The ongoing evolution of technology sometimes results in some things being left by the wayside. That statement applies as much to personal technology items as it does to automobiles. First, we lost the hand crank starters, then the carburetors, and, we’re still reeling from the gradual death of the manual transmission. But now, there’s another, less visible piece of car technology that’s being replaced: the handbrake.
The manual parking brake, the one operated by pulling on a handle, has been slowly disappearing over the past decade as car manufacturers move towards electronic parking brakes instead. This smaller, less obtrusive solution is lauded by manufacturers for improving interior packaging, increasing the amount of usable interior space, and reducing the risk of human error while behind the wheel. The electronic parking brake also allows the vehicle to engage it automatically in certain situations, such as when the vehicle is in a forward or reverse gear, but a door suddenly opened.
Certain car manufacturers, like Jaguar, Land Rover and Porsche, have moved entirely away from the conventional parking brake. General Motors, likewise, is also moving in that direction. In fact, all recently-overhauled GM vehicles offered in North America now feature the electronic parking brake, including the big sellers like the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra (in LD and HD guises), and Cadillac XT5.
As of this writing, only five GM models offer a manual handbrake in the U.S. market:
- Buick Encore
- Chevrolet Malibu (without the Enhanced Driver Confidence Package)
- Chevrolet Spark
- Chevrolet Sonic
- Chevrolet Trax
In other words, neither of GM’s current batch of sports cars – the Chevrolet Corvette (C7 or C8), Chevrolet Camaro, or the now-discontinued Cadillac ATS-V or CTS-V – feature a manual parking brake. The circumstance is a little different for international-market GM models, such as the Chevrolet Onix – which was just overhauled but still features a traditional handbrake.
Meanwhile, many body-on-frame General Motors products offer a push-pedal style parking brake in the footwell:
- Chevrolet Colorado
- GMC Canyon
- Chevrolet Express
- GMC Savana
- Chevrolet Tahoe
- Chevrolet Suburban
- GMC Yukon and Yukon XL
- Medium Duty Silverado 4500HD, 5500HD and 6500HD
In other words, a total of 13 GM vehicles currently do not have an electronic parking brake. That should dwindle to just ten when several of the automaker’s full-size SUVs – the Tahoe, Suburban, and Yukon – get overhauled for the 2021 model year. Interestingly, the Cadillac Escalade has already abandoned the push-pedal parking brake as of 2018.
For the majority of drivers and vehicles, the gradual move away from the manual parking brake and toward electronic parking equivalent is a non-issue. In fact, it’s probably a benefit. But there are a few vehicles, in particular, where this technological development is a bit of a bummer.
In small cars and sports cars, having an old-school manual handbrake offers the supremely enjoyable experience of doing handbrake turns. And for the drifters in the house, having an actual handbrake is a crucial component to the sport. So, while it may not be an everyday activity, we are certainly going to miss having a physical handbrake, along with the option of using it as we please, as they continue to get phased out of new cars.