From turbocharged performance to fast WiFi, the definition of performance is changing.
Before you approve the purchase, make sure your new ride has the following.
A few years ago, we got along just fine without a screen on the dashboard or in the center stack. Buttons and knobs were proliferating, though. Now, in nearly every new car, a screen delivers important visual information, whether via the backup camera or navigation map. And this is how we've become accustomed to accessing and regulating audio, climate, our phone, and more. Generally, when it comes to a screen, wider is better—a state of being that isn't lost on many automakers these days.
One school of thought holds that the quickest way to get warm in a car is by activating the heated seats. And you don't have to be in Maine: Even southern climes experience occasional frost or endure few deeply chilly periods, and it's a comfort to have that warm chair beneath you. It isn't necessary to leave the seat heaters on for long. But it saves you the shock of a surface that's more than 40-degrees colder than your body.
What happens in that first mile on a cold day? You're driving with your insulated mitts and might as well be letting reindeer steer your sled. But a heated wheel! Once you have one, you will find yourself using it at every opportunity. Even pickups offer heated wheels these days, and no one has noted a decline in productivity or rugged individualism. It's just so civilized. If anyone says you've gone soft, remind them that a lot of motorcycles have heated grips.
We all know a large percentage of accidents take place in parking lots. Until recently, there was no help for it. Meanwhile, vehicles have been getting higher beltlines and thicker pillars. There's a reason the U.S Department of Transportation mandated that every new light vehicle come equipped with a backup camera by 2018. Accepting this assistance is the obvious call.
Fuel-economy requirements have forced automakers to do more with less. Four-cylinder engines now rule the day, but this shouldn't lead to anemic performance. Engineering advances mean that even normally aspirated engines can provide a lot of punch by carefully managing airflow and combustion events. Other engines benefit from turbocharging to deliver a high output—and advances in this area have eliminated the old plague of turbo lag. In either case, normally aspirated or forced induction, nowadays, small is mighty.
If you buy a sport model of anything, or even some mainstream cars, and can't get a third pedal, the steering wheel will have "ears." You might say ears for gears. Your car's transmission responds through them. Pull the paddle on the left, and you tell the transmission to downshift before climbing the hill or overtaking that 1953 Plymouth that's burning oil. Pull the one on the right, and you upshift. Manual control of your automatic transmission is for maximum driving performance, not to mention keeping you involved.
Why should we have to bother with keys? They belong to ancient history. Isn't it about time the car recognized your proximity, welcomed you with courtesy lights, let you slip inside, and started up at your slightest touch? It's all because your key fob is "talking" to the car. There's no more losing your key or locking yourself out. And this is just the beginning of convenient interaction between driver and machine. Remember a critical word that always went with "key," and that was "skeleton."
What if traffic is tied up something awful, and someone in the car wants to binge-watch a Netflix series? Or to be super-productive and download files before WikiLeaks gets them? Horsepower and torque are irrelevant when everyone is crawling along. That's why being a cradle of connectivity is the modern definition of a high-performance automobile. And 4G LTE wireless connectivity is the hot-rod version of WiFi.
Whether it meant pulling out a knob from the dashboard, twisting a rotary control or fiddling with a stalk, turning on the headlamps was always a bit of a nuisance. And in the olden days, there was a foot-operated button on the floorboard to control the high beams. Now sensors and circuits take care of all that for you. This includes, in many cases, automatic high-beam control. And what a relief that it's virtually impossible to wear down the battery because you forgot to switch off the lights!
Chances are high that your new car comes with a bevy of systems meant to keep you from careening off the road. These systems are good and better left on for the majority of your driving. However, if you plan to take your car for a spirited drive or on a track, you'll find those safeguards become annoying power-sapping nannies that prevent you from fully exploiting the potential of your new purchase. When you go in for your test drive be sure to find out if you can fully disable all the car's systems. You'll thank yourself later.