Every year and with every new model, automakers from Kia to Toyota try their best at creating new and innovative features that they can put into the cockpit of their new automobiles. In many ways this is a good thing and has brought about quite a few changes that have made driving easier and, more importantly, safer. On the other hand, many of the features that have been coming out lately might make you scratch your head and wonder what exactly the designers were thinking.
- Tailgate release buttons that are operated by foot seem like a fundamentally good idea and, in those catchy commercials, look like a good idea as well. The problem however is that, if you’ve got your arms completely loaded with groceries or other goods (groceries and a baby, for example) trying to balance on one leg to use your foot to tap a relatively small button on the back of your car isn’t nearly as easy as you might think. In most cases you’ll have to actually lean backwards to keep your balance and, if you’ve got fragile groceries or your precious baby in your hands, it’s rather difficult to see where taking the extra risk is a benefit.
- With gas prices at an all-time high all over the country, many tire manufacturers are coming out with low rolling resistance tires that, at least from what the manufacturer will tell you, will add an extra few miles to every tank of gas. While it may seem like a good idea to lower a tire’s resistance, less lowering friction and possibly increasing gas mileage, what’s been found by most people who use the tires is that, in the rain, they have a serious problem holding the road. The question thus becomes, is it worth saving a few extra dollars on a tank of gas if it means cutting down on your cars ability to safely maneuver in the rain? We have to say “no”.
- Capacitive touch sensors are being used to replace buttons in, for example, the 2013 Lincoln MKS. While we can see why a designer would want to create a clean, stylish auto interior, substituting a touch surface that’s unreliable, legs quite often and sometimes works better with one person’s fingers than on others, isn’t really an upgrade. The way we see it, if a feature actually adds to your distraction while you’re driving (like these often do) what’s the point? Like the low rolling resistance tires above, this is a feature that actually lowers the safety factor while adding very little value.
- If you’re a fan of cute little jingles that play every time you start your car’s engine or turn it off, then you’ll be a fan of the “hello“ and “goodbye” chimes that manufacturers like Hyundai and Kia have started putting in their vehicles over the last few years. While the noise that they make isn’t what you would call offensive, the fact is that after only a few days they become tiresome and, even though you can actually turn down the volume, we’d suggest that this feature be turned off completely.
- Our last added feature that doesn’t add much to your driving experience are USB ports that are located in inconvenient or just plain strange locations in your car. We’ve seen one that was actually located in the glove compartment and others that are so inconveniently placed that connecting your USB device means taking the risk of spilling your cup of coffee all over the place. While we love the extra convenience of being able to plug our smart phones in, we also appreciate car designers who located the sports in a spot that was a little less ridiculous.
Next time you’re out searching for a new car, keep your eye out for these five “extras” that, while they might cost extra, aren’t actually going to add any extra value to your driving experience. Extra cup holders, anyone?