Home » Does Anyone Actually Like Power Interior Door Handles?

Does Anyone Actually Like Power Interior Door Handles?

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So at this very moment our own David Tracy is, for complex and probably unknowable reasons, driving around a Lexus dealer loaner car, an NX. He just called me up to ask me a very valid and perceptive question: does anyone like power interior door handles? I’m glad to hear this question because it’s one I’ve asked myself before, even, it seems, in the same car, a Lexus NX 350, which had some of the most needlessly confusing interior door handles that I’ve ever seen. And now here’s David, confronted with the same madness, and like anyone, he has to wonder: who wants this shit?

I know Lexus says their maddening interior door handles are to keep people from smacking cyclists with doors. They even made a video to explain it:

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Okay, that’s nice, but it still doesn’t change that these door handles are confusing as hell, and I know there’s other ways to solve this. I made a video at the time about using these handles, so you can get an idea of what I’m going on about:

 

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I asked David if those were the same door handles he was dealing with, and here’s our exchange:

Aa Slack Doorhandles

My apologies for my trousers-mouth there.

Lexus, of course, isn’t the only company to make electric-assisted interior door handles; Tesla has them and some Lincolns and I feel like a surprising number of the premium-level cars I’ve been in recently have something similar. And I can’t figure out who is clamoring for this. Is there some weirdo who shows up at every focus group and complains about having to physically pull a little handle to get out of the car? Do they complain about the exertion and not having to wait an annoying moment for the electronic lock to unlatch? Do they crave the feeling that when that electric door handle breaks, it’ll be way more complicated to deal with than a physical latch, which, for emergency reasons, has to be there as well? Do they just, somehow, suck, profoundly and deeply?

Whose car experience is improved by these things? Whose life is better because they push a little button to open a car door instead of pulling a lever?

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If there’s some defense of these things, now’s the time to tell us. Because I cannot think of what it could be. They’re overcomplicated and and unintuitive and useless. Someone please explain power interior door handles to me, please. Or, barring that, let’s just talk shit about them! That’ll be fun, too!

 

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Myk El
Myk El
2 months ago

I may be the wrong person to ask because I like simple reliability and strongly prefer prop rods for hoods over hydraulic struts. So no, I don’t like overly complicated door handles.

MDMK
MDMK
2 months ago

Why are electric door handles necessary? Cuz something must remind buyers they own a “luxury” car.

Unfortunately, we’re gonna see these on Sentras and Fortes by the end of the decade.

PlatinumZJ
PlatinumZJ
2 months ago

I’ve never been in a premium-level car, so I’ve never encountered these. They seem needlessly complicated though.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
2 months ago

I agree that it’s adding one more breakable electronic motor to what should be an easy mechanical part, but if it makes the vehicle less stealable then it could be worthwhile. Also worthwhile if it doesn’t have that garbage “chrome” veneer that flakes off and can cut the user that should NEVER have been used for any door handle.

The only implentations I remember seeing, using, and liking are on modern Lincolns (namely the dear departed Continental sedan, which had some of my favorite exterior door handles yet), the 2016-2022 Ford GT, and McLarens. And yet they all have emergency release mechanisms, which seems to make the electronic release just a tad redundant.

The worst I’ve yet encountered was on some higher-end GM a few years ago. I don’t remember if it was a C7 (possible as it’s not well marked that the button under the thumb is a button rather than a screw cover or garnish), C8 (most likely as it repeats the sins of the C7 but is even less visible, and it’s not even mentioned in the Quick Guide, but the emergency ones are), or a cadillac, but I remember it being revoltingly bad. Even worse than this Lexus shown.

Last edited 2 months ago by Box Rocket
Oded
Oded
2 months ago

I absolutely agree on most cases of this useless complication. There is an outlier where there is an engineering reason for electronic release: in the Tesla there isn’t a window frame, so the window needs to get lowered otherwise it might ruin the seal. So when the electronic button is pressed, a split second before opening the door the window gets lowered. They have also an emergency manual handle but it might break the window seal.

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
2 months ago
Reply to  Oded

Tesla is far from the first car to have frameless windows, plenty have come before it with manual, physical door releases and still managed to navigate the window seal issue.

Rexracer
Rexracer
2 months ago
Reply to  FlavouredMilk

I agree its not required in Tesla, my FRS has frameless, and a manual door handle. But the tesla also doesn’t add needless complication, and work well. So I actually like them. The entry handles with the finger gymnastics are another story though.

Steve Balistreri
Steve Balistreri
2 months ago

My Lincoln has these, and I’ve gotten used to them. They placed the button right where you’d push on the door to open it so operation is pretty seamless.

I agree that the “work” they are saving the owner is laughably small, but that’s modern luxury cars for you.

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
2 months ago

Same with those electric hand brake switches that don’t do anything unless you shift the gear into the Park and electronic gear selectors that aren’t intuitive. If the electric hand brake switch fails, you’d have to remove the panels as to access the physical cable as to override the switch.

When I hired a new BMW 5-Series in 2013, it had the electronic gear selector that required you to read thirty-page chapter on operating it if you weren’t familiar with it. The car hire agency removed all of the owner’s handbooks (due to the theft) so I had to ask the agent to show me exactly how to operate it. He told me I wasn’t only one who was befuddled with new UX/UI design.

Sometimes, our muscle memories caused the catastrophic consequence if done incorrectly. This lady didn’t realise that the gear selector in her Mercedes-Benz ML 350 wasn’t same as the ones she was accustomed to in many American vehicles (shifting the selector up for Park versus pressing the button at selector’s end to engage Park). Thus, train collision that cost her and five other lives.

Sean O'Brien
Sean O'Brien
2 months ago
Reply to  EricTheViking

I’m not a fan of electric e-brakes. If one system on a car should be completely manual, it’s the Oh Shit, Stop! handle. On the other hand, I can see arguments for them from both design and usability. From a design aspect, that little handle or button is a lot easier to fit in pretty much anywhere than is a large handle or 3rd/4th pedal that has to be in a pretty specific spot. On usability, both of those options take a good bit of strength and dexterity to operate, which might well be a problem for older drivers who are otherwise capable of driving themselves.

Brynjaminjones
Brynjaminjones
2 months ago
Reply to  EricTheViking

I think the difference with electronic parking brakes is that there are times where modern cars will apply the parking brake automatically.
If it’s a manual parking brake, that wouldn’t be possible.
A lot of these electronic systems stem from the need to have the computer control a mechanical system, like how electronic throttle bodies allow traction control to cut engine power.

I don’t think this argument applies to door handles though – I can’t think of a single time where the computer might need to release the doors automatically, unless they’re power operated doors.

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
2 months ago
Reply to  Brynjaminjones

Mercedes-Benz vehicles with power locking system (electric, not vacuum) do unlock the doors following the collision.

Again, it’s hard to know what the manufacturers plan with the electric parking brake without reading the owner’s handbook. I have said in my original comment about the issues I have at the car hire centres when I was assigned a vehicle I had never driven before. There’s nothing such as commonality or consensus amongst different vehicles on how the electric parking brake ought to be operated.

I have driven for forty-plus years, and my muscle memory is what it is: my hand would instinctively grab the hand brake and pull it if something happens with the brakes. Same with the foot-operated parking brake in American and Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

I prefer the mechanical fail-safe system just in case since more and more vehicles use the CAN or BUS systems. If the connection isn’t good or has been damaged, loosened up, soaked wet, the whole system could crash and go haywire. Just what Richard Hammond described about the “ailment” afflicting his Aston Martin in the recent episode of Grand Tour.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
2 months ago

Power=premium, plus switches are cheap and they can save on the engineering of making a positive engagement that sounds/feels good. A lot of money goes into making things feel right, and if you don’t have to make them feel like anything, you can pocket that money. Same with capacitive surfaces, no moving parts = saved money and at the same time lets you up the price because to the layperson it seems more advanced. A good user experience gets a return customer, but wow factor sells cars right NOW, and that’s when the investors want their dividends.

The confusion is a feature, it lets the salesman spend 2 minutes talking about the fancy door handles and how cool and special they are. Focus groups say folks love knowing things others don’t, ergo you feel superior when you drive your coworkers to lunch and have to explain to them how to get out. It’s kinda like the satisfaction Porsche guys get from watching someone take their bags to the back before realizing the trunk is in the front, or the way hot rodders feel explaining to the parts counter guy that “it’s a Nova, but all the drivetrain stuff is from a Corvette, so use the Corvette gear oil but the Nova balljoints”.

I know that deep down nobody likes this, and we’re not all just a herd of statistically-gullible consumers, but marketers are cynical, and they will do anything to squeeze cash from that lowest common denominator.

George CoStanza
George CoStanza
2 months ago

Had an RX loaner with these handles. They were but only one example of useless electronic frippery in a hamfisted effort to mimic some Teslafied, dystopian future of automotive experience. Coming from my trusty old-school GX, the experience was especially jarring.
These door handles caused repeated headaches in the school drop off line, though my middle schooler deserves credit for figuring it out faster than her parents. On top of all the useless electronic gizmos, these new Lexii are saturated with audio and visual warnings when starting, shifting, reversing, turning and even braking – the digital bezel around the speedometer turns red. It was like Knight Rider, if K.I.T.T. had been voiced by Michael Winslow.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
2 months ago

If they were serious about people opening doors into cyclists, they would put rear view mirrors on the back doors.

Well on cabs at least.

I ride my bike in the center of the street because I’m not stupid.

Frederick Tanujaya
Frederick Tanujaya
2 months ago

Cousin got stuck because the door is half-latched and the popper wouldnt pop a hlaf latched door, thought it was the child lock but pulled the door from the outside and the child lock in not enabled, so, half latched the door again and told my cousin to pull it manually instead of using the popper, half latched door opened no problem

Saul Springmind
Saul Springmind
2 months ago

“Help me step-cousin, I’m stuck in the electrically-popping door!”

OfNoFurtherUse
OfNoFurtherUse
2 months ago

Two things;
Thing one: Toyota aperture hardware is shite. I never had one as a personal conveyence, but have had a half dozen siennas, tundras, and tacos, even a hilux (me olden) deployed in several small businesses. I have personnaly repaired/replaced/welded hinges, pins, plates, rods, bell cranks, and hideously porus cast metal bits (oem and otherwise) for over 30 years. Until I retired, now I help friends with their aformentioned. Beyond a few besludged v-6s and the clear sociopathy of their leadership, pretty not too bad. Lets combine this inability to produce door hardware with all the electronical malfeasence that got very bad in the early oughts. I will buy no car which emits rf.
Thing two: Neo Luddism. Like me, some would have joined Ned Ludd , smashing jennys and dangling middle managers from upper storey widows by their ankles. Fun’s fun. But Ned failed and here we are. I did my best after gpt3 dropped ( nov 30, 2022, a day that will live in infamy), bard, midjourny, dali, and on wed., sora ( i like marques browlee and don’t particularly want him, or the torch for that matter, replaced by some algorythms, unless they already have been) to bring every one down with what might be happening just outside our peripheral vision. Get to the point, please. In addition to your manifold worries, which as a reasonable, caring, person, possibly with young children, you really should have, STOP BUYING THIS FOOKING CRAP!

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
2 months ago

I’ve never been around these things before and I hope I never do. I did have the unpleasant experience of operating the electronic door handle things on the Ford Mach E though and I thought they sucked,can’t imagine this is any better.

Phuzz
Phuzz
2 months ago

Could be worse, I’m sure someone will decide to make them touch-screens soon.

Ben
Ben
2 months ago
Reply to  Phuzz

STOP GIVING THEM IDEAS! 😛

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
2 months ago

I have not had the pleasure of dealing with power doorhandles, so I don’t actually understand how they work and thus cannot comment.
What I can comment on is the stupid powered rear hatch’s on some SUVs.
Apparently just grabbing the hatch and pulling it closed is bad for it according go people who drive them, but there is no indicator or obvious switch to close it, so it becomes one of those stupid things you have to figure out. Plus it’s obviously dangerous to have a fast closing door so you have to wait for it to work. Possibly in the rain.

PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
2 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

I was thinking, “well, powered tailgates could be useful, if your kid can’t reach the tailgate to pull it down.” Then I realised, last time I encountered a powered tailgate the button was ON the raised tailgate. So never mind, they’re stupid!

Sean O'Brien
Sean O'Brien
2 months ago
Reply to  PajeroPilot

My mom’s Pacifica’s tailgate can be closed manually or by a button at waist level on the side interior of the car. My Audi’s can only be closed electrically from a button on the gate or from up front *if* the car is turned on. One point to Stelantis on this one.

Ben Chia
Ben Chia
2 months ago

No. They are stupid. The whole thing is just ass backwards and completely unnecessary.

Ron888
Ron888
2 months ago

Instantly i dislike them.Poking your finger into a vague location on a flat surface is annoying.Just like toyota map lights.

Greg
Greg
2 months ago

My mother has this car. I had to move it last week. HOLY SHIT. I had to come back inside my house and ask her how to even fucking start it. Then I could barely get out with these door handles. The entire car is answering a need no one fucking asked for.

Most new cars are doing “new” just to be “new” and its fucking horrible. Meanwhile, this car gets great reviews all over and people ignore this shit.

Zorn Zornelius
Zorn Zornelius
2 months ago

“Whose life is better because they push a little button to open a car door instead of pulling a lever?”

I’ve been making the same argument about automatic windshield wipers since the goddamn sensors became a standard part of every overpriced feature-laden windshield on every new car. It was SO ONEROUS to have to realize when I needed the rubber blades to squeegee the glass, moving my index finger about 1.5″ up to nudge the steering column stalk was such a hassle and a waste of precious kilocalories.

Solutions in search of a problem.

Danny Zabolotny
Danny Zabolotny
2 months ago

I don’t like power door handles. Or any kind of lane-keep assistance. Don’t need blind-spot monitors, cameras, or sensors either. No traction control. No sunroof. Just give me a car with a simple, NA engine, a manual transmission, RWD, and that’s it. Fuel injection is about as advanced as I want things to be.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
2 months ago

Blind spot assist is ace, though. My cars don’t have it, but today I drove a relative’s car with it. I’d never used it before and now I want it.

Last edited 2 months ago by The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
Danny Zabolotny
Danny Zabolotny
2 months ago

Know what’s even better? Being able to see out of the car easily, negating the need for blind spot monitors. My old 90’s BMW’s have excellent visibility in every direction.

D M
D M
2 months ago

Unfortunately, not possible (or at least very difficult) with current roll over standards. Fat pillars abound.

Visibility is horrible in most modern cars, theoretically to make them safer. Subaru used to be the only manufacturer who seemed to give a crap about visibility, I haven’t driven their newer models, so I’m not sure if that still holds true.

In short, fight the good fight and keep wrenching on the classic bmws, we will not see their like again.

Danny Zabolotny
Danny Zabolotny
2 months ago
Reply to  D M

Yep, I’ll keep my old BMW 5’s going for as long as possible. I’ve stockpiled extra transmissions, driveshafts, subframes, engines, etc. Everything to keep em going for as long as possible, even once parts availability dries out.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
2 months ago

So does my 560SL but it’ll pancake me in a rollover.

Danny Zabolotny
Danny Zabolotny
2 months ago

The nice thing about the BMW E34 (5 series from 1989-1995) is that it has really good visibility but also has a decent chassis for rollover safety. I rolled one a few years back and came out of it without a single scratch, which is pretty good for a 90’s car with no airbags. A friend of mine violently totaled two E34’s in a row and had no injuries either.

AceRimmer
AceRimmer
2 months ago

Yup! Just like backup cameras, I never want another car without ’em.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
2 months ago

“Is there some weirdo who shows up at every focus group and complains about having to physically pull a little handle to get out of the car? Do they complain about the exertion and not having to wait an annoying moment for the electronic lock to unlatch? Do they crave the feeling that when that electric door handle breaks, it’ll be way more complicated to deal with than a physical latch, which, for emergency reasons, has to be there as well? Do they just, somehow, suck, profoundly and deeply?
Whose car experience is improved by these things? Whose life is better because they push a little button to open a car door instead of pulling a lever?”

This! This is one of many reasons why I’m here. “This is Gold, Jerry! Gold!” I’m glad you’re putting out there that this kinda BS is complete stupidity and doesn’t make any sense. No one wants this! Just like the damn glovebox button in a screen or the SHIFT LEVER in a fucking screen! (Dangerous) We live in hell and don’t have to! We used to have cars that were heaven. This is going BACKWARDS!!!

pizzaman09
pizzaman09
2 months ago

I’ve used two electronic door handles. The C7 Vette I sat in at the Detroit Auto show had electric handles, it was very awkward.
On the other hand, minivans electric sliding doors are fantastic, work well and are easy to use.

Sean O'Brien
Sean O'Brien
2 months ago
Reply to  pizzaman09

Indeed. Electric latch: Pointless complexity-adder. Electric door: Expensive and complex, but can be a real boon for the strength/mobility-impaired. In this case: Children or adults who would have to make an awkward turning motion to completely slide a heavy door along its whole movement.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
2 months ago

First time in a Lexus with those door handles I struggled to get out of the passenger seat. I couldn’t figure out which thing to pull when and where. Very confusing. Next time I was in one, I didn’t think about it and managed to hit the electric switch and push on the door just at the right time. My spouse is car shopping, and a Lexus in on the list. A needlessly complex thing.

SCJeff
SCJeff
2 months ago

In Tesla’s case, and probably others, the actuator triggers the window to roll down slightly to reduce wear on the seals. The glass is up there pretty tight to reduce wind noise.

Addlightness
Addlightness
2 months ago
Reply to  SCJeff

My Mini did this with manual door handles.

Cerberus
Cerberus
2 months ago
Reply to  SCJeff

My GR86 does this and has normal mechanical door handles.

Eric Wondersmith
Eric Wondersmith
2 months ago

I think the real question is why aren’t all of the doors in my house like this? I want to push a button to open my bathroom door, then wait a moment for it to confirm no one is in the hallway, before letting me out along with all my stench.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago

So make that button the switch for the bathroom fan. Done.

Bonus points if you wire it in parallel to a flashing light and alarm above the opening to the hallway. Make it a off/low/high switch:

“Low” with a low speed fan, yellow light and silent for a “regular” dump

“High” also fires up the whole house fan in the hallway, light goes red with a Star Trek klaxon for post Taco Bell dumps.

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