Keine Fahrvergnügen

In a world which is becoming more and more “convenient” (i.e. controlled by electronics and algorithms), I have to say that in the automotive world, it’s the Germans who (unsurprisingly) lead the charge.

Read this Road & Track article about the Porsche Cayenne SUV, and see if you can spot the parts which made my trigger-finger itch and led me to look up “home-made explosives” on the Internet.  No, don’t bother;  here they are:

When we ordered our Cayenne, we thought the $940 stand-alone option price was a bit excessive. Our opinion on the cost has not changed, and while we have only just gotten used to pulling the key out to unlock the car, then returning said key to our pocket before starting the car—you don’t need to insert the key to start the car—we do find it a bit annoying to have one but not the other, considering our Cayenne is $80K. Staff editor Eric Stafford captured it perfectly in the logbook: “This first-world problem is a first-world pain in the ass.”
Driving at night on back roads has brought to light (sorry) the inability to dim the instrument cluster sufficiently. On a dark road, the interior lights glare into our eyes. Not only that, dimming the lights requires you to go through a menu in the infotainment system, and there are three separate dimmer controls for the instrument cluster, clock on the dash, and center touchscreen. Remember dimmer knobs? Porsche says forget them; doing it through an infotainment menu that can’t be adjusted while moving is a much better solution. This is a prime example of technology taking a simple task and making it unnecessarily complicated.

I have already voiced my loathing for keyless access/ignition systems, so I won’t go into it here.  Not having an analog dimmer switch for the interior gauge lighting is so fucking stupid as to defy definition.  (My late father always used to say, when some or other non-essential doodad on his Mercedes 350 SE failed, “No wonder they lost the fucking war!”)

I am going out on a not-so-long limb here, and offer 10-1 odds that among the performance car manufacturers, Porsche will be the first to offer / mandate driverless (a.k.a. self-driving) cars, most likely in their SUVs first, and then the venerable 911 line soon thereafter.   (It was bad enough that they took the manual gearbox out of the 911 line altogether — because no driver can shift gears quicker than their phantastiches  PDK —  and more nonsense like that is bound to follow.)

I am not, and probably will never be in the market for a new Porsche of any description, so they can safely ignore my bitching.  (Honorable mention:  the Porsche Cayman, which has a stick shift and is routinely described as one of the best sports cars — in its original sense — on the market.)

And even that interior is a little too gadgety for Your Humble Narrator.

But it’s not just Porsche;  I am going to eschew any  model car whose manufacturer deigns to make driving decisions on my behalf.

When I talk tongue-in-cheek about wanting a basic car like the Mini-Moke or Toyota FJ40, I don’t really mean it because even I have  my limits.  Not all  innovation sucks, in other words;  but I would suggest that “Remember dimmer knobs? Porsche says forget them; doing it through an infotainment menu that can’t be adjusted while moving is a much better solution”  should require daily floggings for the engineers who suggested this and the managers who signed off on it.

And if for some insane reason I did  want a non-Boxster Porsche, it would be this one:

Yup, the 356c pushes all my sports-car buttons, Porscherly-speaking.  Now  we’re talking driving pleasure, my friends — and yes, I’ve been behind the wheel of a 356 before, and it was a fantastic experience.


  1. Do the people that design these even drive? I know I can’t shift faster than an electronically controlled transmission, but I’m having fun not trying to win a race. And out in the boonies where I live being able to dim all the dash lights to keep your night vision at its peak is a requirement not an option, considering the number of deer and other critters that wander across the road in the dark.

  2. I had a Dodge Durango as a rental while the insurance was being settled on my destroyed truck.

    The gameboy screen was about the dumbest, most poorly implemented thing I’ve seen. It was a crisp day, so I head out. And a few miles later, I realize my ass is burning and the steering wheel is hot. So as I’m driving, I’m staring at the switches on the dash (there were none on the console), trying to ascertain which rune stood for the seat heater, while I’m trying to drive.

    Eventually, I got to the right menu on the screen to turn the seat and wheel heater off. I was annoying that it decided I needed it, and worse, turning it off was nuts. Things you need to control while moving need to be tactile, so you can deal with them without taking your hands off the road.

    Don’t get me started with the auto start-stop, which has to be turned off every time you start the car.

    By comparison, my ’05 sequoia was simple as a butter churn. Seat heater on? Mash the button with the glowing light near the seat on the console.

  3. Car manufacturers (like so many other consumer products) have gotten to the point where they do things because they CAN without asking if they SHOULD, or if the new feature is truly an improvement over the old way of doing things.

    While neither car in the current D-family garage is a sports car, nor even particularly luxurious, there’s a decided difference in the number of gadgets. The two cars are a 2006 Jeep Liberty (my car, formerly my wife’s car when I had my 1989 Mustang), and a 2016 Ford Edge (my wife’s car, and the one we mostly use when we go places together, bought when I wrecked the Mustang and the Jeep became my car). While the Edge has a lot more gadgets, they’re mostly unobtrusive. A few examples:

    Both have remote locks (nice when your hands are full of bags), power windows (nice because sometimes you want to adjust the passenger window when you’re alone) and power mirrors. They work, they’re reliable, and they’re handy. Both have a complement of air bags which we hope never to use.

    The Jeep has a basic AM/FM/CD player, wife’s has a blue-tooth and Sirius which is nice for long trips. Jeep has part-time 4WD, Ford has full-time AWD, both perform well in snow. Edge has a back-up warning chime if you get too close to something (handy for wife because she’s height-challenged, and it mostly works well). The Edge has an optional setting (that we use) where the lights that come on automatically when it gets dark or if the windshield wipers are in use. It can be over-ridden if need be.

    Note that NEITHER car has features which remove control from the driver, at best it alerts you to some hazard like the back-up warning, but YOU still decide how close you’re willing to get.

    Annoyances: On the Edge you have to go thru the menu to adjust the clock. The Jeep has two buttons you press with a paper-clip, and I keep one in the car for that reason. The Edge has a compact spare under the rear cargo area (I keep saying I’m getting a full-sized when I get a round to it), the Jeep has a full-sized bolted right to the back door. Both have the jack and tire iron hidden in a place you need to consult the owner’s manual to find.

    Neither requires you to go thru a menu to adjust the dash brightness, both have a little knob which can adjust from completely dark to much-too-bright, as God intended.

  4. A person with a decent mix of work ethic and smarts can fix any mechanical thing ever built, even if he has to machine his own parts. Car companies loathe that.

    A printed circuit is not repairable.

    A pox on them all.

    When the Chinese kill all your cars with an EMP burst my 1965 carburetor aspirated, mechanical distributor sparked Sunbeam will still be running, in spite of Lucas.

  5. Have You priced a 356 recently? Here a nice 65 year old example.

    Granted it only a Continental and not a more desirable speedster, but it a nice restored numbers matching rust free 356 driver for only $325,000 !!!!!

    Currently shopping for our next ( 6th ) Porsche, I used to be of the same mind about the use of electronic Nannies. When we ordered our 996 we deliberately checked the box next to PSM Delete for a more ” Driver Focused example” ( Extra Charge to NOT get something!!! ) . But as the years have passed and the Cars are now a LOT faster, the limits of adhesion much higher, and my driving skills not able to keep up, I’ve come to appreciate the help that PASM ( or as it’s better known – “Please Save Me” ). The latest PDK transmissions are worlds apart from the old Sportamatics.

    Are all your firearms still only Bolt action with some Flintlocks thrown in for ” Just in case” the new tech jams. ???

  6. A little over ten years ago I was retired, not yet 65 and our health insurance for my wife and myself being in the Texas high risk pool was eating out savings up fast so when Montblanc USA decided to move their repair facility from Pennsylvania to the DFW area and asked me if I wanted to work for them I said yes, hell yes. I had been though a course in the 1990’s on fountain pen repairs with Montblanc and I went up with a crew of folks to spend two cold miserable months in Allentown PA. Then we moved the whole operation to Texas, my pay was very decent and being self employed for years I could not believe all the benefits, paid vacation, sick pay, time off to take your dog to the vet, etc.

    So here’s the deal, repairing fountain pens, ball point pens, rollerball pens and pencils in all the styles and sizes required about 150 different tools at my work bench. Expensive black handled tools, shaped like screwdrivers but with different tips like keys that fit up inside each model to unscrew and take it apart. The krauts love to complicate and design proprietary parts and then every few years change stuff on the same model, not for the better, just to make it different. Every pen had a serial number on the clip so we could look up when it was manufactured or at least the clip was made if it had broken and been replaced.

    My comment almost daily was, “It’s no wonder the Krauts lost the war.” The back up inventory on parts was massive yet for some reason or another about 20 percent of the repairs had to be put on hold waiting for parts from Germany and that system was updated from time to time resulting in months and months of delay as they would work out the bugs in the new computer system.

    Dealing with Germans when you ask why things are messed up or fail the answer was, ” That is the system we designed and it is excellent and working just the way we want it to work, no mistakes on our part and that’s the way it was designed, nothing more to talk about since you don’t understand.”

    1. Your post made me laugh out loud because you are describing the entire German part of my family. I’m Canadian but speak German and visit my cousins,aunts and uncles fairly regularly.

      They’re not all like that but when they tilt their heads and get that bug eyed look from visualizing organizational perfection it becomes pointless to argue or even discuss.

      They have more parts bins in their shops than anything I’ve ever seen. My uncle Herbert used to give me a 2 hour tour every few years just to see his new stuff.

    2. I’m laughing with you, Old Texan. I retired last year after 34 years with the giant German engineering firm, Siemens. You described the situation exactly.

      There is a myth that has been prevalent in America that the Germans are the world’s premier engineers, that everything they design and build is top-notch, quality stuff. Please don’t misunderstand me. A lot of top-notch, quality stuff does indeed come out of Germany. But certainly not everything.

      I was a service engineer working remotely on some of their most sophisticated equipment. You would routinely look at a certain subsystem and say: “That design is pure genius.” And right next to it was another subsystem that you hope like hell wasn’t the fault because it was designed by a moron. (Our thought on that was: “What in bloody hell were they thinking?!”)

      Just to remove panels to gain access for servicing routinely required three or four *different* tools, and I’m not talking about three to four different size wrenches either. It would be a #1 torx driver, a phillips screwdriver, a 10mm open end wrench, and a 5mm allen driver. And that’s just for one access panel. I don’t even mention the “special” tools like you described. It seems everything coming out of Germany needs some kind of special tool for servicing.

  7. “the inability to dim the instrument cluster sufficiently”

    Try dimming the navigation/entertainment display in a Ford some time. Just kidding, you can’t, nor turn it “off”.

  8. I’ve got a Ford Edge right now, (along with an old Suzuki 4WD as a reliable backup and Oh! it is reliable) and an MGB in bits. In London I use the Edge, it does just what I want is comfortable and is not over elaborate with gadgets apart from one, the emergency collision warning/brake application – I hate that! I hate it more than I can say! (I’ve taken to stealing my wife’s Ecosport, that’s pretty nimble too!

  9. The Progressive Establishment has always hated the way the automobile allowed people to go where they wanted to, at the speed they wanted, by whatever route pleased them. Clearly the Usual Pillocks are going to push self-driving cars for all they are worth. It isn’t as good as Public Transport, but it’s a move in what they think is the right direction.

    It may even be popular…at first.

    My bet is that it’s sun will set for a generation the day that five thousand copies of the same model reveal a software glitch, and all suddenly turn left for no good reason in the middle of the morning commute.

    To err is human. To replicate the error ten thousand times a nanosecond requires a computer.

  10. I still miss the foot switch to control the High Beams that I had in my 60’s and 70’s cars.

  11. I have a 13 year old Cayman S. It took Porsche 3 tries to get a reliable bearing for what they call the intermediate shaft in the engine. When earlier versions of this gizmo failed due to a seized bearing, it could easily destroy the whole engine. Did they not have SKS or Timken on their rolodex? I’m reasonably sure/hopeful the third try is the charm and that’s what is in my car. Old as I am, I am no longer as enamored of 1G turns, etc. A one G turn to the right basically tries to cram your ass into the space between the seat bolster and the door panel while you hold on to the steering wheel for dear life. Left turn similar problem, except you now risk sitting on the stick or parking brake. All this for only 295Hp. I wonder what uncomfortable trouble you can get into with 600 to 800HP cars? Nonetheless I am still more than happy with somewhat less frantic levels of activity, including shifting, thankyouverymuch. And using a real parking brake, not an electronic one.

  12. A “self-driving Porsche”??

    Did it ever occur to these dimbulbs in marketing that people buy Porsches because they love to drive ?

    1. No.

      OTOH, it probably DID occur to them that a great many of the people who but such cars are not as good at driving as they think they are….

  13. My dad worked with the German scientists that were the nucleus of NASA back in the 50’s. His comment was that we would have never gotten to the moon if the Germans didn’t have the Americans to keep them on the path.

    Porsche has been enamored with this crap for a while. I have a 30 year old 911 and it is full of overly complex answers to simple questions. The difference is that while the designs are insanely overdone, many times they are repairable because they were mostly mechanical. This new obsession with flat screens guarantees these cars will depreciate like a rock, and be unfixable and therefore unsellable in 15 years.

    My favorite bit of stupidity is in the new Porsche Panamera, the touch screen is required to change the angle of the air coming out of the AC vent. Yes the AC vent is powered, and is right above the damn screen. No person in their right mind would think it is a good idea to make the user interface with a screen RIGHT NEXT TO the vent

Comments are closed.