By on July 26, 2013

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Today’s topic is: details. Or, as Anthony Weiner eloquently puts it while sexting: “deets.”

Details are highly important in the creation of any modern automobile. I wish someone had told this to the people who built my Cadillac. They were less focused on details and more on the big picture, which I believe was something along the lines of: We have to get out of the Renaissance Center by 6 pm or else we’ll have to drive through downtown Detroit in the dark.

So my car is missing a few details. I’ve already discussed the tilt-down mirrors, which most of you described as the single most annoying feature in the history of the automobile, right up there with the hand crank starter. But how about the back windows, which are auto-down but not auto-up? Or the lack of automatic wipers? Or how the rear hatch will only lift when the car is in park, presumably due to some legal department weenie who insisted that otherwise it might open while driving, causing passengers to unbuckle their belts, hurl themselves towards the cargo area, and sue GM for negligence?

Maybe I’m splitting hairs. After all, they got the big stuff right. Like, for example, how it has 556 horsepower. That was an important one, and they really nailed it, and I’m certain of that every time I put my foot down and believe, for a split second, that I’m actually the pilot of Air Nippon’s daily nonstop from Los Angeles to Tokyo.

I was considering details the other day as I sat in the arrivals lane at the Atlanta Airport, frantically pressing the “hatch open” button to get my girlfriend’s bags in the trunk while a police officer yelled at me to move my vehicle. It was at this moment I realized there are still some detail-obsessed car companies out there, and some really cool details, a few of which I will name now. You’re welcome to add more, or at least send this to your friends at Cadillac, though I strongly suggest doing so before 6 pm. Here goes:

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Atomic Tail Lights

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I’m going to say it right now: this is the coolest thing in the car industry today. I know what you’re thinking: The car industry has dual clutch transmissions and V-12 engines and self-leveling suspension and the FORD RAPTOR and you think the coolest thing is the tail lights on a hybrid family sedan?!

And the answer is: yes. Yes I do. That’s because they’re in the shape of an atomic particle, which is cool mainly because they don’t have to be. They could’ve been normal tail lights, or even General Motors tail lights, which light up about nine seconds after the center-mounted brake light comes on.

Volkswagen Golf Hatch Handle

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This is also really cool. You walk up to the back of a Golf. You want to open the hatch. You look around. You push buttons on the key fob. The GTI doesn’t even have a power tailgate that can piss you off for not opening in “Drive.” You have no idea what to do. The bad guys are chasing you. And then you realize: the “VW” emblem doubles as a hatchback handle.

This is one of the better elements in modern automotive design, though I say this as someone who truly believes the Nissan Juke looks pretty nice. It lets the emblem be front and center on the hatch while simultaneously keeping the rear free of clutter from a handle. Perfect.

Volvo Climate Control Switches

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I cannot tell you how many times this situation has happened to me:

1. Passenger gets in.
2. Passenger does not like current temperature.
3. Passenger begins fiddling with controls.
4. Twelve seconds later, the rear heater is on, as is the defroster, and possibly the hazard lights.

In Volvos, this problem is largely eliminated because you control where the air goes by simply pressing a diagram of a human being. This is incredibly easy, unless maybe you’re a dog and you want your tail to be heated. In that case, you simply slobber all over the gear lever until you get home, at which point you can lie in the sun for the rest of the afternoon.

Ford Focus Gas Tank

focus_st-072613

In a normal car, sheetmetal is placed in some handsome, well-thought-out manner that took a team of stylists six months of hard work to arrange, and then the production people cut out a rather obvious circle somewhere in back so you can put in fuel.

Not so in the Ford Focus hatchback. The Focus hatch’s gas tank is integrated into the lines on the car’s passenger side tail light, which means you can barely even tell it’s there. Of course, the Focus Electric ruins this unique touch by including a circle on a front fender for the electric charger. But that’s probably an EV driver status symbol.

So, TTAC, what are your favorite automotive details? I’m genuinely interested in the answers to this, as everyone seems to know of a few unique touches in their own cars – so please don’t hold back. And if someone from Cadillac happens to stop by: Why the hell do I need to be in Park to switch to a different memory seat setting?

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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267 Comments on “QOTD: What Are The Best Automotive Details?...”


  • avatar
    suspekt

    - Dual mode exhausts with the servo controlled flaps. Brilliant

    – Most of the Nissan/Infinti wheels designs from the 2000’s… what a roll they were on… From the G35 up to the FX45…. I am convinced Honda could have moved even more metal had they just upped the optional wheel sizes and lowered their cars a bit

    – The current Honda CR-V rear glass curvature and related curvature of the taillights when viewed from the side

    – The simple beauty of the entire design of the GMT900 Chevy Tahoe exterior

    – The entire rear-end of the 6 series Gran Coupe

    – The 7th gear in the C7 Corvette

    – The lack of a 5th gear in Toyota Corolla’s throughout the last decade+… just a big Eff-you to the rest of the market. The car’s sell, they remain reliable, and they depreciate reasonably well… what more is needed???

    – The tiny VW logo etched in the headlights on some models

    – How Honda gears the 6 speed manual transmission in the V6 Accord Coupe(and Acura CL-S) such that when running through the gears, each shift falls back right where VTEC lit off. It never gets old

    – How quickly the Prius CVT can switch to reverse (literally, in a split second as it doesn’t have a reverse gear, but rather reverses the current to the motor)

    -

    • 0 avatar
      suspekt

      - The front fender on the S2000… very very similar to the fendor on the Aston Martin Vantage… there is literally no sheet metal above the front wheels when viewed from the side

      – The sound of the LFA exhaust

      – The rear bumper of the Ferrari F430 Scuderia (the exhaust pipes are up high like machine guns)

      – The rear fenders on any 993 Porsche 911

      – The entirety of the first gen MB CLS55 exterior (sheetmetal, wheels, bumpers)… it was jaw dropping…. has anyone ever seen the IWC edition?

      – The sound of a 2004 Mustang SVT 4.6 Supercharged

      – The tail-lights on the C7 Corvette

      – The detailed surfacing on the C7 hood/fenders

      – The wide-body stance of the C6 Z06/ZR1 (the Grand Sport doesn’t count)

    • 0 avatar
      twotone

      My 1967 Porsche 911 S had a heater that used gas from the tank for heat and defroster. Very cool (when it worked).

      Mercedes HVAC “recirc” feature. Say you are driving with the windows rolled down and sunroof open. You approach a dust storm or are behind a smoke belching truck. Push and hold the HVAC “recirc” button and all the windows and sun roof automatically close and the system is in recirc mode. After passing the dust or truck, push and hold the button again. The windows and sun roof will lower to the positions they were at before closing. Very cool.

    • 0 avatar
      tubacity

      “The current Honda CR-V rear glass curvature and related curvature of the taillights when viewed from the side” I would call this a very bad feature because visibility is very bad, thanks to that design. Needs a re-work. Got cut off by a 2012-3 CRV this wk. Had to panic stop. I did not cut them off. Driver cut me off on purpose or by accident with bad visibility? Will never know. Semi fastback rear ends rob headroom in cars, steals cargo space in trucks. Fashion over function. Fashion over visibility.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        The semi-fastback shape is to reduce drag (and increase fuel economy).

        I wouldn’t blame it on a fashion trend. Laminar flow aerodynamics are always in fashion.

  • avatar
    This Is Dawg

    I desperately want to figure out how to combine the chaotic lines of the Mazda Furai’s brake lights with the 3 bulb progression of recent Mustang turn signal lights into a line that swirls across the back of the car.

    Also I miss the hill-and-valley volume controls on the steering wheel of my brother’s 2003 BMW 325. My mazda’s are completely flat and impossible to use without looking at them.

  • avatar
    Mike

    Have to say I love the door handles on the Tesla Model S. That really stands out to me as a well thought out aesthetic feature.

    • 0 avatar
      Windy

      There have been lots of good door handle designs over the last 100 years or so. I liked the duch rim lock design seen on some brass age cars where weight and general clunk were seen as positives.

      The pop out design of the door handles on the orignal m-Benz 300SL Gullwing was a pure form follows function where the function was light weight and aero smoothing… The orignal Gullwing held the record for low Cd ( coeficent of drag) in a production car for almost 50 years they realy concentrated on making it as slippery as the art of the early 50 could produce.

      • 0 avatar
        ...m...

        …the 300SL had respectable coefficient of drag for its day – about 0.38 – but it wasn’t a record, nor a long-standing one at that: the earlier tatra 87 and nash airflyte both managed a Cd of 0.36, as did the contemporaneous citroën DS, and just three years later the lotus elite was pushing a Cd of only 0.29…

        • 0 avatar
          Windy

          While my memory as I near 70 is not what it was, and may be faulty in this case… are you sure that .38 number is not for the convertible version of the 1950s 300SL?

          I have a memory of reading that the gullwing with full belly pans no outside rearview mirror and bumpers removed was in he high 20s… the all aluminum body versions as prepped for racing were that way… or it may just be me misremembering something i read in a book or magazine a long time ago.

          I am fairly sure that when Road and track tested the gullwing in the early 50s hey had a test where they ran the
          test car up to 100 and let it coast to a stop this was run both directions to cancel wind effects and the distance the coasting Gullwing managed was the longest till that part of their road test was dropped.
          I also recall a nifty chart in the owners manual for my Dad’s Gullwing that gave you the fuel economy numbers for any given speed… I wonder when M-Benz stopped providing that info…
          There was also a knob on the dash for adjusting the timing to let you use low octane fuel in an emergency or to get best performance out of aviation gas if the chance presented itself…
          My Dad and I put over 200,000 miles on his Gullwing during the 35 years he owned it from 1955…
          Happy memories through a perhaps rose tinted mirror now that forgets things like the time in the late 70s when a drive shaft u joint let go at speed… the noise of it flailing against the Aluminum bellypan was rather an brown moment in the under ware department.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            It’s .367 Cd. At the time the 300SL was built MB did not have a wind tunnel so the methods to how the .25 Cd that was printed in MB’s literature was arrived was not accurate. The 300SL was tested in a wind tunnel in January 2012 which resulted in the more accurate .0367

            Your life with the car sounds fascinating, I’ll bet you have great stories to share.

          • 0 avatar
            Windy

            Thanks for the facts of the matter… interesting that one was put in a wind tunnel and the actual number established so recently. I do hope that the bellypans were properly finished and in good condition.

            when I see a Gullwing I can never resist looking underneath to see if all the pan pieces are installed … in more than half the cases they are missing entirely. and in others they have been modified with larger access areas cut into

            Gullwings require frequent oil changes and the dry sump system takes almost a case of oil. the reason is gasoline dilution which comes as a byproduct of the direct high-pressure fuel injection with not enough running hard and hot enough in modern traffic to drive the fuel out of the oil. esp in winter. we changed the oil every1500 miles in cool/cold weather. the bellypans made quite a bit of the standard maintenance a PITA. Dad developed a method for changing the camel skin and rubber diaphragm in the fuel injection pump that composted for altitude with a special tool and a new access port in the front belly pan that cut the time it took to change the part from almost a day to less than 2 hours. it ws published in the gullwing group club news letter in the late 50s and he sold about 25 of the simple tool to other members as best I can recall. Yes lots of happy memories.

    • 0 avatar
      mikedt

      Door handles on the first generation Miata.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      Speaking of door handles, I love the…. Cadillac ATS or XTS (I forget which) door handles, that glow teal at night.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      My favorite door handles of all time are from late 1950’s Chrysler products (i.e. 1957/58 Plymouth Fury). They looked and worked like meatlocker/refrigerator handles of the period. So perfect for the era and nice functionality too.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I have several!

    Older Audi: Trunk lock which pushes in to open trunk.

    Newer luxury: Auto tilt-away steering wheel. It’s both useful for getting out, and an impressive flourish when there are passengers.

    TVR: Models with door handle-release under side mirror.

    Lincoln: Covert LED number lock pad.

    Any: Illuminated door sills.

    Any: Pull handles/compartments/drawers which open/close slowly, with a reassuring click on latching items.

    Any: Reassuring sounding door closing sound.

    High-end VW/Audi: Door latch detailing/materials & trunk struts.

    Audi: Bright red dash lights.

    04+? TL: Turn blinkers which are LED and shaped like <> on either side.

    Any: Powered rear sunshade.

    Any: The look and feel of REAL wood trim, especially on steering wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I’m always amazed at the little details VW/Audi get right while messing up things that really matter. I know they are getting better, but it just sums up VW/Audi pre-2006 or so (I haven’t owned a VAG product since a MKV GTI in 2011). The MKIV Jetta is a great example.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        The struts and door latch quality on the 00 A8 I had was fantastic. And I love the red on all 3 Audi’s I’ve had.

        Overall, Audi does interiors super-fantastically well. All the walnut, thick soft leather, double layered floor mats, soft lighting everywhere. It’s just the mechanical/sensor/electric problems which kill the experience x.x

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Kills me to see trunk struts disappear…even 2000’s GM W bodies had trunk struts and articulating hinges. Now it’s back to crappy gooseneck hinges…

    • 0 avatar
      cargogh

      I wish I had kept the aluminum jack from my old Audi 100. A work of art.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Auto tilt-away steering columns are nice. I first saw it on a 2004 Lexus GX 470. And wasn’t it the original LS 400 that first featured it?

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Active Wheel Shutters! I have no idea if they work or if it will make it into production, but dang I was impressed with them on the Atlas concept.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    Hood struts, as compared to the el-cheapo metal rod to prop up the hood.

    VW Golf/Jetta/Passat sunroof dial control from the 2000s

    Tiny “500” etched into the headlights of my Fiat 500

    • 0 avatar

      Love the 500 etching. But it doesn’t show up when projected does it?

      Those VW sunroof dials are the best. Most intuitive system in the world. A few automakers copied them. Do they not use it anymore?

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Because they all broke…

        Well at least the electronics controlling the sunroofs broke. I’m not sure about the dials.

        • 0 avatar
          olddavid

          My experience with the dial roof control was that as they aged, unless you kept the contacts cleaned, the roof would occasionally self-actuate and cycle through its paces a la “ghost in the machine”. Nice look, however. On a separate note can I put forth the incredibly cool neon lightbar on second Gen MarkVIII?

          • 0 avatar
            dtremit

            The taillights on the new MKZ are a pretty good LED nod to that lightbar.

            As for the sunroof controls, I actually like Volvo’s slightly better — it is as clear as the HVAC controls. Push up/down to tilt, push back/forward to open/close.

          • 0 avatar
            pb35

            Why do we even need electric sunroof controls anyway? My 86 GTI had a hand-crank roof that never broke.

            Sometimes, simplicity is beautiful.

          • 0 avatar
            mkirk

            ^^^This. It was the only opening on my 85 Jetta that worked. All 4 power windows were dead before the last payment went in.

        • 0 avatar
          xantia10000

          Boring answer: they stopped using in because the switches didn’t pass FMVSS’s updated window/sunroof switch protocol in 2008.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        Lots of manufacturers do the etching. My Equinox has tiny Chevy emblems in the headlights (and I *think* the tail lights), and I believe the Mustang has them, as well.

        You can’t see it when projected, but it’s a clever little touch.

      • 0 avatar
        Equinox

        Don’t know about VW but Audis have the dial.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      Too bad the hood struts always go bad. My ’95 Avalon has 3 connected shop vac attachments permanently in the trunk due to this. My ’98 Maxima had a broomstick. Or, if it’s something quick, my head does the job. Just can’t reach too far in.

      Also, Chevy had emblems in the rear bumper parking lamps and in the headlight lenses of the Malibu when it debuted in ’08. Always thought those were neat details on an overall very clean design.

      Finally, VW is still using those rotary sunroof controls in at least the Passat, CC, and Touareg. Possibly others. I’m in disagreement that its as intuitive to a first time user as you guys seem to think. Most people seem thrown off unless they are used to German cars, in my experience. I know the Opel sourced Cadillac Catera had a similar rotary control. I think the best sunroof control would have been that in my ’02 Mitsubishi Diamanté. It was a single button, backlit at night, that you pushed in for tilt, slid back for open, and slid forward for close. Honda sunroof controls are good, too. Up through at least the ’07-vintage Accord they were mounted left of the steering wheel on the dash and were a two-in-one button arrangement for open, close, and a small inset button for tilt, and were almost always backlit. Just stinks for the passenger.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Exactly. Struts are only cool if you lease. Even when everything else on German cars was entertaining in its over-engineered ability to induce wonder, I had to keep a vice grip handy to avoid having the hood of my mother’s Porsche fall on my head while checking the oil. The remote release on the hatch stopped working when its struts lost their charge. My E30’s hood strut had what should have had an easy job, considering the over-center action of the hood’s forward tilt. It still became so ornamental that the hood would flop backwards on the slightest incline or due to otherwise imperceptible breezes. Replacements were built while the cars were still new, so they’d lost their charges while sitting on shelves waiting to disappoint buyers.

        I did love the tool kits that came with West German cars. The cars were good enough that they were rarely used on the side of the road, but they came in handy many times for sorting girl friends’ household issues. The ski-sack on my Audi 5000S was perfect for keeping a bottle of champagne iced and accessible from the back seat without being apparent to law enforcement. The Porsche’s compressor, supplied for the never-used collapsible spare tire, was a godsend for inflating white-water inner tubes and cooler boats. The rechargeable flashlight in the glovebox of the post-reunification E36 was handy when sorting constantly dying dash lights.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          I’ve been surprised by how easy struts are to replace. I can replace the ones on my Sienna with a penknife and someone to hold the door in about 5 minutes.

          The problem is that the clips which hold the strut on to its connecting ball seem to be single use. So, you really need to have the replacement strut before you start.

          Also, the Toyota OEM ones cost over $100 each. I bought universal aftermarket ones for $35 for a pair, and they work OK. They don’t provide that showroom door closing experience, but they hold the hatch up just fine.

          Anyway, you guys may already know this, but it took me years to figure out that I’d suffered strut problems because just I couldn’t figure out how I was going to put the old strut back on if I didn’t have the right replacement. But its easy if you have the replacements at hand!

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Don’t understand the strut hate, or the “only good for leased” cars. I replaced my rear hatch stuts on my Probe after 11 years – yeah that hatch hurts when it hits your head. Hood has a cheapo prop rod. Trunk and hood stuts on our old Century were never replaced when we sold the car after 13 years of age. Maybe it just the struts on German cars?

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            They are fine on German cars too. Both the hood and the trunk worked fine on my 540 as it closed in on 200k miles. I now have a 10-year-old 3-series and both the hood and trunk struts work fine there too.

            Should they actually fail, they cost all of $25/ea.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        You guys other than Luke42 know those struts are replaceable, right? It’s called *maintenance*, you might try it once in a while so your car does not become a hooptie. Broomsticks and vacuum cleaner bits, sheesh.

        I don’t think I have ever had one last less than 10 years, and they are not particularly expensive or difficult usually. Well, the hidden ones on some Euro wagons ARE a PITA.

    • 0 avatar

      boy, as a mechanic, i hate hood struts. Why? They ALL fail eventually, usually dropping the hood one your head when you least expect it. Then you need to go FIND a prop rod.

      Whereas a normal prop rod is there all the time, and works all the time.

      I’d rather they spent the hood strut money on something that is actually better.

  • avatar
    This Is Dawg

    The orange scales on the side of the optima’s headlights:

    http://inautomobile.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/2013-kia-optima-headlights.jpg

    And the smooth line around the CX-5’s grille into the headlight:

    http://www.mazda-forum.info/attachments/cx-5-cx-7-cx-9-tribute/20372d1338820616-cx-5-arachneweiss-sportsline-img_0086.jpg

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    The Ford no-gas-cap thing is pretty cool.

    The Nissan Easy-Fill Tire Alert system, if it works, is also pretty cool. Supposedly “you simply grab an air hose or compressor and start filling an underinflated tire. When the tire reaches the proper pressure, the car will chirp its horn to let you know when to stop. While the tire is inflating, four-way flashers are activated. If you add too much air, the horn beeps more aggressively. Then, when you bleed air out, the horn will chirp once more to indicate you’ve reached the proper pressure.” I, of course, have a tire pressure gauge that I use, but I bet the typical Nissan Quest buyer doesn’t.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes! Another great one. Such an unnecessary feature, but very much useful when you’re sitting on the ground pumping air into the tires in a gas station in the middle of nowhere.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        I liked the old Pontiac STE/SSE cars, they all had rear load leveling struts so they put a Schrader valve and hose in the trunk with a button, so you could fill you tires whenever, no need to stop at a service station. Great use of the compressor, its already there for the air shocks anyways.

  • avatar
    Kamaka

    Ford Mustang’s lighting (sorry used to sell Fords so I know ‘em):
    1. HID headlights standard
    2. LED tail lights, blink in sequence for turning and center LEDs turn red for braking and center thirds turn white for reverse with same LEDs
    3. Pony shaped puddle lamps.

  • avatar
    dmw

    The rear view camera on my CC that is revealed when the trunklid emblem rotates.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    The VW trunk latch is basic good design , I wish more were like this .

    Last night @ Car Night I was invited to look under the hood of a new Bently V12 , the safety latch was operated by lifting up the “B” emblem sticking up out of the hoob , again , good basic design there .

    Hidden fuel fillers were all the rage in the 1950’s many American cars had flip up taillights , some you had to push in the round reflector first ~ people hated them as they were not GearHeads so it never occurred to try a light or body panel .

    I rather like the patented ” Ranco ” hot water heater valves used on some older GM’s and almost every Nash/Rambler made from 1949 on wards.

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      The Lincoln Town Car had a similarly trick good release. At least from the last redesign until the end of production. When you pulled the inside release, the hood popped up a little and a neat handle jumped right out from between the vertical chrome grille slats where it was normally hidden. I know you’d be forced to have vertical grille slats and no mesh filler in between, so it wouldn’t work on many cars, but very neat I always thought.

  • avatar
    Kamaka

    Any trunk hinges that are gas struts and don’t intrude into the trunk. I don’t care if you cover your goose necks with carpet it still takes up room!

    Ford Explorer, Escape, C-Max powered rear hatches. Power mechanism integrated into existing 2 struts, can set opening height, and Escpae/C-Max foot operation.

    Rant: I hate GM products that turn on their reverse lights just because you remote the doors!

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The reverse lamp thing wreaks havoc in a crowded parking lot. And since you mentioned hatches, Ford’s “swipe-your-foot-to-open-the-liftgate” thing is cool.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I live in the Midwest where GM and Ford have always been popular. When my classes would let out at 9PM, the whole parking lot would light up with reverse lights. While encouraging me to look carefully is a good thing, the S/N ratio on this one makes it worse than useless.

      While I’d put up with that $#!t from a truly special car like the Volt, it’s one more reason to prefer Toyota and Ford for cars that really are comparable across the makes.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    “Or how the rear hatch will only lift when the car is in park, presumably due to some legal department weenie who insisted that otherwise it might open while driving, causing passengers to unbuckle their belts, hurl themselves towards the cargo area, and sue GM for negligence?”

    I once rented a Mitsubishi that the trunk opened while driving. I bumped the button at 55 and had to pull over in the rain to shut it. So I would hope things like that only open while in park.

    What is my favorite car feature? Things that are reliable and easy to fix when they do finally break!

    John

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      My Sienna locks the doors when you put it in drive, and unlocks the doors as soon as you put it in park.

      At first I thought it was because fear of the inner city had been programmed into the ECU. But the real reason is appears to be that you can operate the power doors while the car is in motion, thereby defeating all of the side-impact collision engineering.

      That and the beeper actually are a pretty good at deterring me from driving around with the doors open, Huey style.

      I’d disable the beeper, but I did deliberately buy a van new enough to have modern safety features.

      There is another reason to keep the rear hatch closed: exhaust fumes. If you open the hatch, you probably should open the front windows too to make sure that fresh air is always flowing into the cabin. Its conceivable that having all of the windows closed and the rear hatch open, could cause exhaust to accumulate in the cabin. Having experienced carbon monoxide poisoning, I’m not going to mess with that. I have no desire to driven with the rear hatch open until Tesla or Nissan makes me an electric minivan.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I think most GM cars also lock when shifted into gear, and unlock once shifted into park. And the last crop of Chrysler Group vehicles I sampled locked once 25 MPH had been achieved…

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          My Buick locks when you shift into gear, but doesn’t unlock when you shift back into Park.

          I found that out the hard way when I got out to check my parking and got locked out of my still-running car.

        • 0 avatar
          tooloud10

          The auto locking when shifting into gear is user programmable on most late model GMs. At least, it was on my barebones ’08 Grand Prix and is on my barebones ’12 Impala. You can turn the feature on or off, or set it to unlock when you take the key out of the ignition.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I have no problem with auto-locking doors when put into drive, but I sure as hell won’t buy a car that unlocks the doors when put into park. More than once my mother was approached by angry/crazy people in gas stations/parking lots who tried to open her doors when she was sitting there.

        NoYoGo,
        So, the door let you out, but stayed locked or relocked?

        There are door knobs like that–they always open the door from the inside regardless of being locked. Those things are dangerous, and IMO should not be sold.

  • avatar

    Another vote for the sequential Mustang tail lights and the pop up handles on the Tesla!

  • avatar
    redliner

    The full width tail lights on the Lincoln MKz

    The 2002-2006 Mini Cooper tail lights… They are inserted into the body without any cut-lines or panel joints.

    Any OEM alloy wheel that has covers for the bolts.

    The reverse lights on late model Mustangs. They use dual color LEDs that are normally red for the brake lights, but turn white when you reveres.

  • avatar

    When people can see just a few square inches of your car and automatically know what it is…

    When people can see just the light fixtures on your car and automatically know what it is.

    When people can spot your car in oncoming traffic on the otherside of the road and know what it is…

    When people see your car and know it’s you inside it.

    There are very few cars so distinctive they scream their name.

    Cadillacs – whether you love their style or hate em – are that.
    (XTS headlamps/foglamps for example)

    Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger won’t ever be mistaken for anything else.

    Obviously the exotics like Lambos and Ferraris, Veyrons, etc.

    Give me special rims, headlamps, and tailamps.

    I really liked the SRT wheels on the 1st gen Chrysler more than my new one.

  • avatar
    Chris FOM

    One of the better QOTDs in quite a while. There should be some great ones coming in.

    The lack of a gas cap on my wife’s Flex is a really nice feature. A really simple one that’s extremely practical is the horn honking when you double tap the lock button on the remote. If a door’s open it honks twice, if all doors are closed it honks once. So simple, so useful. Somebody really put some thought into that and it’s appreciated.

    On my E90 335 I love that when you tilt the sunroof the cover retracts just a few inches. Makes it extremely easy to vent the car when getting out on a hot day. Again a tiny touch that wasn’t at all necessary yet really helps. If my daughter is playing with my keys and hits the unlock button, the car will relock itself if no door is opened after a couple of minutes.

    In both cars I love that the “Max AC” button, rather than controlling recirculate, really does Max the A/C. Tempt to minimum, fan speed to max, recirculate on. One button puts both cars in “nuclear winter” mode. Or at least the Flex does, I’ve never driven a European car that felt like the A/C was truly strong enough to stand up to a Texas summer.

    • 0 avatar
      cpthaddock

      … and +1 for the vented seats in the Flex too.

      For dog owners, keyless drive enabling you to leave the motor and AC running with the vehicle locked is a huge step forward. Now the pups can lounge in air conditioned splendor while their humans snack and pee.

    • 0 avatar
      tooloud10

      The horn locking when you double tap the lock button has always annoyed me. It reminds me of the early days of keyless entry availability when you would hear everyone hit their lock button twice so the horn would honk, thus announcing to everyone in the parking lot that you had a remote control for your car. It was annoying back then and is just as annoying now. Why haven’t the domestics switched to a much less annoying digital “beep” like the Asian and European manufacturers have?

  • avatar
    cgraham

    Being able to put down all of the windows with the key fob. My speed6 has this option, three unlock clicks and the windows go down. Cuts down on that first breath of hot air trapped inside the car in the middle of July.

    • 0 avatar

      Our Acura has that as well. Now only if you could close all of the windows the same way! Damn lawyers.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      I was gonna mention this. Most Nissans designed between about ’94 and ’02 had this. My ’98 Maxima did and a friend’s ’05 350Z did. I don’t believe any of the last two generations have had it. You could lower the front windows fully by tuning and holding the key in the door toward unlock, or by holding the unlock button in the keyless remote for 5 seconds or so. VW also had the same feature operated by the lock cylinder in the door for awhile. I haven’t seen any post ’05 car with that feature, and being in rental cars I have driven just about every car made since then with a base price of less than $40k, and a few with higher prices. Some luxury makes might still do it but its gone from the mass market.

  • avatar
    DM335

    Automatic starter on some Toyotas (including Sequoia and Sienna). After a quick turn of the key, the driver can release the key rather than holding it in the start position. I don’t realize how much I like this until I drive another car.

    F-150 logo embedded in the headlights of upper-end Ford F-150s. Very cool touch.

    Power window in the rear hatch of Toyota Sequoia and 4Runner. Flip-up windows are nice for access, but this allows ventilation while driving too.

    Any car that gives you the actual tire that has low-pressure instead of a warning light that could mean one of the 4 rolling tires or the spare.

    Totally agree on the Mustang”s taillights and horse-logo puddle lamps.

    This one is way out there, but I have always admired the “bent” rear-window look of the 1977-79 Chevy Caprice 2-doors. This was a design that made those cars stand out from everything else on the market, even up to now.

    • 0 avatar
      This Is Dawg

      Some older porsches would like a word with you.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The problem with those systems that tell you which tire is low via an actual pressure sensor is the fact that for most of them you need the $$$ tool or have to pay for someone to reset the system each time you rotate the tires for it to actually tell you the correct position that has a low tire. The majority of systems don’t indicate that the pressure is low until it has dropped significantly so you can actually tell by looking at the tires.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The ‘speed bug’ for the cruise control around the outside of the speedometer in my BMW is pretty neat. Actually the entire cruise control system on the BMW is nice detail, from it being able to apply the brakes to letting you shift while it rev matches to the little stalk that operates it so intuitively. German obsessiveness at its finest.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      KRhodes – agreed! Of all the uber cool features on my wife’s E92, that by far is the coolest. There are dozens of details that add considerable pleasure in driving the Bimmer, but the cruise control tops them all. Second is the seat adjustment setting linked to the individual key fob. I never have to listen to her complain about the mirrors not being set properly!

      • 0 avatar
        Chris FOM

        The BMW cruise control is fantastic, although when I first got mine I lost count of how many times I accidentally flashed my high beams at the car ahead of me, looking like a stereotypical prick in a BMW when I actually meant to adjust the cruise control. Having three stalks, including two on the same side, takes a lot of getting used to.

      • 0 avatar
        tooloud10

        One very nice feature of my E70 X5 is that in cold weather when I just have to run into a store for 10-20 minutes, I can push the fan speed “up” button and the car will keep the cabin warm for me while I’m gone, with the engine off. Or you can set it to warm the cabin up for you at any given time via a timer function.

  • avatar

    The NEw S-class is so ugly (since they ditched the fender flares), I’m ready to proclaim Hyundai as a style leader over Mercedes.

    And I’m still pissed they made all the interiors bland rehashes of the W220 instead of my W221.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I find the new Altima looks better than all of them.

      I especially like the chrome around the windows, and the way it all blends together.

      There’s just something deeply classy about it. I can’t put my finger on it; I’ll have to check the Vellum Venom archives.

      Hyundai has been doing well too. But the Altima catches my eye every time, and in a good way. It’s also a car I would consider owning, if I had any use whatsoever for a nice-looking conventional sedan.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    I feel you on the “must be in park to open the hatch” thing, Doug. It’s actually the same on the CTS sedans (I have one) for the trunk. I’ve made many a panicked moment at the sh*tshow known as LAX departures trying to get a passenger access to the trunk so they can grab their bags.

    Re: the auto wipers, my ’08 CTS has Rainsense wipers. I read on the forums that they went on hiatus for a couple years but are now back as a standard feature. I think ’11 was one of the years that didn’t have the feature.

    Back to the topic at hand, I love creative use of LEDs rather than lazy Xmas tree style. Like it or not, the vertical LED light pipes Caddy uses for tail lights is an ingenious way of updating the classic vertical tail light look.

    Agree with those who said the little logos hidden in lights — GM uses this on many of their vehicles, even Chevys. Nice little touch.

    I also love cool navigation start-up screens. Not to keep mentioning the CTS, but I like the animation of the Caddy logo when you turn the car on. Very dramatic, gets lots of comments from passengers. The CUE animation that stretches across the screen as well as the reconfigurable dash (like on the XTS) is cool too. I always wish someone would do a post that catalogues the nav start-up animations of each brand (hint hint)

    • 0 avatar

      Yes! The trunk thing is so unusual. Especially because when it’s just a mechanical lever like in so many cars, you can pull it whenever you damn well please.

      I can’t believe the 08 has auto wipers and I don’t. I also can’t believe they went back and forth! I don’t mean to sound entitled – really, I don’t – but I personally believe a $75,000 vehicle should have automatic windshield wipers. I paid much less and I don’t plan on keeping it for long, but it rains here a TON and that would be something that would reeeeealllly make me think twice about buying it if I was spending the full amount.

      I like the animation too, and, as you say, passengers love it. Nearly all of them mention it.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        You can’t be serious about the auto wipers being that important to you.

        I’ve heard people say that once you’ve tried them you can’t live without. I now have them for the first time and I think they are useless. They are too sensitive. If I drive through a fog bank (which in the Bay Area “summer” this happens for several miles every evening) they do their thing. I prefer to let the water build a little before using the wipers – less likely to streak.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        When someone pays $75k for a car, they SHOULD get a perfect car.

        Think of it this way: a Toyota of the same size and shape (say, the Venza) is pretty much the ideal transportation appliance. It’s just as good as that CTS-V in terms of passenger and cargo hauling ability, and likely better in terms of long-term reliability.

        So, what does that second $35k buy? It could buy you a second Venza, a Mustang, a Prius, or enough used Ford Escapes and Dodge Caravans to start a taxi service. Or it could be put toward doubling the size of the engine, and taking care of those details that you want.

        If a car company puts a $50k or $75k for a car that isn’t awesome on every front, that’s a symptom of rectal-cranial inversion syndrome. And anyone who pays double without getting a car that’s twice as good out of the deal is a sucker.

        So, yeah, for $75k you should get your automatic wipers.

        I, on the other hand, stick with used Toyotas and beater Fords, since, unless its electric, I value the people and cargo hauling aspects of the vehicle and not much else. I read this blog because I find both the engineering and the business soap opera behind all lf this to be fascinating! :-)

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          As cost go up, the return per bucks goes down. In your example the dollar difference buys a superior engine, outstanding brakes, Recaro seats, better suspension, etc….things that don’t seem to have value to you.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    I’m old school and still appreciate the day/night rear view mirror and the intermittent wiper. Also I’m in love with the heated seats in my Audi, and I only use them a few times a year here in Houston.

  • avatar
    cpthaddock

    Definitely +1 big one for the Volvo vent controls.

    My Volvo also had a nice feature which completely lowered all the windows when you pressed and held the unlock remote button – excellent for evacuating super heated cabin air on a (not so) nice Phoenix summer afternoon.

    I always found the tail lights on the 1st generation Infiniti FX to be very attractive, the transition from protruding to inset is still a nice detail

    One persistent detail gripe against the Infiniti is the way it decides for you whether you are allowed to engage HVAC recirculate or not. Being prevented from engaging recirculate without AC on is just too authoritarian for freedom hugging Americans

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    In the base Nissan Versa you can open and close the windows without the power on.

  • avatar
    jhefner

    Doug; your at Sanjeev’s house; get off his lawn!

    (Miss-spelled on purpose.)

  • avatar
    brenschluss

    Quick note RE: Volvo climate controls.

    First time I sat in one of the newer Hyundai Sonatas, I was pretty disappointed to find out they hadn’t properly ripped this off, and pressing the little figurine on the center console only made me look a fool. Why put that there, and make it look like a button, if it’s just tinsel?

  • avatar
    tatracitroensaab

    In the Mercedes R Class, the piece of aluminum that separates the cup holders can be easily removed to reveal a bottle opener. It’s just this solid, well crafted chunk of aluminum that subtly endorses drinking on the road and I love it.

  • avatar
    segfault

    On my 2013 GLI, the cornering lights don’t come on until you decelerate below 25 MPH, so it works like:
    1. Turn signal on,
    2. Slow down below 25 MPH, then
    3. Cornering light comes on.
    The whole operation kind of reminds me of approach lights on an airplane. And it’s logical, since projecting a beam directly out to the side isn’t very helpful if you’re moving along at 50 MPH.

    The cornering lights will also come on at very low speed as you crank the steering wheel in one direction, regardless of whether a turn signal is activated.

  • avatar
    Charles T

    The little joysticks that control the flow of heating/cooling air in Saabs since time immemorial. That is, until they break, but that hasn’t happened yet on mine, fingers crossed.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Details I find essential:

    1. Bright window reveal.
    2. Car model script on the SIDES of a car, not cluttering everything on the back of the trunk lid.
    3. Emblems appropriately displayed and not obnoxiously large.
    4. Modest pinstriping.
    5. Chrome door handles.
    6. Chrome tail light surround, which is rare, unfortunately.
    7. Chromed or stainless exhaust tips.
    8. Anti-bland interiors.

    Sure, these are decorative and not functional, but I believe, properly done, add a “proud to own” function, as if the OEM CARED what the car looked like in YOUR driveway.

    Anyhow, I gravitate toward shiny objects…

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      It’s funny you should mention this and I agree. These trim bits are often the only things that determine a base model from a more expensive upgrade. I often create my own “model” by adding/subtracting trim to my liking. A pinstripe here and a body side molding there can transform a one of the crowd car into something just unique enough to make stand out from all the others.

  • avatar
    Towncar

    For me, definitely the Towncar’s full-power trunklid, operable from the remote. When I have to actually touch the trunk on an ordinary car, it just feels primitive.

    Love the Mustang’s sequential signals, too, though, and the remote windows a couple of posters referred to sound awesome.

  • avatar
    MeatLock

    Grat article, love the rear lights on the Sonata Hybrid.

    As I’ve written on PlaysWithCars previously, I love independent brake lights and/or reverse light combinations on cars ranging from the Nissan 370Z, Mercedes SLS, Chevrolet Orlando, Cadillac ATS and various Ferrari’s. This design detail of separating the brake/reverse lights from inside the vehicles rear parcel shelf (whether top mounted on the bottom of the rear glass) really gives both plebeian and not-so plebeian (aka Ferrari, SLS) a unique design detail.

    I also think head lights with script inside of them (such as BMW’s) are awesome too.

  • avatar
    Summicron

    I love how my Camry never, ever draws any remarks, kind or mean.
    It’s always just “oh… here comes what’s-his-name”.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “… in that car of his”

    • 0 avatar

      It’s impossible to think up articles about Camrys. I come up with topics while walking around and looking at cars. Whenever I see a Pilot, or a Highlander, or a Camry, I rack my brain to think up something, ANYTHING to write about, and it never works. Then a Focus Hatch goes by and I see the gas tank.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        In celebration of mediocrity? Statement cars that say you have “no comment”?

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          These cars are not mediocre.

          They are boring, bland, and utilitarian, for sure — but if you need a cost-effective tool that will get out of your way while you try to keep a roof over your head, then blandmobiles excel beyond anything else.

          If cost (TCO, really) doesn’t matter, then you can do the same job for more money with a BMW or something, I guess… And you can take some higher performance cars to the track, which is a vice I can appreciate. But, really, a bland practical car like my Sienna is astoundingly well optimized for the necessities of middle class living, and a even a little bit of family fun when you get a chance.

          The way to write about these cars is to evaluate them from within the context of middle class family life. Jack Baruth’s highly entertaining escapades aside, seeing them evaluated as performance cars or luxury cars is a non-sequitor. That’s just not what they were built for. If you want to race, a Camry or Sienna probably isn’t for you – that doesn’t make it a bad car, it just makes it the wrong machine for your purposes.

        • 0 avatar
          Summicron

          There’s nothing mediocre about supreme reliability.

          The statement is: “Beyond need of transport, I have no issues a car can address.”

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Auto dim rearview mirror with outside temperature and direction digitally displayed.

  • avatar
    CoolCreek

    2008 Taurus has an analog clock right above digital clock radio.
    Wait, got this backwards, save this WTF for a WTF article.

    …not sure if anything on my 2008 Taurus qualifies for this best details article.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    BMWs with their integrated flashlight in the glovebox that’s always charged when you need it. Not sure if they still do that.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    “And if someone from Cadillac happens to stop by: Why the hell do I need to be in Park to switch to a different memory seat setting?’

    Do you really want to accidentally hit a memory button and have the seat contort from the pedals and tilt away the steering column while travelling 75MPH?

    • 0 avatar

      The memory button is so far from anything that I would NEVER accidentally hit it. What I do dislike is the fact that if I prefer a different position for highway driving, I can’t immediately switch to it.

  • avatar
    CoolCreek

    The gas cap on the 1965 Ford Mustang. It’s the emblem in the middle of the back of the car. Such a novelty that mine was stolen.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I always liked how the reborn Ford GT’s headlamps spell out “100”, in celebration of Ford’s 100th birthday:

    http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/jalopnik/2009/05/Ford_GT_Headlight.jpg

    Refrigerated gloveboxes and armrest compartments are pretty cool, too…literally and figuratively.

    And while I may not like the melty Nissan cube, I love its water drop headliner. It’s weird “muppet shag” dash-mounted…thing, notsomuch.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    My old school Volvo has rain vents just over the tops of the windows for help with drainage from the roof. The thing about them I really am impressed with is even in a rainstorm I can leave the window cracked a quarter inch and no rain enters the cabin. This is especially nice to do in the hot weather since you can just leave the windows open a bit and not worry if it randomly rains overnight. Its a very nice touch.

  • avatar
    This Is Dawg

    I think I remember a friend’s RAV4 having a compartment above the glove box that opends with the push of a button on its left. Pushing it again closed the compartment, which I found very cool because it’s all levers behind the button without electrical aid.

  • avatar
    Boff

    Not to be a pedant, but electrons are no longer thought to revolve around the nucleus in defined orbits (thanks, Heisenberg). So that detail would actually be a deal-breaker for me. If I really really really wanted a Sonata Hybrid, though, I suppose I could convince myself they were planets revolving around a star.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Pontiac Grand Prix with HUD from 04 to 08 – ability to drive at night with HUD only and completely black out the cabin

    Chevrolet Avalanche 2002 only – functional lockable side storage in bed, with drains so you can use as coolers, and lighted (2002 was the only year lighted)

    Pontiac and Audi – soft red gauge lighting at night

    Ford Fusion – ambient color with custom setting for center cup holders

    Any – retained accessory power, the ability to close or open windows, sunroof, listen to radio, etc even after the key is pulled (and driver door not opened)

    Any – specific warning message for Loose Gas Cap as this is the number one cause of a CEL

    Any – context relevant navigation information displayed on HUD

    Any – custom/configurable instrumentation and/or gauges

    Any – if you don’t live near Canada or Mexico you’ll say so what, ability to set instrumentation from English, to metric, and back, with the push of a button

    Holden Commodore – not just a low fuel warning, but a separate Very Low Fuel warning

    Audi – LED DRLs that everyone copied

    Tesla Model S – the whole damn exterior, damn what a good looking car

    Porsche 928, Ford Probe and others – dash binnacle that moves with the tilt steering wheel to assure you always have a clear view

    1989 Ford Probe – all critical driving functions, lights, cruise control, wipers front and rear, rear defroster, etc. accessible with your hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. You never had to take your hand off the wheel, to this day I consider it the best ergonomic layout of any non-dedicated race car I’ve driven

    Any – standard Bluetooth with baboon proof integration, and Bluetooth systems that pause music when making, taking, etc a call

    Any – hidden latches, locks, etc behind logos, other pieces, in trim in such a way that is elegant yet still functional

    Any – doors, cubbies, etc that open slowly and close with a statisfying and reassuring click or snick

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      My favorite hidden latch is the hood release on the 1963 Ford Galaxie. The Ford “crest” in the grille is the hood release – just grab and pull towards you and voila!

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Very low fuel light….my ex girlfriend had a 280zx that had a sub gas gauge. After you were down to. 1/4 tank, the sub gage read from 1/4 to zero. Very cool and very handy for somebody like my ex who never filled the tank, after all there might be a surprise happy hour to go to and we can’t be short of drink money because of something as unnecessary as fuel….anyway, Avery cool feature.

  • avatar

    I like the windows in older cars that had a lot of vertical space so you could actually see out of the car. That was a nice touch.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      ++ Yes, but they went the way of more vertical computer monitors like the ancient 4X3 Dell I’m using right now. Both trends are despicable.

      Some people still process documents on their home computer.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        Amen x 5
        Modern laptops and monitors are optimized for viewing of widescreen cinema as opposed to getting actual work done.
        Worst of all, the non-visual quality of movies sucks more and more with every sequel
        I can’t wait until we’ll be forced to wear 3d glasses when working on Excel spreadsheets. /rant

        Samsung 4:3 19″ 1280×1024 FTW…

    • 0 avatar

      Was it ever. Driving the Cadillac feels like looking out a submarine periscope.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Nissan/Infiniti all-around camera view for parking in tight spots. Just brilliant.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Some cool touches on E39s and probably other BMWs of similar vintage:
    -Early E39s had a REST (residual heat) button that would circulate warm air into the cabin with the car off.
    -a timer that you could set to start the HVAC at a specific time, even with the car off.
    -The climate control wheel between the top vents that could tweak the air out of those vents independent of what the rest of the HVAC was doing. This was on all BMWs at least up to the E53.

    In short, the E39’s climate control in general was a nice touch. It just worked. Red up arrows, blue down areas. Set it and forget it.

    Also amusing was the 4-digit immobilizer code you could set. Even with the key the car wasn’t starting without that code. I never used it because I was afraid it would malfunction and I would be SOL.

    Something on BMWs and probably many other cars – a gas cap that is part of the central locking system. I like skipping the step of pulling a release lever.

    On Subarus – heating elements where the wipers rest. I have no idea how well this actually works, but it is a great idea.

  • avatar
    kjb911

    Pontiac G8…most of the car including the placement of the handbrake which made me forget about the cheap plastic and the “stealth” setting taken from SAAB where hitting the light setting buttons together would turn everything off except for the speedo, recirc button (hold down and it will go into pollution mode where under 10mph the vents will close and the air will automatically go to recirc instead of breathing in the fumes of other cars)

    Pontiac/BMW: Red Illuminated Gauges just are sexy and stick out from the norm and I should mention the VW blue

    Ford Focus: Standard Interior LED lighting with LED licence plate lights plus for emblem etched on the headlights, the cloth seats are quite possibly the best I’ve seen in a car. The ability to hold the interior light button on for 5 seconds which turns off the overhead lighting and increases the blue foot well lighting to make the car more upscale.

    Dodge Charger/Dart: “Racetrack” LED taillights (until they start burning out)

    Really any 1999-2004 chrysler product with leather, especially the 300M and Grand Cherokee (most comfortable seats I’ve ever sat in)

    Buick Regal Turbo – Sport Button changes the gauge color which is just cool especially in a more main stream car

    there’s more but my mind is elsewhere right now.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I love the racetrack lights on my new Dart. Very distinctive and identifies the brand immediately at night. Glad to see this spreading to other Dodge products to create a distinct brand identity.

  • avatar
    Cubista

    Don’t think anyone’s mentioned the “Sc10n” limited edition anniversary models being sent over her this summer. The little LED tweaks they made for the FR-S, particularly. Might be a little too “Fast & Furious” for some, but I dig the hell out of it, although it’s unfortunate the gear lever treatment is available only for the automatics…they surely could’ve had an illuminated “H-pattern” on the manual shift knob, couldn’t they?

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    This may sound weird, but my cousin loved the little gremlin on his Gremlin. Every time he went to the junkyard for parts, he’d grab an extra gremlin emblem, in case somebody stole the one on his Gremlin. He must have collected about 20, and glued magnets on a couple for his refrigerator. Not many cars have collectible emblems that represent the name of the model.

  • avatar
    YotaCarFan

    My favorite is the automatic setting clock in the Lexus HS250h — it’s tied in with the Navigation system and auto-sets each time the car is started. There’s also a DST on/off toggle setting that’s easily accessible via menus. Now, if they’d only make it automatically change time zones and select DST based on GPS location…

    I also like:

    * Auto recirc mode on Lexus ES — when external sensor detects various smog chemicals, the HVAC switches to recirc mode, and it switches back when the coast is clear

    * Fan cooled ventilated seats
    * Radar cruise control on Lexus HS — brakes and accelerates automatically
    * Puddle lamps and footwell lamps add a luxurious touch
    * Power tilt/telescope wheel
    * Traffic updates on the navigation system display and auto re-routing (primitive in implementation on some cars, but the idea is good)
    * Automatic lane keep assist (camera that detects road markings, and beeps and nudges steering wheel if you drift out of the lane)
    * Swiveling HID headlamps

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    My 1988 Merkur Scorpio had a lot of remarkable details (this is going to be long!) especially considering many of them were electric in nature and done with miles of wiring and banks of relays instead of a computer module and lines of code like today’s cars:

    – Rear wiper that automatically comes on when the car is put in reverse if the front wipers are on.

    – Power fuel door release that is deactivated when the car is running and in gear, preventing you from accidentally opening it while rolling down the road. Car must be off and in park before the switch is active.

    – Power reclining rear seats (yes, really!) that still split/fold (60/40 split) for loading large cargo.

    – Underhood lamp linked to headlamp switch, so park lamps or headlamps must be on for the hood lamp to work, plus it still has a mercury switch and will go off as hood is lowered even if headlamps are on.

    – Vehicle info center that provided front/rear bulb outage warnings (including the CHMSL), door or hatch ajar and 2-levels of cold/ice warning thresholds to warn of potential icy road conditions.

    – Overhead console with trip timer that pauses when the car is off.

    – Puddle lamps on all 4 doors.

    – Backlit ashtray (I store various things in it since I’m not a smoker)

    – Available heated windshield (Europe only) similar to “insta-clear” offered a few years later on domestic Ford products.

    – Rear audio controls and headphone jacks on a separate circuit from front audio, also Europe only.

    – Backlit rear washer bottle so you can see the filler neck easily at night.

    – Low washer warnings for both front and rear washer bottles.

    – Front and rear overhead map lights with cool little “aimable” lamps similar to an aircraft.

    – Front and rear brake pad wear sensors.

    The car also had a number of other details, non-electric in nature, that were remarkable suprise/delight features for the time, and even still today:

    – Height adjustable seat belts in 1985 when the car was launched…unfortunately this feature didn’t make it to the US.

    – Full-leather interior, even behind the rear armest and double lined inside the front seat map pockets – i.e. you feel smooth leather on both sides of your hand when you slip it into the pocket.

    – All door cavities sprayed with body wax to prevent rust and corrosion.

    – Flocked coin tray with slots that held the coins vertical so they can be easily selected with your fingers and wouldn’t rattle thanks to the flocking.

    – Flocked glovebox with unique “parallel” hinge mechanism that prevented the lid from flopping down onto your knees like most cars.

    – Cantelever hinges on rear armrest that allowed it to be slim in profile, but still sit up high enough to be at a comfortable height. This allows you to place objects several inches thick on the seat under the armrest without affecting armrest position.

    – The parcel shelf cords that lift the shelf when the hatch is opened had little spring-loaded retractor reels so when the hatch is closed and the cords naturally get shorter, they still remained taut and didn’t “pool” up on the parcel shelf surface. Also handy when removing the parcel shelf for large cargo since the cords fully retract into the shelf and prevent them from snagging on things or becoming damaged.

    – Front and rear headrests that not only go up and down, but tilt forwards too.

    – Hidden shelf below steering column that isn’t visible from outside the vehicle…great place to stow your wallet on a road trip and not worry about retrieving it when stopping for a quick bathroom break.

    – Manual tilt and telescope steering wheel which was uncommon at the time (at least the telescope part).

    The car also has some cool serviceability features that make life easier:

    – Quick release park-lamp assemblies that required no tools to remove for bulb replacement.

    – Pop-out rear bulb circuit board/bulb holder assembly that made rear bulb replacement a quick, tooless affair.

    – Easy access pop-out panel in the headliner for emergency manual closing of the sunroof (never needed to use it).

    – Twist-lock connections for the door wiring harnesses, making door removal or circuit diagnosis easy.

    – Quick release door hinges that allowed complete door removal in just a few moments – simply loosen a small clinch bolt, untwist the wiring connector mentioned above and lift the door straight up.

    – Easily removed upper dash pad (under 5 minutes) allowing full access to the dashboard wiring loom and auxiliary relay bank.

    Sorry for the length again, but this car just had soo many cool features that went overlooked by pretty much everybody that I had to get them all down. I’m sure I’m still missing some in spite of the lengthy post!

    • 0 avatar

      These are good!!! Never knew about most of em. How is Scorpio ownership?

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        It’s really been a great car overall. It could use a bit more power, but one has to remember that it was competitive at the time it was sold new. The seats are still the most comfortable seats I’ve ever sat in…nothing has even come close since then. They are super plush but still well bolstered enough to keep you in place.

        Certain parts are becoming a challenge, but there is enough that is common with other Ford products that you can at least keep one running. I’m currently at a crossroads because the transmission (A4LD) probably has bad seal or scored servo piston/bore and I’m debating whether to sink the money into it. The interior is still in remarkable condition for a 25 year old car – no warping/peeling surfaces and just a little surface wear on the Conolly leather, so the car wouldn’t look like a hooptie if repaired.

  • avatar
    Audiofyl

    auto closing latches. not like the 80s and 90s cadillac trunk latch pull that often broke. referring to any 7 series, a8/s8, S class (and more) where you close the door latch half way and the car pulls it closed the rest of the way and latches it tight.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      LOL the Cadillac “trunk pull down” it was just a motorized latch that cranked up a half inch when you opened the trunk then you close it and it cranked down. Not actually saving you the “pain” of having to latch the trunk, just simply the extra force to compress the weather seal.

      GM borrowed that feature from itself for to the 80s F-body, where it kept the owners from having to slam the mostly glass hatch and risk breakage, truly useful in that implementation.

      • 0 avatar
        pb35

        My dad was a used car salesman in the 80s and sometime in 1984 he brought home an 82 Z28 Indy Pace Car. One night, the hatch was open and I was excitedly running towards the car to hop in and take it for a spin (I was 18).

        I grabbed the hatch, slammed it with one hand and whammo! The back window glass disappeared and sunk into the cargo area turning it into an instant El Camino pace car. I thought it looked pretty cool. My dad? Not so much.

        This must have been before GM implemented the soft close feature on the F-body. Stupid GM.

  • avatar

    As the owner of a Nissan Pathfinder, I’ve always been envious of the Toyota 4Runner’s roll-down back window. My Pathfinder glass will open separately, for all those times I want to put something in the back but don’t actually want to open the trunk – a number that so far is zero – but I’d love to be able to get full-SUV ventilation while driving.

    As much as I, like everyone else, question the styling, I always thought the center cooler and tent options on the Pontiac Aztek were brilliant ideas.

    • 0 avatar

      Great suggestion – 4Runner roll-down window.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        My buddy’s 87 4Runner had that window and it was great. It was interlocked the wiper, so the wiper would not work when the window was down. His saw a lot of use before rust killed the window feature…he had finesse the window closed and he could not repair it. He hated broken things on his car, but neither he nor his local wrench could get in there and fix what was worn or rusted. The Toyota dealer could not help other, other than suggesting the replacement of the entire tailgate. The corrosion inside and outside for that matter was just too far advanced.

    • 0 avatar
      aerojammin

      +1 also kudos to Toyota for expanding roll down rear windows to their trucks as well. It definitely would come into consideration in a Tundra vs. F-150 comparison.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    I’ll see your cleverly hidden Focus gas filler door and raise you the gas filler location on 1949-56 Cadillacs. Totally invisible until you push a reflectorized button just under the left taillight:

    http://www.ktsmotorsportsgarage.com/amelia01/photos/large/cadillac54_eldo-16.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I remember those, my dad had a ’55 and got a big kick out of watching novice gas station attendants, pump in hand, circling the car trying to figure out where the gas cap was

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    The bud vase on the dash of a VW, because every time I see one it just makes me smile

  • avatar
    deanst

    From an old 626 – hidden storage compartment in the door armrest, motorized air vents that were endlessly entertaining
    From an old vw Jetta – shelf under glove box and on either side of steering wheel, as well as a covered compartment in dash ideal for storing wallets and such, outside trunk button allowing you to close trunk without locking it – great for camping. The rear taillight assembly popped out on the inside, making bulb replacement ridiculously easy.
    From a newer Astra – cover to the Power outlet that actually matches the dash, not some ugly black hinged thing with a stupid label on it, washer fluid spout at the very front of the car – not awkwardly hidden in the back.
    From an old echo – a drawer under the passenger seat!
    Mazda 5 – hidden storage under the middle seats

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      Oh yes the “swing” button, I had the MX-6. I loved that feature and it always impressed passengers they would ask what the button is for.

      Also if you had the digital dash version of this car…when the fuel gauge got down to 1/4 you could press this “range” button and it would expand the full gauge to show just the last 1/4 of the tank, like a hi-res fuel gauge when you need it most!

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yeah the oscillating center vent in the 626 (MX6 and 929 too) along with that hidden storage compartment were some of the beast features ever.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        The MX-6 didn’t have the hidden compartment…or I never found it ha.

        I did have the “magic” console though, push the slider one way for the top bin, and the other way to get to the bottom bin.

        Japanese cars were full of little features in those days. Loved the adjustable suspension in mine, Cadillac or sports car today? Take your pick.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          I don’t know if the MX 6 had the stash in the door or not, I would have never known of it’s existence on the 626 I had if I hadn’t read the owner’s manual.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Jesus… the 626 had a hidden bin? Why didn’t anyone tell us that when we bought it?

            The oscillating air vents were absolute awesome. Shame the Mazda6 dropped them.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Mine that had them was an 87, I also had an 84 and I don’t remember them in that one and I had it after the 87. I’m not sure if they were in my buddies 89 but the oscillating center vent in my 87 was one of the reasons he considered a 626.

      • 0 avatar
        CGHill

        And the 626 soldiered on with the swinging vents all the way through 2002, when Mazda decided it needed smaller badges or something. (I had a 2000 626, which I’d still have were it not for a pesky member of the family Cervidae who decided to commit suicide on a country road seven years ago.)

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Not sure why the Mustang is getting so much love. the 2013+ tail lights are awful beyond words. Horrible looking.

    And the sequential thing is such a gimmick. Not only is it annoying, it also blinks extremely slow. Dumb idea.

  • avatar

    Personally, I like what happens when I push the Odo Trip button when all the power in my Spec. B is turned off.

    Beyond that, I liked the big orange “STOP” trouble light that was in the middle of the dash on the 1975 Merak I used to drive. I saw that light one too many times.

    Finally, the “Summer” and “Winter” wiper parking positions on my 1992 SVX.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Now that chimes are being played through audio systems, they’re getting to be pretty cool-sounding. My favorites:

    **BMW/Rolls-Royce–This one seems to have debuted with the Phantom and 7-Series in MY2002/3, and gradually appeared in the other models
    **MINI–variation of BMW/Rolls-Royce
    **Porsche–I’ve heard the new one on the Cayenne and Panamera, but it may also be on the other new models
    **Ford Fusion–a polished version of the three-note chime we’ve been hearing for a little while
    **Honda/Acura–Even though Honda’s new chime sounds geeky and is clearly synthesized, I like it

    Least favorites:
    **VW Group low/high chimes–I just don’t like them
    **GM “bong” chime–I love GM, but the “bonging” is annoying and it doesn’t help that GM cars chime twice as often as is necessary
    **Nissan/Infiniti–I guess it’s so that it matches the other sounds the car makes, but the simple “beep” seems uninspired and cheap
    **Mercedes-Benz seatbelt chime–“beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep…!” Fortunately this one’s being phased out

  • avatar
    Wodehouse

    The audio buttons on the back of the steering wheels of Chrysler vehicles.

    The top design of the BMW 3er convertible. It’s a retractable hardtop that doesn’t require an awkward belt-line angle or lumps, bumps, or weird angles on the rear deck lid. It looks nearly identical to the regular coupe.

    The integration of Cadillac’s wreath & crest on the front and back of the 2014 CTS. To a lesser degree the IV, V, and VI generation VW Jetta as well.

    The integrated design of the side mirrors on the 2010+ SAAB 9-5.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I am a fan of the VW Phaeton’s trunk hinges.

  • avatar
    Power6

    On the other hand Doug…since GM makes some of the most electronically integrated cars their software people code up some nice details, maybe the mighty CTS-V has some of these features I have noticed in various GM rentals…

    When you unlock the car at night, all the lights turn on, head tail, reverse etc can’t possibly miss the car.

    The grid lines on the rear view cam bend as you turn the steering wheel to show your possible trajectory

    When you place/answer a bluetooth call the blower is turned down if it is running on higher setting

    When you auto start the heated seats and climate control are turned on as appropriate for the outside temp

    The HUD will show you pertinent info, as you change radio station, or a new song comes on it will show that, or the next nav direction coming up.

    I am interested if the ultimate CTS has memory mirrors? That is the feature that is required for the “tilt down” mirror, you need that position sensor the memory uses to be able to move the mirror down and back up. You will only see a car with memory settings that set the mirrors will have that feature.

    Auto windows are a funny one, it seemed all cars would have auto up/down windows but perhaps because people don’t care they are cutting corners on the rear windows. Auto-down doesn’t require much more beyond a special switch, but auto-up/down is a slightly more expensive window motor due to the pinch protection needed. I am surprised this costs enough even the top of the line CTS does not warrant auto up/down all around.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      Amen to the auto windows. The base Jetta S still has them if equipped with power windows. Kudos, VW. However, Toyota moved from all auto up and down on Camry and Avalon to the new ones having auto up/down front and auto down rear (Avalon) and driver only auto up/down (Camry) and no auto assist on the rest. Nissan also went from auto up/down on driver only on the last gen Versa and Sentra to only auto down on driver only for the new generations.

    • 0 avatar

      “When you unlock the car at night, all the lights turn on, head tail, reverse etc can’t possibly miss the car.” Yes but all GM vehicles have this so you can find your rental car in the parking lot :)

      You definitely make good points, and the CTS does do every one of the things you described – though I haven’t hooked up Bluetooth so I can’t speak to that one. Not sure on memory mirrors. I’ll play with it tomorrow and see…

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        True that is how I have been finding my white Hertz Impalas for years now they light up like a Christmas tree at night.

        @KalapanaBlack It seems VW is committed to their module architecture and the auto windows, but the other makers must have discovered that nobody cares and saved a few bucks.

        Could write a Demuro-esque article about “equipment you thought would be standard but was removed while you weren’t looking” like “memory return” passenger seats in coupes every Japanese coupe in the 80s had one of these but very few cars have them now you have to reset the seat position after someone gets in the back…

  • avatar
    Dubbed

    Keyless entry and ignition

    I love those cars with keyless entry that you don’t have to press a button on the door handle but just open the door normaly and it opens.

    How on my STS the traction control off is a simple button on the center console, and when its off its actually off.

    The ability to turn off the horn on STS’s so it doesn’t honk to let you know it just locked itself.

    Those cars that have a automatically turn the view of the side-view mirrors down in reverse.

    Cars with auto highbeams.

    Those cars that tell you were to place the emergency jack on the outside of the car.

    Oil life indicators.

    Cars where the high and low beams are stacked,ie the new Porsche Boxster, the 2005-2011 Cadillac STS, the original GTO.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The only thing about GM’s passive-entry door handles (particularly a family-friend’s Cadillac STS-V) is that there’s a delay between when you grab the handle and when the door actually unlocks.

      What’s even better than grab-to-unlock door handles is the fact that some companies camouflage the lock-buttons, so that you don’t have ugly pimple-looking switches on your door handles. For BMW and the new Ford Fusion, you press the set of ridges on the top of the door handle to lock the car, and Audi’s lock-button is just a nice square-shaped embossment in the fixed part of the handle. It was also nice of Ford to start hiding those number keypads in the B-pillars.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        I drove a Maserati GranCabrio Sport recently…it has door handles where there is a button on the other side, electronic hinge popper like a ‘Vette. Right next to that pull button, is another pull button that is mechanical. You can choose which way to open the door simply sliding your fingers to the right or left.

        Its like they were thinking…well this electronic one will break so you’re going to need this mechanical pull right here but why don’t you have fun with the electro-popper while it still works.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I always liked those little plaques that Corvettes had on their center console that listed your car’s horsepower, torque, compression ratio, and displacement.

  • avatar
    aerojammin

    Hopefully I’m not too late to get my suggestions in.

    A lot of cool details have been mentioned, but here are a few I like (admittedly I own said car so I am a bit biased).

    On the first gen (R50, R53, R52) MINI Cooper (02-06 hardtops & 05-08 Convertibles) here are my top 5:

    1) with the automatic climate option the controls are laid out in the shape of the MINI logo (also emulated in the R56 generation)

    2) wiper arms extend through actual holes in the “bonnet” sheet metal not just tucked under. (Removed for cost reasons in newer models)

    3) Headlight integrated into the bonnet/hood such that raising the hood raises the lights (think Bat Signal!) – also cost cut from newer models.

    4) With the optional fog lights, the chrome toggle switchs have colored LEDs (green for FWD / red for rear) in the tips to let you know your fog lights are on. I don’t know if this is still the case for newer models

    5) the stock tailpipe looks like a beer can because (IIRC) the concept clay car made it through design with no tail pile and the designers last minute realization of this fact resulted in the installion of a beer can for the tailpipe.

    Great QOTD!

    • 0 avatar

      As for your #3 – I believe these were removed for federal motor vehicle standards reasons. US govt specifically says no lights can be on a moving body part, including trunks, hoods, etc. So not all cost-cutting!!

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        Plus, it seems to me like having them mounted to a moveable part like a hood the lights would have more opportunity to vibrate over small bumps than if mounted to something more “solid” like the rest of the car.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        When was that put into law?, the H2 had moving lights attached to the hood up until it ended production in 09.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        I’m skeptical on the law — plenty of cars with lights on the decklid/hatch. And the US is particularly picky about headlight standards, so there’s no way it could have made it to market in the 1st gen without complying. I bet they just went out of adjustment constantly, like Wheeljack suggests.

  • avatar
    monkeyson

    Speaking of Maseratis.

    The sunroof dial control: Simple. Logical. Atypical of Mas.

    The trailing edge of the rear door on the just-replaced Quattroporte. Two scalloped cuts, one for the window and one for the door. Unlike any other car. And done away with on the new QP, which goes with the much more pedestrian door shape and small window in the C pillar.

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    A few I didn’t see mentioned:

    -Chrysler products that turn the DRL off on the side corresponding to a signaled turn. Also from Chrysler, the built in rechargeable flashlight in the minivans and the stowable roof rack cross bars.

    -Those trick new Audi LED headlights that shield oncoming traffic from the brights. Not available in the US.

    -The built in 3.5mm audio jack in the factory head unit of my 1996 Galant. Mitsubishi had them on certain head unit models from about 1991. Ridiculously ahead of their time. Of course the 2013 Galant doesn’t have it unless installe by the dealer. Same company, same nameplate, possibly first with the option and last without said option becoming standard.

    -GM driver info centers from the early and mid 1990s. Told you more than you ever needed to know about your car. Lots of useful info.

    -First gen CR-V had a separate opening in the headlight that allowed light to escape out the side to help you judge the front corners. Seems like a small thing but its ingenious in that its a permanent cornering light that is completely unobtrusive in operation. Of course they also had built in picnic tables. Form your own opinion on that.

    -I know it’s well known, and I’m surprised nobody mentioned the puddle lamps on the Range Rover Evoque that display the image of the car’s silhouette.

    -Subarus and some other cars that tilted the rear windows forward as they rolled down to open up more space due to wheel well intrusion.

    -Talking cars. Geeky, yes, but we all know about the 1980s Nissans and Chryslers. The current Acura TSX pleasantly reminds you in a female voice to fasten your seatbelt if you unbuckle while in drive.

    -Mazda 929 solar powered self-venting. Also Mazda RX-8 rotary shaped design details. Just plain neat.

    -German (and Volvo) convertibles that allow you to open the top with the key fob and that also automatically close the top if rain is sensed even when parked.

    That’s all I can think of right now.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      Just thought of one more. The Northstar’s limp home feature that alternated cylinders to keep the engine cool during catastrophic coolant loss. I think the range was something like 50 miles with no engine damage. The irony is that bad head gaskets ruined so many Northstar engines…

  • avatar
    niky

    Some of my favorites are the clever things Honda and Mazda do.

    The Honda Fit magic (ULT) seats are still unmatched in versatility.

    The new CR-V doesn’t just have an amazing d-pillar. It has spring-loaded single-action folding seats. You pull a lever and the rear seat squab flips up. A split second later, the headrest folds down. Then the back rest folds into the space the squab deserted, giving you a perfectly flat floor with just one pull of the handle, without the use of heavy electric motors.

    MX-5/Miata tops have always been amazing. And the PRHT continues in that vein. Just ten seconds to fold or open, and it takes up no trunk space.

    On the design side…

    Veloster Tail-lights

    The Jeep grille hidden at the top of the Wrangler’s windshield.

    (new) Cadillac tail-fins.

  • avatar
    z9

    I like the drink logo on the Audi cupholder that comes out of an awkward spot on the dashboard. Example:

    http://thumbs1.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/m/mNmrNekoUKg9YK7K0nAUApw.jpg

    I mean look at it. A half-empty glass with a bendy straw.

    The cupholder itself is an amazing piece of overengineering, featuring a plastic gearing system that will break within hours although it will probably last longer than the similar cupholders inserted into the front edge of the rear seats. These too have the bendy straw drink logo but only the front passengers looking behind them will be able to see it. This allows you to hand a rear seat occupant a drink and point out the cupholder’s location. It’ll be stuck but at least you tried to be helpful.

    The oscillating vents I first saw on the Lexus LS430 are (literally) very cool.

    There are many notable details on the Model S but I’ll just highlight a few. First of all, any time the car is pictured on the dashboard, touchscreen, or mobile app, it is the exterior color of the car. If any door is open, lights on, sunroof open etc. it will be depicted in a photorealistic way. (Even the DRLs are shown independently of the regular headlights.) If the charge port is open, that is depicted. If the car is charging, you see a little cable going to the charge port. Then there’s the experience of plugging the car in. There is a button on the exquisitely designed “mobile connector” that will wirelessly open the charge port, which is itself designed into the tail light. When you plug in the cable, a blue glow initially surrounds it. Then the color turns to flashing green if it is properly inserted, or a urine yellow color if it isn’t. When the car locks, the cable is magnetically locked into the car so no one can unplug you.

    The vaguely triangular aluminum “handle” sculpted out of the inside of the door is for pulling the door closed. But you will notice there is a bit of space for your fingers behind the handle. Inside the space there is a tiny rubber mat at the bottom so you can use it to hold coins. Or massage your fingertips.

    Finally, if you are playing a song over bluetooth that does not have an associated album cover image, the car goes out and does a Google image search and displays the first thing that comes back.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Mopar pushbutton trannies from the early sixties;
    User serviceable heater cores (e.g. GM B’s);
    Manual sliding doors on any van;
    389 Tri-power;
    Volume and tuning knobs;
    Hinged quarter vents;
    Accurate trip computers a la the 94 LH series;
    Glovebox doors doubling as food trays (e.g. 67 Chevy);
    Caddy leather benches;
    Near-submersability of the Grand Wagoneer;
    Straight seat backs;
    Rear-facing third rows in full-size wagons.
    Christ, I’m old.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    Few will seem to agree, but the automatic shoulder belts in many cars from the 80s and early 90s I thought were an amazing feature. Cressidas had them and so did the 2nd Generation Camry and several other cars. They seem mostly despised, but I think they’re so cool and wish they would come back.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I really don’t see the point. You still had to fasten your lap belt yourself to be properly secured and the fit of the automatic shoulder belts was often inferior because the mouse stopped further forward than the anchor point of the shoulder belt of a proper three point harness. The little electric hand that offered the harness of the Mercedes-Benz W126 based SEC was pretty cool though.

    • 0 avatar

      My dad’s stipper ’92 Eagle Summit had the automatic belts. I hated them. They tried to kill me. Seriously, I remember at least one occasion they tightened up on me and I had to claw at them. Other times, they either wouldn’t go on or wouldn’t come off when the door was opened/closed.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      My 1990 Accord EX had the passive-restraint seat belts. They got on my last nerve. I think Honda did away with them altogether once the Accord received a driver-airbag for MY1992.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        The motorized belts were just a kludge required instead of an airbag to meet US regs.

        GMs answer was mount the whole damn belt in the door. Possible safety issues aside, it was useful as you could open the door and exit with the seatbelt still buckled, and also on my Sunbird coupe, no belt maze to work through to get in the rear seat.

        VW has a nice solution to the two door belt problem, the sliding rail for the bottom anchor point, you can slide the seat belt back out of the way to get in the back seat.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I always liked the red lights in the female ends of the seat belt buckles–very easy to see at night (and almost made up for the automatic shoulder harnesses) on my first-gen Ford Probe. The instrument cluster that adjusted with thetilt steering wheel–though a blatant rip-off of the Porsche 928–was cool as well.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    VW and Audi double grocery bag holders that swing down from the ceiling of the trunk when needed, otherwise its/they (in Audis) are out of the way.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Screw on auto trans filter on the original Saturn S Series auto trans. Made transmission service as easy as an oil change.

    The much maligned polymer body panels on those same cars. Say what you will, but when I got rid of my 92 and my 95 at over 250k each the bodies still looked like they did the day they were new.

    My wife’s Hyundai has 2 positions for the hood prop rod. Lets me open the hood in my small garage and really open it outdoors so I won’t bang my head.

  • avatar
    Darrencardinal1

    In my Mazda Miata, you have to use the key to lock the door. If you lock the door from the inside, then get out and close it, it unlocks itself.

    The advantage of this is you can’t lock the keys in the car. I don’t know what other cars if any work like this.

    Always thought this was a smart detail.

    Also another commenter (z9) mentioned oscillating ac vents on a Lexus. I remember seeing these on older Mazda 626s. I thought this was a cool feature as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Our Nissan Murano does that too, but only if it senses that the proximity key was left inside of the cabin.

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      Both my ’99 Silverado and ’07 Audi A3 lock the doors once the car gets up to speed, about 5-10 mph

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Hod the handle open while you shut the door and it will stay locked

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I don’t like that feature I have it on my Scouts, thankfully a PO swapped the driver’s door latch on my 72 Travelall with one from a 74 or 75 so that you can lock the door w/o the key. I need to track down some 75 up Scout driver’s door latches to convert my Scouts.

      On my late model Fords you can’t lock the keys in the car with the key in the ignition with the power door lock buttons. The doors will lock and immediately unlock. However close the door and use the keyless entry (not the remote) and you can lock it with it running. I guess they assume if you know how to use the keypad to lock it you should know the code and how to unlock it.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    1. Keyholes, because I don’t care to use a keyfob.

    2. Rubber strips that help fend off door dings in the parking lot, another nicety lost to age.

    3. Corners, straight lines, more styling cues that’ve become deadly sins in modern times.

    4. Protruding but aerodynamically integrated bumpers for bumping. You can only get these on SUVs now.

    5. Small rear quarter vents that you’d see on 80’s Toyotas, as useless as they were (I can attest to this personally), they were a neat styling cue that stood out at the time.

    6. The tailights on 80’s-onwards Volvo 240s, because they look like old set lights from a sci-fi TV show.

    7. Grilles with a badge that the car itself lives up to, or outright surpasses.

    8. Windows that I can see out of!

    9. Front air spoilers under the front bumper, when on a square car they give it a bit of a “chin”.

    10. Rear spoilers that’re subtle but useful, but really I enjoy most subtle car details.

  • avatar
    shaker

    The old “see-thru” speedometers of some cars in the late 50’s/early 60’s that were edge-lit at night (reminiscent of some old radio dials) so the markings looked like the were suspended in mid-air.

    What brought that to mind was the dash illumination on my ’13 Malibu – the center chrome strip of the louvered trim that goes all around the dash and into the front doors is lit from above by hidden blue LED’s – a subtle, remarkably cool touch that makes the car “special” in its own way. A lot of other little things as well that show that the designers are actually artists as well as engineers.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      We rented a 2013 Malibu 1LT in May, and that was one of the features that I thought was cool since it was entirely night-driving. Also, MyLink worked like a charm.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        They put those in the *rental* versions?!?

        My salesman LIED to me! ;-)

        MyLink is pretty good, though it “forgets” my USB drive every 5 starts or so. I have to remove and re-insert it (modern problems).

  • avatar
    TK421

    Top four from my MB w210 e320 wagon:

    1. Active charcoal cabin filter a.k.a. “Fart button”…if you let one rip or drive by something stinky, press the fart button and the charcoal filters remove the offending odors.

    2. “Summer mode” window opening…holding down the unlock button on the key lowers all the windows and opens the sunroof halfway so you can release overheated air before you get in the car.

    3. Center seat head rest hiding spot…nice way to improve rear window visibility without removing it from the car or letting it roll around.

    4. Way way back cargo cover/net unit. Cover connects to rear hatch, opens just enough when hatch opens; sturdy net cut in same shape as rear window, minimizing visibility loss when looking through rear view mirror.

  • avatar
    pb35

    One of the favorite features of my Volvo is the Interior Air Quality System (IAQS) that automatically recirculates the cabin air when it senses smoke or other air contaminants.

    I also love the sun visors in my Charger. Not only do they have the flaps that you can slide out to block the sun, but the whole visor slides as well if the flaps don’t provide enough protection (as they often don’t). Brilliant.

    Design-wise, I love the scallops in the doors of my Charger as well as the 164-LEDs in my racetrack tail lights.

    Just about everything else I love has already been mentioned.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Some other stuff I like from my Jeeps:

    – The easily removeable fuse on both my ’02 & ’06 Wranglers that shuts off the dome light and door buzzer when you are running doorless.

    – The clutch start interlock that can be easily/permanently defeated on my ’02 Wrangler simply by moving a fuse. Unfortunately my ’06 (Rubicon) doesn’t offer this feature, however the interlock is deactivated when in 4-low.

    – That fact that on the Wrangler you can simply flip the hood all the way up and back, leaning it against the top of the windshield frame – gives you plenty of room to work. They were also smart enough to mount the hood prop rod to the hood so you have a means of controlling the motion of the hood when flipping it all the way back if you don’t have a helper.

    – The standard 7″ glass headlamps on a Wrangler (’06 and older anyway) that are easily and cheaply replaced with much better lamps – not really an option on most modern vehicles with aero lamps…brighter bulbs in an optically lousy headlamp don’t help much.

  • avatar
    dtremit

    Few things I haven’t seen mentioned:

    – The passenger seat cushion on the Dodge Journey, which flips forward to reveal a particularly useful storage compartment. Why more cars don’t have this, I don’t know.
    – Chrysler’s Stow-n-go minivan seats — they really are a marvel to operate, and the storage you get when they’re not stowed is quite useful.
    – The taillights on the Cadillac SRX (a car I don’t otherwise care much for) which are echos of the (soon to be deleted) laurel wreath.
    – Proximity keys and door handles — when they work well. Some manufacturers seem far more reliable than others. While I wouldn’t put Chrysler far up on that list, the fact that they were able to hide the failsafe key slot behind the push-to-start button is impressive.
    – The folding roof on the Volkswagen Eos, which includes an operable sunroof.

    I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot here — these are just a few that come to mind.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      My Dart has that same underseat storage bin – I think it’s a great idea and it doesn’t seem to negatively affect seat comfort according to the folks who have sat on the passenger side.

  • avatar
    wsimon

    Volvo and Saabs having the analog fuel gage in numerical gallons instead of F-E. This is one of those things that is so simple and cheap that it is surprising it has not caught on elsewhere (especially given that numbers do not need to be translated into other languages like acronyms).

  • avatar
    99GT4.6

    I have absolutely no idea if most cars do this but I just noticed it. In my Mustang you can set the cruise control and hitting the gas pedal will cause the car to speed up but not disable the cruise. This means you can set the cruise at say 110 kph and hit the gas pedal to get past a semi truck faster and not have to reset cruise. Im obviously biased on this but I believe the basic design of the 1999-2004 new edge Mustangs has aged incredibly well compared to most designs from that era.

  • avatar
    xantia10000

    I love VW details. Two of my favorites:

    3rd mini sunvisor in the mk4 Golf & Jetta (attached to the overhead console to block out any light coming in the gap between that and inner mirror).

    Cupholder divider that’s also a bottle opener. Might be Euro-spec only. http://www.google.de/search?safe=active&client=safari&hl=en&biw=320&bih=416&tbm=isch&q=bottle+opener+golf+volkswagen&spell=1&sa=X&ei=wt70Uf_6IsSo4AS3-4GABA&ved=0CDkQvwUoAA#p=3

  • avatar
    SC5door

    1. Ignition switches that have the glowing ring around them.

    2. Slow dim interior lights when you open and close the door. The lights just don’t turn on full bright.

    3. Simple door switches. Newer Fords have them built into the door latch assembly (so when it fails you have to tear apart the door and latch assembly). My KIA has it built into the door frame. It’s a 30 second replacement job.

    4. Charger, Dart and Durango race-track tail-lamps.

    5. The “all lights on” feature on my Soul. During the day the doors unlock with the fob, but at night all the lights come on as well.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Damn that glowing ring. The one in my Land Cruiser stays on all the time and the little deal to fix it is like 200 bucks! It does make sure that I come home to a dead battery when I have to travel though.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Just a couple of the top of my head:

    -Current Audi A6 and Q3 LED Lighting.
    -Saab 9-3 Blue ice “eyebrows”.
    -Any old Ford sequential rear directional lamps.
    -The bonnet opening sequence on a classic Saab 900 (I couldn’t open the thing at the auction)
    -GM-Saabs have speedos whose numbers compress from around 140 to 240, they also sweep 270º
    -Front door handles of Alfa 156, 90’s Buick LeSabre.
    -The beautiful simplicity of GM’s GMT360 p’up and SUVs –> ’88+ C/K and 96+ Tahoe.
    -Front end of Alfa 159 / Brera.
    -Headlamps of 1st gen Mazda6.
    -The lids that covered the headlamps of my 91 Isuzu Impulse (kids in nearby cars loved when I flashed the lights and they opened).
    -The overall shape of the 90-93 Celica, better with the wide body.
    -The side profile of the VE and VT Commodore.
    -Side view mirrors of the 2nd gen Opel Vectra.
    -Flush mounted side windows in VT-VZ Commodore.
    -Headlamp wipers in my Saab NG900. They also looked great in R-18 (articulated).
    -Hazard lamps button on Renault Twingo
    -GM’s Twilight Sentinel. My current ride has it.
    -Double wing spoiler of Sierra XR4Ti.
    -3rd gen Firebird, KITT.
    -Mercedes 300E W124 single arm windscreen wiper.
    -Classic Range Rover.
    -XJ Cherokee.
    -Double arm wipers (LH Lexus LS400 for example)
    -Wiper action on old S-class, Saabs and 911s.
    -50’s style wipers found in Corvettes up to C4. Now available in most European C-segment cars. -Additional points to the SEAT on which the rest position coincides with the vertical parts of the A-pillar.
    -Clam shell headlamp covers on Buick Riviera.
    -Hidden headlamps on 63-67 and 84-96 Corvettes.
    -Interior of said Impulse.

    BTW, those Hyundai lamps look great.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    The lack of a ‘B’ Pillar in the 1956 Lancia Sedan I lusted after a couple decades ago ~ the window cranks also had folding knobs so they didn’t bang into your knees & legs , Chrysler used this idea from the 1940’s through the 1950’s and I used to save them and re use on any other vehicle I had that used the square shank window lifts . very good engineering there .

    Any trunk / hatch release that incorporated the lifting area right there with the release so one handed opening whilst balancing bagfulls of groceries etc. was easier .

    The first year Ford Courier pickup had a thermal retractor on the manual choke so you couldn’t forget to push it back in , it went in automatically as the engine warmed up .

    The little details , like the ‘ Isotope ‘ taillight above here , make a particular vehicle stand out in memory .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    eamiller

    Along the lines of the Hyundai taillights, I have to give Chevrolet credit.

    On the high mount brake light of the Chevrolet Cruze, they doubled up the light count in the middle to give a subtle “bowtie” effect. So subtle that I didn’t notice it until recently.

  • avatar
    Preludacris

    As most cars do, my Prelude has the license plate mounted to the plastic bumper cover.

    If you need to remove the bumper cover, like I did recently, you will find there’s a pair of threaded holes in the actual bumper itself. It’s effortless to mount the license plate even without a bumper cover. A simple, elegant solution to remain street-legal… though a car missing a major body part can hardly be called elegant.

    Honda is surely not the only company doing this, but I was really excited when I found it.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    A few other details:

    Audi 5000Q: the little graphic on the dash showing the 4WD modes.
    Mazda RX8: parallelogram trunk hinges.
    RX8 (and others): opening rear wing windows.
    RX8, Volt, and others: ability to turn off all exterior lights.
    OnStar: automatic crash response, Volt: ability to analyze car usage data (when used with voltstats)
    Volt: remote-control plug-in door. (useless but fun)
    many: digital speedo
    many: trip computer
    Volt + many: tiedowns in cargo area.
    Vibe/Matrix: AC outlet built in.

  • avatar
    2KAgGolfTDI

    Loved my old 1988 Ford Festiva LX, for the following:

    HVAC system that could be set to blow cool air on my face, and warm air on my feet, at the same time.

    I have never had a car before or since that will do that.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    ” The Focus hatch’s gas tank is integrated into the lines on the car’s passenger side tail light, which means you can barely even tell it’s there.”

    Neat.

    Except in Oregon and New Jersey, where you’ll endlessly be explaining to a high school aged kid where your fuel filler lid is, when they pump your gas because you can’t DIY.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Coolest car detail I’ve owned:
    My 1956 Chevy 210 (bought it 1980) had the hidden fuel cap like Doug described for the Focus. It was behind the left taillight. You turned the top trim piece of the taillight and the whole thing flipped open. I once paid the extra cost of full service gas just so I could watch the bewildered attendant look for the gas cap!

    Coolest details I’ve seen:
    The door handles on C3 Corvettes. Don’t know if they worked well or not but they sure looked cool

    The rear taillights on the Continental Mark VIIIs. The ones below the trunk. I always like how the looked coming on when the brakes were pressed. Although, I saw several of them malfunctioning in later years

    Like sequential turn signals. Cougars were cooler than Mustrangs.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Coolest car detail I’ve owned:
    My 1956 Chevy 210 (bought it 1980) had the hidden fuel cap like Doug described for the Focus. It was behind the left taillight. You turned the top trim piece of the taillight and the whole thing flipped open. I once paid the extra cost of full service gas just so I could watch the bewildered attendant look for the gas cap!

    Coolest details I’ve seen:
    The door handles on C3 Corvettes. Don’t know if they worked well or not but they sure looked cool

    The rear taillights on the Continental Mark VIIIs. The ones below the trunk. I always like how the looked coming on when the brakes were pressed. Although, I saw several of them malfunctioning in later years

    Like sequential turn signals. Cougars were cooler than Mustangs.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I will now look forward to being stuck behind a Sonata Hybrid so I can see that. Nice.

    I always loved the fender guides on the old “parade float” cars. Those little marker lights on the inside or top of the fenders(wings for those overseas)

    I remember from my 84 Eldorado that had three little lights. One lit up so you could see where the fender was over that giant hood at night, the other showed turn signal operation and a blue one for the high beams.

    And cornering lights, mostly again on large luxury cars. They illuminated the corner with the turn signal on. Although many cars have side repeaters on the mirror or fender, this was mounted down low or on the headlight wraparound and was like turning on a flashlight in the direction you were turning. Had no problem figuring out which way, for example, an 89 Town Car was turning.(Provided signals were used)


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