Car tester says 2014 technology can be distracting

ABC7 News rode around with one car tester who has a warning about some of the technology in 2014 vehicles.
August 21, 2013 9:26:31 PM PDT
Some people would call it a dream job if they got to test drive a different brand new car every day, including everything from the ordinary to the exotic. However, as ABC7 News found out with a new crop of 2014 cars now hitting the lots, the job of a car reviewer is changing and car buyers could face the same challenges.

The new 2014 Equus is being test driven on American roads and so far there are only about 2,000 of them. It is a car built to look like a Mercedes, but it's actually a Hyundai. Test driving the Equus is just another day in the life of Marty Padgett.

"We really help people decide what cars they should be looking at," said Padgett.

Padgett is the editorial director for TheCarConnection.com. He drives more than 100 different cars a year and ever year those cars become more complicated.

"You can push a button, so it goes into a sportier mode. So the suspension firms up, the steering gets a little heavier," said Padgett.

Everything from handling to parking has been improved. That thing that used to be the radio is now called "infotainment".

"It turns out that infotainment systems have given a whole new layer of difficulty and complexity to car design," said Padgett.

Indeed, every day the job of a car reviewer becomes an awful lot like the job of a technology reviewer, big glossy screens, voice recognition -- it all makes a car seem a lot more like a smartphone or tablet. And frankly, that's the whole idea.

"You want your $20,000 car to operate with the same fluid feel and same ease of use as your $200 Nexus tablet," said Padgett.

However, Padgett says they're not there yet.

"This particular system uses a knob-type controller like some of the German sedans do. I'm not a fan of those because it does require you to take a hand off the wheel and an eye off of the road to operate them," said Padgett.

For all it does, the new technology can also get in the way. It's one of the first things to notice at the car lot.

"Does the system do what I need it to do without being distracting?" said Padgett.

Flashy features can also distract at the dealership. Padgett's advice is to not forget the real selling point of a car -- how it drives.

"When you're shopping, you see a pretty car and you want to have it. That's a natural response, but you'd need to pay attention to things like the comfort of the interior, whether you can see out, whether the car is too small or too big for you," said Padgett.

And you should test the gas mileage. Padgett says it's usually worse than the sticker says -- especially on hybrids. He always tests it himself, which is one part of his job that hasn't changed.


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