@Yosemite Sam - Far Cry 2 and Borderlands both had better vehicles. The former went for the more realistic first person approach; the latter didn't have the same realism but using the mouse to control movement made it respond more naturally, as well as having better physics (though still not realistic). I'm not claiming either game has great vehicle handling - they both have their flaws - but to me they were more enjoyable in context. The physics in RAGE are just shockingly poor.
As for the NPCs, it was fucking annoying that every time I wanted to buy anything I had to wait for the same canned speech to finish just to interact with them. And I gave up talking to all the NPCs because they had bugger all to say. Each time it was something bland that contributed nothing to the gameworld, usually just a repeating what they said before.
Characters just weren't developed:
1) Hagar rescues you and then bails after sending you on a few fetch missions. You have even less interaction with the other Hagar members.
2) Sheriff Black of Wellspring does the same thing. As does Mayor Clayton.
3) Redstone sends you on a few pointless missions to gain his respect and then disappears for the rest of the game. Very pointless.
4) The resistance hide in the basement of Subway Town, with no indication that they actually do anything at all. And the build-up before the end... it's a joke. Nothing is explained.
5) The Authority didn't have a single enemy that represented them or had any dialogue. Why are you meant to hate them? I'd rather work with them than Redstone.
7) Mick the Mechanic says a few stereotypical black things but doesn't do anything more than that
8) Mel, voiced by Claudia Black (amazing actress), has THE most pointless role in the game. Complete waste of voice talent. Pathetic.
The characters had no depth and throw-away dialogue. The fact you mention actively checking what they all had to say between missions shows obsessive behaviour, not engagement in the game-world. You want definitive characters like Half-Life 2: Alyx Vance, Eli Vance, the G-Man, Barney, Dr Kleiner... that's all off the top of my head. There's no characters like that in RAGE. A large part of that is that you spend no time with them - you get a few missions but you never really build a relationship. Certainly there's no emotional connection.
I'm keeping my eye on games that will actually have some depth and substantial gameplay. Games like Skyrim, Borderlands 2 and Far Cry 3. Games that are open-world, rather than the faux open-world that RAGE went for.
"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."