Must-have car fea­tures

. . . and those you can skip

Lesotho Times - - Motoring -

IT’S easy to be­come over­whelmed by the abun­dance of fea­tures avail­able in new cars, es­pe­cially if you haven’t been in the mar­ket for a few years. It seems there is a new ad­vance­ment in con­ve­nience, in­fo­tain­ment, or safety sys­tems al­most ev­ery month, mak­ing for tough choices, pricey op­tions, and a cav­al­cade of acronyms.

Some fea­tures are clever in­no­va­tions that we wouldn’t want to be with­out, while oth­ers can be as much of a nui­sance as a help. Below are rec­om­men­da­tions for fea­tures worth con­sid­er­ing, as well as those that you should think about skip­ping.

Must-haves Com­fort­able seats! Drivers can spend a lot of time in the car. If the seats aren’t com­fort­able, you won’t be happy with your car for long. Be sure as part of your test drive that you spend ad­e­quate time eval­u­at­ing the seat. It’s im­por­tant that each driver get’s a chance to as­sess the seats for at least 15 to 20 min­utes.

Power driver’s seat with heigh­tad­justable lum­bar sup­port. With greater fine-tun­ing abil­ity than most man­ual seats, power seats can help most drivers find a much more com­fort­able driv­ing po­si­tion. Height-ad­justable lum­bar sup­port is an­other key to long-term com­fort. If the lum­bar bulge is in the wrong place, it’s no more com­fort­able than hav­ing too lit­tle lum­bar sup­port.

For­ward-col­li­sion warn­ing (FCW) uses laser, radar, or cam­eras to as­sess sur­round­ing con­di­tions, as well as the speed of your ap­proach to a po­ten­tial im­pact with a ve­hi­cle ahead of you. The sys­tem alerts you with vis­ual and/ or au­di­ble sig­nals to a po­ten­tial crash, al­low­ing you time to re­act. Some sys­tems also sense and alert you to the po­ten­tial for a col­li­sion with pedes­tri­ans. We want to see for­ward-col­li­sion warn­ing stan­dard in ev­ery car.

Au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing (AEB) adds to the ben­e­fits of for­ward-col­li­sion warn­ing. AEB will sense a po­ten­tial col­li­sion, and if you don’t re­act in time, the car will ini­ti­ate brak­ing for you. Au­to­brak­ing is an­other tech­nol­ogy we would like to see stan­dard in ev­ery car.

A backup cam­era is like hav­ing eyes in the back of your head, re­duc­ing the risk of reversing over or into some­thing that might other­wise be un­seen be­hind the ve­hi­cle. It’s both a safety fea­ture and a con­ve­nience for park­ing.

Blind-spot mon­i­tor­ing sig­nals when there’s a car in the blind spot be­side you on the road. The best sys­tems il­lu­mi­nate lit­tle lights in the side mir­rors where you should be look­ing any­way. They emit a chime if you sig­nal a move to­ward a car next to you. We’ve found these sys­tems to be very ef­fec­tive.

Ap­ple Carplay and An­droid Auto bring the fea­tures and us­abil­ity of your smart­phone to the car’s dash­board. The ap­peal is be­ing able to use in­ter­faces you are fa­mil­iar with to the larger screen of your car’s in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem. The sys­tems al­low you to use a se­lec­tion of car-friendly apps, and make voice-ac­ti­vated tex­ting sim­ple.

Bluetooth con­nec­tiv­ity lets you an­swer a cell-phone call hands­free, with­out fum­bling with the phone or risk­ing a law vi­o­la­tion. In ad­di­tion, In­ter­net-sourced au­dio can typ­i­cally be streamed to the car wire­lessly, pro­vided you took the time to pair the phone to the car.

360-de­gree sur­round-view cam­era sys­tems help drivers park more eas­ily, and check for ob­struc­tions, through a bird’s-eye view from above the ve­hi­cle. Mul­ti­ple cam­eras po­si­tioned around the car show park­ing lines rel­a­tive to the ve­hi­cle, mak­ing ma­neu­ver­ing in tight sit­u­a­tions a snap.

A USB port can be used to charge a de­vice and play mu­sic through the stereo.voice con­trols can keep you from fum­bling either with your phone or the car’s con­trols when look­ing for the per­fect song or try­ing to phone home. They’re also handy for en­ter­ing a des­ti­na­tion in the nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem, even un­der way.

Heated seats and steer­ing wheel can be much ap­pre­ci­ated dur­ing a cold win­ter. Trust us, once you try these, you’ll never want to live with­out them.

Au­to­matic high beams take the stress out of driv­ing on back roads at night by au­to­mat­i­cally turn­ing off the high beams for on­com­ing traf­fic, and then turn­ing them back up once the cars have passed. We’ve found some sys­tems work much bet­ter than oth­ers, how­ever.

Spare tire. Lots of cars come with­out them these days, so check be­fore you buy. In many cases, a spare tire can be added for a fee.

Key­less en­try makes a huge dif­fer­ence when you’re try­ing to open the car and you have your hands full of bags, ba­bies, or a brief­case. Just walk up and open the doors — some­times by touch­ing a sen­sor on the han­dle. Al­most all cars with key­less en­try also have pushbutton start. But even if they don’t, it’s eas­ier to fish for the key once your hands are free.

Fea­tures to Skip Ges­ture/char­ac­ter recog­ni­tion. Some cars are in­tro­duc­ing sep­a­rate touch pads to in­ter­face with their cen­ter screens, where you can scribe let­ters to en­ter ad­dresses, for ex­am­ple. But they’re just as dis­tract­ing and no eas­ier to use than scroll wheels or sim­ple touch screens.

DVD player. With all the mod­ern con­nec­tiv­ity in cars and the abun­dance of ipads and tablets, DVD play­ers seem re­dun­dant. ipads/tablets can carry movies, as well as games, mak­ing rear en­ter­tain­ment sys­tems an­other un­nec­es­sary ex­pense and com­pli­ca­tion.

Built-in nav­i­ga­tion brings a big screen and in­te­grates with the car’s con­trols. But phone-based nav­i­ga­tion usu­ally has eas­ier in­put, bet­ter points of in­ter­est, and voice recog­ni­tion.

Ap­ple Carplay and An­droid Auto fur­ther negate built-in nav, as these sys­tems trans­fer the maps from your phone to the car’s screen.

Apps are feed­ing into more and more cars. Some of them are handy: Aha, Au­di­ble, Pan­dora, Stitcher, and Spo­tify, among oth­ers, make it eas­ier to con­trol play­back rather than just us­ing the di­rect Bluetooth con­nec­tion in the car.

But as quickly as new apps come along, they can be­come ob­so­lete be­fore you trade in your car. The sys­tems that seem par­tic­u­larly ridicu­lous are those that re­quire a sep­a­rate um­brella app on your phone to in­ter­face with any app on the car, such as Toy­ota’s En­tune sys­tem. — Ya­hoo

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