If money is no object, you can get some pretty cool stuff in your car these days. The list of available “options” and technology to make driving easier and more comfortable is pretty impressive. The automotive industry has come a long way in the past few years and the additional gadgets you can get for your vehicle today are quite mind-boggling. We’ve come a long way from heated seats and sun roofs. And while most of this stuff should not be considered necessary per se, it should certainly be considered fun. So if you have some extra money to splash out on options for your next car, you may consider the following 12 items.
12. Reclining Rear Seats
Who doesn’t love a reclining chair? There’s a reason La-Z-Boy is so popular. And now, you needn’t leave your favorite reclining chair at home. The Lexus LS 460 offers people the option of having reclining rear seats complete with a foot rest. This is the height of comfort and can ensure that passengers in your car are as comfortable as possible while being chauffeured around. Also good for driving around executives. And Lexus isn’t the only car manufacturer who is getting in on the reclining seat trend. Audi, BMW and other manufacturers of full-sized sedans are also offering reclining passenger seats as an option. Mercedes-Benz has reclining rear seats as an option in the new minivan it is putting out this year. For people who love to be comfortable, this is an option you should consider.
11. Massaging Seats
The only thing more luxurious and extravagant than reclining seats in a car are seats that massage people. This is an upgrade that is available in the Audi A8, as well as in various Mercedes-Benz and BMW cars. And we’re not simply talking about chairs that vibrate. We’re talking about very detailed and very specific types of massages that use a combination of vibration, heat and poking to give people a luxurious and refreshing back massage. The Audi, for example, offers a custom “shiatsu” massage, while Mercedes-Benz calls its offering a “hot stone massage,” and BMW has an option for a “Swedish massage.” And these massaging chairs are available to both passengers and drivers. Imagine driving down the highway and getting a hot stone massage along the way. Could anything be better? We don’t think so.
Few things smell worse than the interior of a car. Once that “new car smell” is gone, it is game over for most vehicles. Over time, the stench of stale coffee, sweaty gym bags and the odor of old fast food containers fills the air inside most cars. Well, the smelly car interior need not be an issue anymore thanks to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which has an option for a built-in “aromatherapy system,” that is linked to the car’s climate control and enables drivers to select from four different fragrances that it can have circulated inside the car. The scents have names such as Nightlife, Downtown, Fireside and Sport. And these scents promise to be pleasing to the nostrils and cover up any lingering stench in the vehicle, leaving occupants feeling refreshed and inspired. Breathe deeply, people. Breathe deeply…
9. Self-Closing Doors
Closing car doors all the way on your own is such a drag. Wouldn’t it be much easier and convenient to have the doors latch closed on their own, so all you have to do is wait to hear the ‘click’ and then the car is ready to be put into gear? That is what’s happening now on cars such as the BMW 740. To prevent the need for slamming, all the driver and occupants of the vehicle have to do softly shut the door and the vehicle will auto-latch them closed. This could serve as a good feature for the elderly and disabled who would have trouble closing car doors themselves.
8. Night Vision
Sticking with the super luxurious BMW 7 series of cars, this vehicle also comes with an option for ‘night vision’ technology that can detect pedestrians and people on bicycles, and alert the driver of their presence before they can be seen with the human eye. Infrared cameras in the car scan the road ahead using technology that is programmed to recognize human shapes, as well as bicycles. The night vision system is so advanced that it not only recognizes people up ahead on the road, but can also indicate what direction they’re heading. A warning system alerts the driver if a person up ahead is likely to step into the path of their car—thus helping to avoid an accident. Pretty cool safety feature, if you can afford it.
7. Split Screen Monitors
People interested in purchasing a Mercedes-Benz S-Class car should be aware that they come with a split screen monitor mounted on the dashboard that enables a front seat passenger to watch television or a movie while the driver simultaneously follows the GPS navigation. It is one unit with two separate screens—one for the driver and one for the front seat passenger. This allows the passenger in a car to be entertained without the driver being distracted. To protect the driver from distraction, most dashboard computer screens in cars are not able to show movies or allow people to enter address destinations while the car is moving. The system developed by Mercedes ensures this is still the case, while, at the same time, entertaining the passenger in the car. How ingenious!
6. 360° View
Rear view cameras are all the rage now with most automakers advertising them for their cars. These are cameras that let you know if there is anything behind you when you back up. Now, Nissan is taking this concept to the next level by placing cameras at the front, rear and sides of its Infiniti EX car. Called the “Around View Monitor,” this camera system provides drivers with a full 360-degree view of the car. It literally looks like a satellite is hovering over the car showing the driver everything around them—parked cars, people, shopping carts, etc. People can always see what’s in front of the car, behind them and on either side. The system can also tell the driver how far away objects and people are to their car, giving them a head’s up whenever contact is imminent. Now that’s vision.
5. Super Cruise Control
Cruise control has come a long way from the days when it simply allowed people to set their car at a certain speed and keep it there without having to work the gas pedal. Today, cruise control systems are able to identify slower vehicles up ahead and adjust the speed of the vehicle automatically to avoid a collision. They are also able to correct the path of a car if it begins to drift out of a lane, adjusting the steering to keep a car safely in its lane. This is basically one step away from having a completely autonomous self-driving car. This type of super cruise control system is available from car makers such as Toyota and Lexus. It literally takes over the driving and makes intelligent decisions concerning a car’s speed and steering. The driver need only stay awake and keep an eye on the car’s work.
4. Air Scarf
People who have a convertible love driving in the open air with the top down. That is, until it gets chilly outside. A cruise along an ocean coastline in the evening can be great. But when the sun goes down it can get downright cold outside. Fortunately, Mercedes-Benz has come up with a way for people to continue enjoying their convertible well into autumn. It’s called an “AIRSCARF,” and it essentially blows a current of warm air over the tops of people riding in a convertible to keep them shielded from the cold air outside. The ultimate form of climate control, the air scarf literally creates a bubble of warm air over the tops of people driving in a convertible, providing them with a warm and relaxing drive on a late summer evening or a crisp autumn afternoon. This could revolutionize the convertible as we know it, taking it from a seasonal feature to a year round luxury.
3. Mobile Offices
Many people live in their vehicle. This is especially true of contractors, builders and people in the construction trades who drive pick-up trucks. Ford has recognized this fact and done something to help its customers by installing mobile office functions in its F-series trucks. What exactly do we mean by mobile offices? Well, people who buy an F-150 truck from Ford can now get it equipped with a computer that has a word processor, spreadsheets, and presentation software such as PowerPoint built right into the dashboard. There is also a remote keyboard to enable people to type, text and send e-mails. The computer in the truck is also able to connect with computers elsewhere, such as back at the office, and people can even check on the location of other trucks in their vehicle fleet using the onboard computer. Did we mention that the computer also ties into people’s cell phones and has voice recognition technology? This means that people who drive Ford trucks need never be physically in the office again.
2. Pause and Play Radio
This optional feature is like TiVo for your car radio. General Motors now offers an optional feature called “pause and play radio.” People who have reached their destination and need to leave their car in the middle of a radio program can press a button and the car will continue recording the radio show. When the driver returns to the car, they hit the button again and the car continues playing the radio program where they left off right through to the end of the show. People needn’t miss their favorite satellite radio program ever again—whether it be Howard Stern or the Mike and Mike show on ESPN. A great feature for delivery drivers who make frequent stops and people who hate lingering in their parked car waiting for a program or song to end before going into Costco.
1. High Tech Mouse
Onboard navigation and entertainment systems in cars are becoming increasingly high-tech and complicated, and there are legitimate concerns that these technologies are distracting drivers. While touchscreen technology similar to that found in smartphones is a major leap forward from knobs that people spin and press, touchscreens are nevertheless distracting as they require people to look at the screen on the dashboard. The engineers at Toyota and Lexus have come up with a solution they think will help with this problem. They call it “Remote Touch” control, and it is essentially a high-tech mouse for the car’s navigation and entertainment systems. It functions like a traditional computer mouse in that people move it around until the pointer gets to something they want and they then click on it to activate it. However, this technology from Toyota and Lexus is more advanced than a traditional mouse in that it allows people to feel the screen through the mouse device. As the pointer passes over something, people can click on it and it sticks there for a bit. It apparently feels like sliding an iron bar across a magnet. This allows people to work the navigation and entertainment system without taking their eyes off the road. More intuitive and safer. What will they think of next?