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Car News:  Oversteer

Radar Cruise Control Is a Game Changer

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author photo by Will Kinton May 2017

My Volkswagen GTI recently went back to the shop due to a hose that wasn't correctly put back into place during the trip before -- so I received another service loaner from my Volkswagen dealer! This time, I was given a 2017 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen SE for the weekend. I thought the Sportwagen was awesome: It had a fair amount of power and it handled well; it returned fantastic gas mileage, and it came pretty well equipped at the midrange trim level. But what I was most impressed with was the radar cruise control that came as a part of the Driver Assistance Package this Sportwagen was equipped with.

The radar cruise control genuinely worked well. I had it set at the maximum speed I was willing to go, and I pretty much left it in place the entire way there and back. As you come up on a slower vehicle, you'll see a graphic pop up on your central multifunction display -- and then, sure enough, the car will start to slow you down as necessary, depending on the speed differential and where you've set the following distance. If someone in front of you slams on the brakes hard, a loud alarm sounds, prompting you to emergency brake yourself (this happened once to us when some dufus realized they were about to miss their exit) -- but I can say that it will automatically take you from 79 mph down to zero. At first, this freaked out my wife in the passenger seat quite a bit -- but eventually, she got a bit more used to it. Unlike Tesla's Autopilot, it won't start off again, but once you start moving you can resume the cruise control.

While I had the Sportwagen, my wife and I drove down to Blacksburg that weekend on the notorious Interstate 81. I've written about my experiences on this road before, but essentially the speed of traffic fluctuates wildly on this road due to truckers who are able to maintain 55 mph deciding they need to pass truckers going 54 mph over hill and dale. This causes traffic to fluctuate wildly from 80 mph to 0 mph, making the use of standard cruise control completely impossible and the driving experience utterly frustrating.

Radar cruise control completely changes this experience, though. Instead of being on constant alert for traffic and trucks, I was able to relax a bit more and settle into the groove. Furthermore, removing the act of physically braking and accelerating over and over again somehow caused me to be more patient with the changing traffic conditions. Once radar control gains your trust -- and once you get used to it -- it's a game changer. I'm completely sold.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Radar Cruise Control Is a Game Changer - Autotrader