For decades, traditional automatic shift levers had park at the top, down to reverse, and drive at the bottom. You could see and feel the shifter go into position. Now, newer designs give you electronic levers, push buttons, and even dials to get into gear.
In some BMWs, you push the electronic lever forward to go into reverse. It stays in gear, but the shifter pops back to center. And in some Mercedes-Benz, the shifter is where the windshield wiper lever is in other cars.
Consumer Reports says that confusing controls can be dangerous. For people with years of driving experience, those shifters aren’t intuitive. They force you to unlearn years of muscle memory. In an emergency, you can revert back to old habits and pick the wrong gear.
Even turning the car on and off has become complicated. In the 2015 Lincoln MKC, the ignition button is on the dashboard, where you can hit it by mistake. That happened to several drivers, so Lincoln recalled the MKC earlier this year and is relocating the switch.
Not all modern cars are overly complicated. Consumer Reports has found that many models from Chevrolet, Hyundai, and Kia have simple, straightforward controls, even though they still have lots of high-tech features.