Hopping in and out of multiple cars every week means that Ignition’s writers and editors come to experience a wide range of comfort features, infotainment systems, safety devices and in general overloaded tester models brimming with options. All of us have experienced some head-scratching or annoyance as we learn or adapt to some of these systems, as most drivers have too. But even after the familiarization period some systems leave us cursing some so-called ‘advancements,’ while others are placed on our personal ‘must have’ lists for our own next vehicles. After surveying our motoring staff and contributors Brian Makse, Jil McIntosh, Justin Pritchard, Justin Mastine-Frost and Mark Hacking, we’ve compiled a list of 10 most commonly mentioned must-have features and annoyances.
10 MUST-HAVE FEATURES
01. Seat heating/ massaging (especially with leather).
02. Android Auto/Apple CarPlay.
03. Insane/Ludicrous/Eye-popping acceleration.
04. Heated steering wheel.
05. Auto/push button unlocking AND ignition combo.
06. Steering wheel stereo and phone controls.
07. Collision avoidance systems (backup camera, forward collision warning/ braking, blind-spot warning, cross-traffic alert).
08. OnStar/telematics emergency notification service.
09. Heads-up displays (HUDs).
10. Neck heating for convertibles (AirScarf on Mercedes-Benz models).
10 MOST ANNOYING OR POINTLESS FEATURES
01. Automatic door locking in Drive that doesn’t unlock all doors in Park.
02. Self-parking systems.
03. Glass roofs (especially with no shade or way to open).
04. Exterior mirrors that can’t adjust out far enough to avoid seeing your own car in them.
05. Navigation/vehicle settings that can’t be controlled on the move, even when a passenger is sitting there.
06. Leather-lined vents
07. Motorized cupholders.
08. Auto door unlocks that require you to pull out a key or fob to start anyway.
09. Useless rear seats (Aston Martin DB9, Vanquish).
10. Remote starter.
Seat warmers have been warming motorists’ buns for many years, and Canadian drivers love them to bits (along with remote car starters). Combined with a massage function, seat warmers have therapeutic benefits too for those who are constantly caught up in the daily commuter rat race. Moreover, warmers are only useful for a few short months out of every year. I’m often dumbfounded that seat cooling isn’t included by default; anybody who’s ever had to get into their car after it’s been baking in the sun for several hours is nodding their head in agreement. Even normal driving can make you uncomfortably hot and sweaty, so let’s put that dummy switch to good use, eh.
HUDs are available in a growing number of high-end sports performance and luxury cars, but they should be in every vehicle due to the simple fact that they help drivers maintain their focus on the road. As these improve and spread to a wider range of vehicles, HUDs with multi-informational capabilities, such as ones that display navigational directions, multimedia information, shift points and other important info, will become the main user interface in future vehicles.
ANDROID AUTO / APPLE CARPLAY
The fines for distracted driving are going up and up, and using your smartphone while driving these days is just plain dumb. That said, Android and Apple, with cooperation from the OE manufacturers, have both come out with solutions that let people use and maintain connectedness with their mobile devices via the touchscreen display that is already integrated into most vehicles. Not only that, both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay allow drivers to extend the functionality of their devices to bring new features and/or tech to the vehicle. Talk about bonus points!
Because automatics and continuously variable do-jiggies just don’t cut the mustard, and because paddle shifters are just too easy to use, long live the standard gearbox!
ANNOYING OR POINTLESS FEATURES
Being able to see 360 degrees around your vehicle is great, and kudos to the manufacturers for collectively putting cameras (and sensors) pretty much anywhere and everywhere to make that possible. There are obvious benefits to seeing things that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye from the driver’s seat, but a vehicle that parks itself is nothing more than a novelty, a pricey one at that. Besides the fact that anybody who drives a vehicle needs to know this most basic of skills to obtain their driver’s licence, I’ve yet to encounter a self-parking system that can reverse into a parking spot faster or better than me. Same goes for parallel parking. That’s just plain annoying!
If they open and close then great, but if they’re just a big, heavy pane of glass to give an unobstructed view of the sky, then what is the point? That said, glass roofs tend to create a warmer, more inviting atmosphere inside the vehicle, but the notion that they create a bigger or more useful space is just an illusion. If you’re feeling claustrophobic, open a window or make a pitstop. Safety is another area of concern with glass roofs and, in the event of a rollover or protrusion into the cabin, what’s better than thousands of tiny shards of glass flying around your face? How about none? Last time I checked ceiling airbags don’t exist yet.