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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Space Car

2017 Hyundai Sonata
On our recent expedition to Iowa I rented a Hyundai Sonata from Hertz. I needed to carry four adults from Omaha to Sioux City and back. We flew into Omaha because it's a P.I.T.A. to fly into Sioux City from Portland, Oregon.

Hyundai Sonata Dashboard
The dashboard looks like something out of Buck Rogers. Buttons and dials and glowing instruments. As all of the controls for actually operating the vehicle were conventional enough, I was able to get in and drive away. But getting any of the creature comforts to operate was another matter.

Notice the small control panel on the right spoke of the steering wheel. And the red triangle in the 'center stack'.
It's not a long drive from Omaha to Sioux City, maybe an hour and a half or so, but it would nice to have some tunes. so I set my wife to seeing if she can find something on the radio. Does this car even have a radio? There is nothing in the dash that looks like a radio, but it's got to have one, doesn't it? I mean radios are traditional. OK, no radio as such, but there is a tablet-sized touch screen and with poking and prodding she is able to tune in some kind of rock and roll and we're good.

We're good until the song ends and then an endless litany of commercials commences. We can put up with this for a while, but eventually we reach our limit and sweetie starts looking for a new station and then, all of a sudden, the emergency flashers start flashing. Flash (Gordon), being on a mission from God, would have charged on regardless, but mild-mannered Chucky, worried about causing the Highway Patrol undue stress took the next exit and pulled over to try and figure out what happened. Well, where the heck is the emergency flasher control? We look in all the normal locations but eventually we spy the red triangle in the middle of the dashboard. Oh, that's it, obviously. We turn off the flashers and go on our merry way.

Since we are on an Interstate highway, I would like to engage the cruise control. I don't want to have to keep watching the speedometer and adjusting my speed to accommodate every little change in the road's incline. Yes, we are in Iowa, and Iowa is very flat, but even the slightest grade can affect the cars speed. I am pushing the envelope on what the cops will tolerate and I don't want push it too far. It would be easy to do. The road is flat and straight and the speedometer goes to 160 MPH.

There is a little mini-control-panel on the right spoke of the steering wheel and the top right button is labeled CRUISE. I push it and little green CRUISE word appears on the instrument panel. I try pushing several of the other buttons to see if I can set the speed, but nothing happens.

The upper left button appears to be a stack of paper (pages?) and pushing it causes the center display between the speedometer and the tachometer to change. I think there are four pages. Pushing this button allows you to cycle through these pages. Eventually I figure out that you can get the cruise control to engage only if you are on the correct page. I don't know whether this is a feature or a bug.

The instrument panel is black with white numbers and other markings. The white is very bright. It wasn't until we got to Sioux City and I specifically stopped and looked for the instrument panel brightness control that I located it. It has it's own little switch on the lower left portion of the dashboard.

I'm thinking that playing with buttons and switches on our increasing complex electronic gee-gaws is America's new past time. It's not just cars. Watch someone trying to find a photo on their smart phone. The tapping and swiping can go on for hours, and it's no good trying to remember the sequence you used to get there, because the next time you will be starting in a different place (in your smart-phone's interface), looking for a different picture using an app that works a little differently than the last time you used it because your smart-phone vendor has pushed an update down the 'wire'. Cars, at least for the moment, and not getting automatic updates. At least I don't think they are.


Anonymous said...

Just wait until you rent a car that locks up the GPS when you start rolling, like a Toyota Camry. Most of the time on road trips, you've got a perfectly capable co-pilot sitting in the right seat and she can't operate the stupid navigation system because some shithead at Toyota decided to be the distracted driver Nazi. That has now become my latest "will not buy" showstopper item. I have a 2007 Volvo with an excellent GPS and my wife does all the navigation, including dealing with any on-the-fly changes of plans, all while underway. Her 2005 Volvo had the same excellent system and it got us around Europe for three months without having to pull off somewhere in order to operate the stupid nav system to figure out where we should be pulling off (Grrr!). From now on, whenever someone publishes a car test of a car that I might be interested in, if they don't mention this "feature", I'll gonna call them on it.

My other favorite "smart car" episode: I had a rented Mercury MKZ and every time I tried to navigate on the touch-screen nav system, my knuckle would hit some secret zone on the screen and switch the system from nav mode to heating-cooling. F-ing brilliant!!

Lucky you! You drive a reasonable vehicle. I'm dreading shopping for my next car. "Do you have one without the Pachinko machine?"

Your pal,

Chuck Pergiel said...

My 'car' is a 99 Dodge Dakota. You do have to buckle seat the belt to stop it from bleating at you, but you don't have to step on the brake in order to start the engine. No LED's and no touch screen. It only gets about 13 MPG.