Reader Question: Peremptory Cruise Control?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Gary asks: I recently drove a 2019 Subaru Outback while my 2016 was in the shop. The cruise control on the 2019 appeared to only have one setting, +/- five. My 2016 has both +/- one and +/- five, which is easy to use and does not require me to take my eyes off the road.  Is this due to some saaaaaaaaafety issues?

My Reply: I feel your pain. Several new cars I’ve test driven have their cruise control default set to increase or decrease in 5 MPH increments rather than allow you to toggle up (or down) one MPH at a time. You’re forced to pick either 50 or 55 MPH – no 52 MPH for you!

This is irritating on more than one level. The peremptory, car-knows-best level, obviously. But also because it makes one more vulnerable to radar traps.

It is generally safe to “speed” by a couple or three MPH over the limit. But once you’re at 5 over, the chances of being forced to deal with an AGW – and forced to hand over a large sum of money – increase.

There is a way to override these systems; you drive the car up to the speed you’d like and then engage the cruise. Of course, precision is lacking.

In some cars, you can also configure the cruise to allow more incremental adjustment; have you checked the owner’s manual?

This business isn’t a saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety issue, as far as I know. It’s just a manifestation – another one – of the peremptory parenting tendencies that afflict most new cars.

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  1. All of this electronic foo-fa-raw, and to my knowledge no car has a simple oven knob type control on the dash where you could just dial in your chosen cruise speed, or even easily dial it up or down as desired.


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