-diabetic dudes that are thirsty all the time. Especially when we find ourselves in droptops during the summer.
Put another way, we need our cupholders. And few things grinds our gears more than when we try to stick a reasonably sized bottle of fluids into a hole, only to have it fly out around the first turn. This isn't rocket science, people. In fact it's houseboat technology.
Worst Case Offender: Pontiac Solstice Coupe
Power windows that auto-down but not up
- Power windows that auto-down but not up
- This one is just kinda pathetic. What possible reason could there be not to include a power up feature? We especially loathe it when a car has auto up/down and another model from the same brand doesn't - even though it's otherwise an identical model.
Not only is the difference a way to constantly and permanently remind the consumer that they bought a cheap car (or at least a vehicle so cheap in the manufacturer's mind they didn't bother with the good stuff), but it probably costs everyone more. We've got to believe that developing and manufacturing two separate parts that fit in the same hole costs more than one single part when economies of scale are factored in. All windows should be auto up/auto down. Can we get an amen?
Worst Case Offender: Too many to list
Fuel gauges that don't indicate which side the tank's on
- Fuel gauges that don't indicate which side the tank's on
- This one's for all of our auto-journo brethren languishing in press cars around the world. Here's the thing: In 96% of cars there's a little arrow pointing left or right to let you know which side of the car has the gas door.
Yes, we know. If you drive a car every day you'll soon learn where the gas tank door is located. But those of us in the motoring press get about seven days with a vehicle (unless we write for a really special publication... then we get fourteen!), so just think back to how confused you were during your first week with your car. Or whenever you rent. That's how we feel every second of every day, 4% of the time.
Worst Case Offender: Mini Cooper
Inscrutable navigation system interfaces
- Inscrutable navigation system interfaces
- It's all well and good that you've decided to ship a navigation system with your car. But since we can't use it or read, we're now twice as lost. Either the screen is too small (Mazda3), too illegible when zoomed in (Nissan/Infiniti), the knobs turn the wrong way (Audi), the menus are overly confusing (BMW) or the controls are hidden and contrived (Volvo).
Our advice for these ergonomically and technically challenged brands is to just buy a Ford Fusion with Sync 3.0 and Sirius Travel Link and marvel at the very best in the business.
Worst Case Offender: Volvo XC60
Seatbelts that lack height adjusters
- Seatbelts that lack height adjusters
- This is one of those issues that should only concern the tall and short among us. Seeing as how your humble narrator is the Goldilocks of the auto journo world (five foot ten is just about right to fit properly into most any vehicle), this is not a huge inconvenience. Until it is.
Few things annoy more during a drive than a sharp-edged piece of belt webbing digging into your neck. As Les said to Big Red after the latter chewed out Torrance in Peyton Reed's cheerleader epic Bring It On, Uh uh, not cool. Because of that whole pillarless thing you've got going on, convertibles, you're excused.
Worst Case Offender: Audi TT
- Non-standardized buttons
- This one's a real hide-chapper. Let's play a little game. Close your eyes and honk your horn. No problem, right? Now turn on the radio and change the station. Easy-peasy - unless you own a late model Audi. If that's the case, you just knocked your car out of gear because the company's ergonomicists have decided that the best place for a volume knob is on the opposite side of the gear lever. No, really.
Not only that, but you have to start digging through Audi's maze-like MMI system just to change the channel. Put another way, Audi has taken a phenomenon that typically takes one second and lengthened it. That's progress. Also, some of us really love the idea of basic radio controls on steering wheels (at least Audi does a pretty good job here). But why is it some cars have the knobs positioned on the left and others on the right? Why not standardize? Pretty please?
Worst Case Offender Audi A4/A5/S5
Steering wheels that tilt but don't telescope, or occasionally, vice-versa
- Steering wheels that tilt but don't telescope, or occasionally, vice-versa
- Before we go too agro on this one, we'd just like to point out that most people sit too far away from the wheel when they drive. Don't believe us? Go to a Spec Miata race and notice all the six-foot four-inch guys fitting no problem into first-gen MX-5s.
Having the ability to both tilt and telescope the wheel is a good thing, not a bad one. Especially for shorter folks, who probably don't want to have to sit with explosive airbags an inch from their faces. And it's 2009 after all, telescoping wheels should've been on all cars by the mid Nineties - even the Miata.
Worst Case Offender: Jeep Wrangler
Center mounted gauges
- Center mounted gauges
- This might be the most egregious item on the entire list. Who is driving the car, your mother? Why do you care if the people in the back can see how fast the engine is spinning? They shouldn't and don't, and as such, all controls in front of the driver, thanks.
And don't give us that business about making it easier to sell both left- and right-hand drive models, most of the vehicles in question still require different parts, and besides, this is safety we're talking about.
Worst Case Offender: Toyota Yaris.
Worst of All Time: Saturn Ion.
Incomplete power seat controls
- Incomplete power seat controls
- This one's like the non-auto up windows. Why give us some measure of control, but not all of it? Look, there's nothing wrong with a full manual seat. We don't mind reaching and twisting. And if you give us full electric articulation, that's cool too.
But what's not nice is a seat that's only kinda adjustable electrically. Interior engineers take note: No half-steps with something as important as driving position.
Worst Case Offender: Volvo
Lack of iPod Integration
- Lack of iPod Integration
- This one is perhaps most flabbergasting, especially since - again - it's 2009. Despite Microsoft's Zuniest dreams, the little magic music player from Apple is the industry standard. Want proof? Even the Microsoft-designed Sync system features iPod integration. And since almost every vehicle already has knobs that spin and can be clicked, iPod integration should be little more than a few lines of code.
What's that? Accusing us of being Apple shareholders? Wrong. Amazingly, some of us don't even own an iPhone. But we know a standard when we see one and the iPod is it. Everyone else can share the AUX port. Oh, and don't even think of charging hundreds of extra dollars for the privilege, that insults our intelligence.
Worst Case Offender: Subaru