Automotive Cliches That Don't Hold Up

Car Culture / 43 Comments

Some beliefs need to die already.

The dictionary definition of a cliche is "A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought." Everyone is susceptible to cliches as they are often based on some sort of basic truth or sound like they should be correct. And if they aren't, well, they get repeated so often that it becomes part of a large chunk of people's "common knowledge."

Unfortunately, what might have been true once isn't necessarily true now - and that's assuming it was true in the first place. A classic example is in how long the idea that manual transmission-equipped cars meant better gas mileage stuck around. Assuming a competent driver, that was, indeed, true once upon a time but hasn't been the case for well over a decade now.

Yet, occasionally, you'll still see someone make that statement in a comment section with absolute certainty. These are other automotive cliches that don't hold up so well, whatever the reason.

There's No Replacement For Displacement

You'll still hear automotive dinosaurs and people that have had this repeated to them ad-nauseam by relatives while growing up, but forced induction is the literal replacement for displacement. The idea that technology has yet to create a satisfactory replacement for large displacement, naturally-aspirated engines is nonsense now. It was Walter Owen Bentley (Yes, that Bentley) who originally uttered the words "there's no replacement for displacement" in 1929. He famously hated forced induction, and he turned out to be right at the time as the legendary Bentley Blower turned out to be too unreliable for racing and was replaced by a larger displacement engine. That was nearly a hundred years ago, though, and things have changed to the degree that the fastest dragsters in the world are supercharged. Perhaps the biggest signifier that the cliche of there being no replacement for displacement is out of date is Dodge's road-legal dragster, the Challenger Hellcat, and its 6.2-liter supercharged power plant.

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Miata Is Always The Answer

This is one way to make anyone but an MX-5 owner roll their eyes. We absolutely adored the MX-5 and understand that the "Miata is always the answer" came about as a tongue-in-cheek answer to any question on forums asking, "what's the best inexpensive sports car I can buy?" However, it has become something people say in earnest, and that's when it becomes nonsense. There are plenty of examples where an MX-5 isn't the ideal car for the money, used or otherwise. For example, when you need four seats or the cargo room that four seats afford you, then a Miata is clearly not the answer.

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Real Enthusiasts Drive Manuals

What we have here is a "no true Scotsman" logical fallacy in automotive form. The "real enthusiasts drive manuals" cliche can also be easily destroyed as a statement, yet it persists from enthusiasts who believe there's some sort of purity to driving. You'll notice, though, that these people yapping on about "the connection between man and machine" aren't complaining cars don't have starting handles or need their fuel/air mixtures adjusted from the cockpit while they drive. Don't get us wrong, here; there's nothing wrong with enjoying cars with a stick shift. It's just not the be-all and end-all of driving for fun. It also suggests that brands like Ferrari or McLaren no longer make enthusiast cars, and is an insult to gearboxes like Porsche's double-clutch PDK automatic which is a phenomenal, engaging transmission.

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BMW Drivers Don't Use Indicators

This enthusiast's fun car is a BMW, and the indicators work fine and are used appropriately, but anecdotal evidence is not enough for us here. It is hard to quantify, but BMW inevitably tops lists of the brands with the worst drivers when a new study shows up. However, there's a danger with studies like this in that the cliche was already out there from the 1990s and has become indelible within the public's psyche. Psychologists have also pointed out that people tend to notice flashier cars when they behave badly on the road. Hence, the top three are typically BMW, Audi, and Mercedes because they're mostly the brands people go to when they have a bit of money and want to show it in the office parking lot. In reality, you'll be hard-pressed to find a pattern of brands and discourteous drivers because people are people - no matter what brand of car they drive.

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Imports Are Bad

This one really is leftover from American boomers and is thankfully in decline. To be clear, your neighbors Civic is not an import as chances are astronomically high it was built in Ohio. And, despite what former President Trump said during his term before being kicked out of office, BMW exports way more cars from America than it imports. Typically, though, it boils down to the American auto industry being challenged by Japanese imports in the late 1970s and through the 1980s, and ignorance now that those companies mostly have a larger presence as businesses employing, designing, and manufacturing cars in the US. Honda, for example, occupies spots 6, 7, 8, and 9 on the American-Made Index, while Acura has a car at number 12.

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Correct-Wheel Drive

Closely following the enthusiast's cliche of manual transmissions being the best transmission, there's a pervasive belief in the snobbish section of car fandom that front-wheel-drive cars aren't worthy of driving enthusiasts. It's clearly nonsense as the existence of hot hatches shows. The hot hatch didn't just provide an affordable entry point for driving enthusiasts, but as shown first by the original Mini, demonstrated that front-wheel drive can be fun. Our thinking is that a hardcore driving enthusiast would find joy in all kinds of cars and learn how to embrace the dynamics and finesse needed to get the most out of all common platforms.

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You Could Just Buy A Used ___________ Instead

This is an inevitable internet comment made when a new, expensive car comes out. The most common car used as an example we remember is "You could just buy a used Nissan GT-R instead." Well, of course, you could buy a used something instead of a more expensive new something - that's not news to anyone. It typically comes from people that are over-invested in their fandom for a particular car or can't afford a cool new car - or both. They're typically a sub-division of the people that spout the next enthusiast's cliche.

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Buying New Cars Is A Waste Of Money

Typically, people espousing the opinion that buying a new car is a waste of money will also tell you that a car drops in value the moment you drive it off the dealer's lot. That is true, but it's the same for anything you buy new and misses the point. Buying a new car brings several benefits that suit a lot of people. If you plan on owning the car for the majority of its life, then that instant depreciation isn't part of the equation, but now you have a car with just delivery miles and a factory warranty. When it starts to get up there in miles, you know how it has been driven, cared for, and maintained. Of course, if you like to drive cars for a year or two, then buying a new car isn't a great investment. If you want to modify your car, then a factory warranty isn't much use to you. However, it's a perfectly sound investment for many regular drivers.

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