Modern cars are crammed with the kind of technology that even 20 years ago would have seemed like something out of a sci-fi movie, but some of that tech is absolutely pointless.
G-force meter? If you can watch it, you’re probably not going fast enough. Gesture control? Moving your thumb to the volume control on the steering wheel is easier. But there are some really useful features out there, and we’re not just talking gadgety stuff, but clever design touches, too. The problem is, they’re not shared out equally. Some cars have them and others don’t, and the disparity doesn’t always come down to price or the age of the car.
How many of these features does your car have, and what genius feature have we missed from the list? Take a look then drop a comment at the bottom.
Windows operated from the keyfob
Related: 10 Car Features That Came Back From The Dead
Anyone else’s kids drive them mad by not closing the window before you’ve switched the car off? That’s not a problem if you’ve got a car from one of the VW Group brands (and several other marques) that lets you hold the lock button on the key fob to close all the windows once you’ve exited the car. Some cars will let you open the windows remotely but not close them.
Crab-walk four-wheel steer
Four-wheel steering’s comeback after its 2000s exile has been a godsend for big-car maneuverability around town. But you only have to see the Hummer EV’s more extreme Crabwalk rear-axle steering in action to see how much easier parking would be in every car if they had similar systems.
Phone as key
If you’re anything like us you probably use your phone for most payments these days, whether that’s in a bar or a gas station. My wallet barely leaves the house and depending on what car I’m reviewing my keys don’t have to either. Carmakers are increasingly offering to turn our phones into digital key fobs, though until we all get remote central locking on our houses we’ll admit this one isn’t quite as useful as it could be.
Woah, this one really is an oldie, but it’s a valid one because incredibly, it’s still not an industry standard. But I’ve been stuck scraping snow and ice off plenty of $120k cars and seen my neighbor get into his 23-year old, $500 Ford Focus and do nothing but push a button on the dash, to know it should be.
The first time you drive down a dark country road in a car with adaptive headlights you feel like a caveman that’s just managed to light a bunch of twigs and is seeing the inside of his stone house after sundown for the first time. They make driving at night both safer and more relaxing, because the beam is only reshaped to avoid blinding other traffic, and never cut short. It’s also incredibly hypnotic. Unfortunately the tech is still expensive in Europe, and has only recently been legalized in the U.S., though North American versions will feature much less powerful lights than Euro cars.
Safe exit door locking
We could have early filled this entire list with safety gadgets like rear cross-traffic alert, but this is one you might not have heard of. If you’ve ridden a bike or motorcycle past a row of parked cars on city street you probably know that sickening feeling you get when someone – often a child in the back seat – opens a car door without first checking to see if the road is clear. Hyundai’s Safe Exit Assist uses radar to detect for approaching vehicles and prevents the rear door of the parked car from opening until the danger has passed.
If the 2001 Honda Jazz/Fit’s rear chair’s really did have mystical powers they’d have done something about the car’s atrocious road noise and nasty CVT. But once you’ve seen them in action you understand why Honda christened them “magic seats”. By moving the fuel tank backwards Honda freed up space under the rear seats which could be folded flat, or – and this as the genius bit – folded vertically to allow tall loads, like bikes, plants and probably small horses to be carried in the rear.
You’ll still find the same feature on the current Jazz and European-market HR-V, but not the North American HR-V, or the Civic, which dropped them in 2017 when the 10th generation car arrived.
Remote parking assist
If you’re like us then you probably pride yourself on your ability to park a car in the trickiest spaces without the help of automatic parking tech, and in less time. But getting the car parked is one thing; getting out of it once you’re in the space is another altogether.
That can be a real pain in the UK where parking spaces are often so small that it’s sometimes genuinely impossible to slot a Range Rover or similar-sized car into a bay and open the door wide enough to get out. More than once I’ve had to crawl in and out through the rear hatch.
That’s a problem answered by the smartphone-activated remote parking systems available on cars like the BMW 7-Series, Mercedes S-Class and Porsche Cayenne, but there are still plenty of big cars that could really do with the feature and don’t offer it.
Auto or manual? Whether you’re buying a BMW, Porsche or Nissan Z, you’re faced with a tricky decision that requires you to be brutally honest with yourself about how, where and when you’re going to drive the car, and is going to feel like a compromise whichever you go for. Though most of us love shifting manuals, they’re zero fun in gridlock traffic, while paddle-shifters aren’t the panacea automakers would like us to believe.
Fortunately Koenigsegg has come to the rescue with the CC850, whose nine-speed automatic transmission can also function as a six-speed manual, complete with clutch pedal and open-gate shifter. The slight snag is it costs $3.65 million.
Gas tank locator arrow
Related: What’s Your Favorite New Tech Feature In Cars?
See, we told you this list wasn’t just about fancy gadgets. If you’ve had the same car for ever you’re unlikely to pull up on the wrong side of the gas pump, but if you regularly hire cars or jump into different vehicles for work, working out where the filler is can be a lottery without one of those little arrows. And I can tell you from personal experience that nothing says “I’m only borrowing this Lamborghini” more than having to stick your head out of the door to check which side the flap is as you roll onto a service station forecourt.
What other really useful features should be standard, or at least available, on all cars, but aren’t? Drop your suggestions in the comments below.