10 Things I Need In A Car in 2020
I made the mistake of reading some article the other day that had a list of 10 new technologies that made new cars great…and it boiled my blood. I’m not a diehard Luddite, but I feel that connected mobile apps, Apple CarPlay, and lane departure warning buzzers are just things that I would disable after they buzzed at me enough times. I don’t need it, and I don’t want it. And, yes I have driven a car with lane departure and auto cruise control etc…and it was interesting, and I played with the controls until I almost crashed into someone else and I turned them off and listened to AM radio. Because I don’t need magnetic ride control or GPS dependent ride height. I couldn’t find the exact article I was reading about the new tech, but here is R&T’s list of fancy-pants tech, and here is KBB’s Best Auto Tech of 2019…and the following is DailyTurismo’s best tech of 2020…also known as the 10 Things I Need In A Car in 2020. The future is now.
1. Manual transmission. Yes, modern dual clutch flappy paddle things are great, CVTs & 9-speed autos can gain fuel economy, and slushboxes save your left leg…but a 6-speed gearbox is still better. 5-Speed boxes are okay…and even a 4-speed is better than a slushbox…and I’ll even accept 3-on-the-tree if it gets me a clutch pedal and the ability to precisely select my own gear. “8 Speeds good, 6 Speeds better” — Napoleon.
2. Rack and Pinion Steering. The old steering box system is great in a truck or a 69 Mustang, but cars with rack & pinion systems are so much better driver, there is no comparison. No amount of adjusting your steering box end play or adding caster can replace the feel of a good rack. Does this mean that all old cars handle terribly…no…but it means that certain 1990s/2000s cars that didn’t adopt rack-n-pinion (ahem Mercedes-Benz..) are very rubbery in steering feel.
3. Disc Brakes. The old drum brake was great for a horse and buggy setup, but once you get more than 200 horsepower into a vehicle, the drum brake just doesn’t cut it anymore. Sorry 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR …if I owned one today, I would disc it. Maybe put some 20’s some o’ dat stance…ahahah, just kidding. I would sell it and buy 1000 Pontiac Fieros and re-body each for a different look.
4. Unibody Construction. Body on frame is great for a Model T, a Freightliner, or a Farm Truck…but the weight/rigidity of a unibody setup is superior to all aspects of the horseless carriage. Technically I guess a race car has a body-on-frame setup when you’ve got a flimsy plastic body on a steel tube frame, but when it comes to a “car” that needs to be mostly waterproof and driven on the street, I want something that doesn’t creak over speed bumps or weight a millionty lbs.
5. Manual Rollup Driver’s Window. I know what you are thinking…but power windows make it easy to get some ventilation into my car since the AC bust…but you aren’t listening. Manual for the driver’s window ONLY. Power elsewhere…but the driver is always next to his window and the ability to get the correct and appropriate roll up/down speed and amount of window crackedness is only achievable with a crank. Yes, I want to be able to one-touch my kid’s windows when they leave them down…but that driver’s window should be manual crank operated.
6. Full sized spare. I know that tire technology has gotten better in the last few decades, but the spare of shame only pushes you into stopping at the first tireshop you find and spending too much to get new shoes. And don’t get me started on the can of compressed air and goo that has replaced even the smallest spares. So instead of a spare tire, we get “run flats” that cost twice as much and tire pressure sensors that function about as well as a power tool from Harbor Freight. No thanks. Give me my full sized spare, an analog tire gauge, and shove your TPMS where the sun don’t shine. My wife once called me up and told me there was a light on her dash that looked like a person doing a head stand inside of a giant fish bowl…I told her we needed to get her an older car and a tire gauge.
7. Rear Wheel Drive. I get it when people buy a front-drive car for their kids as a first car…yes…they are slower and safer. Or the people who need 4X4 because they live down a 10 mile dirt road. Sure. But for the rest of us, we need rear-wheel-drive cars that allow the back end to be driven around a bend with some degree of gusto. You don’t need much more power than a Nissan 240SX to demonstrate that rear-wheel-drive trumps any other wheel drive in any situation short of an ice rally in Finland. I’ve never been to Finland…so I need rear wheel drive.
8. Defeatable traction control. Look, I get it…traction control helps people who have no idea what they are doing behind the wheel stay on the road. It has certainly saved countless lives, but if I press the TCS button I expect every single stinkin nanny device to be completely and irrevocably disabled…not just for the next 30 seconds or until I shift gears (on my own, thank you). I also don’t need the sequence to disable it to involve a derivation of the secret masonic handshake or plugging in a laptop. Just turn it off and let the traction be uncontrolled.
9. Limited Slip Differential. This goes hand-in-hand with defeated traction control and is essential for safe travel in limited grip conditions like snow, rain, slimy crosswalk paint, etc. Limited slip means that I won’t do peg-leg burnouts in the rain…and there is zero downside. And don’t give me some “e-diff” baloney — I don’t want my brakes or a traction control system to have any part of limiting slip in my diff.
10. Cloth Seats. I know, everybody loves leather, suede, pleather, alcantara…just stop. Stop right there…because leather looks and smells wonderful when it is fresh from the factory, but it becomes a pruney dumpster fire of wrinkles and rips and just…just…look at how well basic cloth survives in the demands of seating needs and stop killing cows so that people buy a new Mercedes after 5 years because their seats look like a 3 week old taco bell burrito. Yuck. No thanks. Give me a set of cloth seats from a high mile car before a new set of leather because no amount of leather conditioner will stop the inevitable need for a seat face lift. It’s skin, cow skin. Why would you expect it to last for 20 years of sitting on it alternating with hot sun and cold nights?
That’s it. I don’t need a heads-up display or satellite radio or on-star or a plug-in device that reports my driving style to my insurance company. I just want to drive the nicest car you can buy from a showroom in 1995 and some open road in front of me. -Vince DT E-i-C and Chief Grump.
Featured image from this 70 VW Concept Car, colorized by Kaibeezy.
I’m with you all the way, since I spend an inordinate amount of time in rental cars I get to “experience” what passes for driver’s aids up close & personal.
But I would add adaptive cruise control (a priceless luxury on the 405) and Bluetooth phone connection to your list of things truly needed.
Cars must have windows that you can see out of without the aid of back up camera! Nothing worse than sitting in a bathtub to drive a car. I borrowed my wife’s ILX went to the ATM and almost gave myself a fat lip trying to grab money and stick my head out the window.
Sterling list! We are an effed up country from the CBF to ure for me!slushbox only in newer transpo pods. Bck to fut
What the EF? this platform is mildly annoying. It should read:………”from the C(hinese) B(at) F(lu) to slushboxes only in overpriced new transportation pods. Back to the future for me.”
I think maybe you used the left angle bracket (looks like less than) or right angle bracket (greater than) characters in your text…for some reason this commenting setup hides stuff between those characters.
It’s interpreting the angle brackets as HTML markup.
Great list, I would only add a Bluetooth connection for calls (to avoid tickets) and music. I’ve had cars with period correct 8 track and cassette players, for a daily driver I want a modern radio even if the car is 40 years old.
I agree on everything you’ve mentioned except the manual windows… BTW cows haven’t sacrificed their hides for auto leather seats for decades. It’s all man-made plastic shenanigans. I love cloth seats…
I love cloth seats too…but have to respectfully disagree on the previous statement – there are real leather seats still being made. True, the modern pleather / vinyl alternatives are convincing to the touch and the eyes. But real live (dead) cows do still give their actual tanned hides to make some of our auto upholstery.
Enthusiastically agree on 9/10. Can’t do rear wheel drive as the year round DD in the northeast. But actually what you have described almost exactly is a MKIV VW. (Except for the rear wheel drive, and the LSD, but there is a sweet aftermarket LSD that people seem to love.) Throw in the joys of turning a tiny diesel engine into a torque monster that gets 48 mpg, and you have the perfect DD.
I would want A/C and abs with rear-wheel drive and would really like to try a car with PDK tranni in today’s traffic. Radio with blue tooth is easy to fix.
Where do I get that color switching paint?
Not that metallic puke green to red that’s the color of the mystery stain from the Italian restaurant that’s on you clothes when you finally find them under some stranger’s sofa two days later, but the cool cycling as shown in the photo at the top of this post.
Vince – my 1981 Volvo 242 with the turbo engine swap meets all of your criteria except one. Ha! I haven’t built a proper rear end for it yet, so the diff remains unlimited in scrimps. It only has two roll-down windows and they are both manual…
Secret derivation of the Masonic handshake…priceless.
Almost as good: when typing the line above, my iOS device thrice tried to autocorrect (correct? Seriously?) “derivation” to “deprivation”’. Our robot overlords draw nigh, I fear.
Manual is superior. No doubt. But I’ll reserve my greatest Ire for Modernity in Mobility and emphatically award it to manumatics, those evil embodiments of broken promises and draconian experience. They are the singularly least satisfying piece of technology ever foisted upon us. Did not a single engineer ever happen upon the slap-across-the-cheek-obvious fact that both situational gear selection and current awareness of the selected gear are mental processes that are informed by location of the actual gearshift? That sometimes we drivers will skip gears when shifting and don’t really enjoy or need the theatre of rev matching or the tactile/aural drama of engine braking? Or the fact that, when coming to a stop in traffic the entire world just gently puts the tranny in neutral? I swear, for all the ink spilled in describing the manumatic in…varied…ways, they have always been faaaaar more trouble than they are worth.
Humbug. Either: Save the manuals or give us a manumatic that doesn’t make me hate the flappy paddle purveyors more than I already do.
Doc, do you even want to know that Vince drives an E46 M3 SMG…and he likes it? Sorry – I guess you can’t un-know that now!
CFlo knows the entire story of my M3 purchase/ownership (long story) but the M3’s manumatic is one of the better manumatics to own because it is so terrible in auto mode that you always drive in full manual mode. It won’t shift unless you tell it (it’ll bounce off the revv limiter) and it’ll shift when you tell it even if it is a bad idea. I put a bunch of my E46 SMG comments here: http://dailyturismo.com/bang-for-your-buck-2003-bmw-m3-e46/
Would I prefer a regular manual M3?…sure, but it’ll cost much more…and the SMG does make for an interesting kinda fun.
Maybe part of the SMG’s goodness is also down to the fact that the box of gears itself is exactly the same as the full manual version. BMW added robo-accessories to it but made them obey. A winning combination for driver fun, compared to most of the others out there like the more modern dual-clutch boxes. I’ve driven a PDK-equipped Porsche and an DSG-equipped VW GTI, and both were much smoother than the SMG in low speed transient conditions but did lack that raw feel of “race car for the street” that the E46 SMG provides.