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The New Cars Are Too Damn Confusing

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Good morning, and welcome back to The Autopian’s daily roundup of auto industry news, all condensed into one convenient place and filled with the witty commentary you deserve. As an added bonus, today is Friday. We did it. Congratulations to all involved.

Today’s news roundup includes yet another study about how much buyers hate overly complex cars; some potential truck news from Volkswagen and Mitsubishi both; and the latest on car dealers grousing about the growing electric vehicle market. It’ll be a non-stop thrill ride from start to finish, I can promise you that!

Car Infotainment, Driver Assistance Systems Continue To Vex

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Photo credit: Volkswagen

Another year, another J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study that reveals how drivers continue to be utterly baffled by new technology. It’s not so much mechanical dependability that’s the problem; that’s actually getting continually better and better. It’s driving assistance technology and complicated infotainment systems that frustrate owners to no end.

Let’s start with our overall winners. The list was led by Lexus, which is almost always the case, followed by Genesis and Kia, in that order. But many luxury brands, including Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Audi and Acura scored below average, dragged down by tech and usability issues. Here’s a summary from Reuters:

Tesla owners complained about problems with the Autopilot driver assistance system and the forward collision warning systems, as well as wind noise, Frank Hanley, a senior director at J.D. Power, told Reuters.

Infotainment systems complaints, such as problems with wireless Bluetooth phone connections, dragged down scores from vehicle owners of several luxury brands, according to the report.

Even as luxury brands compete to offer more advanced digital content and dashboard features, luxury vehicle owners are finding fault with the infotainment systems at about double the rate as owners of mass-market brands, Hanley said.

Cars.com has a more detailed report including the full rankings. I’ll add an excerpt here:

The Infotainment category once again proved to be the most problematic with an average PP100 score of 49.9 — nearly twice as many problems as the next most problematic Exterior category. The main culprits in order of problems experienced are: built-in voice recognition; Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity; built-in Bluetooth system connectivity; touchscreen/display screen; not enough power plugs/USB ports; and inaccurate or outdated navigation systems and maps.

Bluetooth! Come on! Bluetooth has been around for what, 25 years now? Why is it still such a frustrating technology and why hasn’t somebody figured out something better? (Here’s an idea, Big Tech: How about you stop putting journalists out of work with inept chatbots and make my damn AirPods pair correctly every time?)

Additionally, the fact that these features are dragging down luxury brands—which historically tend to rank better in the J.D. Power studies—is interesting and also very telling. Those brands tend to be where automakers roll out the newest and most complex technologies, but they continue to frustrate their owners.

Anyway, we auto writers these days spend a lot of internet ink writing about the future of cars, from digital subscription features to increased automation. But if you look out onto any street in America, probably what you’re going to see is like, a bunch of 10-year-old Honda Accords and the like.

The point is, are people really ready for all these high-tech features when the overall UX satisfaction never seems to improve?

Volkswagen May Do A Truck For Us Truck-Loving Americans

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Photo: VW

The American automotive market in recent years has largely shifted away from being a car market to being an SUV and truck market. It took Volkswagen—a company that has struggled to understand and speak to American buyers probably since the days of the O.G. Beetle—a while to figure out SUVs. Now, VW’s American execs say they still want to get in on the truck game here.

It’s an idea VW has flirted with for years now; the Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak concept, seen above, was well-received when it dropped at the 2018 New York Auto Show. Granted, a… lot has happened in the world since then, but every so often it seems like VW wants to pull the trigger and never does.

We’re back to that again at this year’s Chicago Auto Show, which traditionally is a truck- and SUV-centric show. Here’s Motor Authority on what was said:

On Tuesday, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America Pablo Di Si told Motor Authority the automaker will look again at the pickup truck segment for America.

The timeline for a Volkswagen pickup to arrive in dealers isn’t clear, but the executive said the current plan is to bring a proposal to the board in Germany in the third quarter of 2023.

Should a pickup truck be approved it would be developed in America for America. Di Si noted that cars built in America for America are more successful as shown by the Atlas crossover SUV, which was designed and developed in America, and is built in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Our own Mercedes Streeter was at that same discussion in Chicago, and she reports back: “Only thing I’d add is that they said it would specifically not be solely powered by gas and it would be designed by Americans, for Americans.” Her account, and Motor Authority’s, indicate a VW truck would be likely to be a plug-in hybrid; I like that idea a lot and am very pro-hybrid truck, so here’s hoping it goes that route. That, plus manufacturing in America, would allow it to qualify for tax credits too.

Also interesting, Mercedes notes a potential VW truck “will also not be based on a Scout product as that brand will be separate from VW.” Whatever Scout’s up to, I get the sense they really want it to be its own thing and aimed specifically at the American market.

Mitsubishi Also May Do A Truck For Us Truck-Loving Americans


As I wrote earlier this week, the renewed wedding vows of Nissan and Renault could mean some nice things for junior partner Mitsubishi too. In particular, the new terms of the Alliance will put some additional resources into production in Mexico, which could boost Mitsubishi’s sad, aging, tiny lineup for North America.

One other thing Mitsubishi would like to do is a pickup truck for our market. It hasn’t offered one here since the Mitsubishi Raider of the 2000s (here’s a fun fact: if you ever see a Raider on the road, it’s a symbol of good luck and you will probably be unable to die that day!) and even that was a DaimlerChrysler joint-venture jam. But Mitsubishi offers trucks in other markets, so it’s hardly a total newcomer to this world.

Also interestingly, Mitsubishi would also want its truck to be a PHEV, reports The Drive. But it would also need to be built in North America to avoid the Chicken Tax we slap on trucks, so either a team-up with Nissan or something in Mexico could make sense:

[Mitsubishi] wants a bigger piece of the pie, and it’s interested in reentering the huge U.S. pickup truck market as revealed by its Director for Product Planning in North America, Cason Grover.

“It’s another one of those things we want to try to figure out,” Grover said of the U.S. pickup market at the Outlander PHEV’s launch. “We’d love to be able to do it.”

[…] A unibody Mitsubishi pickup may be easier to bring about than you think, too. Mitsubishi already uses the platform of the Nissan Rogue—made in Tennessee—for the Outlander, so it’s not hard to imagine tweaking that architecture more to build a pickup in that same plant. For now, however, Grover emphasized that a Mitsubishi pickup remains hypothetical, appealing though it may be.

“We know it’s been a growth area,” Grover said of the U.S. pickup market. “At this point, it appears that’ll continue.”

Grover stressed to The Drive that this is one of those “here’s a thing we’d like to do” situations, not an official product announcement. But I hope Mitsubishi does pull this off; it’d be one of the smartest things it’s done in forever. The Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz are both huge sales hits. Americans are clearly clamoring for smaller, more affordable trucks.
This could be a nice success, whether it’s unibody or body-on-frame like the Triton in other markets. I love the idea of it being a hybrid, too. Mitsubishi could probably price this thing really competitively too.

Dealers Coming Around On EVs, But Blame Biden

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Photo: White House

It’s a well-known fact that America’s car dealers—and I certainly don’t mean all here, but many—aren’t super amped about the growing EV market. It means they need to invest in charging infrastructure and salespeople training at their dealerships, plus those cars make less money for them over time because they generally require less maintenance. And it’s an industry that’s historically very resistant to change. For example: Right now, in the Year of Our Lord 2023, I can order a delivery of sanctioned, regulated, legal cannabis to my doorstep in New York anytime I want, but I still can’t buy a car online from most brands. This is a business that doesn’t love evolving with the times.

But while they probably aren’t thrilled at the prospect of direct online sales or subscription ownership programs, America’s dealers are coming around more and more to EVs, a survey from Automotive News reports. It’s actually pretty positive:

Roughly 82 percent of the dealers are selling or preparing to sell EVs at their stores, according to responses in the 2023 Dealer Outlook Survey of 264 dealers and dealership managers. That’s slightly higher than last year’s results of about 80 percent in a survey of 196.

To get ready, most respondents surveyed in January said they have installed charging infrastructure, followed by purchasing and installing service department equipment and training or hiring technicians specifically for EV maintenance and repair.

But there is a sense this is being done begrudgingly. Most of the dealer respondents say they don’t support the Biden Administration’s goal of EVs making up 50% of sales by 2030 or think the administration negatively impacted their businesses in 2022. An example:

Lorenzo Serrano, a former general manager of a Subaru store in California who is now the general manager of Zimmer Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram in Florence, Ky., said both stores are having to make investments that are “too big” for the slow ramp-up of electrified models.

He said the Subaru store poured $150,000 into EV chargers and other related infrastructure investments despite the Japanese automaker having just one all-electric model in its lineup.

“The investments that we’re forced to [make] by the manufacturers are not consistent with a good business plan,” Serrano told Automotive News, noting the Kentucky store also is adding electrical system infrastructure to support a required number of EV chargers.

“Quite honestly, I would say I blame the Biden administration,” he added. “I think the push comes from Biden to manufacturers, and they have to react to it.”

I tend to be more critical of the dealer system than not, but I’ll be fair here; I do get their side. It’s a big investment to make that’s a kind of bet on the future—a likely future, but not a guaranteed one—and the point about having to build chargers just for the Subaru Solterra is a fair one.

But it’s a bit far to blame Biden for this (although it helps to remember the car dealer business leans very heavily conservative and Republican.) A lot of this is driven by tightening emissions standards worldwide, especially in China, the world’s biggest car market. And even the American automakers want to play to win there so they’re going EV for it.

There’s also the climate-related imperative to reduce emissions from vehicles (and, yes, other sources too, obviously) that doesn’t necessarily square with corporate profits. Still, we’ll toss the dealers another bone and note that we recognize car buyers in the Bay Area and in rural Texas are going to have different charging infrastructures and preferences. Getting the entire car dealer industry to shift toward electrification is going to be a process.

Back To You

Have you had a negative experience with infotainment systems or other tech features on modern cars? When I drive Teslas, I hardly use Autopilot, both because I enjoy driving them and because I don’t want to end up parked inside an Arby’s by accident. I don’t have many complaints about our 2018 Mazda 3 hatchback’s infotainment system, besides the fact that it’s just old now and the navigation isn’t worth using.

On newer cars, I too am frustrated by the litany of menus you have to sort through, often with clunky control interfaces and a lack of physical buttons for essential functions. Buttons are not the enemy, car companies!

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108 Responses

  1. SYNC is the bane of my existence. Our Explorer is 7 years old now but that doesn’t justify the absolute unusability of that system. Every single thing about it sucks. Of course the nav is pointless and useless, but how the fuck are the audio controls so unusable? I’ve got 10 inches of screen in the dashboard but the “buttons” are all smaller than my pinky finger and spread across two menus just for the radio functions. It supports 12 characters of text for song titles but you could build a Walmart in the dead space in the screen. There’s no way to switch between paired phones without letting it search for the last one connected until it gives up. Then there’s “Sync Vehicle Health Reports.” Every 500 miles or so it interrupts whatever you’re doing to stop the music and command you to let the car phone home to Ford for vehicle diagnostics. If you say yes, it dials up a number to an answering machine that informs you that option isn’t supported anymore. If you say no, it bugs you about it every 20 minutes until you say yes.

    I hate driving that car and it’s almost entirely because of Sync.

  2. Biden’s pissing off car dealers? Must be doing something right.

    Amusingly, the two infotainment systems that have annoyed me the most are both UConnect, which is supposedly one of the better ones. UConnect in my truck is painfully slow when switching screens, which means if you want to change, for example, which vents the air is coming from you get to wait multiple seconds while the screen gets around to switching to climate controls. The first I tried to turn on defrost with feet I nearly ran off the road because I wasn’t expecting it to take so long. These days I look at the screen, push the climate button, look back to the road for a while, then look back at the screen to change the mode. Note the amount of “not looking at the road” involved in that process.

    The worst one was a rental Cherokee though. It had built-in nav, but it was complete crap. First, entering a destination required you to go through like 5 screens of prompts (I’m probably exaggerating, but there were an annoying number of prompts). Then, even though it theoretically integrated with the dash display, it would still be showing you the last turn prompt long after you had actually made the turn. It was extremely confusing. Finally, it had a bogus POI with the same name as the restaurant we tried to go to (and no POI for the restaurant itself) so I ended up driving halfway across Atlanta during rush hour because by the time I realized I wasn’t going the right direction I was stuck in horrible traffic. So yeah, screw that infotainment system.

    1. honest question; why would you use anything but your phone for navigation these days? I would bet that in <5 years Car Navigation will go the way of the CD player.

      1. Follow up honest question: why are automakers still trying to develop a “better” built in option than Google Maps and Spotify on your phone on a dash mount? Why haven’t any of them offered true phone integration: a combination mount/docking station where their dumbass proprietary touchscreen goes?

        1. Because if they had a phone dock/mount it wouldn’t fit your phone. Or else it wouldn’t fit mine. Or AndrewDaisuke’s.

          And they would still need a screen for the backup camera and the car functions other than navigation. They can’t let the serious control stuff connect to a random phone, way too dangerous.

    2. We have a ‘12 BMW w/ navigation that can’t find a POI that’s 5 miles away when asked to search for it by name. I will usually find the address that I looked up on my phone (no Apple car play). It can’t find its way to my house that has been there for 100 years, insisting that I go through a much newer neighborhood and off-road through my neighbor’s side yard to my backyard.

      My ‘17 F-150 w/Sync3 is slow to boot up, and will not allow any entry of an address or POI search while rolling, even though a passenger has nothing better to do. It will allow scrolling through the last 20 destinations to try and hit the desired destination. Car play requires plugging in the phone, but then you lose the outside temp display at the top of the screen. But CarPlay has its own issues. I prefer google maps or Waze, but Apple brings up Apple Maps (I don’t like it). I have had Apple and Google maps going at the same time, giving me conflicting directions. It’s not like you can pick up the phone and stop one of the programs while driving, because the phone screen is locked while plugged in.
      At least you get physical knobs & buttons for radio and HVAC so you can be comfy and tune the radio.

      1. Damnit! My kingdom for an edit button.

        Both cars have a voice function. They are both exasperating, leaving me screaming at the dumb thing when a half dozen commands w/ varying syntax attempts result in total failure.

  3. have a loaner Acura RDX while the MDX gets its timing belt and oil pump replaced..
    it’s a fun car to drive, nimble, quick and comfortable.

    So far I haven’t been able to access any function at all through the infotainment screen, it just doesn’t respond to any input I can think of providing.
    I have a master’s degree in computer science..
    Luckily the a/c and heat are still button-controlled. I’m not sure I’d buy any new car that puts these functions into a screen.

    The dealership has 2 NSX’s on the lot. I guess $170k sports cars are not selling quite as well as everything else..

  4. Another unhappy ain’tnoinfotainment interface user. I have 2022 5 Series and it is a pain in the ass. I have Siri, Alexa, and “Hey BMW” all fighting each other for domination while at the same time each refuses to do some tasks, so you can’t jusf pick one and ignore the rest. It also has hand-gesture control which only works when a passenger or I make a hand wave in conversation- never any other time. I also used to have a 200 GB hard-drive where I could store my own music. Now I must stream (the car comes with a short Spotify subscription) on some service; Amazon, Pandora, or Apple. There’s Sirius who always want mo money from me now that I’ve had the car a year. Oh and there’s these buttons for some things called AM or FM too.

    The worst thing though is when I am using BMW’s NAV system and Apple decides it wants in on the act and just f’n takes over. Seriously.

    Then every function is controlled through the screen, IF you can figure out which sub-sub menu it’s buried in. I just had the car in for service, and they had to update it which destroyed all the freakin’ settings I had finally figured out in the month after I bought it…and so Treasure Hunt time!

    Can you tell I’m pissed? I didn’t ask for or want any of this stuff. All I wanted was heared seats and now they wanna charge me a quarter every time I turn them on?

  5. My in-laws just got a new RAV-4 Hybrid and the first thing my mother-in-law said when she walked into our house after their first drive over was “We’re too dumb to drive this car.” The woman is literally a computer science pioneer and she feels overwhelmed.

    1. I just got rid of our Prius Prime bc of the awful giant screen and lack of physical buttons. We got a RAV4 hybrid instead and there are knobs and buttons everywhere. I love it!

      (to your MIL’s credit, though, I did google a few icons to understand what the hell some of the knobs and buttons did.)

  6. My preferences for a car UX are so divorced from what my parents could handle that I feel bad for all the car companies that have to sort that out. I find most non-Tesla systems to be a complete mess (outside of Apple Carplay), but I’m sure most old people are happy to just never engage with the tech ever and would freak out to use a Tesla where you’re forced to use their touchscreen for the most basic functions. If my dad had a Lexus he’d just never touch that cursor knob thing and probably have a grand old time.

  7. Apologize if it’s already been said and I missed it, but surely part of the luxury car/bad rating thing is specifically who buys them. In general I think the new car market probably skews older than ever before (as evidenced by the median sales price), but surely every luxury marque still sells a clear majority of its stock to people who were deep into their 30s before they ever had an email address. The average 60+ person finds even really good UI/UX at least mildly frustrating, and Lord knows most car companies aren’t providing anything “really good” on that front. Add in the extra complexity and need for the latest & greatest on luxury cars, and it’s recipe for dissatisfaction.

    I will say that IMO our 2019 VW hits the absolute sweet spot on this, with physical HVAC and volume/tuner knobs, plus very good Bluetooth integration and seamless CarPlay. You do need to plug in the phone for CarPlay—no idea if that’s the norm—but any drive long enough that I need navigation, plugging in makes sense anyway. I can get the music & phone off my device with Bluetooth, and the only persistent hiccup there is that, for whatever reason, it prefers to pair with my wife’s phone, so if we’re both in the car, it’s an extra step t access my phone. But that’s a minor quibble: I’m happy with everything else. And the screen’s not too goddamn big.

    1. Agreed. The previous-gen VW interface was quite good and nearly actually pleasant to interact with while driving. I hear they’ve managed to completely ruin it, though.

    2. My friend Bill is 66. He is precisely the target demographic of which you speak. He is a retired Coastie as well as a retired GIS engineer, and he and his wife have an extremely comfortable fixed income. He can build a house from the ground up with hand tools. He’s a fantastic guitarist who builds his own guitars. Licensed pilot with thousands of hours in the air under every certification this side of a 747 pilot. Brilliant guy.

      And he recently came home empty-handed after spending all day visiting a half-dozen dealerships with the intention of driving home in a very nice new car, because every last one of them he otherwise liked was loaded to the gills with this bullshit, which he – HE, of all people – couldn’t figure out how to use. Which made him angry it existed at all.

      If a an engineer-pilot can’t figure this shit out, who exactly is it for?

      1. It’s not just “can’t” figure this shit out, it’s also “don’t want to.” I don’t want to spend beaucoup bucks on a new car and then have to spend hundreds of hours to learn how to set the interval speed on the rear wiper.
        At our small office I am in charge of the computer system and the website, I have helped transition another office from AutoCAD to Revit, I have helped teach computer classes in Grad School, and I solved a situation where a disgruntled staffer changed the passwords on our computer system and more or less demanded ransom to fix it – but I want the things I purchase for myself to be more fun than having to deal with recalcitrant printers. I have no doubt I can figure an infotainment system out, but I just plain do not want to have to deal with that unless I am getting paid for it.

  8. I drive a 2014 Prius v, which is one of the newer cars out of my immediate family.
    The climate controls, despite not having anything more complicated than our 2005 Focus (aside from the “filter” option), have their own separate screen and novel control knob.

    It’s easy to use and works fine. And I’m grateful it’s not integrated with the head unit, for when I get around to replacing it with a floating touchscreen for Android Auto. But I don’t see why it couldn’t have been the mechanical knobs of early aughts vehicles, plus a few separate toggle buttons for the filter and rear defroster.

    While I’m not thrilled of having to get some “iDataLink Maestro” interface and expensive head unit to retain access to the car settings in the head unit (headlamp delay after engine off, lock after shifting from park, etc.), I also concede that that’s a hard setting to do without a screen and GUI. So I think that’s a good balance otherwise.

  9. I despise touch screens in cars. It is for this reason that I’ve resolved any car I henceforth purchase is going to be from the 20th century. I can think of precious few exceptions to that(early 2000s Lotus Elise, Alfa Romeo 4C, Mazda Miata, among others).

    I don’t need or want useless, expensive, unrepairable, tech-fetishist crap. I need the car to reliably get me from point A to point B, first and foremost. Aside from that, I’m after performance and fuel efficiency, with a preference for low overall operating cost. This is why I favor EV technology, except I can’t find a low-tech EV for sale and all the offerings have to be overly-complicated, unrepairable, landfill fodder, which is a total waste and misuse of the technology.

    If the Tesla Model 3 was decluttered, decontented, replaced the touch screen with actual physical buttons, it would IMO make an excellent all-around car. As it is today, I wouldn’t buy one, and of all of the cars available, it is among those I’d be most inclined to buy if pushed. New cars in general are just terrible.

    Solution? I’m building my own…

    1. I have never bought a new car. I used to want to someday. Now I don’t. My wife’s 2008 QX56 is more “crammed with features” than any other car that’s ever stayed parked at my house, and it represents the maximum I’ll ever put up with out of a car again. Even then, it cannot be hacked. I’m starting to feel about car tech how Admiral Adama felt about networked computers on “Battlestar Galactica” – all this shit is exactly how the Cylons getcha.

      1. A friend of mine and I have a recurring joke: we’re gonna build a company and call it “Goddamn(c)”. We’ll focus on simple, no bullshit products and all our commercials will go like this:

        “Tired of having a million programs you don’t use in you microwave? You just need a Goddamn(c) microwave! It only has two knobs! One for power, the other for timer! That’s it!”

        The concept can be declined ad infinitum.

  10. My 2020 Nissan Rogues infotainment system had issues less than 8 months after purchase. Oddly enough it was caused by a crack in the windshield and a recalibration of the camera/safety functions after the windshield was replaced. Luckily it was under warranty, but I still like the interface on my 2012 Ram 1500 over the one on the newer Rogue.

  11. Being a mechanical engineer (ASME & SAE), my observation is that modern cars are so poorly engineered from an ergonomics perspective that they must not use engineers to design the human-machine interface. All most-used controls should be identifiable by touch and not on the steering wheel. With regard to ergonomics, 1950s cars are much better than 2023 cars when it comes to safely manipulating common controls: heating and A/C, radio, high-low beams, etc. Touch screens are as distracting as texting-while-driving and I am a bit surprised there has not been a large class action lawsuit on this issue.

    1. What’s your issue with steering wheel controls? I agree that anything a passenger might need access to should be available on the center console, but when something is available both on the center console and also on the steering wheel, I find the steering wheel option easier. Both are pretty easy, but the steering wheel controls barely require me to move my hands, let alone look at anything.

  12. I found a touch screen control in a Tesla I was testing that would enrage Torch even more than opening a glove box. Windshield wiper controls! You can turn on the wipers with the stalk, but to change the wiping rate, you need to go into the touch screen. This is incredibly stupid.

    When it is raining and you need your wipers, visibility is low. Its the reason wipers exist. Every other manufacturer from the past 50+ years know that keeping your eyes on the road is important, so you can change the speed from the same stalk you turn the wipers on. You don’t need to look away or switch hands, its done quickly in one simple motion.

    In a Tesla you turn it on with the stalk with your left hand. If you want to change the speed you use your right hand to go into the controls menu, then the wiper menu. You are switching hands, taking your eyes off the road, clicking around. Incredibly dumb. Especially since the wiper stalk is ALREADY THERE! Just throw a switch on there, its not hard.

    Granted, they do have an auto function, but most auto functions I’ve tried are hit and miss. They have voice control too, but I’ve had bad experiences with most voice controls. Also in a downpour there is so much background noise the system will have a harder time parsing your annoyed yelps as you hope the road you can no longer see is not changing direction.

    A gratuitous and dangerous example of tech for tech’s sake.

    1. Yeah, my Alltrack only has auto settings for intermittent wipers, no option for fixed intervals. The sensitivity is adjustable (and it’s all on the stalk, thank God) but it’s mildly annoying because you never really know how they’re going to behave until you mess with the switch a bit. Once it’s in whatever is its happy place for the though, I do find that I have to adjust it while driving less often than traditional wipers.

  13. ” It’s driving assistance technology and complicated infotainment systems that frustrate owners to no end.”

    Toyota’s infotainment isn’t complicated at all. It just doesn’t fucking work. Seriously. Take Torch’s slowest machine in his entire collection – it’s orders of magnitude more responsive than Toyota’s infotorture system. Pairing the phone? Besides being buried four layers in and extremely unobvious, it’s … problematic to be generous. Hop in the car, your phone should just pop up right? Nope. 3-5 minute wait.
    But wait, it gets worse. Fine. Cabled Android Auto because it doesn’t support wireless at all. That should be faster, right? WRONG! It’s either instantaneous or, far more frequently, “there was an error.” And it ain’t the phone or cable. Nevermind that it’s just Toyota that does this.

    So it’s not simply ‘confusing,’ even though Toyota actively made the interface confusing and user-hostile. It’s just straight up garbage. And of course, in 2-3 years when you have to get a new phone, and it no longer supports that phone? “Updates? Fixes? Fuck you, buy a new car.”

    It hasn’t offered one here since the Mitsubishi Raider of the 2000s

    Which, as a point of order, could have been a very cromulent truck. It was based on the Dakota platform, you could get it with a stick, and it had a very usable bed. But it also got the self-destructing PowerTrash 3.7 and 4.7, and one of the ‘cost-cutting’ measures was ‘we don’t need rustproofing.’
    What they’re talking of bringing over though, is the L200, EU spec. (The LatAm spec has no airbags, no ESC, and no survivability in an accident.) Also known as the Fiat Fullback and Ram 1200. It’s.. eh.
    Basically if you think ‘Subaru Baja’ but without the headgaskets-every-10k and guaranteed structural rot, you’re right on the money. Which if you’re looking for a 4-door “RAWR MURICA” pickup with a smaller bed, is fine.

    “Have you had a negative experience with infotainment systems or other tech features on modern cars?”

    See above re: Toyota. See your own ‘but the Navigation’s useless (unless I buy a new car.)’ See literally any ‘beloved’ infotainment system 3-5 years from now when Android Auto or CarPlay quits working on it. See the repair bill any time it breaks and now your HVAC doesn’t work. See the fact that your radio breaking now breaks your HVAC. See your non-existent replacement options when it’s obsolete or fails and the manufacturer discontinued the part.
    Infotainment as it exists, is a pox on the world, and it’s sole purpose is to make cars disposable.

  14. The infotainment system in my 2017 Alltrack is basically perfect, in the sense that while driving the car, I never really have to interact with it save for Apple CarPlay stuff like adjusting the GPS or changing what podcast I’m listening to. Everything actually car-related that I want to mess with—HVAC settings, heated seats, audio volume, dash brightness, drive mode, driving data, etc.—is available via a handy knob or button. There’s other stuff going on in the touchscreen, but it’s all superfluous while actually driving. The deeper settings and things that only get changed occasionally are fine to have in the touchscreen, since I can deal with those while stationary and having physical controls for all of them would be a mess.

    Things I wish were different? A larger and higher-resolution screen for Google Maps would be nice, and I may eventually upgrade the center console to the higher-trim one that has that. (Also Google Maps in general is just not as good in CarPlay as it is on my phone.) The HVAC knobs could have better detents, and they could be easier to read at night. I wish there was a way to turn off the absolutely braindead, worse-than-useless shift indicator, which I ended up literally just taping over because it annoys me so much. (This gained me an instant 3 mpg over trying to just ignore it, which says something about how my brain works.) And most importantly, I can’t actually use the volume knob on the dash because the power symbol rotates with the knob and a crooked symbol is just unacceptable, what am I some kind of maniac? The folks in Wolfsburg clearly did that just to fuck with me, but fortunately the steering wheel volume buttons work just fine. Oh, and the cruise control display removes the odometer anytime the cruise is turned on (even if it isn’t actually set) which is dumb, and as far as I can tell there is no way to have regular cruise control, only adaptive. Oh oh, and the USB port for CarPlay is just as inaccessible as every reviewer says it is, and the little cubby where it lives is indeed just barely too small to comfortably close with my phone inside it. And there aren’t any other USB ports, but I solved that by plugging a nice little low-profile USB-C adapter into the 12V port in the center console, which almost kinda sorta even looks factory.

    Heh, I guess that’s actually a lot of complaints! They’re all quite minor though, and overall I find the car very pleasant and easy to interact with while driving. It mostly just stays out of the way, which is perfect.

  15. Am I frustrated with new tech in cars? Rant time is on!

    I spent quite some time thinking about what makes me hate modern cars with a passion and I’ve come up with a theory. See, I believe there’s been 3 big eras of human-car interaction:

    – Cars before the ’80s: you’re on your own. The car is there, the controls are there, you’re there and you’re in control, for better or worse. Want to drive in second gear the whole car’s life? Go for it. Locking the brakes on your ’62 Bel Air? Go nuts. Mess up the ignition timing on your Peogeot 203? Hell, you can do that from the dash! That’s why I love classic cars. You’re operating complex machinery, which is work but also very satisfying if you manage to do it.

    – Cars between the ’90s and ’10s: hey, we can help you with the not dying thing! ABS, ESP, cruise control… These things are good! I don’t want to wrap myself around a pole because I overcooked a curve, and I can recognize I’m no Ari Vatanen, so I’m glad the car can help me in extreme situations, beyond the normal driving envelope. Back then you could even completely turn off most of these aids. Also, monitoring speed or the distance between that Clio 3 and your rear bumper while parallel parking isn’t exactly thrilling so I don’t mind some help! These are the cool dailies. You can have fun with a reliable car that helps you with everyday driving and safety while still giving you the freedom to do fun stuff.

    -modern cars: you work for us humans, and you better f*cking behave.
    Driving too fast? There’s a little chime. Not dead in the center of the lane? Let me grab the wheel off ya. You turned ESP off? Surely that was a mistake, I’ll turn it back on once things get too spicy.
    These cars feel like our robot overlords, designed to keep us safe with or without our consent. I fucking hate those, I bought you, you stupid hunk of metal, I should do whatever the fuck I want with you! Even if that’s dumb or unsafe. Who decided I can’t take my daily to the track, pull every gear to the red line, and skid off the track in a safe environment? We’re living in a hellish transition to…

    – Future cars: you’ve made your time meat computer, we do the driving now.
    The ultimate conclusion to the automobile evolution is the elimination of human driving. While I’d be happy to see the many, many texting-while-driving assholes replaced by robots, I still want to be able to buy a car that’ll let me be in charge of operations, which I believe will be somehow banned down the line if we take things to their logical conclusion (without any consideration for the technical challenges of AV). I’ve never been hyped about autonomous cars, but the more I think about it, the more I hate it. What I can tell you for sure is that I’ll be hanging on to my shit boxes for dear life.

    So, yeah. I have been frustrated with modern tech. A lot. I can’t wait to finish my Datsun’s restoration.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with all of this. I drive a 2016 Mazda6 and it has blind spot monitors and rear cross traffic alert, which I found revolutionary when I bought the car in late 2015.

      I rented a top-trim 2023 Hyundai Tucson this weekend and it was a damn spaceship in comparison. We got this brand new Hyundai Tucson as a rental. It beeps and tells me when the car ahead of me has pulled away at a red light. It turns a camera on in the gauge cluster when I turn on the turn signal to change lanes. It has a top-down 360° camera view when you are parking. Lane keep assist, automatic braking (both forward and reverse), a Qi wireless charger in the console, automatic wipers, etc. It’s all nifty but was hard to get used to at first, and I couldn’t help but think of how glitchy and off-and-on this stuff will be in 5-10 years when the car is used or high mileage.

      1. That’s also a major concern of mine, as I tend to keep my cars a long time (I have actually never sold one), but the whole conceptual flaws of these systems come first in my rants before the maintenance issues 🙂

        I’m restoring a ’70s classic and fixing the AC and heater will be a bit of a challenge. I’d like to retrofit AC in my ’04 bimmer but I don’t dare to, and trying to mess with a modern car outright scares me.

  16. So, as covered in another article, Mercedes is going to go even further upscale. Does that mean they’ll load even more frustrating tech into their cars?

    1. They say the more wealth, status and power you have the less information your watch gives you. Two hands and a gem at 12:00. At the extreme end, the highest level people don’t even wear a watch because they are their own standard of time. “The event starts whenever I get there.” Therefore, by the same standard, high end cars should give minimal information and all the functions should work via voice command. Or the mere thought waves of the owner.

  17. I did repairs on the first commercial Bluetooth devices (shoutout Jaap Haartsen), an Ericsson handsfree set, when working at a contract manufacturer. I might still have the schematics somewhere.

  18. OK, I have a frustrating infotainment experience. I have a 2020 BMW M240i, and no, I don’t think that iDrive is a piece of crap. I actually like it a lot for the media and map functions. What I find horribly frustrating is that BMW never added Android Auto and has no plans to do so. What the hell? Apple CarPlay is supported but Android Auto is not and will not be? In a 2020 auto? Grrr……

    1. Be careful what you wish for LOL! My ’22 M235i has wireless Android Auto but… Google Maps absolutely refuses to appear without going through several steps – including, but not limited to, re-starting the phone. Everything else works as it should. It is not my phone as it works flawlessly (wireless also) in my Tiguan.
      BTW I also like iDrive7 quite a bit.

  19. Flush: It’s gotten to the point where a dedicated button for common controls in an expected place feels like a luxury. Give me that! Or, hell, if you have to do a screen, do it Taycan-style, where there’s a dedicated space for the most common stuff.

    I really don’t need my car to feel like a buggy, gesture-controlled sci-fi future, though—the future feels dystopian, hope is dead, and I just want a damn button I can press without looking and get on with my day.

  20. Counter point: I love my car’s infotainment system. I am blown away by the amount of information that it provides and just the overall modern convenience we get with our cars now. Albeit, at a steep learning curve. But, when you study up and read the manual the fun you can have with current infotainment systems is so blissful. Alot of folks hardly crack the manual once they get a new car. We’re so used to the automotive industry having key industry standards across all marques for so long that it’s hard for us to adapt to all these different car makers trying to build a better “infotainment” mousetrap to outdo each other.

    For reference I have a 2020 Buick Encore GX. I’m glad I read the comments to see that others have slowness issues when interfacing between phone and auto via cable. That’s probably been my biggest complaint is cable interface is not super fast. Then again my phone is also not top tier by any degree. Might be time for an upgrade… and I am kind of surprised that Dealerships dont have space for cell companies to also peddle their plans and wares. It’s likely coming.

    1. One of the first things I did when I got my car was sit down in the driver’s seat and go through the manual. Not cover-to-cover or anything, but all the stuff that seemed relevant. It took a few hours. Am I a huge nerd? Yes. Do I know where my emergency kit is located, how to work the adaptive cruise control, and when my big-ticket maintenance intervals are? Also yes.

      Cars are complicated, the owner’s manual exists for a reason.

  21. No a big van. 80% of product delivery is done with 20 ft or larger box trucks. These mini vans may work for a fAmily of two but they arent delivery vans.

  22. You know what’s really needed in the US that noone sells? A small van.

    Nissan could easily sell the e-NV200 in the US but they don’t.

    If they did I’d buy 2 at the minimum (I’d keep the ones I’m not driving in one of those car bubbles as replacements for when the first one eventually dies).

    1. No a big van. 80% of product delivery is done with 20 ft or larger box trucks. These mini vans may work for a fAmily of two but they arent delivery vans.

      1. They’d function well as delivery vans for small businesses, small camper vans, “minivans”, etc. No I wouldn’t recommend that Amazon buy them in bulk, rather they’d serve everyone who needs a BEV van but doesn’t want a massive van (not that they can get one of the massive ones in the US currently due to Amazon buying them all up).

    2. Counterpoint: the NV200 is a piece of trash that starts falling apart as soon as you look at it. I’m all for compact cargo vans and think it’s dumb that they’re all going away, but that particular one is a turd.

  23. Regarding dealers and BEVs… of course they are doing it begrudgingly. I’ve read and heard more than a few stories of how dealers have handled hybrid and BEVs in the past… and in the case of Nissan, blocking access to chargers unless you bought your Leaf from them.

    And I fully expect them to blame Biden. I fully expect dealers to be solid Republican supporters since that is the party more open to corruption and grift… which is directly in-line with car dealer “values”.

    1. “that is the party more open to corruption and grift”

      In this context it would be graft, not grift, but also LMAO. Exhibit A: Maxine Waters. The “two teams” model is just there to distract you from the inescapable fact that all federal level politicians are on the take to some degree, from someone. If it’s not car dealers, then it’s the financial institutions managing bond offerings for public transit. If it’s neither of those, then it’s insurance lobbyists, or defense contractors, or media companies…. ad naseum.

  24. In the last 15 years or so, my folks have been buying luxury German SUVs. I’ve driven all of them a fair amount over the years…and they drive me fucking nuts. It’s harder to figure out than a new phone or computer, and you’re supposed to be able to use it while your driving. My mom’s current 2019 BMW X5 is lovely to drive, but hell if I know how many of the features work. I’m lucky to Bluetooth my phone, something that was always a battle on my dad’s previous car, a 2017 Mercedes GLE43 AMG. I just get overwhelmed by the sheer number of things. I suppose some folks love to customize every little detail of their car “experience” but I’m not that kind of person. God I sound like an old man, and I’m not even 30 yet.

    1. I feel your pain. I’m a bit older and steeped in automotive technology going back to the 70s and possibly early 60s. There have been a lot of improvements over the decades, but when I get behind the wheel, I want to engage with and be in control of the vehicle — not kept at arm’s length by touchscreens and multi-level menus. It shouldn’t have to take my eyes off the road and focus on multiple taps on a screen (where the touch target button keeps moving on each successive step…) or have to watch a screen while I tap or spin a control to see what it’s doing — all to do something that could have been achieved by sliding a control or twisting a knob that I didn’t even have to look at on older cars.

      There was no “user interface experience” in cars of decades past. The car was a machine, and it had obviously mechanical controls, with nice chunky notches and clicks and detents, or push-pull bits that made it obvious how far you moved the thing it would cause a corresponding thing to happen. To use a classic tech phrase, “It just worked.”

      Thank you for listening to my rant. Now please get off my lawn; I have to go yell at some pesky clouds.

      1. It’s not just cars. When digital synthesizers blew up in the 80s, having banks of preset sounds was a blessing, but making your own sounds was a pain in the ass compared to the old-school stuff. Rather than seeing every parameter on dials and faders right in front of you, you had to scroll through menus to get to each one, on a tiny LCD screen about forty characters long, and two lines tall if it was a *really* nice one. Sometimes you’d forget which thing you wanted to tweak by the time you scrolled through the options.

        At the dawn of the 90s, Roland released the “groundbreaking” JD800. Its most prominent selling feature, as described with an eyeroll by my keyboard player friend: “Oh, look, they finally did what I’ve been telling them to do for years: PUT THE DAMN KNOBS BACK ON IT!”

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