Yep, they really neutered it to give better economy numbers. CAFE and the stupid restrictions really irritate me given how efficient cars already are and how fast electric cars are approaching...With the '96 I never felt the need for turning the "OD" off. With the '01, I drive daily trough a tunnel - on the "up" incline (it's loong) I am shifting in "D", because it is so annoying no to have 'umpf' - I have slow at bottom of ramp to moderate-high speed at top (I know, stupid people, that's how they drive, scared of being under water I guess) .
I switch to "D" when I get off the freeway for similar reasons. Lots of gradual slopes, and in lockup I have no power at all, and often it falls down to the lower gear anyway before I reach the top of the hill, which makes it pointless to begin with.