Wednesday, October 05, 2005

How many gadgets are too many?

I watched an hour-long show about the Frankfurt auto show on Speed recently and one of the vehicles that figured prominently in the show was the upcoming S-Class from Mercedes-Benz. Now don't get me wrong, I like German cars, and I'd love to have so much money that I could convince myself I needed an S-Class. At this point, though, I think I'd buy an older one.

The new S-Class has gone all BMW on us... the odd bustle trunk style like the 7-series BMW (though of course Mercedes cites the Maybach as their trunk inspiration) and the dreaded iDrive. I know, I know, it's COMAND and it's totally different and better and has dedicated buttons for things. Still, I don't see the need for a mouse in my car. Call me old school (I edit with vi, so I guess I am) but a mouse between the seats controlling a display that distracts people from the road is not a positive development.

Car manufacturers' lawyers will tell us that these systems are intended to be used when the car is not in motion, but then newspapers are also intended to be read when one's not driving a car, and I've seen numerous people doing just that. I'd like to claim I've seen someone doing the crossword puzzle, but I can't quite swear to that... I'm sure it happens, I just haven't witnessed it yet.

Do I think we should go back to the AM radio? Hell no! I think steering-wheel-mounted controls for the stereo are a great innovation, a gadget that makes it EASIER for people to drive well, since it offers a simplified set of controls for primary functions in easy reach without releasing the wheel. Navigation systems are a great help to the map-challenged, and some of these have usable voice activation and confirmation to help people watch the road instead of the pretty map display.

I guess it's strange for a gadget guy who's a gearhead to complain about too many gadgets in the cars, but that's the source of Mercedes' recent quality issues, and it's just plain excessive. I must be getting old, and waxing nostalgic for a simpler time.


housespinner said...

Ah yes, the S-Class! :) One of my favorite cars and yes, even an older one would rock. :)

housespinner said...

So what would you choose:

1. CLS
2. Range Rover
3. 740

All are 2006 models. Which one would you choose? :)