Cruise control; good or bad technology in a 4WD?

Cruise control is a pretty great bit of technology. Or is it?

Our 27 year old Land Cruiser didn’t have cruise control, and although I did consider fitting an aftermarket unit a few times, I never got around to it.

The new Isuzu Dmax though, came with it as standard, like most new vehicles do. I’ve used it a lot, and quite like it, but there are certainly some gripes I have with using cruise control.

Cruise control is fantastic
Cruise control is great, some of the time
4WD and off road boat trailer
We had no cruise control on this bad boy

It doesn’t care about anything except your speed

The very purpose of cruise control is to maintain your speed, at all costs. It doesn’t know a thing about your fuel budget, the longevity of your motor, transmission temperatures or about the big hill that you are approaching very quickly.

On relatively flat terrain, I have no doubt in my mind that fuel economy is better using cruise control. It’s also more comfortable to drive with and makes those following behind you happier as you sit on a constant speed (unlike in WA, where when an overtaking lane approaches everyone suddenly decides to speed up!).

Cruise control will use more fuel in hilly conditions, no doubt about it. If you adjust your speed with a bit of intelligence using the actual accelerator, you will get far better fuel economy than allowing the car to push itself to the absolute maximum to maintain your set speed.

On big hills, most vehicles run out of puff in their top gear, so cruise control will drop it down, and rev the guts out of your motor in order to maintain the set speed.

The cruise control on our Dmax is also a bit like an angry terrier. If you are plodding along, and you resume your previous speed that was even just a few kilometres faster than what you are doing, it will take the engine load to 100% in order to get there as fast as possible. I don’t see why it can’t do it with a bit more care!

Land Cruiser Viscous Fan Hub
Cruise control is guaranteed to make your vehicles cooling system work harder

Cruise control can make you less aware

The less attention you have to pay to your vehicle, often the less aware you are of what’s going on around you. When your speed is taken care of, you don’t have to look at the gauges, or pay as much attention to your driving, and that can be a bad thing.

On the flip side, for long trips it can reduce fatigue as your brain doesn’t have to concern itself with so many items.

80 series tourer
If you are using cruise control, you still need to pay attention

Use it sensibly

I very much appreciate having cruise control in the Dmax. Despite its quirks, it allows me to comfortably travel long distances, and most importantly, helps my feet. I slipped down a big rock when I was 17, and squashed the soft tissue pad on my right foot, fractured the ankle and broke two bones in the other foot.

The orthopaedist said the pad would never recover, and I find on long drives where my foot has to sit on the accelerator for a long time it gets extremely painful. There’s only so much left foot accelerating you can do too!

With cruise control, I can move my feet around, stretch out and arrive after 10 hours in the car with feet that aren’t painful.

In hilly conditions, I’ll often turn it off and just drive manually. If you are sitting at 100km/h, speed up to 105 down the hills and allow it to slow down to 95 going up hills. That is, of course, if there’s no one behind you! Driving it manually is kinder to your motor, fuel economy and the temperatures of your radiator/automatic transmission in these conditions.

Also, it helps a lot to save on getting speeding fines, and preserving your license. Its so easy to creep up 5 or 10km/h when driving along without paying any real attention, and cruise control avoids this majority of the time.

Do you use cruise control? What do you think of it?

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  1. Hey Will,

    Yep, adaptive cruise control is pretty cool. Speed sign reading sounds great. If you are more attentive that’s good, but cruise control can make you a bit too relaxed.

    All the best

  2. Actually some newer cars have adaptive cruise control. It not only is concerned with speed but also slows down if you approach a slower vehicle and accelerates again once you change to an open lane.

    Then there are the latest ones that also read the speed signs and self adjust.

    In my opinion it doesn’t make you less aware. On the contrary you can pay better attention to your surrounds. I use it extensively in my SsangYong Musso (don’t pick on me. It is actually a brilliant ute), but I wish it had the adaptive ability like my sister’s swift.