When you drive more than 50 vehicles every year like I do, you often take some of the interior buttons and gadgets for granted. But for the average consumer who doesn’t get to experience the “new car smell” every week, some of these buttons and gadgets can be downright confusing.
Recently, I spent a week with a 2022 Subaru Ascent Onyx Edition, and I was taken aback at some of the buttons I saw. I had no idea what they meant. And, in fact, it was like trying to decode hieroglyphics.
If I’m confused, surely the average consumer would be, too. Let’s look at three buttons that puzzled me.
Auto Vehicle Hold (AVH) isn’t exclusive to Subaru, but it was a button I didn’t know. Frankly, I also wasn’t familiar with the technology.
So, here’s a quick primer.
When activated, the brake is set when you come to a complete stop and then release the brake pedal. When the accelerator is pressed, the brake is automatically released, and the vehicle takes off normally. So, basically this means you don’t have to sit at a red light with your foot on the brake pedal when AVH is engaged.
But is this really a feature that comes in handy?
“The user benefit is simply not having to sit and hold your foot on the brake while the car is stopped with the engine running and transmission in Drive,” said Todd Hill, product public relations manager for Subaru that question. “It’s a great feature if you are often in stop-and-go traffic or have a lot of stop lights on your commute. It’s also great if you are like me, someone who mostly drives manuals, and is used to not holding your feet on the pedals at stop lights.”
The power rear gate memory height button is located to the left of the steering wheel and near the rear tail gate open button. As the name suggests, this button serves a very useful purpose.
This feature will limit the maximum height the power rear gate opens the rear liftgate. This is useful if you are in a situation where you have a low ceiling height and do not wish the rear gate to make contact with the ceiling above the vehicle. It is also useful if you are shorter and find the maximum height difficult to reach or not very ergonomic.
The process for setting the rear gate memory height is almost as confusing as the button:
1. Make sure the Memory button is OFF (the button will be popped out), then unlock the vehicle and turn it off.
2. Open the rear liftgate with the power button inside the vehicle, then exit the vehicle to manual adjust to the height you want.
3. With the liftgate at the preferred height setting, press the memory switch (inside the vehicle) to select the “ON” status (the button will be pressed in).
4. Exit the vehicle, press and hold the power rear gate button on the inside edge of the rear gate until an electronic chirp is heard and the hazard warning flashers flash three times. The electronic chirp and the flashing hazard warning flashers confirm the selected rear gate height has been registered.
Still confused? Maybe this video from Subaru will help.
Slowly but surely more automakers are putting in semi-autonomous features into vehicles. Subaru’s is called EyeSight and it allows for hands-on assisted driving. This system uses a mix of adaptive cruise control (top right button) and lane keep assist (bottom right button) not only to modulate speed, adapting to slower traffic that may end up in front of the vehicle, but also to keep the vehicle centered within the lane. The upper and lower buttons on the left allow the driver to increase or decrease the “following” distance, depending on driver comfort.
Like any driver assist technology, Subaru calls EyeSight a second set of eyes on the road. And in addition to the adaptive cruise control functions, EyeSight gets high marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for crash avoidance — including crashes that involve pedestrians.
Technology can be confounding for consumers. And if your dealer doesn’t explain buttons to you, then you may be driving around in a car without knowing what a button does or without taking full advantage of a neat feature — unless, of course, you want to consult the owner’s manual.
Another great resource is the website MyCarDoesWhat.org, which helps show what your vehicle can and can’t do as well as what features are available by trim.
We are all for new car technology, but hopefully there can be a little uniformity and fewer hieroglyphic symbols, which would stop you from asking, my car does what?