All posts by admin

Best driving roads in America

It doesn’t matter if it’s a Mustang, a BMW or a louche Lamborghini. Every fan of fun-to-drive machines has learned to brace for the dumb, obvious question: “Where are you supposed to drive a car like that?” 

The answer, of course, is “everywhere,” from the g-forcing off-ramp in your own town to some of the world’s most scenic and challenging driving roads, right here in the U.S.A. And America is definitely hitting the road again, despite brutal gasoline prices and the drawn-out pandemic. More than 50 million people drove or flew over Thanksgiving, nearly matching pre-Covid travel levels. Gasoline consumption that fell to a 25-year-low in 2020 is seeing a sharp rise. 

Certainly, there’s no American Autobahn. And between some police departments acting more like revenue agents (fueled by $600 million in annual federal grants to subsidize ticket writing), insurance companies and soaring car prices, there are plenty of wet blankets to smother the fun. And yet, we keep driving, on the lookout for new roads and new adventures, or returning to the ones we know and love. 

With an optimistic eye to unfettered travel in 2022, and millions of car trips to come, here are eight of our favorite American driving roads. Some are touchstones that you’ll recognize, or have experienced yourself. Others are less well-known or swarming with sightseers, but definitely worth a trip or detour. As ever, take the curves at your own pace, and be safe out there. 

NYS Route 73, High Peaks Scenic Byway, New York

Tiny Lake Placid, New York became famous as the improbable host of the Winter Olympics in 1980, including America’s “Miracle on Ice” hockey win over the Soviets. Today, drivers can enjoy another form of schussing, on a 30-mile beauty road that accesses the 43 tallest peaks of the Adirondacks, and the highest source of the Hudson River at Lake Tear-of-the-Clouds. It’s the gateway to the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park, the largest protected contiguous area in the U.S, bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier and Great Smokies parks combined. There’s no fee to enter, and the “park” doesn’t close at night, so have at it. My last run came in a 2017 Camaro SS with a manual transmission, blazing a fast trail through these lonely and largely police-free roads. 

U.S. 129, Tail of the Dragon, Tennessee/North Carolina

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

Overexposure has dimmed some of the Dragon’s luster, including heavy scrutiny and heavier fines from some of Tennessee’s finest. But this collection of curves at Deal’s Gap, with 318 bends in just 11 miles, can still be a great workout for cars and drivers alike — and about as close as America gets to an Alpine-road descent in Italy or Austria. Just keep eyes in the back of your head, or a radar detector in front. Avoid weekends at all costs (dawn and dusk are smart bets on other days), take a warm-up run to get acquainted, don’t ever cheat over the double yellow lines, and you’ll escape with memories instead of hospital or repair bills. 

FM 335, 336 and 337, The Twisted Sisters, Texas

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

Feel the noise, indeed. Motorcyclists especially flock to this 100-mile loop in Texas Hill Country, northwest of San Antonio. But the metal trio of “Farm to Market” Roads 335, 336 and 337 is also pure entertainment for car fans. It’s a place to lose count of curves, even as you keep eyes peeled for free-ranging cattle, wild pigs or whitetail deer. Fill your tank in Medina, and your belly at Keese’s BBQ, whose slogan is “A serious ride requires a serious breakfast.” Don’t miss the Devil’s Sinkhole in Rocksprings, a 350-foot-deep cave where a nightly commute of 3 million to 4 million Mexican free-tail bats takes place from May to October. And you thought traffic was bad in L.A. 

Highway 1/Pacific Coast Highway, California

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

Opened in 1937, Highway 1 (or the Pacific Coast Highway/PCH) traces 666 miles through the Golden State. Some of the most magical, mystical scenery is near Big Sur, south of Monterey and Pebble Beach. Prior to my last drive in 2017, in a new Mazda MX-5 Miata, a cataclysmic landslide had buried one-third of a mile of roadway under about 40 feet of debris, forcing demolition of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge. That created “Big Sur Island,” the hamlet cut off in both directions for months. Now the fabled stretch is fully reopened, which means more SUV-clogging tourists, but more chances to enjoy the switchbacks and splendor.

Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, Oregon

Set aside a full weekend, if possible, to savor this underappreciated gem in Oregon: 218 miles from La Grande to Baker City, wrapped around the Wallowa Mountains. The meandering road leads to Hells Canyon Recreation Area and the mighty Snake River, near the western border of Idaho. This stretch of the Snake boasts the deepest river gorge in North America at 7,993 feet — deeper than the Grand Canyon. Keep the tank full, because there are stretches of more than 80 miles between gas stations and other services. But the road and scenery are spectacular, the fish and wildlife plentiful, the towns charming. 

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway, Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia

This road may not be on your personal to-do list. It wasn’t on ours until our rom-com-worthy introduction in a pair of Porsche 911 GTS’. Now, we’re in love. The smoothly paved, 40.6-mile byway links Georgia Highways 17/75, 180, 348 and 75A. A section is part of the better-known Six Gap Georgia run. These roads course up and over gaps in the southern Appalachians, with vistas including Brasstown Bald, the state’s highest peak. Compared to some mountain-y destinations like Tail of the Dragon — all second-gear hairpins and blind corners — the Byway has a serious trump card: Multi-mile passing lanes in one or the other direction, with great visibility to boot. You’ll never get stuck behind a minivan or semi again. 

Highway 550, The Million Dollar Highway, Colorado

Pikes Peak is better known. But the 23-mile stretch of Highway 550 between Silverton and Ouray offers free fun, better views and a superior final destination, versus Pikes Peak and its off-putting, $15 driving fee. That terminus, after a long descent through the Uncompahgre Gorge, is Ouray, the charming Colorado town known as “Little Switzerland.” The Highway was originally laid by Otto Mears in the 1880’s, the Russian immigrant known as “Pathfinder of the San Juans” for his engineering marvels in mountain road and railroad construction. Give thanks to Mears, or say a little prayer for yourself, as you negotiate this improbably cliff-hung, no-guardrail highway. 

SR 79, Sunrise Highway, California

California roads offer an embarrassment of riches. But if Mulholland Drive seems too cliché, head east from San Diego. Pick up the Sunrise Highway near Pine Valley, and get ready for 26 miles of perfect sweepers, hairpins and elevation changes through Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. This is where many  automakers go to fine-tune and validate their cars. And no trip here is complete without a stop in Julian and its Julian Pie Company. (Try the pie that blends raspberries, strawberries, boysenberries and apples). If your appetite for curves isn’t sated, keep heading north to Palomar Mountain Road, a loop around the the mountain that houses Caltech’s famous observatory and its three active telescopes.

Related video:

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

Traffic jams are back, yet work-from-home leaves downtowns empty

Empty roads and cleaner air at the start of the pandemic have given way to a gradual return of traffic congestion in many global cities, but U.S. and UK downtown centers remain less busy as office workers continue to work from home, according to a study published on Tuesday.

Trips to U.S. downtown areas were 22% below pre-pandemic levels, and down as much as 49% in San Francisco, where many tech workers continue to work remotely, a 2021 traffic study of more than 1,000 cities by transportation analytics firm INRIX Inc showed.

Downtown trips in the UK remain 19% below pre-pandemic levels, but are back to pre-COVID strength in Germany, likely a result of fewer Germans working from home, said Bob Pishue, INRIX transportation analyst and author of the study.

“In the U.S., we don’t expect congestion to go back to the way it was before for a while, at least through 2022,” he said.

Traffic, an indicator closely tied to economic activity and recovery, overall has returned at uneven levels around the world, the study showed.

While the average London driver lost 148 hours in traffic this year — the most of any city dweller and roughly the same as pre-pandemic — the average U.S. city driver lost 36 hours in traffic, a nearly 43% decrease from pre-pandemic levels.

The stark differences are the result of governments’ varying approaches to pandemic restrictions, cities’ structures of downtown business centers, and workers’ ability to telecommute, Pishue said.

“There’s really not one answer for everything, it’s very complex,” said Pishue.

Vaccination rates also do not appear to influence traffic levels, with remote work being a larger driver, Pishue said. For example, in Washington D.C., normally one of the top congested U.S. cities, nearly 80% of residents are vaccinated, but hours lost to traffic remain down 65%.

2021 Overlanding Gift Guide: The gear you need to get exploring

Autoblog may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Pricing and availability are subject to change.

If you’re interested in venturing off the beaten path, these off-road products will help make overlanding dreams become reality.

With the holidays just around the corner and adventure enthusiasts eager to build up their vehicles, these off-road products will set them up for off-roading success. From recovery boards and basic non-winch recovery kits, to off-road tires and off-grid navigation communication equipment, these products will set you up to explore remote surroundings with confidence.

Off-road tires

A good set of off-road tires is one of the most important things to have when heading out for off-pavement adventures with your vehicle. It’s the only thing connecting you and your rig solidly to the ground. Wrapping your wheels with either all-terrain or mud-terrain tires from a reputable company is paramount. Tires from companies like BFGoodrich, Yokohama, Nitto, Falken, and Cooper should be considered. From rugged tire tread patterns and beefy sidewall designs, to good warranties and longer wear ratings, off-road tires can help make your off-pavement adventures successful ones. Prices for off-road tires vary.

Recovery boards or traction devices

Arming yourself with recovery boards can be helpful if you find yourself stuck (or need to give others a hand). Not only can they be used for a wide array of vehicles, recovery boards (or traction devices) can provide recovery assistance if you don’t have a winch or a second vehicle available when trail mishaps occur. MAXTRAX or ARB TRED recovery boards are high-quality, durable and are very effective when used correctly. Recovery boards are stackable and can carry heavy loads (check each manufacturer for specific load ratings). Either toss them in the back of your adventure rig or mount them to your roof rack, and you’re ready for recovery action when the going gets stuck. MAXTRAX MKII recovery boards start at $299.99 for a set of two.

Roof racks: platform racks and roof baskets

If you’re looking to stash extra stuff, running an aluminum or steel roof rack will help save interior space. Offered in a plethora of sizes and shapes, platform racks and roof baskets are mounted via gutter mounts, roof crossbars, or side rails. Not only can you ratchet down camp gear or other necessities to your vehicle’s roof, but many manufacturers make side-mount brackets to house a variety of other equipment, like vehicle awnings, axes, shovels and more. Premium roof rack makers include Front Runner Outfitters, Rhino-Rack, BajaRack, ARB, Yakima and Thule. It’s important to understand what type of gear you’ll consistently be hauling as it’ll help dictate if a roof basket or platform rack will work best for you. Check each manufacturer to make sure they make an application for your ride before purchasing.

Basic non-winch recovery kits

In addition to recovery boards or traction devices, carrying a basic non-winch vehicle recovery kit can prove its weight in gold if an off-road recovery is needed. Each non-winch kit’s contents may vary, however, it’s important to carry at least two hard or soft shackles, a kinetic recovery strap (sometimes known as a snatch strap), and heavy-duty gloves. Most vehicle recovery kits offer a heavy-duty carrying case for easy usage, too. No matter what type of basic non-winch vehicle recovery kit you purchase, it’s important to buy from a reputable company like ARB, Warn Industries or Factor55. Check each kit to make sure it’s appropriate for your specific adventure vehicle. Prices for non-winch vehicle recovery kits vary.

GPS-enabled satellite communication devices

If you want to create a secure connection to the outside world while adventuring remotely, a handheld GPS or satellite communication device should be considered to keep close to loved ones. Companies like Garmin offer various models boasting numerous capabilities. Arming yourself with a satellite-connected backcountry tool that combines GPS capability with navigation and two-way satellite communications can potentially save someone’s life. Many of these products feature an SOS emergency button, strictly to be activated in case of a critical situation. Check with each manufacturer as monthly subscriptions may be required to enable these features. Garmin GPSMAP 66i handheld unit: $599.99.

Photo by Lance Hanson

Offline off-pavement maps

Traveling off the beaten path has become easier by using off-grid digital maps or apps. Companies like Gaia and onX offer a robust mapping system that can be accessed via phone, tablet or laptop. For instance, the onX Offroad app covers more than 550,000 miles of open trails plus 60,000-plus campgrounds and cabins. In addition, onX Offroad just released three-dimensional digital maps for its browser-based Web App and showcases a wildfire layer that features up-to-date information. The onX Offroad app is free for initial features, $29 per year for a premium membership, and $99 per year for the Elite package.

All the weird ways you can shift an automatic

Transmission shifters have come in all shapes, sizes and locations since the beginning of time. Even manual transmissions could be had with shifters on the steering column (“three on the tree”) in addition to the usual “stick shift” that grew out of the floor or center console, but it’s obviously the automatic that has enjoyed the widest array of shifting options. The PRND shift order used to be assured, with the most common variants being a big fat stalk mounted on the steering column, or some sort of stick sprouting from the center console. Sometimes that stick needed you to first press a button to move, sometimes it needed to make its way through gates.

Now, there was occasionally some experimentation over the years with pushbutton shifters, especially in the 1950s and ’60s, but for the most part, drivers in recent decades didn’t really need to think too much when going from car to car. And then the electronic shifter became commonplace. Free from the need to be physically connected to the transmission, they allow designers and engineers to create new, novel ways to select Park, Reverse and Drive. Usually, what they come up with are just examples of being different for the sake of being different. When properly utilized, however, there is an actual advantage to them: they take up less space (or none at all) on the center console, which allows for bigger cupholders, additional storage or infotainment controls. It’s pretty obvious which of the below shifters do a better job of this space efficiency than others, as well as which fall into that “different for different sake” category.

And holy cow are there a lot of electronic shifter designs these days. We’ve broken them down into general categories below, and we’ve almost certainly missed a couple. If all this seems overly complicated, maybe just stick to a manual?

The Ubiquitous Monostable Shifter

2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e PHEV

BMW

We’re mostly going alphabetically here, but it’s fitting that BMW goes first as it was one of the first brands to introduce and popularize what has become the most common type of electronic transmission shifter. Roughly akin to a joystick, the term “monostable” indicates that no matter which direction you push or pull it, it returns to its original position. In most cases, you push forward through a detent to get to Reverse and back through a detent to get Drive. In the case of BMW, you then slide it laterally to find a separate “gate” devoted to up and down manual shifting. This functionality has remained the same over the years even if BMW has changed the knob design. It also set a precedent for other brands. 

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

Alfa Romeo

This works exactly the same as BMW’s. It was upgraded to have a nicer piece of hardware for 2021 complete with a little Italian flag at its base. Ciao!

2019 Audi A62021 Audi SQ5 Sportback

Audi

The monostable found on many Audis (above left) works similar to BMW’s but the shift knob design is quite different. It usually doubles as a place to rest your arm while using a touchscreen. 

2022 Chevy Silverado High Country

GM

Found in Cadillacs in particular, this monostable above left works basically the same as BMW’s. Earlier versions had an unusual dogleg design for Reverse that made you push up and to the left to engage. This was supposedly for safety, but was confusing. Above right you can see the new 2022 Silverado has a monostable that would seem to function the same but has a more Audi-like design.

Jaguar

The Jaguar F-Type has always had a cool monostable shifter that felt like the butt of a futuristic space gun in your hand. It gradually spread throughout the Jaguar-Land Rover lineup, frequently replacing the old rotary shifter. Unfortunately, the space gun is being replaced in all Jaguars but the F-Type with this nobby little sledge instead. Boo. 

Land Rover

Land Rover uses monostables, but has different knobs. The Defender’s unique, dash-mounted knob is shaped like a bent nail, while the Discovery and new Range Rover get the nobby little sledge (or “palm shifter”) shared with corporate sibling Jaguar.

Mercedes-AMG

The Mercedes-AMG GT coupe and sedan both feature a monostable shifter on the center console, versus the column-mounted shifter found on all other Mercedes (see below). Its small size puts in on the border between this category on the next, mini monostable category.

2020 Mini Cooper SE in Miami2020 Mini Cooper SE in Miami

Mini

The electric Mini Cooper SE has a monostable shifter that works the same as those in parent company BMW’s cars. The knob is different, though.

Nissan and Infiniti

The new Nissan shifter, found in the Rogue and show above left, is a monostable design. It’s a bit smaller than the norm, but not quite to the same level as the mini variants shown below. Sister company Infiniti also uses a monostable in its QX50 and QX55, shown above right, but it’s a heftier, higher-quality piece that also locates the Park button separate of the knob itself (which is annoying).

Volvo and Polestar

Electrified corporate cousins of Volvo and Polestar share a common monostable shifter unit, but the knobs differ. Range-topping Volvos get a knob furnished out of Orrefors crystal. Fancy. The Polestar shifter works the same, but instead of crystal, there’s a hole in it. Wacky.

The Miniature Monostable

2022 Audi RS E-Tron GT

Audi

Audi, like other Volkswagen Group brands, has introduced a sort of Monostable Mini that broadly functions in the same Forward/Reverse and Back/Drive orientation, but it uses a variety of weird, tiny, nub-like controls. We don’t really like them, mostly because they look unsubstantial and a bit lame. The Audi S3 is above left, the Audi e-Tron GT is above right.

 

Audi e-Tron

Yet another Audi take on the monostable. You still push forward for Reverse and pull back for Drive, but here, the shifter is effectively flopped on its side and operated with your thumb (Reverse) or index finger (Drive).

Porsche

This is basically the same as what you’ll find elsewhere in the Volkswagen Group, but it just looks extra-dopey in Porsche. Even if a shifter is rarely used in an automatic Porsche, there’s something so unsubstantial and unrewarding about using this little tab. It’s located on the center console in the 911 (above left) and on the dash in the Taycan (above right). Other Porsches have more traditional automatic shifters.

Volkswagen

Again, pretty much the same nub deal as what you’ll get in an Audi or Porsche, but in a Volkswagen. Also, again, in a performance vehicle like a GTI (left) and Golf R (right), it just seems a bit lame. 

The Rotary PRND

Chrysler Pacifica, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Wagoneer, Most Ram Trucks

This simple rotary design basically replaces the north-south PRND shift knob and replaces it with an east-west knob. It also saves space by allowing for a dash-mounted placement, thereby keeping the center console area open in both the Pacifica and six-passenger Ram. It just looks fancy in the new Grand Cherokee and Wagoneer.

Ford

The rotary shifter has been found throughout the Ford lineup for nearly a decade now, albeit with variously different knob hardware. This one is slightly different, in that there aren’t hard detents “at the end” of its travel for Park and Drive. The “P” lights up to let you know you’re in Park, but you can keep twirling the dial past that point. According to Ford engineer Leeway Ho, “Our extensive customer research showed that users understand ‘P’ and ‘D’ as the two end points and the most commonly used positions … so they just twirl freely and know there’s no danger of overshooting their desired position, which is what a physical stop prevents. A quick rotation of the wrist without discreetly counting indentations will put the car into ‘P’ or ‘D,’ depending upon which way you’re rotating, without the harsh endstop you would encounter otherwise. In addition, the customer will see Park position in the cluster, and the car provides a subtle audible feedback when you’ve selected ‘P.’”

The Rotary Monostable

Genesis

Genesis utilizes a rotary shifter, but its functionality differs from those of the others. It’s vaguely similar in concept to the monostable where you twist left for Reverse and twist right for Drive. You then press the Park button in the middle. Of course, the Genesis GV70 (above right) complicates things by adding a second knob of virtually the same size adjacent to it that controls the infotainment system. In the G80 and GV80 (above left), the infotainment controller is more like an old iPod flush-mounted scroll wheel. 

The Rotary Glowing Orb

Genesis GV60

The rotary “Crystal Sphere” shifter of the new electric GV60 selects a gear in the same method as the other Genesis rotary shifters: twist left for Reverse, twist right for Drive, press button for park. But, there’s a wrinkle. When parked, a glowing glass hemisphere with an intricate lattice pattern sits on the center console. The lighting within can be customized with dozens of preset colors (or a hue of your own choosing) to match the ambient lighting on the doors and dash. When you’ve authenticated yourself as the driver, the orb flips over to reveal the ornate rotary gear selector. Genesis claims it’s actually a safety feature because you’ll clearly know when the car is actually on. That can be an issue in a car without an internal combustion engine, but any claim that a fanciful electronic shifter is a safety feature does seem dubious. 

The Column Shifter 2.0

Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes was one of the earliest automakers to widely adopt electronic shifters, and immediately seized upon their advantage of freeing up center console space by removing it from the center console altogether. Virtually every Mercedes, apart from select AMG models, has an electronic column shifter. It works a bit like a monostable on its side: flip up for Reverse, flip down for Drive and press the button on the end for Park. Pretty simple. It can take a bit to remember where the shifter went, but once you do, it immediately becomes second nature. In fact, after swapping out of a Mercedes test vehicle and into something else, it’s quite common for us to turn on the new car’s windshield wipers when trying to put the car into Drive. 

We do not have a photo of it, but the Lucid Air uses a similar shifter design, likely because of the precedent set by our next entry. 

Tesla

Tesla originally used the same shifter design and hardware as Mercedes, but eventually moved on to unique pieces of hardware. Tesla is moving away from such physical hardware entirely, however. Keep on reading. 

The Button Shifters

Aston Martin

Aston has used button-activated automatic transmission shifters since the DB9, which basically had the same setup as the DBX (above left). The Vantage has its buttons arranged in a triangle low on the center stack.

Hyundai

At present, there are two types of button-reliant shifters offered by Hyundai. The one above left is found in the Palisade, Tucson and Sonata. The other, above right, is essentially Hyundai’s first go at a button shifter and found in the Ioniq Electric.

Jaguar I-Pace

The electric I-Pace is the outlier in the Jag lineup with its button-operated shifter.

The Push-and-Pull Button Shifters

Honda / Acura

The electronic shifter found in most Hondas and Acuras is a common button design. You push buttons for Park, Neutral and Drive, then pull up on a tab-like control for Reverse. The ergonomics of this shifter greatly depend on its placement. The closer it is to where your hand would naturally rest in the car, as in the Acura TLX above left, the more natural it is to use. In the CR-V, above right, not so much.

GM Variant 1: Console Mounted

This new push-and-pull button shifter design, found in the 2022 Chevy Bolt (above left) and Buick Envision (above right) among others, is similar to Honda’s design but you pull for both Reverse and Drive. 

GM Variant 2: Corvette

The Corvette shifter is similar to the others above, but is a different piece of hardware.

2018 GMC Terrain SLT Diesel2022 GMC Terrain

GM Variant 3: The GMC Terrain

One of our least favorite shifters, this is pure “different for different sake.” Although the button design was updated (seen above right) from its original hardware (above left), the functionality remains. Push for Park and Neutral. Pull for Reverse and Drive. Bizarrely, push buttons for + or – gears. This thing also takes up a needlessly excessive amount of space and isn’t ergonomic to use. Silliness.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe

GM Variant 4: Full-Size SUVs

Found in the Chevy Tahoe and Yukon, this is the same design as the Terrain’s, but flipped on its side to be a better ergonomic fit for your hand and placed in a closer, more sensible location between the steering wheel and infotainment screen.

The Piano Keys

Lincoln

Only Lincoln does this. For a while, the brand used buttons stacked laterally adjacent to the central touchscreen. Then, with the Navigator, it introduced the current shifter design that is most comparable to piano keys. It’s simple enough to work, if a bit silly. 

The Nub

2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e2017 Toyota Prius Prime Advanced

Toyota Prius

We break away from our normal alphabetical listing here to highlight the car that basically introduced the world to electronic shifters. And it did so with “the nub.” This squat little doo-dad introduced for the second-generation Prius (the first one that was actually popular) and mounted to its dash is literally a monostable, but differs from the BMW-established norm by requiring you to slide it left and then up for Reverse, or left and then down for Drive. Some versions, as in the case of the Prius, have a B function that replicates engine-braking while going down hill.

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus first drive

Nissan Leaf

Clearly inspired by the Prius, the Nissan Leaf debuted with a flying saucer-shaped shifter that operated in the same way as the Prius nub (minus B mode). It survived to the second-generation Leaf, pictured above.

Lexus

The new Lexus NX and Lexus LC have a variation of the Prius “nub,” even if the models in question aren’t hybrids. The nobs aren’t as nubby, but they functional the same. Left and up for Reverse; left and down for Drive. A Sport transmission mode replaces B when you slide it back. 

The Touchscreen / Telepathy

Tesla

When the Tesla Model S recently received it’s first major refresh, the big news was the adoption of a yoke instead of a steering wheel. Somewhat buried by that news was that Tesla’s previous, Mercedes-like, column-mounted electronic shifter would be replaced by a swiping motion on the touchscreen. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. That functionality was intended to be the “override.” According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the “car guesses drive direction based on what obstacles it sees, context and nav map.” In other words, it should automatically just figure out which direction you want to go. Like, telepathy? In any event, none of the above seems like a good idea. You can see why that might be the case, at least in terms of the yoke and touchscreen shifter, thanks to Motor Trend‘s Christian Seabaugh and his attempt at a multi-point turn. Hey, maybe it would’ve gone better if he just let the car read his mind.

U.S. gas prices at Thanksgiving are highest since 2012

As an estimated 48.3 million Americans hit the road for Thanksgiving, they’re going to find that gasoline prices along their route are not to their liking.

Thanks to inflation, the holiday meal at their destination will be expensive to put together, and getting there will be a bit higher too. According to AAA, the national average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline is $3.40, the highest it’s been for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend since 2012.

In an era where more cars are turbocharged and require premium, the national average price for higher-octane fuel is $4.03. 

Diesel’s national average is $3.64.

California has some of the highest averages, with regular at $4.70 a gallon and premium at a hair over $5.

> Autoblog ‘Cheap Gas Near Me’ tool

For historical perspective, however, that $3.40 national average for regular unleaded falls far, far short of the highest average price AAA ever recorded: $4.11 a gallon in July 2008 — which would be $5.28 in today’s dollars.

Nor are current gasoline prices forcing anyone to stay home. AAA says predicted travel volume is up 8% from last year when pandemic social distancing was being taken more seriously, though this year’s level is down 3% from 2019.

Thanksgiving really is a drivers holiday, as the number of car travelers dwarves the 4.2 million who are expected to travel by air.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden authorized the release of 50 million barrels of crude oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an attempt to lower prices at the pump. But any effect that move might have on retail gasoline won’t be felt right away. And that amount might not increase supply by all that much — it’s merely the amount of petroleum that Americans consume in 2½ days.