The 10 best features in new cars

We go through many vehicles at Autoblog, so we’re exposed to a vast array of automotive features. Some of them are great, some of them are terrible. Sometimes we tend to fixate on those problematic features, but this time, we’re celebrating the best stuff you can get in a car. They’re not necessarily make-or-break, nor are they necessarily that unusual. But when we find them in a car, we’re happy to see them, and would definitely check the option boxes if they’re not included from the start. So, in no particular order, let’s get to it.

2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport touchscreen Apple CarPlay

1. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

It may seem a little silly to bring up a feature that’s seemingly standard in everything now, but firstly, it’s not, especially with wireless functionality. Secondly, it really is that good. Now, a lot of OEM Bluetooth systems without the phone mirroring apps are actually better than many give them credit for, but the seamlessness of accessing your phone’s maps, hands-free calling and texting, and other apps like music streaming make CarPlay and Android Auto wonderful additions to any car. And we want to especially highlight the wireless versions, which allow you to have all that convenience with the added convenience of either leaving your phone in your pocket, or charge it wirelessly if your vehicle is so equipped. We would potentially add wireless device charging to this list, but a lot of those chargers have rather poor design that let the phone slide off the charging pad, making them a bit useless.

2024 BMW i5 eDrive40 front seat

2. Seat base extensions

We’re going from a feature that’s nearly universal to one that we’re stunned isn’t yet. On some cars, including darn near every BMW product, the seat base can be extended in length. This can provide additional support for one’s legs, specifically the thighs, and for the long-legged amongst the Autobloggers, this can be a huge benefit for comfort. And in many modern cars that have rather short seat bases, the lack of the feature is particularly noteworthy. We’re also not even requiring the feature to be powered. In a lot of base BMWs and Minis, the extension is completely manual, but still very effective, and actually much quicker to position.

2020 Mercedes AMG G 63 heated steering wheel

3. Heated steering wheel

I long thought this was a silly, indulgent feature for total softies. Then I lived with it. Being able to hop in the car and quickly warm your hands in winter is such a joy, and provides such a great warming sensation all the way through. Plus, you’re not just warming up your hands, but the whole wheel, so no cold spots. There are even practical reasons to have features like the heated wheel as well as seats. Directly heating touch points is more energy efficient that heating air to warm yourself. That’s especially significant in EVs, where you can get away with less aggressive climate control settings by relying on your heated seats and wheels. They’re not superfluous, they’re sensible!

2021 Kia Telluride back seat cooled and heated seats

4. Heated and ventilated seats

As great as a heated steering wheel is, heated seats are more significant to comfort overall, and still aren’t as broadly available as we would expect at this point. Even less common is ventilation in seats, which circulates air from behind to provide some cooling power. We in the office were split as to which was the better feature, and your locale will probably help determine your preference. So we’ve combined them on this list, as automakers typically do on higher trim levels. And there are a handful of automakers, usually German, that allow running both the heat and the ventilation simultaneously for drier heat.

gm onstar remotelink

4. Remote start / climate functions

Continuing on climate comfort, we’re putting remote start and climate control on this list. Go through a few Michigan winters (or Northeast, or Midwest in general), and you’ll develop an appreciation for being able to get some heat through the car before having to actually venture outside. It can also be great for getting a head start on defogging and defrosting. It can be handy in the summer, as well, to get the car a little cooler. And with EVs, the function is smarter and more environmentally friendly, since you can program times and temperatures ahead of time, it can operate inside your garage safely, and can activate while plugged in so you don’t use any of your battery charge while sitting or while cooling down/heating up on the road. Managing Editor Greg Rasa notes that some cars let you remotely open all the windows on a hot day by holding down the unlock button on your key fob, and that’s excellent for summer, too, although we haven’t seen/tried it recently (automakers who don’t have this feature, there’s a free idea for you). 

11 myfordtouch 13 leftside display tachometer hr

5. Adaptive cruise control

Arguably even more than highway driving assist that includes automatic lane-keeping and light turning, simple adaptive cruise control can make a long highway journey more relaxed and easy. Cruise control is great as it is, but having to adjust it periodically when the car ahead keeps fluctuating in speed or is set to a speed just ever so slightly different than yours, it can be a bit annoying. Adaptive cruise eliminates that, and it can make cruise control far more useful on highway runs that feature significant speed changes due to heavy traffic. Some even have stop-and-go, allowing for use in gridlock. It’s increasingly more available, too, which is great.

A211150 medium

6. Head-up display (HUD)

We talk a lot about keeping information and controls close to the driver’s line of sight out the window. Doing so helps keep the time your eyes are off the road to a minimum. And it doesn’t get much better than with a head-up display. It’s wonderful having your critical information just the easiest glance down the windshield. And it’s usually set up to keep your eye’s focus farther ahead than your standard instrument cluster. It’s comfortable, and adds safety. They’re getting more elaborate and larger, incorporating more information, but even just a basic small one is useful. It’s not the worst thing to keep the info to the most important, either, just to keep the clutter down.

2021 Cadillac Escalade 008

7. Surround-view camera and parking sensors

With cars getting bigger and with worse rearward visibility, assistance with parking and generally tight spaces are more useful than ever. Parking sensors have been around awhile, but are still far from ubiquitous. They’re also still very effective for front and rear positioning. More recent are surround-view cameras, offering simulated overhead views of your car to make it extra easy to position your vehicle in a tight spot. Both of these are great to have, and they often accompany other useful cameras such as forward cameras for off-roading and rear cameras for trailer assistance.

34 2011 hyundai genesis sedan

8. Power seat memory settings

If you’re sharing your car with at least one extra driver on a regular basis, you’ve probably run into the issue of having to fiddle with the seat controls to get everything back to where you want. But with memory settings, you can bypass all of that with a single touch of the button. We certainly can appreciate it when swapping vehicles amongst ourselves, so you’re sure to appreciate it, too.

2021 Genesis GV80 blind spot camera

9. Blind-spot monitoring

Related to cameras and parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring is useful for similar reasons: Rear visibility is getting worse. But even on vehicles with good visibility, blind spots are still an issue. We also consider ourselves pretty attentive drivers, but we all like having this extra layer of safety, especially as it isn’t usually intrusive. Hyundai and Kia go an extra step with their blind-spot systems by offering pop-up camera views for the relevant blind-spot, provided the vehicle has an instrument screen for said camera views.

volkswagen passat 2007 tdi 46

10. Auto-dimming mirrors

We round out the list with another long-time feature that just isn’t as common as it should be. With taller and taller trucks and SUVs, and ever-brighter headlights, glare is getting worse. And at least from the rear, auto-dimming mirrors can reduce that significantly. Some side-view mirrors can auto-dim as well. It’s great not to be blinded from the rear. Plus it’s dead simple to use. It’s a shame it’s not standard on everything.

Those are what we think are the 10 best car features you can get today. Tell us what you think of our choices below, and let us know what ones you think should’ve made the cut.


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