As some of you may know, I have a couple cars. Five at the moment. However, the newest of them in a 2013. Not old by any standards, but just now starting to act like not a new car. Little things, like a pressure sensor going back and a slight weirdness at idle. I shouldn’t complain, it has given me six years of almost trouble free running.

However, at some point I might need a “new” car again.

The nice thing about the 2013 is that it is dependable. It starts, stops, and goes without any worry or hesitation on my part. It is always there to take me where I needed to be when the other four were acting up.

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So, eventually, it’ll be in the same boat as the other four. Eventually more and more stuff will start wearing out. I’ll replace it, of course, the Volvo gets what it needs.

Anyway, I do predict a day when I need a “new” “reliable” car for whatever reason and I am terrified.

I spent the last week with two very different rentals. The first one was a 2019 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71. The second a 2019 Toyota Camry. With MSRPs of around $65,000 for one and $25,000 they had a lot in common, shockingly.

Mostly: I hated both of them.

Both had relatively cramped interiors despite their large size. Both had lethargic and willfully disobedient 8+ gear automatic transmissions. Both had a suite of safety tech that weirdly didn’t include blind spot monitoring but without fail seemed to do more harm than good. Both had a decent amount of power for their size on paper.

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I’m not saying either is a bad car. Really you’d be hard pressed to find a “bad” car being made right now... except the Mirage... but neither were... enjoyable.

The Tahoe had a lot of power and when that V8 decided it was going to go it went. But the problem was it never seemed to want to go. Like most new cars the throttle position seemed to have very little to do with the power output. At 10% throttle it struggled to move from a stop, but at 12% throttle it would lunge forward, suddenly overcompensating for its lack of action before. This problem was even worse on the freeway, when needing a little burst of speed to change lanes or merge the engine refused to do anything quickly unless floored, and even then it was reluctant to grant my requests.

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The Camry had all of the above problems, but without the eventual power to back it up. Even floored the performance was mediocre at best. Off the line it barely moved at all, exacerbated by its desire to in 4th gear from a dead stop. On the highway it never seemed to use 7th and 8th, so it effectively had a three-speed transmission.

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Truly the golden age of automotive design.

Both vehicles has some automatic lane keeping/ steering tech. Neither worked very well. The Tahoe’s would somewhat erratically steer you back into your lane if you strayed, but when the system was active the whole car felt unsettled. Like the system was dragging on the steering and making the car wander. With the system off, it drove like a normal SUV. Well planted even, for its size.

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While I was annoyed with the Tahoe’s system for not having a lot of indication for when it was correcting, I was annoyed with the Camry’s system for... well existing. Compared to the Tahoe the Camry’s system was much weaker and more more inclined to give up or not do anything at all. Its response was inconsistent at best. Sometimes it would beep, sometimes it would steer, sometime it would do both. Once it was very determined to make me collide with a construction barrier, which was... fun. It stayed off after that.

The Camry also had radar guided cruise control, which was exciting! I’d never had a chance to play with one of those and I was super interested in playing with it.

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It was bad.

It doesn’t really warn you when it is about to adjust your speed and tends to do so before you’d expect. The result is even in very light traffic you’ll come up behind someone going slower and the system would slam on the brakes before you got a chance to change lanes. After the car is cleared, it goes back up to speed like a cruise that is off target, which is to say quickly and with a lot of throttle. That can’t be good for economy.

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Even on the lowest follow distance setting the cruise left an (ir)responsible amount of space between me and the car in front. Good for safety, but that large of a gap in traffic gave enough room people would constantly cut in front of me, causing the system to brake harder than was socially acceptable, which caused the gap to reopen, which caused more people to cut in front. I can envision a situation in which it would come to a complete stop from people cutting in front of it. If it wasn’t for....

Also the system gives up if your speed drops below a threshold. Not sure what it is, but it doesn’t warn you before it says “fuck it” and lets you hit the guy in front of you.

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Let me explain. I was on a rural highway with stoplights. Curious what it would do in stop and go traffic, I set my follow distance to maximum and locked on to the car in front of me. As we approached the stop light the Camry automatically slowed, slowed, slowed.... not smoothly mind you, but it was doing it. Then, as we were nearly stopped, it just... stopped braking. Apparently I’d reached the arbitrary threshold at which the system stopped working. There was no warning. Now I was on a collision course with the car in front, rather than gently following it. Of course we were maybe going 20 MPH so it wasn’t a big deal, but fuck me that seems like a design flaw.

After that I turned the radar cruise off.

Or, rather I tried to turn it off.

As it turns out your options are no cruise or radar cruise. “Normal” cruise is apparently not an option.

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Fuck you too, Toyota.

But that brings me to the problem with this tech. If you can’t rely on it, why is it even there?

If the lane keep gives up if it has to try too hard, or tries very hard to make you crash, why is it there? If the radar cruise gets near to stopping you, but then couldn’t be bothered to finish, why does it brake at all?

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Gimmicks and toys.

Engines, transmissions, and fly-by-wire throttles designed for economy rather than obedience.

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Manufacturer installed spyware.

Laggy, unintuitive touchscreens.

Why would anyone buy a new car?