Opinion: is the car world turning its back on stupid tech and styling? | Top Gear
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Opinion: is the car world turning its back on stupid tech and styling?

Ollie reckons there are signs of hope we’re not all doomed to a future screaming at our dashboards

Published: 13 Jan 2023

Traditionally, this is the time of year people are down in the dumps. Christmas is a distant memory (if not the calories). New year’s resolutions are wilting faster than the naked fir tree stuffed into your wheelie-bin, and for everyone in the northern hemisphere, the weather’s grimmer than a Bank of England forecast.

In the car world though, there are reasons to be cheerful. This week, did you see those reports Tesla is giving up on its idiotic ‘yoke’ steering contraption? Having taken over a year to realise what all sensible people recognised in five seconds flat (that a U-shaped aircraft yoke is hopeless at steering a street car), Tesla has quietly popped proper, round steering wheels back in the S and X. 

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Top Gear opinion return from stupid

To save face, the yoke remains as an optional extra. Yours for $700, apparently. What’s that old saying about a fool and their money being easily parted?

Point is, if even a brand as belligerent as Tesla can realise it’s made a major unforced boo-boo and needs to drink a steaming hot cup of common sense, there’s hope. In fact, the more you look, the more you spot other cases of companies that should know better starting – at last – to make better design choices. 

Volkswagen, for instance, has announced proudly that its next-gen cars will revert to having proper buttons on the steering wheel, instead of the hateful touch-sensitive nonsense it currently inflicts on the likes of the Golf GTI and ID Buzz. The next-gen infotainment touchscreen will even – get this – have controls that light up after dark so you can see what you’re operating! Wonders shall never cease. 

Top Gear opinion return from stupid

Who knows, maybe by 2030 the ID 3 will have a button for the air-conditioning. And the correct number of window switches. And acceptable trim materials. And credible range. We can dream…

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I wonder if the trickling trend of ‘pulling the design department’s head out of its collective backside’ didn’t begin with Apple in 2022. See, after a major backlash against its MacBook laptop’s ‘touch bar’ feature – which replaced the tactile function keys with a tricky-to-use strip of OLED screen – Apple went ahead and dropped it. 

Top Gear opinion return from stupid

The 14- and 16-inch models of MacBook Pro leapt back into the warm embrace of function buttons. Even the world’s most valuable company – one which prides itself on slick design – sometimes must hold its hands up and admit it pooed the bed. No shame in that. If humanity was less obsessed with ‘U-turns!’ and ‘climbdowns!’ then maybe our mistakes wouldn’t get so out of hand in the first place. 

So, who’s next up for a spot of ‘what were we thinking’ redemption? My money’s on the BMW styling department: the taut, handsome i Vision Dee concept is a tantalising glimpse into a future where the successors to the 1 Series, X4, X6, X7, iX, i7, M2, M4 and XM don’t come as standard with a lifetime supply of nausea and vomiting.  

Top Gear opinion return from stupid

What do you reckon? Is the car industry on a one-way street to tech and styling meltdown, or will more common sense and good taste return to save the day?

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