As another year winds down, the holiday season is once again upon us. For those of us with a passion for driving and all things wheeled, that generally brings with it a mixed blessing.
While we love to get gifts, we’ll let you in on a little secret: when it comes to tools, we much prefer buying our own, spending substantially more than the prices charged by Harbor Freight for its one-time use, disposable tools.
We love scale car models as much as anyone, but we’re flat out of shelf space to display them, and we already have a dozen versions of our favorite cars in multiple scales. Bedsides, you have to dust them on a regular basis, and we’ll be honest: house keeping isn’t our forte.
Cars are out, unless you run with a different crowd than we do, as are car parts. The good stuff is horrifically expensive, and like tools, we gear heads much prefer to buy our own go-fast parts.
So what do we really want this holiday season? The answer, honestly, is “nothing that can be wrapped, stuffed in a stocking, or placed beneath a Christmas tree.” If we could get some face time with Santa, the DMV or the CEO’s of the major automakers, here’s what we’d ask for.
Less Complicated Cars: If you drive as many new cars each year as we do, you’ll soon realize that modern cars have become needlessly complex, with automakers debuting new technology and new interfaces long before they’re really ready for prime time.
The more complex systems in cars become, the more chance there is that something will go wrong, and we’ve experienced some spectacular failures in the last year. We’re not Luddites, but we’d ask for this gift from automakers: before you add a new feature or accessory to a car, ask yourself two things: has it been adequately tested, and does it really enhance the driving experience?
2013 Subaru BRZ fitted with STI upgrades
More Manual Transmissions: For years, Germany was the land of the manual transmission. The ever-pragmatic Germans eschewed automatic transmissions, as they robbed cars of performance, reduced fuel economy and added cost to the purchase price.
Those days are gone, since even Germans are now embracing cars with modern automatic transmissions. On the plus side, some modern automatics offer improved performance over manuals, as well as superior fuel economy. Many companies don’t even charge extra for them anymore, so the days of the clutch pedal seem to be coming to an end.
That’s a shame in our eyes, since few things connect driver to car quite like a manual gearbox. There is a joy in mastering skills, like a perfectly rev-matched downshift, that new drivers will likely never experience. We know this is a lost cause, but we’re still going to go down swinging; please, Santa, bring us more manual transmission cars.
U.S. lawmakers to get tougher on teen drivers
Better Driver Training: If you’ve driven in any big U.S. city in recent years, you know this to be true: the level of driver training required to get a license in this country is appalling. Most motorists have no idea about concepts like braking distance, judging available traction, understeer or even the blind spot.
More than any other holiday gift, we’d like people to start taking driving a bit more seriously. To echo our high school driver’s education teacher, it’s a privilege and not a right, and its one of those tasks that’s deceptively easy, right up until the moment it suddenly isn’t.
Less Distracted Driving: Though this may be hard for those of us with a passion for the open road to understand, the vast majority of people don’t enjoy driving. At best, it’s a tedious chore, which leads many to believe that distractions like hand-held cell phones, texting or obnoxiously loud music can help keep boredom at bay.
Perhaps they can, until you realize that traffic has stopped 25 feet in front of you, you’re traveling at 60 miles per hour and the road is wet. Even the best brakes and tires aren’t going to help you much, since you’re just seconds away from getting up close and personal with Mr. Airbag. Afterwards, there’s the trip to the hospital to look forward to, followed by traffic citations, insurance points and a series of lawsuits from the drivers you just hit. By the time you’re done, that text will likely cost you several thousand dollars, so ask yourself this: was it worth it?
2013 Subaru BRZ and 2013 Scion FR-S
More Entertaining New Cars: If you ask any of us here to name the cars we’ve driven in the past year, chances are good we’ll be combing through archived files to come up with a list. In fact, we’d probably have to do the same to name the cars we’ve driven in the past month, because the majority of them are utterly forgettable.
We understand that’s what most people want, and that automakers build cars for consumers, not auto journalists, but we’d like to see just a few more each year that keep us amused. The Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ are good examples, as are Chrysler’s SRT8 sedans, the Tesla Model S and the new Porsche Boxster models.
Though targeted to different audiences, each consistently put a smile on our face during our time behind the wheel. If more companies built more cars like this, perhaps more drivers would realize that time behind the wheel is meant to be savored, not avoided.