2018 in autos: 10 things that drove us batty

Henry Payne
The Detroit News
Look closer and those rectangular "floating" tailpipes are non-functional on a 2019 VW Jetta. There are no real tailpipes behind them. Awkwardly stylish.

Automobiles are wonderful, complex companions. We bring them into our homes, depend on them, lavish money on them. Yet, they have flaws – some of which can drive us crazy.

Some things that got under our skin this year...

1. Stop-start systems

Automakers gain EPA emissions credits for automatically turning off their engines at stoplights – only to turn the rest of us off in the process.

2. Showy, non-functional design cues

Think fake engine ports. Fake intake screens. The VW Jetta takes this year’s crown with dual chrome exhaust tips... that have no exhaust pipes behind them.

3. Coupe visibility

Get a cool coupe with a racy C-pillar and you’ll likely pay the price in rear visibility. The Camaro is legendary in this regard, but this year’s prize goes to the Toyota C-HR, which you not only can’t see out of – but sitting in the rear seat feels like an underground bunker.

4. Infotainment touch pads

These maddening devices — on otherwise perfect automobiles like the Lexus LS or Acura RDX — exist despite the proven efficiency of touch screens and remote rotary dials. Trying to operate one while driving is like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube in the dark.

5. Long alphanumeric vehicle names

The best mouthful of 2018: Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe

6. Where's my pickup's corner step?

GM pickups come equipped with corner steps that are the easiest, safest way to get into the pickup bed. Why every other truck maker doesn’t follow is a mystery.

7. Where's my adaptive cruise-control?

On the other hand, only GM pickups lack that most basic of electronic safety features: adaptive cruise control, even on upper-trim, $60,000 High Countrys.

8. EV range-anxiety

Electric vehicles routinely boast 240-mile plus range, except when they don’t. These ranges are generally calibrated in 70-degree Southern California weather at the speed limit. But drive in 30-degree temps and that range can plummet by 30 percent. More degradation occurs when you travel over 75 mph. Which means that, if you’re traveling with traffic at 80 mph to Traverse City, you won’t make it.

9. Drone on

The Insight is Honda’s third shot at a green Prius-fighter. Based on the rock-solid Civic, it is attractive, stylish... and then you press on the gas pedal and the 1.5-liter engine drones on like Ben Stein in “Ferris Bueller.”

10. Genesis G70 Sport hiccup

Rivaling the Cadillac ATS and Alfa Romeo Giulia for best-handling car in class, the 2019 Genesis G70 comes in this Sport model with a manual transmission. Too bad there's a dead spot under throttle that spoils the experience.

Hyundai’s luxury marque made a competitive, fast luxury sport sedan this year — the G70 — on par with the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Cadillac ATS. They even made a special Sport trim with manual transmission. Alas, a noticeable dead spot under throttle interrupts the fun.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.