These 10 features are important in enjoying the full driving experience of your next car

Cars today aren’t just cars anymore; they’ve become four-wheeled technological hubs, fitted with a dizzying array of tech features that can make anyone’s head spin, Regan from the Exorcist-style. It’s hard enough to keep track of all the standard tech features included in cars, but the real madness happens when you’re presented with a catalog of options, packages, and accessories, all of which are available for the taking.

The downside to all of this is that the more features you avail, the more expensive the cart becomes. On that end, we’re presenting a list of car features that we believe are must-haves for your next purchase.

Remote Start

Remote start isn’t a particularly new technology, but it is one of those car features that you should definitely have on your car. The tech’s objective is straightforward. Why have to go to your car, start it, and wait for everything to come up to temperature when you can start your car from the confines of your own home and get in the car when it’s already ready to go?

There’s nothing outwardly fancy about the remote start feature on a car, but it is one of those things that you’ll appreciate more and more.

Adaptive cruise control

Adaptive cruise control sounds fancy if you’re not familiar with the technology. Just like remote start, cruise control isn’t a new technology in the world of cars. Most vehicles already have some form of cruise control that allows your car to maintain a specific speed by a push of the button. Only when you turn it off or hit the brakes does the cruise control feature disengages.

For its part, adaptive cruise control takes it to the next level by using radar to detect if there’s a vehicle in front of you and automatically slows down without you having to do anything. Different automakers use different forms of adaptive cruise control. Some systems decelerate to a certain speed and command you take over while other systems decelerate to a complete stop before slowly accelerating automatically. Mind you, as useful as adaptive cruise control is as a technology, it’s not an autonomous system. You’re still required to pay attention to the road when you engage the system.

Smart suspension

The suspension system is the unsung hero of any vehicle. It doesn’t garner the same headlines as the engine or all other new technologies that are being introduced in the industry but rest assured, enjoyable rides in your car aren’t possible without a stellar suspension system that helps keep your ride smooth and comfortable, especially when you’re driving over less-than-comfortable roads.

Some automakers like Audi have even taken things further with a smart suspension feature that can increase or decrease the load on each wheel individually to adjust to the condition of the road. Some of you might not even realize that it’s there in your car, but, rest assured, having a smart suspension system in your car goes a long way in ensuring that bumps in the road become a thing of the past.

Cameras - lots of them

Did you know that backing up cameras are required on all passenger cars sold in the U.S. after May 1, 2018? But our focus isn’t on that. These days, a lot of automakers have begun to offer wide-ranging camera systems that are well more advanced than the standard backup cameras found in cars. Cameras are now located in the front and sides of the car, giving you more than one angle from which to view your surroundings without having to leave your car.

Premium automakers like Mercedes have even developed a 360-degree camera system that effectively gives you a full bird’s eye view of the vehicle. Whether it’s checking for pedestrians that you normally can’t see or just objects around your car that you might end up hitting, sophisticated camera systems now allow you to have visual access to the available space around your car.

Automatic Emergency Braking

When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety both claim that this new car feature saves lives, it’s probably best to listen. The two agencies have been bullish on the importance of automatic emergency braking with the IIHS awarding it a Top Safety Pick award and even going so far as to include it as a “must-have” feature on any car, regardless of its size, shape, and occupied segment.

Automatic emergency braking functions as its name says. When the system detects an imminent collision and you’re not fast enough to react to the impending threat, the system hits the brakes for you before you get a chance to do it. A lot of automakers have promised to fit automatic emergency braking standard on all vehicles by 2022, and while the system itself goes by different names — it’s also called autonomous emergency braking, forward collision mitigation/avoidance, city braking, etc. — the function remains largely the same.

Fast-charging USB ports

You don’t appreciate a fast-charging USB port until you realize that a lot of the USB charging outlets in our cars are woefully underpowered. Standard USB charging outlets charge at 0.5 amperage, making it extremely slow if you want to charge your phone using them.

Personally, it takes more than eight hours for my Samsung Galaxy S9+ running on less than five percent battery life to charge back up to a full 100 percent. Fortunately, a lot of automakers have started recognizing the importance of USB charging outlets by equipping their cars with fast-charging outlets that can dramatically cut the charging time of your plugged-in gadget. The days of your phone losing battery power even as it’s charging when apps are open are becoming things of the past.

WiFi Hotspots

Yes, WiFi hotspots. Nowadays, being connected to the Internet is as important as anything in this world, for better or for worse. Cellular service providers offer data plans on your mobile phones, but those come with hefty monthly charges. The best and still most cost-efficient way to access the Internet is still through WiFi, and while a lot of public places already offer WiFi connections, in-car connections are still relatively new to the industry.

In-car WiFi not only allows you to access the Internet from your car but, more importantly, they prevent you from having to eat up your monthly data allocations. The WiFi hotspot service isn’t free, though. Typically, automakers only provide free service for an introductory period, but then you’re going to have to pay a monthly subscription fee to keep the hotspot going. The good news is that these fees aren’t as steep as, say, the charges you might incur from your mobile phone service provider if you exceed your monthly data allocation.

Auto-dimming mirrors

Glare sucks. It really does. It never gets the attention it deserves, but it’s seriously one of the biggest challenges drivers face on the road at night. On that end, automakers have come up with a new tech feature that diminishes the glare coming from the rearview mirror that’s caused by the headlights from the car behind you. Thankfully, a lot of automakers have developed their versions of auto-dimming rearview mirrors that dramatically reduce the glare coming from the car behind you.

Not only is this important in allowing you to see the road better, but, more importantly, the safety benefits are profound, too. According to the NHTSA, “glare reduces seeing distance because it causes light scatter in the eyes, which, in turn, reduces the contrast of roadway objects.”

Power tailgates

Power tailgates are exclusive to pickup trucks, but they are on this list because of the all-around convenience and functionality to truck owners. Ford, Chevrolet, and GMC have developed their own power tailgates with varying functions included in each. Of course, the crux of the technology is the convenience of it all.

With just a touch of a button, the power tailgates can either be raised or lowered and each one comes with different compartments that add to the overall functional experience.

Heated seats and heated steering wheel

It doesn’t sound all that important for some people, but for those who live in cold-weather areas, heated steering wheels are arguably one of the most important car features you can have in your car. That’s especially true during the winter months when you enter a car only to be greeted by a cold driver’s seat and an even colder steering wheel.

This is where heated seats and heated steering wheels come into the picture. More important than comfort, though, is the safety element that comes with heated seats and heated steering wheels. Given the dangers that come with driving during the wintertime, the last thing you need to be is distracted because the steering wheel is too cold for your hands. The heated seats and heated steering wheel address those issues so you can keep your focus on the road.

When did automated car features start?

Automated car features have been a part of vehicles since around the 1940s with power car windows. Different automated features have been developed over the course of different eras, but the roots of these features stretch back a long time.

What are five important car safety features?

There are a lot of car safety features that are available in cars today. The five most important, though, are the airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, adaptive headlights, and traction control.

Why do some cars have useless features?

Some cars have useless features, but we have to live with them. A few useless features that come to mind include soft-close doors, outdated infotainment systems, and, yes, even third-row seating in compact SUVs.

What car features do I need?

There are plenty of car features that you should consider for your car. The most important ones are safety features that help improve the driving characteristics of your vehicle. Convenience features also go a long way making drivers and occupants happy with their cars.

What car features aren’t worth the money?

Expensive car features that don’t provide any safety benefits are typically not worth the money, in part because interest in those features wane over time and the money that you spent adding them to your car becomes unjustified.

Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
About the author
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: