5 features we wish every new car had

5 features we wish every new car had

You may say you want a basic, inexpensive car, but it turns out that those are the models that tend to sit unsold on dealer lots until their prices are marked down. Drivers want a good array of convenience and luxury features on their cars, which is part of the reason why the average price of a new car crested $40,000 for most of last year.

Luxuries don’t come cheaply, after all.

It wasn’t long ago features such as power windows, heated seats, and a quality audio system were the domain of luxury models.

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Still, most buyers would happily trade features like automatic parking and double-digit USB ports (how many devices does the average family need to charge at once?) for a few easy-to-add convenience features.

Here are five convenience features every new car should have.

1. Auto-hold parking brakes

Tap a button usually on the center console in some newer models and the parking brake will automatically be activated whenever you come to a stop. This convenience allows drivers to let go of the brake pedal at, say, a traffic light to relax their foot, and it has the added safety benefit of holding the vehicle firmly in place if it is bumped. While auto-hold parking brakes won’t prevent domino-effect collisions, they should reduce the severity of fender-benders.

The feature is most common in cars with electronic parking brakes — those with a button or knob rather than a ratcheting lever or pedal — but Mercedes-Benz once fitted it to models with conventional brakes. On those cars, all you had to do was give the brake pedal a hard push and the calipers would squeeze the rotors until you tapped the gas.

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2. Surround-view camera systems

Curmudgeons might lament the fact that backup cameras are now required in all new passenger cars sold in the U.S., but we really do need that extra assistance in today’s high-riding SUVs and cars with huge, visibility-blocking roof pillars.

While backup cameras work pretty well, surround-view camera systems are far superior. They make use of several cameras mounted around the vehicle to present a simulated birdseye view of what’s going on, which can help prevent curb and bumper scrapes. The best systems — Volvo’s
VLVLY,
+2.26%
comes to mind, though others offer similar functionality — allow the driver to tap a spot on the display to activate a single camera for an even better view when needed.

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3. Paddle shifters

No, you don’t need flappy paddles on a minivan. But when driving in hilly or mountainous terrain, it is more convenient (and safer) to downshift manually through the gears. Downshifting allows the engine’s gearing to slow the vehicle with engine braking, a more dependable way to slow down than engaging the brakes, which can overheat. A cautious driver can descend major mountain passes in the Rockies without ever tapping the brakes, keeping the discs and pads cool and ready for emergency stops.

Paddles are the best way to do this since the driver’s hands need not leave the steering wheel, though any sort of manual control via the shift lever can be helpful. Many new cars — even those with conventional multi-gear transmissions — only have a “low” mode that doesn’t quite offer the same level of control.

4. Unlock buttons on all exterior door handles

Many new cars have proximity entry systems to allow the driver to keep the key in their pocket or bag to access or lock up the vehicle. Proximity access systems date to their debut on the 1993 Chevrolet Corvette. The systems are now so common that the folks at Hertz
HTZ,
+3.20%
and Avis
CAR,
+5.52%
probably don’t have to waste their time explaining how they work to the average renter.

But unless you buy a luxury car, odds are you have to take the key fob out of your pocket (or tap a front door handle) to access the back seats. It can’t possibly cost that much for automakers to add a sensor or button to rear-door handles, can it?

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5. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability

With only a handful of exceptions, most automaker infotainment systems are at best “fairly” good. Automakers know this, which is why they’re turning to Google
GOOGL,
+7.66%
to develop interfaces that are easy to use while driving. Some of the latest General Motors
GM,
+4.02%,
Volvo, and Chrysler models now rely on a Google-developed backbone for their infotainment systems, and they work brilliantly.

But for the rest of us, Apple
AAPL,
+3.42%
CarPlay and Android Auto serve up easy-to-use icons that simply work. Better yet? Their wireless versions mean drivers can keep their phones in their pockets and purses. One less distraction.

This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.

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