By on April 17, 2013

As the line between automotive electronics and consumer electronics grows ever closer, the list of new-car options has grown at an incredible pace. As a person who’s constantly in a new vehicle and has an insatiable love for gadgetry, click through the jump for my top 10 must-haves and the 10 options you should avoid at all costs. Picking the right options can help your car’s resale value and choosing the wrong ones can lower it or even limit the market for your ride.

1. iPod/USB integration with voice commands

We all love tunes and you know that we all secretly love to tell our car what to do. It’s a match made in heaven.

2. Adaptive cruise control

I’m not convinced self-driving cars are going to pass legislative and legal hurdles, not to mention the inevitable flood of lawsuits, but one key technology the systems depend on is available on a wide variety of cars: adaptive cruise control. Using a radar system mounted on the front of the car, the car’s computer works the stop and go pedals for you to keep you under your pre-set speed and a safe distance from the car you’re following. The steering and panic stopping are up to you of course, but if you’re in moderate to mild freeway traffic I find it makes me a better driver by dealing with the slow down, speed up, slow down nature of traffic that drives me crazy. The fact that most systems will alert you if you’re not paying attention and are about to rear end the school bus is just icing on the cake.

3. Keyless entry/go

Keys are so last century.

4. Collision mitigation systems

A car that’s out to save my bacon (and my insurance premiums) ranks high on my list. I dislike systems that intervene too early, but the systems by Lexus and Volvo wait until the 11th hour (or the 11th nanosecond) to do something about your rear-ender-in-progress. I was a skeptic at first, a Volvo XC60 stopped itself automatically when I was momentarily distracted and that made me a believer.

5. Bluetooth integration

One of the greatest changes sweeping the industry over the last 5 years is the near universal availability of Bluetooth. While many new cars come with the technology standard, it is still on option some so do your homework. Don’t order a car without it. Aside from speaker phone capability, Bluetooth allows you to stream audio from your music device to the car and is one of the few technologies likely to survive for your car’s lifetime.

6. Dynamic beam headlamps

You know, the ones illegal in the USA? Yea. Them. In a nutshell the car scans the road ahead with a camera and using a sophisticated projection headlamp array it “blocks out” the light that would shine onto a car ahead of you (your direction or the opposite side of the road) so that your high beams can light up the rest of the road without blinding anyone. I’ve had the opportunity to drive several prototype vehicles and the system has to be the best thing since French car sales stopped in the USA. Sadly the Feds won’t let us have snazzy headlamps.

7. Heated steering wheel

Much like anal sex, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

8. Automatic climate control

Many years ago I decided that any new car I own must have certain features. Power seats, a telescopic steering wheel, heated seats and lastly automatic climate control. Over the years I have added plenty of must-haves to my list, but none top the automatic climate control. Why? Because I am that buy that’s too lazy to adjust knobs and buttons on my own.

9. Active suspension systems

I’ve owned three vehicles with active suspension systems and driven at least 40 to date. The systems on offer vary from simple load-leveling systems like the one in my GMC Envoy that drastically improve vehicle behavior when towing (and make it easy to deal with heavier-than-normal tongue weights) to fully-dynamic systems that alter the ride height and damping firmness. While the early systems on the Volvo S60R/V70R  had some software bugs, every modern system I have tested has done exactly what it says on the tin.

10. Heads-up displays

As the name implies, the goal is to give you information while keeping your eyes on the road. While I wouldn’t pay extra for the GM or Toyota systems, BMW’s full-color system is gorgeous and is the first system to display enough information to be worth ordering. In addition to the usual suspects of speed, tachometer, and gear information it will also show you your cruise control info, the speed limit on your current road and you can browse your media device. Last time I was in a dealer I broke my “never interfere” rule and told a customer “no, seriously the sales dude is right, the heads up thing rocks, get it.” If you own a 2013 BMW 3-Series and don’t have it, you should be forced to drive a Chevy Spark.

1. Lane watching cameras

The idea sounds good, it’s kind of like blind spot monitoring with a camera. At the press of a button, or when you use your turn signal, the system shows the video feed on your infotainment screen. My problem is: the same information can be gleaned by turning your head and looking over your shoulder and/or in the mirror which is on the side of the car anyway. If you must have a blind spot nanny, get one that beeps if someone’s in your blind spot, that’s more helpful.

2. Electric parking brakes

Sweet Jesus, save me. I love gadgets as much as the next person. I love power seats, power mirrors and power windows, but why on earth would I want an electric parking brake? Sure, they automagically set themselves when you turn the car off, but releasing them is an exercise in frustration. By all indications they are less reliable than the traditional mechanisms and should you ever need to use it as an “emergency brake,” they are a royal pain. Pray to whatever deity you believe in that the creator of this lever of horrors is struck by lightning.

3. Capacitive touch buttons

I love an easy-to-clean surface as much as the next guy, but I’m bright enough to know that if you are trying to pay as much attention as possible to the road, buttons that you can stab without looking down are the way to go. Instead, the automotive trend has been moving towards “touch” buttons. The button-free buttons don’t move when you press them and are impossible to find by feel. Sure, some companies but little bumps on them so you think you can hunt by feel. When you attempt that process you just hit all the wrong buttons sending your infotainment system into a crash-inducing tailspin. Of course, Cadillac’s CUE system doesn’t need any help to go haywire and crash.

4. Night vision

Night vision is a great technology if you’re hunting the enemy in Desert Storm part 2. In suburbia it’s just a $2,500 option that won’t get you laid. Trust me, I’ve tried. The systems allow you to “see” further than your headlights in the dark, but don’t try driving by looking at the screen you’ll get yourself into a world of hurt. The field of vision is too narrow, the response time is too slow and it’s in the wrong position anyway. I have a better idea: if you can’t see at night, don’t drive. Problem solved.

5. Launch control

Launch control sounds like a great idea and I couldn’t wait to get in a car with a modern launch control system. Sadly, like most things you eagerly anticipate, LC isn’t all its cracked up to be. Most systems are overly complicated with too many steps to follow before you’re ready to race. By the time you follow the procedure, the modded pickup you were trying to race has forgotten all about you. Adding insult to injury I have yet to test a system that made a difference in our 0-60 tests. The M6, M5, Challenger SRT8, Grand Cherokee SRT8 and others all posted better numbers when I used my 1990s launch control system: a properly calibrated right foot. Trust your instincts.

6. Satellite mapping

Don’t confuse this with navigation. I love me some navigation. I’m talking about Google satellite imagery overlayed on the car’s nav map. Until I get the flying car that was promised on the Jetsons, I don’t see why I need a mile-high view of the mall. Maybe if it was displaying big brother’s “creepy-live” data so I could see what parking spots are free, but until then just say no to yet *another* cellular data subscription.

7. Integrated booster seats

They sound like a great idea. You’re either planning on having kids or you have kids. The trouble is, if you’re planning on having kids, plenty can happen between the vehicle purchase and the time your progeny are age/weight appropriate. If you have kids already, it won’t be long before they are too old or too heavy to be in the booster seat. This just means you’ve paid for a very expensive set of booster seats that you’re stuck with until you ditch the car. Oh, and the seats are less comfortable for everyone, the kids in the seat and any adult unfortunate enough to have to sit in it.

8. Fog lights

In N. America we’re talking about front fog lights, not the rear fog lights required in some countries. Although, I really should talk about both. Front fog lights stopped being about fog and started being about fashion soon after they started. I live in a foggy area and I have yet to drive a vehicle whose fog-lights helped visibility. At best they light up the area immediately in-front of your bumper, but nine times out of ten they throw light everywhere making visibility worse. Rear fog lights are great, except nobody in America knows how to use them, especially Audi drivers who think its cool to leave them on 24×7.

9. Sports appearance packages

Just say no. Sports appearance packages do nothing to make your ride go faster, they usually just make it depreciate faster. Ouch. Sports handling packages can help the car’s dynamics with stiffer springs but your money is usually better spent on better tires.

10. Rear seat entertainment systems

Yep, RSE systems are totally cool but they are also one of the worst things you can spend your money on. Aside from the fact that most RSE systems have small displays, clunky software, crappy integration and are expensive, they are often integrated into strangely shaped front seat headrests that destroy the aesthetics of your car. Save yourself some cash and get an iPad or two. Not only are they better at entertainment duties while in motion, the digital babysitter is portable and will go with your kid on the plane.

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184 Comments on “Ten Best and Worst Automotive Gadgets...”


  • avatar
    dtremit

    No love for backup cameras? As C- and D-pillars approach the girth of thousand-year sequoias, I find they’re invaluable.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Agreed… till the camera invariably breaks.

    • 0 avatar

      I personally feel Backup Cameras aren’t necessary. Ultrasonic sensors for the front and back however are EXCELLENT and should be standard on all cars.

      I can’t understand how “Lane departure systems” and “blind spot warnings” didn’t make this list???

      If you need Blind Spot detection and Lane Departure warnings THEN YOU SHOULDN’T BE DRIVING.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I am a relative luddite. Give me a vehicle with a solid body structure, a manual transmission with short, precise throws coupled with a buttery clutch, good weight distribution, high quality, robust, durable components that will provide many years and miles of reliable service, and I am pleased.

        So, even modestly equipped cars/trucks of today provide more than enough features to suit my needs. As it stands, I really only need:

        cruise control
        AC w/recirc mode
        hydraulic clutch
        limited slip differential
        electronic stability control (the most beneficial safety feature since seat belts, IMO)
        stereo
        rear defrost
        tilt steering wheel
        tachometer

        And that’s it. While pw/pl, traction control, power side mirrors, keyless entry and a few other modest pieces of kit are nice, I don’t necessarily even need nor love them.

        And the automakers can do away with antilock brakes & keyless (aka push button) ignition, as far as I’m concerned. Antilock braking systems hinder my stops in inclement conditions, and push button start is gimmicky.

        But this side view mirror sensor feature, as it’s implemented in vehicles such as a 2009 Mazda 6 I rented, where there is a string of amber LEDs imbedded in the actual mirror that indicate when a vehicle is in your blind spot — this has real utility IMO, and I could see myself growing deeply fond of such systems, rather than rear or side view cameras.

        Automakers, sadly, are loading up vehicles with many marginally useful or wholly useless “gadgetry,” rather than focusing on core engineering tasks such as improving steering or braking feel, increasing the robustness of wear & tear components, or improving the ability of DIYers to replace or upgrade parts themselves by designing vehicles in a way that prioritizes ease of access to and removal/installation of key components, from maintenance items to wear & tear parts.

        • 0 avatar

          Traction control and Electronic Stability control can be credited for a vast reduction in traffic fatalities – I’d never be able to drive my project car without it.

          “Automakers, sadly, are loading up vehicles with many marginally useful or wholly useless “gadgetry,” rather than focusing on core engineering tasks such as improving steering or braking feel”

          And how exactly can Toyota, Acura, Honda, Lexus and Nissan improve on the steering feel of their mostly front wheel driven, electric steering snoozeboxes?

          Seems to me their best bet is stuffing their cars with every possible thing they can so they can lull you to sleep when you sign the papers for one. No wonder they need LANE DEPARTURE warnings!

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Electronic stability control is not only extraordinarily effective in terms of saving lives, but it’s vastly underappreciated, and I suspect the reason why is that people saved from accidents, injuries and fatalities by it rarely realize what it prevented.

            I’ll never buy a daily driver for myself or a family member without ESC.

            Traction control isn’t pointless, but since I drive manual transmission equipped vehicles, I can pretty much excert a high degree of control over how much power to send to the drive wheel(s) manually.

            I forgot to mention above that when HID headlights are done correctly, they also are one of those things you won’t want to give up, but there is a huge difference in terms of how much more effective they are versus conventional headlights based on manufacturer.

      • 0 avatar
        Brunsworks

        I drive a rolling blind sp–^H^H^H Scion xB. The difference made by a simple $20 clip-on convex rear-view mirror is staggering. I can see pretty much completely around the vehicle at all times, and I have reasonable confidence that the mirror won’t shut down or fail when I need it most.

        I also agree with you 100 percent on lane departure systems and blind spot warnings.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      For hooking up to a trailer too heavy to move by hand back-up cameras are the cats meow. Especially when approaching the trailer tongue from an angle. Best money I spent, options wise, on our Tahoe. The worst would be the sunroof.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark_Miata

      I agree completely that backup cameras are a must-have. I was skeptical until I drove a couple of cars that had one (my sister’s Honda Odyssey, my friend’s Nissan Leaf). I was an almost instant convert – makes backing up so much more safe, especially if you have small kids around the house or a twisty driveway.

      • 0 avatar

        Ultrasonic sensors can do a better job of warning you of kids. Keep in mind, the kid has to be in front of the camera to be seen. That’s why a lot of cars now have “cross traffic” sensors to detect moving objects in the blind spots.

        Another option is to actually PARENT and know where the kid is 100% of the time. Entire generations survived “backing up” without killing their kids. The few that didn’t only proved Darwin correct.

  • avatar
    NotFast

    I’m no prude, but Best #7 was pointless. Just because the author enjoys receiving anal sex doesn’t mean it needs to be mentioned here.

  • avatar
    sonataproblem

    What about something cool like headlight wipers/washers? God knows the market for those is blowing up.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    While I agree with most of your list, I don’t necessarily buy that keyless go is all it’s cracked up to be. Granted I’ve never driven a car with keyless go, I don’t understand what is so difficult or annoying about turning a thin piece of metal. I’d confuse myself trying to figure out how to put the car in accessory mode if I just want to sit in the car for a minute and putz around on the radio.

    Also, isn’t there a risk you’ll run your battery down if you’re not careful? I’d wonder how far away the car would have to be not to register the key. I have bluetooth in my car which will pick up a signal from my phone 20 feet away, and won’t drop it for another 300 feet or so.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “While I agree with most of your list, I don’t necessarily buy that keyless go is all it’s cracked up to be. Granted I’ve never driven a car with keyless go”

      It’s convenient when you are carrying children or goods, and you don’t need to fish your keys out of your pocket to unlock the car. I believe the Ford Escape even has a feature that will open the hatch when you wave your foot under the rear bumper — very useful when you are carrying things.

      “I’d confuse myself trying to figure out how to put the car in accessory mode if I just want to sit in the car for a minute and putz around on the radio.”

      It’s not that complicated — this is a silly reason to criticize the systems, when you could read the manual. On my car, I don’t even have to turn on accessory mode to listen to the radio.

      “Also, isn’t there a risk you’ll run your battery down if you’re not careful?”

      The cars that do it Knight Rider-style (i.e. unlock when you touch the door handle) have systems to prevent that — if the car has been sitting unused for a predetermined period of time, the system turns itself off until you pull the door handle. Other systems (Nissan/Infiniti) have a button to lock/unlock, so there’s no issue.

      • 0 avatar
        Audiofyl

        right. and it’s much easier to touch the handle and touch a start button than get your keys out with arms full of kids/groceries/whathaveyou.

        the systems are also designed with exterior antennas in every door that has an access button as well as an interior antenna for starting purposes which all communicate to a central module to prevent the unwanted behavior that you are suspicious of.

        however it sure does make turning the vehicle off diffiult when some drive by wire system allegedly goes awry and causes your vehicle to accelerate out of control with no way of stopping it……cough….cough….brakes…gearshift….cough……cough…

        • 0 avatar
          Brunsworks

          My thought with the Escape’s hatch sensor is, “If you’re carrying that much, why not roll it to the vehicle in a cart?”

          While I realize that’s not always an option, there’s also the possibility of simply opening the hatch before you start carrying stuff out, or having a friend do it.

          All that said, the “wave your foot under the bumper” thing is kinda cool.

          • 0 avatar
            dtremit

            You’d have to be somewhere with a cart. I’ve wished I had that feature when carrying an ungainly box out of my office — don’t really want to set it on the wet/dirty ground to open the car door.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            You don’t always roll the cart up right to your car.

            Also, most people don’t have shopping carts at their house or office, except for hobos.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        “It’s not that complicated — this is a silly reason to criticize the systems, when you could read the manual. On my car, I don’t even have to turn on accessory mode to listen to the radio.”

        I’m not necessarily criticizing it, and have read the manuals in cars where it’s an option. I guess it’s something I’ve never considered a “must have” and wouldn’t be heart-broken if I could never have it on a car.

        Keyless entry, on the other hand, is great if only because I can unlock all the doors without doing the twisties.

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        Next time I go to the mall, I’m going to try to open some Escape hatches if their owners are in close enough proximity.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      I reluctantly sing the praises of keyless entry now that I have one. (Used to wonder what the fuss was about.) My only fear is the cost of replacing the fob.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I hate keyless go, having used it for a year now. It has definitely created more major headaches than the ease of eliminating the minimum competence required to use a key justifies. Keyless entry wouldn’t suit me either, as I like confirmation that my car is locked and will remain locked, and nothing else on the car with keyless go is as reliable as I am.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Your car probably beeps when all doors are locked. Why don’t you just pull the battery from your transmitter then? Mission accomplished. That way you don’t have to worry that coins in your pocket or your, ahem, manhood might accidentally hit the “unlock” button.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          The transmitter is required to start the car, so it won’t start when the battery is disconnected or dead.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            Are you sure about that? Isn’t there a metal key inside the fob? I thought if you put the car in valet mode, you take the transponder and give the valet the metal key only.

          • 0 avatar
            darkwing

            Both of mine have a docking port for the keyfob, I assume so the transmitter bit can be triggered by induction if the keyfob battery dies.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            There is a metal key inside the fob, but I’m under the impression that it is only of use for entering the car when the car’s battery is dead. If it works as a valet key, then it must house a transmitter too. The ignition needs an electronic handshake to work, so a valet key without one would defeat the purpose. There are people on Audi forums complaining about paying to have their valet keys programmed, but they have earlier models.

          • 0 avatar
            Audiofyl

            or if your battery is dead in the middle of nowhere, there should be a backup of some sort to allow you to drive an otherwise perfectly operating vehicle. the key in the pocket push button start requires the battery in the key for it to be able to transmit the authentication code wirelessly from a distance. most cars have a key port or “localization” area that you can put the key in or near so the rf chip can be directly energized from the antenna if the key battery were to die. In a benz, you just remove the push button and insert the key like any other normal ignition sequence.

          • 0 avatar
            darkwing

            In my car, you disable the trunk via a switch in the glove compartment, lock the glove compartment with the physical key, then detach the fob and give it to the valet. (There’s also a switch in there to disable keyless start — maybe to reduce the chance of the fob being lost?)

          • 0 avatar
            nelio2k

            My manual says that in the case of a dead battery in the transmitter, I need to put my transmitter in a slot right next to my push start button. There is a passive RFID in the transmitter to allow the car to starts in case the transmitter’s battery dies.

            At least for the 2013 BRZ it is. Not sure how it is for others.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            Well, try it and get back to us, then, if you dislike both features so much. Or RTFM for what the method is if it’s not that, because every car I’ve seen has a method for dealing with a dead battery in the transmitter.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            The car doesn’t have keyless entry, so I don’t have to deal with it. I can lock and unlock the car without being at the mercy of VAG quality. As for keyless go, there isn’t any real workaround for a shared car. The problems don’t tend to be created by me anyway. I wasn’t the one that gave the running car to a valet while hanging on to the key fob, left the restaurant in a cab, and then sent someone else to retrieve the car the next day, not realizing that the fob wasn’t with the car. People holding the fob have also been dropped off, leading to the car being miles away from the fob needed to restart it or lock it. If only there were some required physical connection between the access tool needed to operate the car and the car itself… Someone should invent something like that.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            If the fob is not in the car while the car is on, does not a yellow key light up in the instrument panel telling you that?

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            I have been in the car in precisely that situation and never noticed it if it does exist. Being happy driving that car is all about ignoring warning lights and messages though, something I’ve been working on for months. The dashboard is incredibly busy, even after we let our broadband service lapse and no longer have google street view broadcast on one of the two nav screens.

    • 0 avatar
      Slab

      My boss dropped his wife to the hairdresser and then drove to the gas station, where he got stranded. The keys were in his wife’s purse.

      I once rented a JGC with keyless entry. Was driving down the freeway when a message popped up on the dash – “Key cannot be found”. Stopped for a meal, and it wouldn’t let me back in. I had to use the actual key to open the door (like an animal!). I must have been wearing my infrared blocking pants that day.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    “If you must have a blind spot nanny, get one that beeps if someone’s in your blind spot, that’s more helpful.”

    The Audi system with the lights on the side mirrors is even better. They light up when someone is in your blind spot or approaching it with a particular closing speed, and if you put on a turn signal while they are lit, they blink to emphasize that there’s a car in your blind spot. It’s very non-intrusive, unlike some of the other systems described.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      It’s pretty intrusive in my experience, in that it triggers a fault code every time someone gets close on the freeway and only tells me about cars I’m aware of anyway. I’d probably be even more aware if I wasn’t trying to get the codes to clear.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        I’m not a huge fan of blind spot warning systems for those reasons as well. Many of them have holes in the calibration which admittedly would be hard to fill by accounting for every single unique profile criteria while driving.

        Because of this, many get upset when cars linger in the blind spot, and have a hard time accounting for guardrails, medians, fences and trees.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          “Because of this, many get upset when cars linger in the blind spot, and have a hard time accounting for guardrails, medians, fences and trees.”

          Some are worse than others. The Audi one measures speed differential as one factor, so those inanimate objects shouldn’t be an issue.

          • 0 avatar
            darkwing

            Acura’s does too — it’s only a problem when you’re going around corners. (The system’s apparently not smart enough to use velocity instead of speed.)

            Still, it’s not bad, once you know when to expect it and can suppress the “oh shit, what did I miss?” reflex.

        • 0 avatar
          Brunsworks

          What would be cool is a system that warns the OTHER driver that he’s in your blind spot.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        If it’s so intrusive for you, why don’t you turn it off? Or just sell the car that you hate so much?

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          I rarely drive the car on the freeway, so I usually forget all about the system between instances of the warning light going off. The system does nothing on the two-lane surface streets of Pacific Beach, La Jolla, and OB, so it doesn’t cause me irritation most weeks. I don’t know what my business partner thinks of it, since he’s usually the one that has to drive it to call on distant customers.

          Hate is a strong word. There really isn’t much in its class that would be as good. The Lexus GS wasn’t out in time for me to test drive it, but it is supposed to have a small back seat. A back seat comfortable for someone 6’2″ was my most important criteria for this car, disqualifying everything else we looked at. Since it isn’t around for the long haul, I thought the 3.0 supercharged engine, which is far more powerful than one might think, 8-speed slushomatic, and tech toys wouldn’t be a hardship. So far, the engine is still mighty. It’s a company leased car, so it will probably be around for two more years. If it goes back early, it will likely be for an S8, which probably won’t be any less filled with unreliable gimmicks.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    Backup Camera is the best gadget going – I think. The other gadgets have to be evaluated by cost. Ipod integration and Keyless aren’t too expensive and pretty standard. So is bluetooth.

    I like the other gadgets provided they aren’t high cost. I wouldn’t pay for say adaptive cruise control over a higher line of engine..

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    “Sports Appearance Package”
    -It might not make the car perform better, but if it makes the owner FEEL better, than I certainly would not begrudge him for it. Don’t underestimate the emotional component of car ownership.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “Sports Appearance Package”

      Sure made me love my old 2004 base-model 3.4L Impala.

      Turned what was in actuality a “Biscayne” into a “Bel-Air”!

      Now, if the “Impala” name wasn’t embedded in the dash, I would have made that car a Bel-Air with the appropriate badging.

  • avatar
    jfranci3

    Auto climate control belongs in the no-love category. 3-rotators are FAR superior. Who wants their fan set to noisy every time they touch a knob. Hotter or colder, that’s all I care about.

    Backup camera means your car doesn’t have visibility. Backup cams in trucks = good for trailer hitches, maneuvering, and off road. In cars, they’re a bandaid for unacceptable visibility.

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      I agree with the auto climate. It’s fine during Houston summers when it’s hot all the time, but now in the spring I’m constantly fiddling with it to get cool air when it wants to heat the car. Or I just want to bring in fresh air without turning on he AC. Also for some reason my Audi does not blow hot air out the center vents and my right hand is cold so I have to turn it on manual.

      One thing I love is heated seats, even in the brief winters of Houston I like a warm tush.

      ps I could of done without the anal sex comment.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Agreed. I’ve had two cars with auto climate, and even when it worked, I didn’t care for it. Constantly changing blower speed and other fiddly adjustments. It’s like a bad slushbox. Just 3 knobs, please.

      Totally agree on heated seats, they’re awesome.

      I’ve only used foglights in actual fog once, but I found them pretty helpful. I would think they’d be good in a snowstorm too.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      I have mixed feelings about “climate control” and certainly would not pay extra for it. My ’92 SHO was the first car I owned with automatic climate control. It worked fine, but when the engine was cold and the car was cold inside, wasn’t smart enough to avoid going to max blower speed before the engine cooling system had some heat in it. Other than that, it worked fine; and an “economy” button switched off the a/c compressor. OTOH, the automatic climate control in my ’08 Pilot I can definitely do without. Its sensor responds very slowly, so it way overshoots the desired temperature, whether heat or cooling is required. As a result, in a cold car, you get baked until the sensor realizes no more hot air is needed. And in a hot car, you get refrigerated to meat locker temperatures until the sensor understands that no more cold air is needed. Eventually, once the system sorts itself out, it will maintain temperature accurately.

      For those who drive SUVs or cars designed like pill boxes or the USS Monitor, a backup camera is nice to have, although I don’t have one in my Pilot.

      I agree that “fog lights” are useless for any purpose. And I don’t have much use for the rest of the stuff. I use a Bluetooth earpiece with my cell phone.

      Call me a fossil, but lane departure warning, collision avoidance, adaptive cruise control and all that is in, IHMO, an invitation to driver incompetence. Let’s take adaptive cruise control. I will admit to being a cruise control guy because, if you set it at just below the speed where you think you will be stopped by the police, its the fastest way to cover ground — by maximizing your average speed. In medium to heavy traffic where the adaptive thing might be useful, you really need to be paying more attention to what’s going on in front of you. Not because your “dumb” cruise control is going to cause you to rear end the guy in front of you (although that could happen) but because some guy in an adjacent lane could cut in front of you without signaling. Also, in that kind of traffic, where the guy in front of you is going 3 mph slower than you are, it’s kinda rude to pull into the left lane and let your cruise control take you past him at a relative speed of 3 mph. It’s much more polite to speed up enough to pass the guy quickly and then coast back down to your preferred cruising speed after you leave the left lane and pull back in somewhere ahead of him.

      I think we need to be careful of gadgets that give the driver a false sense of security and insulate him/her from what’s really going on around him. Exhibit A for my case is 4-wheel or all-wheel drive which quite often causes driver to exceed the vehicle’s capability to turn or stop, and the more “trick” the system is (e.g. Honda’s SH-AWD) the more likely the driver is unaware of how close to the edge of control he’s driving.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “but when the engine was cold and the car was cold inside, wasn’t smart enough to avoid going to max blower speed before the engine cooling system had some heat in it.”

        But many cars’ automatic climate control systems are good at this. Mine won’t up the blower speed until the engine is warmer, although I can override that if I choose.

        “4-wheel or all-wheel drive which quite often causes driver to exceed the vehicle’s capability to turn or stop, and the more “trick” the system is (e.g. Honda’s SH-AWD) the more likely the driver is unaware of how close to the edge of control he’s driving.”

        I didn’t quite follow on this one. Something like SH-AWD improves performance when you are driving closer to the limit, but how does it cause you to be closer to the limit than you were already intending to be?

        I think the problem with 4WD/AWD is psychological — that people who have it think they are bullet proof on snow/ice and drive faster than they should, stupidly forgetting that 4WD/AWD largely helps you get going from a stop, and doesn’t help nearly as much with stopping or turning (like snow tires or slowing down would).

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          My climate control is good at not blowing like a Cat 5 hurricane during cold engine, cold weather start up. What climate control always seem to suck at is when it is fall and cool but sunny. The car will be nice and warm, but on start up, cold a/c starts blowing. I usually have to turn it off…

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        I thought we agreed we weren’t going to talk about rear ending the guy in front of you.

    • 0 avatar
      kjb911

      as a veteran of owning a 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited and replacing not one but two separate HVAC systems on the both mine and my friends I can say without a doubt I will NEVER purchase a car with auto climate ever again. Unless they can guarantee my that every component is made from titanium and a 20 year warranty

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Auto climate control is wonderful when it is implemented correctly. My BMW is perfect. The temp is set to 70F year round, and I basically never touch the thing at all. It does not blast air, ever, though it will rapidly cool down the car when it has been sitting in the sun. BMW even has a couple of really thoughtful touches, like being able to vary the temp distribution between face and feet, and adjust the relative fan speed. Brilliant. I agree that auto A/C pretty much sucks in most cars though – my FIAT is not particularly impressing me, way too much fiddling with the temperature required.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      Auto Climate Control is one of those things I’m amazed at how it’s stuck around, and that people actually like. Your car is not like your house. It moves around. That shiny thing up there is the sun, it’s hot, and sometimes it shines upon you and you get hot. Then you drive down the highway, and you’re in it’s shadow again. This requires a lot of button pushing. They are also expensive, heavy, and VERY problematic.

    • 0 avatar
      dtremit

      No, modern rollover standards mean your car doesn’t have visibility. Sadly.

  • avatar
    Slab

    I’m sure the various automatic climate control systems are different, but I hate it in my VW.

    1. No off button. It’s 110 outside and the fan is on tornado speed. You pull up to a drive through and cannot hear the attendant. You must push the fan speed button half a dozen times.

    2. It’s a breezy 60 outside. Your car’s been sitting in full sun, so it’s 85 inside. You just want some of that nice cold air in your face but you don’t want to open the windows. Why is there no vent option?

    3. Whirrr, whirrr, whirrr. That’s the sound of the electric baffles somewhere in your dash that can’t figure out what to do. Just shut up already so I can hear NPR!

    • 0 avatar
      eamiller

      This is a perfect example of something that some OEMs to well and others do not. My Subaru’s auto climate control addresses all 3 of your issues.

      1. Has a dedicated off button, but also it only resorts to max fan for the minimum amount of time to register some temp change. Even on the hottest days it will drop at least 2 notches of fan in 15 minutes.

      2. Has a dedicated fresh/recirc button. if you change the mode, it will remember the choice until you push the “Auto” button again. Also can disable the A/C by toggling that dedicated button as well. Bonus points: if the system is off, you can still control fresh/recirc by tapping the button if you want “flow through” ventilation.

      3. Your system must be really loud. A properly designed system is really no louder than a mechanical system and shouldn’t be making drastic changes in the baffles unless you’re manually switching modes.

      Sounds like VW really cheaped out.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        Suprised you like the Subaru systems, they drive me nuts! I love auto climate control, overall it saves me time, it seems fiddly to me to adjust the temp and fan constantly to maintain a temp when some electronics could do that for me.

        Had 2 Subarus now with CC (09 WRX, 05 Outback XT) here are the problems:

        - only goes down to 65, which is no really 65, but “gale force cold rush” setting. If 66 is a bit too warm, you are out of luck. Most systems go down to 60.

        - dual climate in the outback, has no “link” feature, if you want to adjust the temp of the whole car, you have to adjust both driver and pass individually.

        - Subaru climate control seems to have a “startup sequence” when you start the car, if you want hot or cold it will blast you, so setting say 68 on a cold day it will melt you for about 10 min as soon as the coolant temp comes up, and then settle down to an actual 68. You have to manually intervene this process. It does the same with the arctic chill on a hot day.

        My old Lexus has none of those issues so I know it is a specific Subaru thing. I still do less fiddling than I would with a manual system though.

        Climate Control is great, but like anything automated it is an opportunity to “outsmart the user” so to speak.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        The Audi system does what your Subaru one does, so I’m surprised the VW doesn’t. However, you can be in Auto with recirc or not, at your choice. It also does auto-recirc in certain scenarios (e.g. someone told me it’s on recirc in reverse, and on some cars, when it detects heavy pollutants). You can do the flow-through thing. You can turn on and off the A/C compressor.

        On other cars I’ve driven with automatic climate control, it’s been pretty easy to do all of those things too.

        Also, you can link the driver setting to the passenger setting (and in a 4-zone car, link all four).

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        See, and I was going to complain about my Legacy’s auto climate system. My main gripe is in the hot summer it never thinks it’s cool enough. I set it to 72 and my hands start to freeze and it is still blowing at nearly full bore. I always have to manually turn the fans down to keep from getting frost bite.

        I had an Audi from the mid-90s that had auto climate control and it worked perfectly. I never thought about it. And that is the only part of that car besides the Quattro system I can say that about.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Which VW do you have? First image I could find on the interwebs:

      media dot caranddriver dot com/images/12q3/463506/2013-volkswagen-cc-20t-climate-controls-photo-463571-s-1280×782.jpg

      Seems like RTFM if you can’t understand those symbols.

      For #1, there’s either an off button, or you can override the fan speed, or you can turn “auto” off.

      For #2 and #3, turn “auto” off and do what you want.

      • 0 avatar
        Slab

        Hitting the econ button just turns off the AC compressor.

        For #2, it does not disable the thermostat, so you still get warm air in your face if the system deems that it needs to warm up the 60 degree air to 68 or whatever you have set.

        For #3, the system still determines where the air goes (high, mid-level, or low) so the baffles will still play their music.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          Again, which car, so I can see the specific panel? In the picture I sent, you can manually override those things. There are quite obvious buttons for #3, and for #2, you can fix that problem easily too by setting your temperature either below the current outside temperature or at the minimum setting.

          • 0 avatar
            bill mcgee

            Used to despise the automatic climate control in a Park Avenue I once had because it was a touch system with no way to turn it off when you first started the car and it would blow out at full blast . Particularly annoying when you are having battery / alternator problems , which were frequent in the POS .Tied with other most hated feature in the same car, the power trunk pull down which failed repeatedly, also killing the alternator/ battery .

  • avatar
    Power6

    I thought the HUD in the last Lacrosse I rented was great, it does the usual stuff, plus shows you the new song playing on the Sat radio when it changes, shows your next direction from the nav, phone number/name of who is calling on bluetooth etc. Pretty much no need to look at anything else.

    Be prepared for the grouchy luddites to deride you for not wanting to turn a key to start the car…

  • avatar
    mike978

    Alex – some contradictions like you saying you don`t like lane watching cameras because you can turn your head. yet you also say you like automatic climate control because you can`t be bothered to turn a knob.

    I like your writing, but was a little surprised by your choice of words under #7 in the love it (heated steering wheel).

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    “Aside from the fact that most RSE systems have small displays, clunky software, crappy integration and are expensive, they are often integrated into strangely shaped front seat headrests that destroy the aesthetics of your car.”

    Also, do you really want kids who can’t go to two miles to the grocery store without watching Little Nemo for the 246th time? These systems generally create bad habits. Long trips, okay, I get it, but good luck limiting your kids to that if you have these systems. Maybe you could actually, you know, talk to your kids instead of being a lazy parent.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    I thought maybe autoparking would be on here. Not a personal fan of that, but if you’ve ever waited through 5 light changes while the car in front attempting to park finally gives up, these might be helpful.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Best:

    1. Satellite radio. I HATE DJ banter. Especially on my morning commute, which is when they never shut up. Loud radio commercials also drive me crazy.

    2. Back-up Cameras. I can’t see out of modern cars.

    3. Integrated 120-volt outlets. I love these and I’m shocked their use in minivans, SUVs, and trucks isn’t much more common.
    ___________________________________________________
    Worst:

    1. Tire pressure monitoring. Many systems don’t tell you what tire is low. Makes wheels swaps more expensive and difficult. The truly clueless ignore the light. And, by far worst of all, they malfunction all the freaking time! So many broken sensors and false positives. TPMS has got to be the most unreliable system on modern cars.

    2. Fully underbody shields. Small increase in MPG isn’t worth it when I have to undo 50 plastic clips whenever I want to some basic maintenance under the car.

    3. Special and proprietary fluids and tools. It’s so nice to be able drop any off-the-shelf swill I want into my old cars and only need a basic tool set. When I do stuff on newer cars it usually means a trip to the dealer or a visit to a specialty website to pick up a case of Castrol Gold 5.2W-32 that meets spec MLS33-2^4 and the special pump/tubing that allows me to drain the radiator.

    • 0 avatar
      Conslaw

      @ajla

      I agree with all your choices. I would add on the positive side the hybrid driving coach in the Fusion and C-Max hybrids and my Garmin Ecoroute HD which combines a OBDII engine diagnostic code reader, with comprehensive engine gauges with detailed fuel economy telemetry. Oh yes, power doors on minivans. I never thought I would say that, but the fact is, kids getting out of the car never shut the door properly when I didn’t have sliding doors. Problem solved with the power units.

    • 0 avatar
      Reino

      TPMS: I hear that! Big O wants to charge me 8 bucks to do it on my 4Runner every time I swap my winter/summer tires. I said “Why? I can spend $8 one-time on a pressure gauge.”

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “Tire pressure monitoring. Many systems don’t tell you what tire is low.”

      Some systems do and tell you the exact pressure, but none of my cars that have TPMS do, so yeah, this is annoying. The Nissan/Infiniti system is annoying because the batteries in the transmitters will die every once in a while, giving a TPMS light. They have to be reset somehow, and if you take it to the stealership, they will charge too much to fix the problem. Indy mechanic better.

      “Fully underbody shields.”

      I’m actually mixed on this. Agree that it makes it more difficult to do work, but people throw random shit on the road, so it functions as a skid-plate too.

      “When I do stuff on newer cars it usually means a trip to the dealer or a visit to a specialty website to pick up a case of Castrol Gold 5.2W-32 that meets spec MLS33-2^4 and the special pump/tubing that allows me to drain the radiator.”

      If you’re putting Castrol in the radiator, you’re probably doing it wrong. But Mobil One and certain other oils will work for almost any car that has a particular oil spec (see BITOG). As long as it meets certification, no big deal. However, for things like power steering fluid and coolant, sometimes the fluid is more specific.

    • 0 avatar
      Demetri

      “2. Fully underbody shields.”

      I used to think these were a good idea until one of the bolts holding it on rusted out and seized and I couldn’t get it off. Ended up going at it with a hacksaw just to get the damn thing off so I could do an oil change.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      While I agree TPMS is the one of the most problematic things on a car, it is quite helpful when it’s working. I’m sure it’s even saved countless lives. Your tires are the most important facet of your car. Also let’s face it, other than the light being on all the time, when it’s broken it’s like any other car. Not exactly a nuisance.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I’ve seen some TPMS systems that blink and make a dinging noises. That greatly adds to the annoyance.

        Plus, just in general I don’t like having warning lights lit up on my dashboard. Especially when there isn’t any problem in the first place. I’m sure it’s great for resale too.

        And, what good is a safety feature that screws up a bunch of the time? You think that a person who has had two TPMS false positives or broken sensors is going to pay attention when the system alerts them to an actual problem at some point?

        TPMS is the “Boy that Cried Wolf” of the automotive world.

    • 0 avatar
      Brunsworks

      This is a very good pair of lists. In particular, standard TPMS basically sucks for me.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      My car’s TPMS utilizes the ABS sensors so it doesn’t require a sensor/transmitter in each wheel. Far less likely to malfunction, and also no need to purchase extra sensors for winter wheels, or to replace sensors after the batteries wear out.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        I’d prefer those systems rather than the other type. I’d also point out that it’s not impossible to disable the systems.

        That said, when I knew I had a nail in my tire a few weeks ago (new tires were ordered from Tire Rack the day before, oddly), the TPMS alerted me the following day, since it was a slow leak. I already knew about the issue, but when the systems are working properly, it’s not all bad. It would have been easy to miss the nail, but I happened to be specifically inspecting the wear pattern on the old tires.

        Most people are lazy and don’t check their air pressure ever, so I sort of get it — you’re catering to the lowest common denominator here.

  • avatar
    buck-50

    Can’t believe you forgot the shark fin antenna. Sure, they can be a little goofy looking but compared to the whip and power antennas of (not so) old, they are a huge improvement. Less likely to get mangled in car washes, less likely to break (no motors, no problems) and less likely to be an entry point into your car for water.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    You just named my Top 20 Gadgets I give thumbs down too. But I guess you did already called them “gadgets”.

  • avatar
    Cubista

    Keyless Go is one of those things that you think looks cool when you don’t have it; once you DO have it, you’d rather Sharky’s Machine your own index finger than go back to driving a car without it.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      This right here. My latest car is my first to feature passive entry, and whenever I drive my pickup with a lowly remote fob, I curse as a fumble it out of my pocket.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Add to this rain sensing wipers. I always thought they were silly until I bought a car with them. Utterly fantastic, especially on a wet highway where you would be constantly hitting the wipers when near other vehicles but turning them off in-between. But a complaint too – I have yet to see an auto-wiper system that ALSO had a fixed interval intermittent setting – there are times when auto just doesn’t work quite right. But better most of the time with it than without it.

      I never would have ordered keyless go on my BMW had I not had so many rental Altimas with it. Love it, hate fumbling with keys.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    The old Ramco valve, sliding variable temp control is a rare instance when the first iteration turned out to be the ultimate evolution of the species. How many of you have replaced the fan and or the touch pad when the unit fails? I have never done any repair on the original old style ones beyond lube or hose replacement, yet have actually had to decide whether to keep a car as opposed to absorbing the cost of repair or replacement on the digital. And, while I enjoy the convenience of the keyless entry and remote start, the lack of a redundant manual key slot strikes me as stupid. How much can it cost?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “How many of you have replaced the fan and or the touch pad when the unit fails?”

      I can’t speak for other brands, but on GM cars, it’s pretty easy to replace electric climate control components.

      The biggest problem is trolling ebay, junkyards, and car-part.com trying to find the correct (and functional) replacement.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “And, while I enjoy the convenience of the keyless entry and remote start, the lack of a redundant manual key slot strikes me as stupid. How much can it cost?”

      My car has a redundant manual key slot (to start and to unlock the driver’s door), and most of the other cars I’ve seen do something similar. Nissan/Infiniti has a regular key hidden in their remote.

      • 0 avatar
        Andrew Nevick

        My Toyota also has a key hidden in the remote. As to the other poster way above who worried about the battery failing and not being able to start the car, my understanding is that the key is passive in that regard anyway – the car uses RFID (or similar) to ping the fob and see if it gets the correct ID back. Thus your fob can be completely dead, but you’re still able to get into the car with the physical back up, and it will still start anyway because the car provides the power to check if the key is in the vehicle.

        The sensor to unlock the car automatically when you touch the handle is complete crap on the Prius though, so I do find that all but useless, but keyless go is really nice IMO. You just have to explain to your wife that when the car is beeping and showing a big yellow exclamation it means you’re driving off without the key!

  • avatar
    Yoss

    As an admitted Luddite who has yet to fully embrace power windows and locks I can’t relate to much on this list.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “Rear fog lights are great, except nobody in America knows how to use them, especially Audi drivers who think its cool to leave them on 24×7.”

    Let me tell them, because it’s easy:

    “If you are in heavy fog, turn it on.

    Otherwise, turn it off.”

    See how easy that was?

  • avatar
    gmichaelj

    I have to disagree on the Fog lights. I think they work quite well when I want to avoid hitting the median curb making a left on a dark/rainy night. Call them “curb” lights.

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      I’m right there with you. I’m especially fond of them in dark parking lots or on streets with both lots of pedestrian traffic and on street parking. I don’t know how many times I’ve caught a glimpse of some moron’s shoes right before the stepped out in front of me from between two parked vehicles.

      Also, if you’re at the drive-in and have to leave early, you can creep out with just your fog lights on and not disturb the other patrons. This courtesy is apparently lost on those who own Raptors or Land Rovers. Keeping the people that make KC lights in business, they are.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “Also, if you’re at the drive-in and have to leave early, you can creep out with just your fog lights on and not disturb the other patrons.”

        You still have drive-ins where you are? (it’s possible that I do too and just don’t know where they are)

        Not all cars let you have fogs on when your headlights aren’t on.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      In the old days, those were called cornering lamps. I think the old Deville/DTS was the last car to still have them.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I literally LOLd at #7. Had to recheck who wrote this.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I nominate power sliding doors on minivans, they almost make it worth owning one…almost.

    Secondly, automatic tailgate on SUVs, its a godsend.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    May be it’s me, but I think you’re using your heated steering wheel incorrectly.

    Personally, I don’t like auto climate controls, either. I just haven’t found one that controls things the way I like and doesn’t blast the fan to full speed . It I have to pay extra for it, I wouldn’t. Simple knobs are best here. Maybe It’s me, but I’ve also rarely found a need to use dual-zone climate controls, but in a minivan, rear seat AC outlets are great.

  • avatar
    ant

    I like memory seats, and HID headlights myself.

    As for worst, anybody remember the electric trunk closer on old gm sedans? omg.

    I still haven’t figured out what “rain sensing wipers” are all about….. that don’t sound very useful to me.

    When did all the OEM’s stop making headlamp lenses out of glass? The plastic ones fog up over time. I can’t fuking see at night with my older cars cause of this.

    “hydrolic power steering” could be a luxury feature that I’d pay good money for.

    ps: I like anal sex:)

    • 0 avatar
      tim850csi

      Always thought rain-sensing wipers were a bit of an oddity until I drove 300 miles in a rain storm. Never having to adjust the speed of the wipers is a nice feature. Basically it’s continuously variable. Enter a tunnel and off they go. Exit the tunnel and back on.

      Also… and this may sound odd… but here in NE we have a lot of highways where water pools in the median, especially on highways with concrete dividers. Never fails that someone in the opposite lane will send a deluge of water over the barrier and onto the windshield effectively blinding you as you reach for the wiper stalk. Auto wipers ON!

      +1 on AS.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      I don’t know if I would pay extra for rain-sensing wipers, but they work pretty well for the reasons tim850csi said. If they turned on the headlights when they were running continuously, the Luddites would hate them even more, but it’d be a good thing given all the Californians who don’t turn on headlights in rain.

      Also, +1.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      Lincoln got a lot of complaints from older Town Car owners when they eliminated the power trunk closure feature on the redesigned 1998 model. It seems that many of the owners didn’t have the upper body strength anymore to slam the trunk closed. For them, pulling the trunk down to the position where the automatic mechanism takes over was a very useful feature.

  • avatar
    ktm_525

    Alex I disagree with the integrated boosters. The boosters are one of my favourite options on my Volvo V70R. They were invaluable when my kids were smaller and I don’t think they are any more unciomfortable than the regular back seat. At least my ass cheeks can’t tell the difference. Now that the kids are older they would vote for the heated rear seats though…

  • avatar
    jbltg

    I would prefer anal sex over any of the gadgets mentioned.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I think mapping + nav has its uses in crowded areas, where the generic line maps aren’t detailed enough.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    Night vision and thermal optics would be awesome, if they covered ALL of the interior glazed surfaces, not just a pop-up window in the middle of the windshield.

    Anyway, here are my lists:

    Hell Yes:

    1 – Manual transmission.
    2 – Traction control that defaults to OFF.
    3 – Full wraparound thermographic HUD.
    4 – Disengageable EDR.
    5 – Light switch position that illuminates only the dash without engaging the running lights.
    6 – Factory-installed aftermarket wheel and tire package of my choice, independent of any options package.
    7 – Physical buttons instead of spots on a touchscreen.
    8 – Actual gauges instead of glorified idiot lights.
    9 – Loudspeaker to allow broadcasting of helpful suggestions and commentary to other drivers.
    10 – Bedliner instead of paint.

    No Thanks:

    Pretty much any option car manufacturers currently consider necessary to sell cars.

    That is all.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Yellow bulbs in fog lights make a big difference in terms of visibility and creating some much needed contrast between the driving beams. They’re even more helpful in snowy conditions.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      Yes. Very few people understand the need for yellow fogs.

      The huge fogs on my 1st gen 2.5RS were incredible too. The ones on my xB are at the other end of the spectrum. You seriously cannot tell if they are on or not.

  • avatar
    7th Frog

    Aside from keyless entry and bluetooth I would avoid all other gadgets listed here like the plague in a car. I could even live without bluetooth. I want a car, not a rolling iPad that is going to be a brick in a couple of years or expensive electronics that will eventually fail.

  • avatar
    ringomon

    I’d put adaptive cruise on both the best and worst list.

    It’s best when I’m the one using it, and can pick (usually the longest) following distance setting and be on my way.

    It’s worse when someone else is using it and I know the guy tailgaiting me isn’t even putting any effort to tailgate me, the system is doing it for him.

    They need to mandate the following distance on those things to something like the 2-3 second rule. I was shocked how closely it would let me follow on the highway the first time I used one.

    (I don’t like clingers when I’m driving).

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Some cars have adjustable distances — e.g. you can be closer together in stop and go and farther apart in normal driving. So in some cases, it could be the technology itself that’s annoying, and in others it could be user error.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      Agreed ringomon. If I’m pulling into the passing lane behind a fast moving car and it is going faster than my set cruise speed, my car will accelerate strongly and not care about the distance between me and that vehicle up until I reach my cruising speed. In other words, it cares about the rate of acceleration more than the distance. That’s great.

      But if the car in the passing lane ahead of me is just barely faster than I am, it’ll try to kick in my predesignated distance by slowing down. Annoying.

      I might have the only model that used lasers (yeah, my car shoots lasers!), before Lexus realized that lenses get dirty.

  • avatar
    C. Alan

    Im going to have to disagree on the rear seat entertainment. The factory setup in my 2011 Dodge Caravan is great. Each kids has their own head phones, and can choose one of two movies (there are two dvd players built in), or listen to the radio, or listen to MP3 files on the head unit’s hard drive. The screens are a nice size, and fold into the ceiling when not in use. The system has it’s own remote, and it is easy enough for my 10 year old to figure out.

    My Wife and I can take a trip with 5 kids, and actually have our own conversation in the front seats.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I always thought the power tilt-telescoping steering wheel with exit programming was a neat idea, but that’s because I think it looks cool. However, memory settings in general (seats, steering column, mirrors, radio-presets) are great if you share a car with multiple people.

    Also, some rear-seat entertainment system are very nicely integrated from the factory. Bentley and Rolls-Royce make lovely ones, lol

  • avatar
    Demetri

    “Picking the right options can help your car’s resale value and choosing the wrong ones can lower it or even limit the market for your ride.”

    I haven’t found that to be the case. As someone who exclusively buys low trim level cars (I have a 2008 model year car with crank windows), I’ve never had a problem selling my cars, and they haven’t depreciated any more than loaded version of the same car, in fact, they may have depreciated a bit less. A lot of people shopping for used cars with over 70k miles just want something reliable and basic; not a bunch of gadgets that fail as the car gets older. The people who bought my last car said they were specifically looking for something basic without a lot of options to avoid points of failure in the future.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    “Picking the right options can help your car’s resale value and choosing the wrong ones can lower it or even limit the market for your ride.”

    One example I can think of for lowering a car’s resale value is not having the quasi-optional 3rd row seat in certain vehicles (e.g. it’s in most trim levels and almost everyone wants it, even if they use it once a year in reality). The two-row cars in these cases sell slowly and for less coin when they do. I’m sure there are other examples people can think of.

    Re: Demetri’s point, you can always find someone looking for crank windows (hell, just advertise it to TTAC for the “Get Off My Lawn” edition I described for an old Tercel), but you can always find many more people who won’t buy it for having crank windows. There’s a balance here, and that’s all Alex was saying.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      It is completely true though that you NEVER get your money back on options. The loaded car may sell FASTER, but it will never sell for enough more to pay back the upfront difference in price.

      For a real-world example, per the pricing guides if my BMW had iDrive and the Sport Pkg it would be worth ~$2-3000 more currently. But it would have cost $5K more upfront.

  • avatar
    carsRneat

    Likes:

    1. Heated seats – I guess I am getting old – but they sure feel nice on a cold morning (and after a sports outing – when my tired muscles appreciate the warmth).

    2. Keyless entry and start – wonderful, no longer have to put key in the pocket – just leave it in the briefcase/suit.

    3. Satellite radio – good for when you are in the boonies and want to hear your radio favorites.

    Dislikes:

    1. Built-in DVD players in the back – they always seem to break, the headphones get lost, and your kids soon outgrow them quickly (they want to have in-car wi-fi etc.)

    2. Engine covers – they seem to be purely for show, so your engine bay looks clean, but are functionally a negative when working on your vehicle.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Worst:

    Soft close doors or soft close trunks. The desire to firmly close doors and trunks wears out the ridiculously delicate motor that supposedly can do a better job of this than you can.

    The worst part of this terrible idea is the repair costs, and the inability for your trunk to stay closed once the latch motor breaks.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Good:
    HID headlamps (as long as they are OEM) generally represent a massive improvement over the crappy clear lens/complex reflector “toys” that masquerade as headlamps on most modern Cars. Until LED headlamps are perfected and made affordable, HID is it.

    Bad:
    The silly, decorative LEDs in most new car headlamps. Thank you Audi for spawning this ridiculous trend. I’ve said it before: Car manufacturers, please take the money blown on these silly LED decorations and instead put it into better headlamps.

    Finally a comment on the completely useless foglamps present on many new cars: I personally blame douchebags who drove Mustang GTs and BMWs (as well as other cars) back in the 80′s which at that time had high quality (Remember OEM SEV Marchal lamps on Ford products anyone?) driving/fog lamps for turning them on all the time, irritating everyone. I’m not sure when or if OEM auxiliary lighting regulations changed, but I’m convinced these self-absorbed idiots ruined it for the rest of us and now we have these neutered light-shaped toys for fog/driving lamps today. Way to go for personal responsibility you morons – had to leave them on all the time and prove what a pro Euro-touring driver you were to the rest of us…thanks.

  • avatar
    AFX

    You should rename this article “A list of overly expensive dealer options that will have Larry, Darryl & Darryl, Gomer, Goober, and Cooter in the service department scratching their heads when it eventually breaks”. These are the same guys that should have “LEFT” and “RIGHT” tattooed on their knuckles on their hands so they can tell they difference, and the same guys that cross-thread wheel studs and forget to add oil or tighten the drain plug back up. The thought of them trying to diagnose my adaptive cruise control makes me all giddy inside.

    However, I do like the sound of “Night Vision Satellite Mapping Integrated Booster Seats With Launch Control” though, it sounds like something NASA might check off on the options list on the Space Shuttle.

    P.S. “Adaptive Cruise Control” is an unecessary option if you have your mother-in-law riding in the back seat.

  • avatar
    lon888

    Leave it to the damn Germans to invent the hellspawn known as the electric parking brake. In additions to the problems list above, it requires a special software package (ala VW/Audi VAGCOM system) to retract the piston for pad replacement. Congratulations, Nazis, you turned a simple 1-hour $40 job into a 1 day trip ($$$) to the stealership.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      +1 for the first Nazi reference I have ever seen in a totally non-political discussion. Poor Germans, they are damn near the only responsible Europeans left, after all the money they have handed to the Greeks. Speaking of the Greeks, try not to mention anal sex around them.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Or you could either buy or borrow a VCDS from someone on the forum, like many other people who DIY. It’s not cheap, but a lot cheaper than going to the stealership. Or just go to an indy…

  • avatar
    Mark_Miata

    I have to disagree about lane watching cameras. For someone like me who has limited mobility, particularly being unable to turn my neck very far, these make the difference between being a menace on the highway and driving safely. Not needed for everyone, but as more and more drivers are older and have physical limitations, this is a very useful option.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    The only time I like the auto climate control in my MKZ is when I’m on a road trip in the summer and my wife and I can set different temps (useful especially when one side of the car is in the sun, and the other is not). Also, as it seems to be with everyone else, the default speed is Superman’s breath. Otherwise the perfect simplicity of the rotators in my Panther are far and away my preference.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I guess I don’t ask for much in this department. All I need is:
    1. AC
    2. A stereo that can talk to my iPod classic and my phone (I have yet to get one stock however as the aftermarket will oblige for a few hundred bucks so the opening for the stereo is actually the key here).
    3. A decent alignment and balanced tires.

    With respect to night vision I have driven with binocular and monocular Night optics in addition to the vehicle mounted systems with a fold down screen. They all suck and are not especially easy to drive with and this was doing route clearance moving under 5 mph. I can’t imagine trying to drive at real speeds with any of them.

    Anyway, anything not mentioned is gravy. I do require that if a feature is present, it has to work which is why I generally gravitate to less loaded models as I tend to buy well used.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “With respect to night vision I have driven with binocular and monocular Night optics in addition to the vehicle mounted systems with a fold down screen. They all suck and are not especially easy to drive with and this was doing route clearance moving under 5 mph. I can’t imagine trying to drive at real speeds with any of them.”

      Different kind of night vision, I believe. The typical system is through infra-red, not through light amplification.

  • avatar
    Cjmadura

    I really enjoyed driving my TR6…..clearly those days are gone. Cars have gotten so sophisticated that I no longer enjoy driving. I feel as if I’m driving both my computer and my living room. Granted, the old Triumph (and many, many other cars from simpler times) could be taxing after a short while, I find modern cars overloaded with fancy, expensive, FRAGILE gimmicks.

    My stupid VW has had power window and power lock gremlins since day one. How I wish both were simple manual devices. ABS is great, no doubt. Integrated stereos and navigation (as in my happily sold MINI cooper S) are NOT! Stereo farts out, good luck replacing it with anything other than OEM ($$$$$$). Remember paper maps? Cumbersome? Sure! Reliable – hell yeah!! Many people these days can’t even read a map!

    By the way, I’m not an old codger – well under 50. I just don’t buy into all the electronic, next-best-thing horsecrap. I have since sold my cars (save for the wife’s PITA VW) and get around on motorcycles these days. I shudder to think of the days when these graceful machines are desecrated by BS. You can’t go home again!

  • avatar
    Mikein08

    I must be a luddite. I don’t like all this electronic crap. Just more
    things to go wrong and have to be repaired at astronomical expense.
    These gadgets provide, for the most part, lots and lots of expense
    for a very small amount of provided utility. I drive a Nissan Xterra,
    the advertising slogan for which (when I bought it) was “Everything
    you need, nothing you don’t”. The only think remotely “electronic”
    on it is the aftermarket satellite radio system I purchased (and all
    the built in computers, of course). No bluetooth, no satnav, no
    backup cameras (I still have eyes), no lane change warning (I still
    have eyes and mirrors), or “myfordsync” or whatever. And I’m still
    accident free! And I can still go where I want to! And I can hear
    the music I like! Amazing. Keep all that unnecessary electronics.
    It’s rubbish.

  • avatar
    Grumpy

    I disagree with many of the comments on fog lights–the ones in my 02 Pathfinder are wonderful, and I would hate to be without them.

    Paraphrasing the late great David E Davis, who while testing a Chrysler minivan, lauded the fog lights ability to effectively light up the 10 feet just to the front and sides of the vehicle and make it much less likely that he would run over one of the many pedestrians walking, often against the light, across his bow as he attempted to negotiate busy city intersections. If memory serves, he found the fog lights more useful than the headlights.

    I drive with mine on all through the dark rainy nights of the Vancouver winter, and on the drive to Whistler with or without fog. Oddly, even though they have been on for months of driving each year and the vehicle is now 11 years old, I have never had to replace a bulb–can’t say the same for most of the other lighting. So it’s free and makes me feel a little safer, win win.

    I’ve never had any indication that this practice annoys other drivers–they aren’t very bright, and they point down. I’m also not the least bit interested in how they perceive me. Just a guy trying to stay alive and not kill.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    The purpose of a lot of these gadgets is to free us and our attention up so that we can mess with the rest of the malfunctioning gadgets. I drive a lot in my job and thoroughly enjoy driving, which to me involves using all my senses. I don’t want to isolate myself from that experience. Outside of the basics, the only tech items that are “must haves” for all business related travel are a top notch navigation system and radar detection. Getting lost and getting tickets has a tendency to detract from that drive time experience.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    I am so happy that my car does not have any of the nonsense features listed here.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      Ditto, big time. And I ignore the ones I have.

      The only exception, not mentioned here, are adjustable pedals. They’re a great way for tiny people like my wife to stay back from those neck-snapping airbags in the steering wheel.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Now that we have 100 or so responses from the TTAC hipsters that only drive stripper model used cars (with only 100% mechanical systems that never-ever-ever break) that they bought for far less than book value, I’m going to defend technology. A decent portion of Alex’s “hit it” list reduces distracted driving which is good for everyone on the road.

    1. iPod/USB integration with voice commands: eyes on the road, not messing with the phone or mp3 player to change music… most of these change the track with steering wheel buttons and can even pick out an artist or album via voice command
    5. Bluetooth integration: same as above with the additional ability of saying “call john smith”.
    8. Automatic climate control: no looking down or taking your hands off the wheel to change your climate control. My Prius is literally set it and forget it. There is a big “Auto” button and a big “off” button that I can press as I’m starting my trip. I like to have it off on my way to work. I also have steering wheel controls for the climate control (temp up, temp down, air recirc on/off). I refused to get auto climate control on my 4Runner, MINI, and GTI because I saw no need, but when done right, it is really good.
    10. Heads-up displays: Again, eyes on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      “a big “Auto” button and a big “off” button”

      Too many Apple products at an impressionable age.
      Or, for humbler households, Fisher-Price.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        There are all sorts of other buttons to adjust the climate control to your liking, but the Auto button is the most prominent. The off button is less prominent but very close at hand.

        I’d kill for a UI designed by Apple. No one does intuitive quite like Apple does. My iPhone headphones, for example, can change the volume, play/pause, skip track, and fire up Siri (who can select any song I ask, send a text message, search for a POI and start navigation to said POI, etc) with 3 buttons that are easily distinguished by touch. The up and down rocker is for volume. Pressing the middle button once plays/pauses, pressing it twice skips track, and holding it brings up Siri. If I can do all this while jogging and NOT looking at the phone, it is clearly pretty well done.

        • 0 avatar
          Summicron

          Well said and I take back my Apple snark.

          I’m just still burned by my experience with the Radeon chip popping loose from underneath my iBook’s “logic board” (why can’t they just say MOBO?). Happened 3 times, twice under Applecare and then of course the final time after expiration. $1700 doorstop.

          But I must say I adored OS-X.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          If only the new iPod Nanos were that great. The older Nano (which Apple replaced with the newer one because of a recall), you could operate solely by feel without looking at it. Now, you have to use the crappy touch-screen interface to do anything. Completely useless if you’re running or in the car, and completely horrible even if you’re not.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’m going to add “StabiliTrak” on pickups and SUVs to the no-no list.

    That’s why you see all of them careening down the freeway at 85, giving their drivers that false sense of security, like they’re oblivious and invulnerable to the laws of physics.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      I’m pretty sure StabiliTrak has very little to do with that, as some of those folks drove like that before stability control systems were around. They just add to the single-car accident rate.

  • avatar
    brettc

    For my desire list, all I can come up with is factory tires that don’t suck, and aspherical mirrors should be standard IMO. I bought a set for my Jetta wagon for $100 and they are amazing. Previously I’d have to do constant shoulder checks to make sure nothing was there before I changed lanes. After installing the aspherical mirrors and adjusting them properly, I can see the vehicles beside me without any problem. I still do a shoulder check before making my move, but so far I have 100% success rate in knowing that no one is sitting beside me when my mirror indicates such. Of course now I’m violating DOT standards on the passenger side because the mirror doesn’t have the “Objects are closer than they appear” message.

  • avatar
    old fart

    Sorry I still like quality clear lens fog lamps (cheap ones aren’t any better than parking lights) even though they don’t help allot in the fog, they brighten the dark side streets and I feel they are less annoying than driving lights for oncoming traffic. Blue tooth capable radios are also a great feature.

  • avatar
    red60r

    My vote gets to a 1967 Chevy Impala coupe that had a (factory OEM) vacuum gauge. At the bottom of what we now call the Center Stack, essentially on the floor. Why???

  • avatar
    mmdpg

    The push button start in my Toyota will beep 3 times if you get out of the car while it’s running and the key is in your pocket.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Don’t tell the DOT, but the AFS headlights on my Tiguan SEL react to oncoming cars by dipping the left headlight. That’s in addition to following the car’s steering by up to 15 degrees. It’s pretty trippy to watch that while you slalom through a dark parking lot! VW may not be using precisely the tech you refer to, but the result is similar.

    For me, it’s the killer app that makes me love the car– almost enough to excuse the remote key system. That violates every car-key hanlding habit I’ve developed over decades of motoring. More than once it’s left me arriving at a destination and spending time searching for the key to lock up with. Is it in my pockets? My wife’s purse? Under the seat? In a backpack? The car responds the same in each case.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Keep the same pocket all the time … I generally never take it out. That way it’s always there when you get in the car. (No, this method doesn’t work for multiple drivers.)

  • avatar
    Number6

    Best:
    1. backup indicator, cameras are usually too expensive for my tastes.
    2. SYNC of some sort

    Worst:
    1. Being forced to buy a satellite radio. Overcompressed rubbish. And let me disable the stupid menu that makes me cycle through it.
    2. Fog lights
    3. Plastic bed liners.
    4. TPMS

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    #1 thing I am hating about cars is the highly integrated, impossible or damn hard to replace stereos. The days of popping out the shitty factory radio, buying a kit from Crutchfield, and putting in the single or double DIN of your choice… those days are fading fast.

    Systems now are so integrated that something else that you want to work is liable to stop working if you remove the radio. A good example is the Acura I just got rid of… the HVAC controls are built into the radio. The upgrade options I had were to either buy the factory nav radio ($1000 upwards) or leave a dead husk and stick another radio down below it. Ugh!

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      1) Why do/did people buy car stereos from Crutchfield? (their catalog seems to focus far less on car stereos these days) I bought a nice head unit + CD changer many many years ago for half of Crutchfield’s price from one of the vendors in the back pages of one of the buff books. If it’s for the DIY kit, I then paid some guy at a reputable shop a reasonable amount to install it, putting me several hundred dollars ahead.

      2) Why would you upgrade the head unit instead of upgrading amps/speakers?

      If people want to improve their sound, why focus on the head unit? I never understand this complaint. It’s just as likely people are moving down in sound quality by buying a crappy head unit — they just don’t know it.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Exactly, unless you have a vehicle with no options then your factory headunit is going to be better than 90% of what stores have to offer.

        Same goes for rims, people will buy Cheap, ugly, easily dented/low quality rims for $600 to put on a 60k vehicle, while removing rims that retail USED for $2k nevermind the cost new from the dealer.

        Another petpeeve while we’re on stereos, I do in fact have a older no thrills vehicle, and I cannot believe that no one makes a aftermarket Headunit with 2 friggin dials, I DON’T want to have to seek through the radio, I want to turn the dial right to want I want to hear.

        HOWEVER, I didn’t notice the original poster, I do agree that the highly integrated radio systems can be quite annoying thinking forward, Though I’m sure aftermarket will eventually come up with individual pockets for vehicles so they can work.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          “Same goes for rims, people will buy Cheap, ugly, easily dented/low quality rims for $600 to put on a 60k vehicle, while removing rims that retail USED for $2k nevermind the cost new from the dealer.”

          Yes, that’s incredible to me too. Think about how many G35s you see with cheap crappy aftermarket wheels instead of the high quality forged Rays they came with.

          Think about all those cheapo 22s or 24s (with accompanying 22″ or 24″ badges if you’re particularly tacky) on Escalades.

          There are so many cheapo wheels manufacturers that charge crazy amounts of money for these things, so there’s definitely a temptation to cut corners.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        I don’t think you understood my point.

        a) I mentioned buying the *dash kit* from Crutchfield, not necessarily the radio itself. I seldom buy electronics from them, due to their prices. But there’s no place better to find out all the specifics about a factory system and learn what will and won’t work.

        b) I do replace the amps and speakers in my cars with my own, if I upgrade. My point is, if the head unit SUCKS and lacks features, but is impossible or close to it to replace, or disfigures the look of your interior, then there probably isn’t a DIY kit for it. There never was, and never will be, a DIY kit for the 2004-2008 TSX precisely due to the HVAC controls and circuits integrated into the head unit. The best you can do is mount a single-DIN radio UNDER the factory one, which is then a dead eyesore.

        Some cars still come with removable double-DIN radios. Unfortunately few of the ones on my list fall in my category. Now I make it a point to at the factory radio with equal weight as the rest of the car, because I know it likely will never be upgraded. I also make a point to know if the factory system has a separate amp, so that I will have line-level signals to capture from the HU to go to my amps. And I buy amps with differential-balanced inputs so I don’t have to deal with engine whine. Plus I do my own installs, so you’re several hundred dollars behind. ;)

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I went on a mountain bike ride today. I fell in love with proximity lock/unlock all over again. I packed my fob deep inside my camelbak where it couldn’t fall out and continued getting sorted for my ride. When I was ready to leave, I touched the door handle to lock and was off. When I finished my ride, a touch of the handle had all the doors unlocked and I could start loading everything without fishing for keys. Considering I’ve lost keys in the past hurriedly packing them, proximity lock/unlock is brilliant.

  • avatar

    Keyless entry is pointless. A key isn’t inconvenient and you know where it is. Just because you can does not mean you have to.

    My pet peeve is xenon lights. Oh, I love the Xenons in general, two of my cars have them, but they end up as the “cherry on top” option for a lot of cars, in that to get them, you need two other option packages, meaning those xenons end up costing 4k. There are other examples.

    Backup cameras rock. Simple, easy, and you might not run someone or something over. This also is too often a “cherry on top” option, sadly.

    Worst offender for options… BMW. Try to buy a car without a seat heater and add it in later…3k after a few other ‘mandatory’ options.

    Best option…real, integrated bluetooth.


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