Top Gear’s Top 9: what’s the most annoying car tech?
Modern cars are crammed with technology – and most of it is awful. Here are the nine worst offenders…
Lane keep assist
On paper, this is a genius idea: the car knows where the edges of the road are, and helps keep you in lane if you were to nod off or get distracted. A literal lifesaver.
Except when the road edges are poorly marked. Or the weather is iffy. Or there’s a cyclist or horse to overtake and the steering is insisting on dragging you back into them. In the good old days of yore you could disable this tech with one button, but these days it usually defaults to ‘on’ whenever you start a car…Advertisement - Page continues below
Pop-out door handles
As seen on Teslas, Aston Martins, various Range Rovers and even the likes of the Porsche 992 and Mercedes-AMG SL, designers love pop-out handles as they create a clean look to the side of a car. People in the real-world hate them as they get frozen in on cold days, or try to bite your fingers off when they retract without warning.
Touchscreens appear here to stay, and carmakers say that’s because we’re a smartphone-obsessed generation (while quietly admitting one screen for every car is a lot cheaper than wiring up lots of buttons). But as anyone who’s driven a recent Volkswagen, Seat, Skoda, McLaren, Honda, Mercedes, Peugeot, Citroen or Vauxhall will tell you, a screen which lags, gets too hot and is confusingly laid out is even more frustrating than a smartphone with one per cent battery.Advertisement - Page continues below
Course, you could avoid touching any screen by just using the voice assistant, which is happy to butt into a polite conversation, talk all over whatever you were listening to on the radio, and perform tasks on your behalf. So long as you speak very clearly. In complete silence. And don’t interrupt while it’s buffering a response. Yep. That’s easier than a button.
Touch sensitive controls
The purge of buttons over the past decade has led to a new obsession with touch-sensitive sliders and haptic feedback controls, which look clean and minimalist, until you touch them once and they’re coated with fingerprints. At which point, they work erratically. Or don’t work at all. Or activate at the merest brush of the wheel.
Try executing a three-point turn in the latest VW Golf GTI without changing the radio station, activating the heated steering wheel or speed-dialling your ex. You’re better off carrying a trolley jack around in the boot and using it to raise your car and turn it around manually when you get lost.
Hidden glovebox releases
You’re sick of it too, aren’t you? You get in a car, and yuck. Euurgh! There’s a physical handle just sitting there waiting for you to manually open the glovebox. How repulsive. Thankfully this gargoyle, this insult to your eyes, has been expunged by carmakers, who now delight in hiding the glovebox release in a button elsewhere in the cabin, or even burying the opening mechanism activation in the touchscreen. Hurrah!
For fans of pointless voyages into a touchscreen sub-sub-sub-menu, this is a real treat: how to stop a car muting the radio or your media just because you’ve selected reverse. It’s incredible really: despite all the cameras, sensors, radars and auto-brake assists that carmakers have festooned new cars with, it’s still deemed impossible that a human being could slowly manoeuvre a car backwards while enjoying a song or hearing how the football’s going.Advertisement - Page continues below
Slow electric tailgates
Electric tailgates help the elderly and frail open the cargo bay of a car up. They allow you to lock the car as you walk away without rummaging for a key. But they’re also stupid, moving in geological time until they’re 0.000001mm from latching, at which point the sensor decides a dog hair is fouling the clasp, and it must open again. Halfway. Slowly. And now you’ve got to force it all the way back. And for that, it’s going to resist. And bong at you.
BONG. You’ve pushed the engine start button. BONG. You’ve selected reverse. BONG. The boot has been opened by your partner fetching their bag. BONG-BONGITY-BONGBONG. The adaptive radar lane-keep assist cruise anti-crash brake sensor isn’t working because there’s a leaf nearby and it drizzled on Tuesday. BONG. You’ve opened your door to check you’re straight in a parking bay. BONG-BONG. Caution, you’ve lost the will to live. Wait, is there a bong for that?Advertisement - Page continues below