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Annoying Quirks in Various Vehicles – Part 2

Four more ground gears

Marc NoordelooswriterThe ManufacturerphotographerSandon Voelkerphotographer

There wasn't room for my full list of automotive annoyances in one column. You can read part one here. Here is part two.

General BMW Quirks:

Logically, you'd think a car would shut down when you press the on/off button at the end of a drive. Sure, some companies keep the radio playing until you open the door. That's fine. It's not that simple with a BMW.

If you want to completely shut down the vehicle, you must either press the ignition button a second time or get out of the car and lock the doors. But it you press the ignition button a 2nd time with your foot on the brake (or your foot on the clutch, with a manual gearbox), the car will restart. Frustrating. If you wait "approximately 8 minutes" (per the owner's manual), the vehicle will automatically shut down, but I'm not a big fan of walking away from an unlocked car in my garage when, say, the radio is playing.

Additionally, on all the BMW products I've played with over the years, there seems to be no way to set the doors to automatically unlock when you turn off the ignition, put the car in park, or open the driver's door. If you fail to manually unlock the doors before walking to, say, a back door to grab your briefcase or purse, you come upon a locked door unless you have Comfort Access (automatically unlock the doors by touching a door handle) and the key is with you.

Finally, how hard is it to give owners the option to pull up a digital speedometer via the trip computer? On a BMW 3 Series, you must order the Technology Package — nearly $3,000 — to get a digital speedo via the head-up display. The M3 gets a nice, big digital display in the dash informing you of your present velocity but not so on lesser 3 Series models.

Luckily for BMW owners, it's possible to fix all the above quirks by purchasing an OBD2 cable and downloading some software to your computer. Before you pull out your credit card, it's worth noting that not only are the modifications not exactly user friendly, they're not approved by BMW and their use may result in a voided warranty.

Displays That Don't Display Clearly

There is a basic amount of information I like to see when I'm behind the wheel of a modern automobile. I appreciate a large, clear digital speedometer, as noted above. A concise fuel gauge complemented by a distance to empty display is also extremely handy. Coolant temperature and, ideally, oil temperature gauges are nice too, so I know when I can safely rev an engine to the moon. All this information should, ideally, be available without touching any buttons or scrolling through a menu.

My wife's 2016 Volvo V60 comes close. It lacks an oil temperature gauge and the Swede carries a rather quirky 8-bar digital fuel gauge. When there are three bars remaining — informing you that the tank is 3/8th full — it looks like you have plenty of fuel. But when the display jumps to two bars remaining — a ¼ tank — it looks like you're nearly out of fuel and you need to stop soon. I'm fine with a digital fuel gauge but it needs far more than eight segments.

Distance to the Next Service and Odometer Access

Why, on certain cars, is it so hard to display the odometer or figure out when the next service is due? When you unlock your car and open the door, the odometer and the distance — as well as the number of days — to the next service should clearly display in the instrument cluster.

On many new Ford models, the recommended oil change interval is based upon how you drive the vehicle. The company calls it their Intelligent Oil-Service Monitor. Unfortunately, it's far from intelligent. The only way to figure out when your Ford is next due for service is to wait for a warning to pop up informing you, "Oil Change Required." When you see this display, Ford says that the vehicle should be serviced within the next two weeks or 500 miles. There's a certain lack of intelligence with a system that could display a service alert the morning of a lengthy road trip, with no prior warning.

The German car companies seem to understand service information better than most, with many of their automobiles clearly displaying the time and miles to the next service as soon as you start the car.

One additional note: It should be easy for do-it-yourself mechanics to reset the service reminder on all cars by simply toggling through the trip computer. You shouldn't be forced to visit your dealer or purchase a tool or software on the Internet to reset your service light.

Seats That Don't Properly Adjust

I'm presently living with a Ford Focus RS. You can read about all my experiences with the car here, but one of the quirks that's getting particularly annoying involves the Recaro seats. There is no separate tilt control for the base of the seat. To position the bottom cushion at my preferred angle, I'm forced to power the driver's seat high — too high. If I lower the seat to my ideal level, the front is then far too high. Frustrating.

I experienced a somewhat similar situation with the optional one-piece "Full Bucket Seats" available in the Porsche 911 GT3 RS and Cayman GT4. The difference is that the far-more-expensive buckets offered by the German company are intrinsically more comfortable and supportive. Plus, to position the Porsche seats at my near-perfect angle, I simply power the chairs all the way down to their lowest level. That's far nicer than sitting too high — but I'm 6-feet tall. Still, I wish you could tweak the angle on the Porsche seats once I've reach my preferred height. At least you can spec alternative seats on the Porsche models. Ford only offers the same basic Recaro seat with either power or manual controls on the Focus RS in the USA.