By on August 13, 2013

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A few weeks ago, I asked everyone for their opinions on which items make up the best automotive details. Well, you guys weren’t shy. We got 266 different responses, and while not all of them contained details, many included dozens. Some guy (user Wheeljack) even responded with something like two full pages of details solely from the Merkur Scorpio. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes the TTAC community so great.

Anyway, I went through the list and picked out a few of my favorites from your suggestions. Here goes:

Holden Commodore Very Low Fuel Warning – APaGttH

No, APaGttH has not warned me that I’m low on fuel. Instead, he has revealed possibly the greatest automotive detail ever for a driver like me. I’m referring to the Holden Commodore’s dual-stage fuel reminders: one for low, and one for very low. This is brilliant engineering, although I do have one quibble: Let’s be completely honest. If you know a “very low” light is going to be coming on soon, wouldn’t you start to ignore the “low” light? I know I would. And that’s why I have AAA.

Nissan Around View – LeeK

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 12.50.33 PM

One of the coolest modern features in existence is a Nissan system dubbed “Around View.” Here’s how it works: there are four cameras mounted on all four sides of the vehicle. When you’re backing up, you can activate the cameras to get a top-down view of the spot you’re entering. In other words, you can see both sides, the front, and the back. This is perfect for tight parking spots, but it’s even better for nasty curbs. Goodbye, curb rash!!

Buick Regal GS Gauges – kjb911

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 12.49.49 PM

We all love the Buick Regal GS. I mean, I certainly love it, and if you don’t then I must ask: What do you hate more, the awesome styling or the loads of well-priced horsepower? (You would answer: “the front-wheel drive,” which is why these posts aren’t Q&A sessions.)

Anyway: the Regal GS has a neat touch suggested by kjb911. When you push the “GS” button, the gauges actually change colors to let you know that it’s time to do some serious driving. Now that is the kind of unnecessary money spending that once catapulted Mercedes to the top of the luxury car world. (Mercedes fell to the bottom when they were sitting around a poorly ventilated conference room in Stuttgart and someone said: I bet it would be cheaper to build cars in Alabama!)

Volkswagen CC Rearview Camera – dmw

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I admit to being totally smitten with this one. Apparently, if you have a rearview camera in your Volkswagen CC like dmw does, it activates by popping out from under the Volkswagen logo on the trunk. One minute, the Volkswagen logo is sitting there like normal, minding its own business; the next, it’s slightly tilted upwards and you can see if you’re about to back over a flowerbed.

This detail, by the way, should also be filed under: “Reasons why you’d never want to own a Volkswagen CC out of warranty.”

Mercedes R-Class Bottle Opener – tatracitroensaab

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This is awesome. The R-Class has two center-mounted cupholders just like virtually every other car on the market, except for my old Lotus Elise which didn’t have two center-mounted anything. But here’s the R-Class trick: pull out the divider between the cupholders, flip it over, and – tada! – it’s a bottle opener. You have to assume the Germans have used this to open every single bottle of beer Gerolsteiner Mineral Water they could find.

BMW Glovebox Flashlight – Car Ramrod

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I know this isn’t unique to BMW, but it’s a good idea that definitely deserves mentioning. For years, BMWs had a small flashlight in the glovebox that was hooked up to a charger powered, presumably, by the engine. The result was there was always a flashlight around if you need it. This is especially helpful for BMW drivers since they’re far more prone to slashed tires after pissing off someone on the street.

Toyota 4Runner Rear Window – all people in other SUVs

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 12.52.17 PM

A few folks suggested this, and I can’t believe I forgot it in the original post. For those who aren’t aware, here’s the deal: the 4Runner’s rear window rolls down. Not the side windows for the rear seats (OK, they roll down too). I mean the rear window, behind the cargo area.

Why is this cool? Dozens of reasons. Dogs love it. People who want ventilation love it. But most importantly, it’s cool just because it’s sort of a 4Runner insider thing – and while Toyota could’ve done away with it each time they redesign the 4Runner, they never have. This requires extra engineering for the rear wiper and the tailgate, but they do it anyway.

Mazda Oscillating Vents – deanst

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The pinnacle of Mazda luxury came when they debuted oscillating vents. A lot of people will tell you the Volkswagen Phaeton pioneered this brilliance, but – in modern times, at least – Mazda was the technology leader. With the press of the “swing” button, the vents would swivel back and forth while the air was on, sending heat or cold air to all parts of the cabin.

Chrysler Audio Buttons – Wodehouse

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Through all of Chrysler’s well-documented early-2000s-to-now low points, and there have been many, the brand did one thing absolutely right: audio buttons. Hidden on the back of most Chrysler steering wheels are buttons that control the track, the radio station, the volume, and the stereo mode.

They’re unlabeled, which pisses off car journalists who aren’t familiar with the design. But if you actually own a Chrysler, they become your best friend. Not only do you never have to remove your hand from the wheel to change any audio setting, but they allow Chrysler to leave the rest of the wheel clean and simple. And, unfortunately, full of cheap plastic.

There are many more suggestions to cover, but not enough time – or space – to cover them all! Thanks to everyone who participated and, as always, feel free to suggest more in the space below.

@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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119 Comments on “Answers: The Best Automotive Details...”


  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    “This, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes the TTAC community so great.”

    I learn something from every ttac article I read.

    Besides that, most of the writing is hugely entertaining.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      highdesertcat and TTAC Staff…..

      Yeah. Agree.

      I’ve got a weird idea: What if TTAC sponsors a “Holiday Party”, “Summer Celebration” (or whatever), for its own staff and those commenters who have been contributing for more than xxxx years (you choose what xxxx is to be)??

      That way, we could meet each other and could get to know the TTAC folks as well. Maybe some central location like Chicago, Detroit, or Denver might by suitable. Perhaps a two-day thing:
      1) Fly in on a Saturday morning;
      2) Have cocktails, introductions, dinner, and presentations/entertainment;
      3) Fly out Sunday sometime.

      Whaddaya think?

      —————

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Who’s going to pick up the tab for the extra police detail?

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        NMGOM, I think it is a great idea but what if they gave a party and no one came?

        I’ve attended stranger gatherings, like a recent gathering/reunion of all the graduates of the 1960s at my HS (1960-1969).

        And even though we had a great turnout (971) as a whole, the number that actually confirmed and attended, were waaaaaaay fewer than the 6000+ graduates we had for those cumulative 10 years.

        Indeed, some of the graduates were dead and could not attend but the same cannot be said for a ttac Holiday Party since our new, improved, better than ever national policy will bring back from the dead anything having to do with failed automakers.

        That, in itself, would be worth going to, just to watch and listen in person to the handout- and bailout-dependent lecture the ttac congregation on why nationalization is in the best interest of America.

        I can see Farago now.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          I’d be happy to have “official” TTAC merchandise, even a TTAC window decal…just for the members of the club!!

          PS: Datsun had the dual gas gauge well before Holden; my then girlfirend’s 280ZX had this feature. A secondary needle moved after the first gauge dropped to 1/4 tank; the second went from 1/4 to zero…perfect for the hand-to-mouth woman that she was. Plenty of money for partying, none for gas.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I smell an opportunity here for “new era cap” and t-shirt embossers to make JB and the boys and girls at ttac an offer they can’t refuse.

            How about coffee cups, key chains, etc. The possibilities are endless.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I’m in!

  • avatar
    BC

    sorry but the chilled glove box in the saab 9-5 is the best automotive detail.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    That VW moving emblem camera seems like it’s just ASKING to break.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Agreed…but it’s way cool. And speaking of asking to break….those oscillating vents in the Mazda. And once broken, good luck adjusting them.

      Best dashboard vents are in my 05 Grand Am. Ugly, but simple one-piece construction that will never break, and easy to adjust without taking your eyes off the road.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Yeah… I hope this is a throw-down from the Germans to see if the Koreans can make one that DOESN’T break. :P

    • 0 avatar
      Flybrian

      This is from the same mfgr that can’t install a headliner in a car.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “That VW moving emblem camera seems like it’s just ASKING to break.”

      If my 2001 Jetta was any indication, that’s hardly the first gizmo that would break.

      I’m looking at you, sunroof switch, cupholder above the radio, MAF, and 01M ZF gearbox!

      -Luke

  • avatar
    philadlj

    One step backwards for our family’s swoopy ’95 Caprice wagon compared with the boxy ’87 Pontiac Safari wagon was the lack of a power-operated rear window that slid into the two-way tailgate. Instead the top glass lifts up with gas struts. It just wasn’t as cool.

  • avatar
    tjominy

    The Mazda swing button was awesome if for no other reason than implied consent about your personal life from your vehicle.

    Anyway, I completely agree with the Chrysler hidden audio redundant buttons as a great feature, but they’re backwards from the actual radio, which requires inverse thinking: volume is on steering wheel right, settings on left. The result is that I can simultaneously touch both the steering wheel button and the HU volume with same hand. I find myself using HU 75% of time.

  • avatar
    MissM

    My Rabbit has all sorts of little details that make me happy. When the windshield wipers are going and I engage reverse, the rear wiper makes a swipe. How thoughtful.
    The glove box is also cooled, but I can’t say I ever took advantage of that one.
    Another smart one, if I pull out the key and then turn on the radio or a light, either will automatically shut off if left on too long. Save that battery.

  • avatar
    afflo

    The Chrysler steering wheel buttons are a bad design for cars that are almost exclusively rental cars. Rental cars SHOULD be vanilla – when you pick up the car in a snowstorm at Reagan Intl. and make your way for the first time in your life into Crystal City at night (been there!), you shouldn’t have to figure out what creative, Citroen-esque control ‘innovations’ the designers managed to get through the board.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      I initially didn’t realize the rectangle pieces were buttons. I thought only the circular parts were radio controls and dismissed the whole system as poor engineering. It wasn’t till a few days later where I accidentally hit a rectangle turning that I realized they were more than mounting brackets.

    • 0 avatar
      thesal

      Really? C’mon now…they arent rocket science. I’ve only ever been exposed to these in rental cars and you can pretty much figure them out in 2mins of trial and error after getting on the freeway. I’m glad they included them, especially for the 1000km rental stints I was doing on a weekly basis for a few months!

      PS. They are redundant, so if you didn’t know how to use them, you could still achieve all the functions through the dash.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Fiat managed to take this good idea and screw it up. Similar set of controls on the back of the wheel, but a BUNCH of the functions are NOT available on the HU itself. For example doing much of anything with the USB port. And you have to use the tiny display in the center of the Speedo instead of the nice BIG display on the radio. Maddening, but I love my Abarth anyway. You can always kill the radio and just listen to the engine/exhaust.

  • avatar

    A minor, but still nice touch from Alfa Romeo:

    http://imageshack.us/a/img13/7310/ptpr.jpg

    Logo on the mirror tips.

    Also digging the slight ribbing in the handles.
    http://imageshack.us/a/img17/4666/sy7v.jpg

    These were taken from an Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2000 GTV that was for sale a while back:
    http://www.carpictures.com/vehicle/13GPI073319572/Alfa-Romeo-GTV-2000-1974

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    So where is the final list of the “Worst Details”?

  • avatar
    zaxxon25

    I always loved the way the passenger side view mirror on my CTS dipped down when I put it in reverse. As the owner of a tight garage and a frequent parallel parker this detail delighted me every time. Not sure if other luxury vehicles have the option to set this as well?

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      The TL and I think the TSX. The Lexus RL has it too but I’ve seen too many where the mirror popped off track and resulted to making this horrible clicking sound.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        MDX has it too. In that vain, I like the fender guides that MB had on the 92 or so S class. They were little post that popped out of the rear quarters for backing.

    • 0 avatar
      cfclark

      I think the Chrysler 300′s mirrors do this as well. I say “think” because it was on a rental I’ve had recently, and the 300 was the most luxurious rental I’ve had in the last 3-4 months. The 300′s rear window shade also lowers when you put it in reverse. (I’m sure there are plenty of other examples.)

      My Subaru has Weather Band radio included, as part of the “cold weather” package (which is pointless now that I’ve moved to LA). Can come in handy in areas with possibly dangerous weather. Also included is a button that defrosts the wipers if they’re frozen in place by snow and ice.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      Audi A6 had this back in the 90′s.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      E46 and other BMWs have this feature. Excellent for parallel partking or backing in.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know if other manufacturers did it earlier, but the E32 7-series was the first car I recall reading about doing this. It all seemed so high-tech in the mid-80s. OMG the mirror moves automatically for you! The rear headrests don’t pop up until someone fastens that seatbelt!

        yeah, I guess I was easily impressed. :)

    • 0 avatar
      xturboexpress

      Many cars do this. In my 07 VW, there is a menu option to choose if you want the left, right, or both to dip while in reverse. Oh and before you ask, no, it doesn’t work anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        cfclark

        That was going to be my next comment, that although a number of cars have this feature, how many might still have it functioning after five years? As long as the mechanism fails in a position where the mirrors can be used for normal driving, I doubt many people bother to get it fixed. (Same goes for most of these cool features, for that matter.)

        • 0 avatar
          Toshi

          The 2001 Acura CL Type S I just sold had the mirror tilt in reverse feature, and it still worked.

          Well, kinda. If one hadn’t driven the car in a few days one would have to power adjust the mirror a few degrees to shake the mirror motor cobwebs loose (not a big deal with memory–just hit the memory preset again), after which the reverse feature would work as intended.

          • 0 avatar
            Tosh

            Who are you who is so wise in the ways of CL-S tech?!
            Did you also know the CL-S intermittent wipers make an extra wipe every time you step off the brake pedal?

          • 0 avatar
            jd418197

            “Did you also know the CL-S intermittent wipers make an extra wipe every time you step off the brake pedal?”

            Wait, WHAT?!? Can’t wait to try it out now. My ’01 CL-S and ’03 CL-S have the mirror feature and so far so good.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Audi A4 has it.

    • 0 avatar
      Lemmiwinks

      You can set one, both, or neither of the mirrors to do this on my 03 Yukon Denali. I love it as well.

    • 0 avatar
      thesal

      My dad’s 09 328 has this. Cool feature for sure!

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    I still love the off-center headrest posts in the 5th-gen Civic. The opening between the seat and the head rest de-bulks the chair and makes the passenger compartment seem more open when you are facing forward from the rear passenger seat.

    • 0 avatar
      thirty-three

      It’s a good idea, but nobody made seat covers for that shape. My generic covers cover up the opening. Someday I will modify them to fit snugly, but until then my seats look like any other car seats.

  • avatar
    Ion

    A very low fuel warning? I used to have a car without a low fuel lamp period.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I’ve never had a car with a low fuel lamp. I’ve also had a motorcycle that *only* had a low fuel lamp (although it was two stage – from solid to blinking or vice versa). Given that its range was as low as 140 miles in mixed riding, you learned to start looking for gas stations as soon as it lit up, especially if taking a ride in a remote area.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        My Saturn Astra has various levels of Fuel Low warnings, but they are so much better when you change it’s ‘language’ to AngryGerman.

        !!!!REICHWEITER!!!! It shouts from the Information Screen as you approach approx. 1.5 gallons left. You push the button on the steering wheel to put the warning on Snooze. !!!!REICHWEITER!!!! it flashes again, this time with a warning ding as another precious litre of petrol is dissolved. Then the Low Fuel Light comes on as well for emphasis. Finally the Dinging becomes insistant and urgent with a flashing LFL and REICHWEITER warning, which at this point is the ironic contrast to me, who after four Hazelnut Lattes and 330 miles in an Astra, has to tap a kidney! Now, WTF is that Esso station!

    • 0 avatar
      Justice_Gustine

      Once owned a near death 1979 Datsun 280ZX – it had a 2 stage fuel level gauge, but the postage stamp sized display that checked oil, water, battery, etc ending with a green OK was it’s coolest feature to me – one because it was like a mini pre-flight check – I always let it cycle before ‘take off’.

      Two because it never failed. Fixing little electrical or vacuum line annoyances on the car was never ending.

  • avatar
    stevelyon

    1970s and early 80s vintage Chevy Blazers have the ability to lower the rear window as well, as do the Suburbans if you’re smart enough to avoid the barn doors and get the tailgate instead.

    • 0 avatar
      njr

      Yeah, but it’s 1980s GM. So you have cars like our ’86 Suburban where the power tailgate window went down on the day we picked it up brand new from the dealer, then wouldn’t come back up. Of course we parked outside and it rained that night. One more trip to the dealer later…

      I don’t imagine this was a common scenario with the 4Runner.

      (Our ’82 Suburban just had a crank, which worked fine.)

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I still prefer bright window reveal and chrome door handles. Everything else is gravy.

  • avatar
    bfisch81

    I have grown to really appreciate the rear-of-the-wheel buttons on Chrysler products. I have a second older car that doesn’t have them and I find myself wishing they were there.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    That bottle opener seems to be about the only thing on an R-Class that would still function after 58k miles…

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    I’m going to throw out this devise one: the GM Stalk. IMO, its the best setup, keeps the steering wheel free for other buttons you’ll use more than cruise, works well with column shift setups, and if you don’t know how to use it, you quite frankly shouldn’t be driving.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      GM stalk got a bad wrap, but I still prefer the cruise buttons on the wheel. “The Stalk” had no coast or cancel button IIRC, meaning resetting or braking to make adjustments. I mean, the 89 up level Grand Prix had radio controls in the wheel hub but still that stalk?

      • 0 avatar

        From what I recall, “The Stalk” indeed had no cancel button, but holding the Set button functioned as a Coast button; holding Resume functioned as Accel.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          No cancel button? Tap the brakes, dang do we have to teach you guys everything?

          • 0 avatar
            thesal

            I hate cruise control without a cancel, because now I become the idiot on the highway who needs to tap his brakes and flash his brake lights whenever he wants to change speed.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Absolutely, I don’t want to alarm other drivers by tapping my breaks just to disengage the cruise. I don’t know why they did away with that.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            I’m unsure what you guys are talking about, the GMT 800 CC is on the stalk and does in fact have a cancel, move the switch to “0″ in order to cancel cruise, to increase speed puush the same spring loaded switch the opposite direction. To activate and decelerate push in the button on the end of the stalk, the GMT900 is more complicated but also has all the normal features.

            So I’m confused what you guys are talking about.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Yea, Hummer pretty much explained it. It has a coast and cancel (no brakes) function.

            I can’t think of anything the “multi-stalk” cruise doesn’t do compared to other systems.

          • 0 avatar
            Compaq Deskpro

            I don’t even know how cruise control works, amd multiple family members who own cars with cruise control have never been able to figure it out.

    • 0 avatar
      segxr7

      Let’s agree to disagree on that one. Combining turn signals, high beams, wiper/washer, and cruise onto one stalk was an ergonomic mess. Plus the wobbliness and snapping/cracking noises made it feel like you were dismantling a chicken carcass. 80s-2000s GM interiors were miserable enough without that awful thing.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Wtf are you talking about, my 87 s10 has a very similar setup as the GMT800, the all in one stalk is without a doubt one of the best setups in the world, there wasn’t any complications to it, it is quite simply the easiest, most ergonomic system to control all the features it does.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I love the Chrysler buttons, but I’m never in one except as a rental, so I usually hit the wrong ones. But I’ve always liked the feature from the first time I used it.

  • avatar
    miles solo

    Back to the future:

    1. My father’s ’54 Plymouth wagon had a roll down rear (taigate) window.
    2. My 2002 MB E320 sedan had a chiller for the between-the-front-seats storage compartment.
    3. The crank start in my ’67 Renault R-10 and Peugeot 404.
    4. Every detail in my ’66 Citroen DS.

    • 0 avatar
      Windy

      I miss Trafficators
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trafficator
      They were not reliable; the ones on my Uncle’s Morris never worked in below freezing conditions but they were cool

  • avatar
    redliner

    Some cars (VW?) automatically engage recirculate mode on the climate control when your reversing, that way it keeps fumes out of the interior.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    So on the Regal GS, what color are the gauges? Hopefully red or amber in “serious” mode.

  • avatar
    Lemmiwinks

    Back in the day we had a 198X Chevy Suburban with the power-roll-down rear window glass. (Funnily, all of the passenger windows were manual rollers.) It was a great and fast way to flush all the hot air out of the vehicle for back seat passengers in the days before ubiquitous rear seat air vents.

    It also had a flip down tailgate instead of a lift gate. And the thing never crapped out on us.

    • 0 avatar
      cfclark

      My parents’ ’73 Torino wagon and my ’87 Caprice wagon both had the powered tailgate window and crank passenger windows, plus the “3-Way” tailgate (open as a drop-down tailgate or swing-open door, with the third “way” being putting the window down). Handy for venting hot air, yes, or for sucking in CO, if you were careless.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Didn’t pretty much EVERY big American wagon have this? Certainly all of the WagonQueen Family Trucksters we had in the family when I was a kid did. Puked out that rolled down rear window MANY times. My folks, being the thrifty Yankees that they are NEVER bought cars with A/C until the 80′s. Also explains my utter hatred of floaty American car suspension. The coolest were the Oldsmobiles(?) where the bottom part went under the floor and the glass went into the roof.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Let’s not forget the mighty Jeep Grand Wagoneer had a rear window that rolled down into the tailgate.

  • avatar
    French_toast

    So do new Mazda’s still have the swing button? Or was that only on older models?

    • 0 avatar
      Snavehtrebor

      No, only older ones. My ’94 626 had them, but my ’04 6 does not.

      Speaking of a/c, my ’80 Corolla had a thin, adjustable vent under the steering column, which you could point directly at your…ah…lap. I never understood why every car doesn’t have these.

  • avatar
    Lemmiwinks

    One thing I’d add to the list is presets for multi driver vehicles. We’ve got a big honkin 03 Yukon, and there’s over a half foot height difference between me and my other half. Simply by pushing a button on the door (or inserting our own personal key into the ignition, or unlocking the beast with our personal fobs) the mirrors and driver’s seat automatically go to our preferred positions. The trip computer even sets to our preferences, as does the radio. Even the onboard/outboard lighting settings change to these whims. The only thing that doesn’t change automatically is the center rear view mirror. I guess you can’t have everything.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I was supposed to have my yearly offroading/camping trip this weekend to give my new A/T tires a shakedown, but I’ll be working instead. All the windows open, especially the rear glass on my 4Runner, while we plow through the old abandoned logging roads is such a good time.

  • avatar
    oopsy

    Just remembered another cool thing the XV10 (91-96) Camry had. A vent under the steering column. Something I really appreciated on a sunny day and another example of what made that generation of Camry one the best mid sizer of the day.

  • avatar
    kuponoodles

    Nissan 240sx.
    There were 2 small vents behind by the turn indicator and wipers stalks respectively. (adjustable too, for those that like 10 and 2 or 9 and 3)
    Who needs heated steering wheels?
    Summer time? cools off sweaty palms and if you’re when wearing shorts, you can point the vents lower to cool off the unmentionables.
    An angle un-acheivable by any other vent.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      My Dodge Dakota’s normal vent position sounds alot like this. Basically worthless as my hands and fingers are frozen while the rest of me sweats. They are TOO close to the steering wheel.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I am surprised heated seats didn’t make the list.

    I don’t think leather seats would exist without them.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    The Pontiac G8 has it also – page 107 of the owner’s manual

    http://www.pontiac.com/content/dam/pontiac/northamerica/usa/nscwebsite/en/Home/Owners/Owner_Resources/Manuals/en/us/2009/g8/2009-pontiac-g8-owners-manual.pdf#page107

    I would guess the Buick Park Ave in China, the Vauxhaul VXR8 in the UK, the Chevy Caprice in the Middle East, and the Chevy Lumina in South Africa and South America have it also.

    Very sad you can buy a GM Zeta sedan on every permanently inhabited continent except North America.

  • avatar
    segxr7

    You know how when you’re almost out of washer fluid, it’s kind of a crapshoot whether you’ll get a normal spray, or a dribble that just makes a smudgy mess? When my X-Type runs low, the “push to wash” button only runs the sprayer without automatically turning on the wipers. It’s very clever, but I have to admit I was a little alarmed the first time it happened since I assumed it was a Ford/Jaguar electrical gremlin.

    My former Lincoln Mark VIII had the same crotch-cooler vent under the steering column that oopsy mentioned above. It was a wonderful thing in the summer, especially with leather seats.

    • 0 avatar
      segxr7

      Another one I just remembered: My ’88 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe had a regular/premium fuel switch. Regular limited the boost to 9 psi; premium gave you the full 17 (!). And if the wastegate got stuck, or if you bumped up the boost with an aftermarket valve (an extremely common mod), a very loud overboost buzzer would go off at ~19 psi.

  • avatar
    halkyardo

    My Citroën Xantia had some neat little design touches: the radio was hidden behind a hinged panel that slid into the dash. With steering wheel-mounted controls, I rarely ever had to touch the radio itself, and to be able to hide it away was a nice touch. As was the ratchet-less handbrake mechanism. I never figured out how it worked, but it was nice to be able to just pull the handbrake lever up without making a horrible graunching noise.

    The climate control on it was pretty clever, too (at least for the early ’90s). If it was set for heat, and the engine was cold, it would gradually ramp the fan speed up as the engine came up to temperature, rather than fruitlessly blasting cold air for the first few minutes. Under hard acceleration, it would shut down the AC compressor in order to yield a little more power, which was a nice touch.

    My favourite, though, was the great big light labeled STOP that would come on in conjunction with any catastrophe-level warning light (low oil pressure, overheat, hydraulic system failure etc.) No big deal for me, but I can see its value for the non-technical driver as an unambiguous directive, rather than a cryptic pictogram that the driver may not understand (we’ve all heard stories of people driving for miles with the oil light on…). People may rag on the French, and French carmakers, but every one that I’ve driven has struck me as incredibly well-designed, although not necessarily conventional or well-built (although the Xantia had an almost-Germanic feel of quality to the interior).

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    Am I the only one waiting for the Scorpio diatribe or at least Doug to throw us all a bone??

    Boo
    Hiss

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    The 4Runner glass has always been a favorite of mine.

    Somewhat along the same line, the first gen Matrix/Vibe has that opening rear hatch glass. That makes the car so much more useful! In addition to the fold-flat front passenger seat, it helped me to get an 8 ft ladder in there! Yet another item lost in the 2nd gen redesign (and they wonder why the 2nd gen sold so poorly!)

  • avatar
    KindaFondaHonda

    When looking at new SUVs about 10 years ago, loved the 4Runner’s powered tailgate window. Also loved how the tailgate had a powered closer so you didn’t have to slam the hatch, just lay it closed and the motor pulled it the rest of the way. Classy. Of course now every door seems to be motored up and down, but back then it impressed me.

    On a similar note, the clam-shell disappearing doors on ’70s GM large wagons were awesome.

    Ditto the 1984+ Corvette headlights that didn’t pop up so much as they swiveled 360 degrees into position to form a pod on top of the hood. Cool.

    Loved the color shifting gauge faces of the 1989-1994 Maximas. Just awesome.

    Keypad entry systems (nicely integrated, not slapped on!). Nice to use when just needing to get into the locked car without going and getting the keys. Win!

    One feature I’ve never understood why it didn’t become available or even widespread is the small rear wiper on the back window of some Japanese-market sedans. When I used to park outside when living in Philly, the rear window was usually covered in dew and impossible to see out of. Sometimes had to run my hand over the window to be able to back up. Seems like a no-brainer to me. I guess back-up cameras have made those redundant.

    Still a nice little feature.

    While not earth shattering, some nice features on our cars in the garage today are:

    1. While driving in rain, wipers on the Honda Accord that go to intermittent automatically when stopped at a light, then as soon as the brake is released it swipes once immediately before going back to it’s normal setting.

    2. Around-View on our QX56. Can’t say enough about how great it works.

    3. Tiny LED ambient light in the overhead console on the Accord that gently illuminates the shifter area and it’s maple trim in a light amber glow. Nice.

    4. Air-Conditioned seats in our QX56 and M35. In Florida it’s great!

    5. Carpeted exterior wheel well liners on the Infiniti. Keeps rocks from clanking and transmitting road noise to the inside. Genius use of trunk carpet!

  • avatar
    Sooke

    My Subaru’s manual transmission has a dipstick.

    I’ve come to appreciate it after cooking a bearing in my Nissan pickup’s gearbox.

    I do my own maintenance, and if I have to crawl under the car to check the level, it’s not going to happen very often.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    The Toadster is right on the money. My car chimes to tell you is low on fuel and chimes once again when you’re really low.

    The last chime tells you you have ~5 lts of petrol there. I try not to smash the pedal on my Commodore too much in that situation since the V6 sometimes acts like the cookie monster, you know like “yum, petrol chomp chomp chomp”

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Doug, Renault cars have blinds/sliding sunshades in the rear door panels.

    For us parents with little kids that’s a blessing. I don’t know why other OEMs don’t copy that feature. Down here it is a must to protect them from the UV.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    The nav in my W211 Benz E-class includes altitude in the display. Surprisingly informative, that.

    And just about every new car has an exterior temp gauge, But how did we ever survive without it back in the day?

  • avatar
    VerbalKint

    http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7078/7367312644_f03fd9d26c_o.jpg

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Can’t believe I missed this.

    Best Automotive Detail:Any rear seat that folds flat. Truly flat. German engineers, please see Toyota Rav4.

    Merkur Scorpio: Other than power, it was an amazing car in almost every way once you bolted on a set of adjustable Koni shocks and struts. I still miss mine.

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    I liked how my 91 4runner had a window that rolled into the tailgate and and actual tailgate, not the stupid lift door they have now… I miss that thing…

  • avatar
    zenofchaos

    I love the rear window functionality on my 4runner. My first vehicle I ever owned also had powered rear glass (1978 Ford Bronco). Surprisingly, the mechanism on the Bronc never gave up the ghost, even after 218k (2 motors and 1 tranny) later. The fold-flat seats were a really huge sell point on the 4runner also. You should have seen the look on the salesman’s face when the first thing I did after setting eyes on my future purchase was to fold the seats down and make sure I could sleep in the back…

    One other side-note about the rear glass:
    Its great for getting the attention of tailgaters. Anyone will ignore someone flipping them off in the rear view, but when the glass rolls down first, then the SFS presents itself (single finger salute) it gets their attention.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      You can use an auto-sunshade in the back for a similar purpose. Someone driving too close, using their hi-beams behind you, being annoying – up goes the screen.

      • 0 avatar
        SqueakyVue

        A decent hatchback Think less the new mazda 3 and more the old mazda 6. Too bad we’ll never see it as it would compete with the taller crossovers. I understand there are a few german competitors but VW is garbage and the rest of us don’t want to pay to play into their hands.

  • avatar
    Wodehouse

    I used to have a ’74 Lincoln Continental that had power-operated front door quarter “smoker’s windows” that I absolutely loved. I think Lincoln utilized them up to the 1990 Town Car.

  • avatar
    jd418197

    Many Hondas have (or had) the feature where inserting the key in the door lock and holding the key to one side would roll down windows. Loved that. I guess nobody uses the key to unlock doors any more.

  • avatar
    PeteyCrack

    The oh so cleverly hidden slid out second cup holder in a 2002 996 that took me four years to find out about…

    http://forums.rennlist.com/rennforums/parts-marketplace/727586-cupholder-for-996-a.html


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