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A famous man once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last!”
Sure, that “famous man” was a wacky character in a film about the wild world of speed racing, but the washed up racer’s logic isn’t wrong. We have Google Alerts for our news, TEDTalks to curate our personalized educations and pop-up shops for our latest rapper-inspired gear.
But, no one will see your fresh kicks when you’re rocking from inside the outdated, rusty metal cocoon where you spend the least-stylish 10 percent of your life. Reflect on your life before the iPhone 3G: Could you go back? Or have you adapted to the fluid trends of technology and style to curate a seamless lifestyle?
The car world has made serious leaps and bounds in cabin comforts and driver assists since you stopped using wired headphones. There’s something new and exciting for every budget, and Kelley Blue Book’s wide range of useful 10 Best lists make it easier than ever to window shop for your new ride.
But first, let’s run through the latest gadgets and innovations available across the spectrum of makes and models to peruse the best new stuff.
You’ve always thought of your cell phone as a wireless hotspot for your laptop, but what about your car? New cars across a variety of sectors (not just luxury rides, mind you) are coming standard with 4G LTE. What about losing your car charger? An increasing number of sedans, SUVs and pickup trucks now include wireless charging stations. And those ostentatious stereo systems from the early 2000s are officially out: With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, your iOS or Android screen syncs to your car’s screen for instant music streaming.
In your parents’ eyes, a deluxe interior meant faux-wood trim and the overwhelming stench of freshly tanned leather. Our interiors are smarter — backup cameras are close to becoming standard, and some brands are including 360-degree cameras that eradicate parking-lot blind spots completely. The fanciness continues with gesture control, an emerging feature that allows drivers to control their infotainment system with the touchless move of a hand. For the most discerning motorists, aromatherapy and hot stone massage treatments bring the spa to the driver’s seat, perfect for keeping your cool when less-comfortable motorists cut you off.
Whether you’d like to admit it, driving can be daunting at times. For those of us who weren’t born under the hood, a plethora of driver aids can help us make it look easy. Start with pedestrian detection, a simple yet incredibly useful party trick that senses impending obstacles and engages the brakes when you don’t. And there’s lane departure assist: Think of it as your own personal rumble strip, where your car steers back into your lane when you drift from your original trajectory. Standard parking assists have evolved into automatic parallel parking and remote parking, and perhaps the most exciting is dynamic radar cruise control: When engaged, the car automatically adjusts its speed based on safe following distances. In some models, when the driver takes his or her hands off the wheel, the car will essentially drive itself for up to 10 seconds.
Age of the crossover
For decades, Americans have bought more sedans than any other car. But nowadays, crossover SUVs are making a serious case to become the new king of the highways, byways and dirt roads. They combine the cargo space and ground clearance of an SUV with the smooth and responsive handling and gas mileage of a sedan, and now they’re cheaper and better looking than ever. If you want something that rocks in the snow and the mud, but cleans up like George Clooney in a tux after the car wash, this popular segment may be for you.
OK, so many of us aren’t going to be able to swing aromatherapy and hot coal massages for our next car. But new car tech is exciting for the same reason as new phone or new laptop tech: Even if you can’t afford the latest and greatest gadgets right now, you’ll be able to get those out-of-reach features for significantly less money in the near future. Where will we go when 360-degree cameras and dynamic radar cruise control become standard? It’s fun to imagine, but whether you’re window-shopping or ready to buy, KBB is your guide to the frills and thrills of the latest automotive innovations.