Drive Time – Which Options are Best?

Drive Time – Which Options are Best?

Most available vehicles are attractive to their targeted demographic, yet the time it requires whittling down the multitudes of optional equipment can be a mighty undertaking.

The mind-numbing array of options can enthrall and befuddle even the most discerning luxury car buyer. Heaps of available upgrades pepper the senses and sticker price in this lofty segment, as auto manufacturers continually ramp up their car confection to lure customers. The difficulty is sifting through the ones that deliver smiles long after the purchase.

Sure, a good portion of luxury owners will buy models fully loaded. For others, some upgrades are noteworthy (several should be standard safety features). Unfortunately, car companies often saddle you with packages of the iffy lumped in with the desirable. Your best investment is researching the various option menus before pulling the trigger.

Thus, here are my favorite car toys and those that could use some improvement.

Top Picks

Matrix/Pixel/Laser/LED/adaptive high beams: Today’s high-intensity lights offer over three times the brightness of halogens, and the difference is illuminating (sorry). Adaptive high beams automatically turn on and off when sensing darkness or oncoming traffic. Even better, the NHTSA recently approved adaptive high beams that stay on but reduce the glare for oncoming traffic by dimming the offending side light. It’s been a staple in Europe but forbidden until now in the States. 

Heated and cooled vented seats: So worthy in winter and summer seasons – especially with leather interiors that offer zero temperature comfort without the adjustability in severe conditions.

Massaging seats: Some are better than others but the good ones offer a multitude of settings, intensity and heat. A worthy addition when driving home after a long day on the golf course. 

Heated steering wheel: Ditto for the sweet leather-wrapped steerage. Otherwise, in frigid temps you’ll need gloves or have to drive with your knees. My next wish is a cooling option for those sizzling summer months enduring blistered palms.

Keyless entry and ignition: Heat and cool your vehicle before entering. Also during the summer, you can lower all the windows to disperse all that oven-hot air building up inside. 

Heads-up display: The goal is to keep your peepers looking at what’s ahead – not constantly averting attention toward the bright shiny console display. Pertinent information shown on the windshield is genius and prevents driver distraction. A big plus is posted speed limits when traveling through small towns with confusing (hello speed traps!) speed limits. Beware that many HUD displays disappear when wearing polarized sunglasses, so test before buying – or purchase non-polarized lenses. 

Upgraded rims: There’s a reason flashy concept models have eye-popping wheels. Nothing sets off a car’s appearance more than unique shiny or blacked-out spheres of metal. A wise lady one said, “A beautiful car with standard rims is like wearing a custom suit with crappy shoes.” Touché. Oh, and don’t forget the eye-catching painted brake calipers. They’re the perfect accessory to enhance your cool wheels.

Electronic Stability Control: When detecting a skid, it applies a calibrated amount of braking on only one side of the vehicle to both slow you down and help “steer” the vehicle back toward the driver’s intended direction. Very worthy for those impending catastrophic moments.

360-degree overhead parking view: A must these days with land yacht SUVs squeezing into tight spots. Also, the newly designed aerodynamic hoods make it impossible to see the front bumper. The overhead view allows you to expertly park without going over the lines. It’s one of my favorite options, along with Auto Reverse Parking that remembers the last 150 feet traveled to reverse through narrow passageways. 

Crash avoidance/lane weaving/blindspot warnings: We are a distracted society. Talking, sipping coffee and applying makeup (or doing all three) turns you into a potential road assassin. These little guardian angels alert you back to reality and off the obit columns.

Adaptive suspension: In higher-performance vehicles, standard sport suspensions work to prevent excessive car lean in fast turns but can jar your spine something fierce. Adaptive suspensions can be dialed back for a more comfortable ride on pothole-riddled streets. 

Diesel/Electric power: The popular hefty, lumbering SUVs and trucks can haul large loads, but it comes at a wallet-melting cost at the pump. For diesels, long gone are the days of spewing smoke, carbon-encrusted bumpers and clickety-click engine noises. Today’s diesel engines last longer, have stupendous torque and offer far better gas mileage than their pricey hybrid counterparts. In fact, every gas-guzzling SUV/truck should offer a diesel option as you get roughly 30% better mileage. But don’t ignore the new fully electric option. They offer great torque as well and you’ll “save” over $5 per gallon. But there are still design/reliability issues, distance range worry and recharging time. Plus, what happens to all the deceased batteries? Maybe Elon Musk can use his rockets to blast ‘em out in space. There’s plenty of room.

Better Think Twice

Bluetooth phone calls: This should be a must-have hands-free function. Yet, while I hear conversations perfectly, those on the other end often fight through static and garble. Some are clearly better than others, but my dear sainted Mom proclaims none of the cars’ “toothing” qualities sound nearly as clear when talking directly into the phone. It’s high time engineers make a Bluetooth call listenable on both ends.

Active Cruise Control: Maybe this is a personal decision, because I rarely use cruise control as it makes me a lazy driver. Active Cruise is popular, as it automatically keeps a safe distance from the car in front of you but can slam on the brakes if a buffoon cuts you off. 

Navigation: Should be another winner and they do offer cool 3-D maps. Except I find it easier using my smartphone mapping software, like the iPhone’s Siri assistant. I can enable it to be hands-free while driving (some NAVs are disabled in a moving car).

Voice activation: It’s incredible … when it works. Some systems understand the spoken word to command its functions, while others respond as if I’m speaking Farsi.

DVD movie capability: Okay, maybe for the kids, but doesn’t everyone in this price category own electronic tablets? That way, the tykes can each watch what they want and play video games, as well. The $1,500-$2,500 added cost (and allure to thieves) makes it a dubious expense.

There’s no doubt ever-evolving technology will improve the underachievers. But for now, these are my picks to buy or cast a wary eye.

Of course, your mileage may vary.