DEAR CAR TALK: My husband has a new Subaru Forester, and I absolutely hate the touch screen and most of the other controls in the car, like the heating and cooling. The touch screen makes it impossible to adjust the radio without looking at the screen, and it’s also really hard to touch the correct point on the screen if you’re driving on even a slightly bumpy road. The settings for temperature also require looking at a number on a display. Are any carmakers reconsidering this design? – Barbara
RAY: You’re right, Barbara: Cramming everything into a touch screen is dangerous. The good news is we’re starting to see a backlash against some of this silliness.
Honda decided at some point that it was cheaper or “cooler” to eliminate the radio’s volume knob, and created a little thing you slid your finger across to adjust the volume. When we reviewed Hondas, we found it so unpleasant to use that we said it was a deal-breaker for what otherwise was a very good car. Apparently, lots of people agreed with us. Honda recently relented and added a volume knob back to newer models.
Another example of backward thinking can be seen in today’s automatic transmission shifters. You used to be able to grab the shifter and shift from park to drive, or drive to reverse, just by feel.
Now some cars have push-button selectors or joysticks that require attention and concentration. When we drove a Cadillac CT6 with a standard automatic shifter a few weeks ago, it was an unexpected joy.
The best thing you can do is refuse to buy a car that isn’t easy for you to operate. Sales are what manufacturers respond to, and if you tell the Subaru salesman that you love the Forester but won’t buy it because you have to take your eyes off the road to adjust the temperature, that’s the strongest message you can send.
Learn how your driving habits can harm your car in Tom and Ray’s pamphlet “Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even Knowing It!” Send $4.75 (check or money order) to Car Talk/Ruin, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803.
Got a question about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting www.cartalk.com.