The new car features we can’t live without
Not to brag, but we motoring journalists have a great gig.
We get to drive all the latest vehicles, which means we get to experience the latest in technology and then tell you what we think works and what we think doesn’t.
There is one downside to this, however.
With so much seat time in new vehicles, we can quickly get accustomed to modern convenience features. That means stepping into an older or low-tech vehicle can sometimes feel like a bit of a chore.
So, what are the new car features we just can’t seem to live without?
Anthony Crawford: Apple CarPlay
Let me put it this way. There’s no chance I would purchase a new car without Apple CarPlay, both from a convenience and ease-of-use sense.
To be able to switch between phone, messages, music and navigation, as well as other apps like Waze and Spotify most of which can be activated by voice command is pure magic – and from an Apple perspective, it’s only going to get better.
Alborz Fallah: Head-up display
To be perfectly honest, the first thing that came to mind was wireless Apple CarPlay and fast USB-C charging. However when I really think about it, a head-up display is the one feature I can’t live without. It’s also why I no longer have a Model Y.
It’s as much a safety thing as a convenience thing and after you have driven a car with a decent head-up display, it’s hard to go back.
If I had to get philosophical about it, the one thing I miss in new cars is actual transmission of what the front wheels are doing through to the steering wheel.
With all the electric power steering systems about these days that take the majority of the feel out of it, sometimes it’s nice to just jump back in a car that has no steering aids (like my Lotus) and realise what a difference it makes to the driving enjoyment.
Paul Maric: Accessible cup holders
I find it truly bizarre that some brands don’t do any real world testing on their cup holders. Try and pull a hot coffee out of the new Volkswagen Amarok’s cupholders and due to the high centre console, you need arm contortion skills like never before to ensure it comes up and back without a spill.
Even more strange – the Ford Ranger it shares a platform with has them built into the dashboard.
On the flip side, Porsche does an awesome job by integrating cup holders that flip out of the dash on its sportier models to overcome the issue.
Anyway – first world problems, but test your cup holders with hot coffee before your car goes on sale!
Scott Collie: Keyless entry
This is the toughest team question we’ve tackled so far.
In Melbourne, winter mornings tend to be pretty miserable. That means heated seats are close to a must-have, especially in cars with leather seats. They’re close to non-negotiable… but I’ve lived without them before, and could do it again.
Keyless entry, on the other hand? Most new cars in 2023 allow you to leave the key in your pocket and just pull the door handle, so it’s jarring when you drive a base model car that forces you to remove the key from your pocket.
I’m so used to being able to just walk up with my hands full and pull the handle, I don’t think I’d be able to live day-to-day with a car that doesn’t have that functionality.
Jade Credentino: Speed limiter
I’m with Scollie, however if I had to pick something else…
Last week, he brought to my attention to the speed limiter feature in new cars. It has been so handy!
I think there are a lot of luxuries I’ve come to expect as standard but something every new car should have is a speed limiter.
I’m not someone who speeds traditionally, I have a clean driving record (touch wood) until now. However, sometimes when you’re driving on a freeway with the traffic you can lose track of your speed as you’re paying attention to the road (if there is no head-up display).
This feature prevents that, as no matter how hard you press on the accelerator it won’t tip you over. If you do need to accelerate for safety reasons, it’s a very easy push of a button to disable.
Derek Fung: Hands-free power tailgate
For me, everyday as I wedge my car into tiny on-street spots or the finest slots at New Jersey’s best strip malls, I give thanks to the automotive gods for the reversing camera.
But that’s not a very interesting answer, and not something I can pontificate on for a few paragraphs…
Forgive me if I drift into Rob Sitch- channelling-Bruce McAveney mode for moment, but when I was younger I questioned the usefulness of technologies like interior cameras, built-in vacuums, soft-closing doors, illuminated exterior door handles, and the list could go on.
But I remember having a particularly hearty internal guffaw at the motion-sensor activated powered tailgate.
There I was, many years later, in a busy parking lot full of oversized pickup trucks and whale-sized SUVs, holding a kid who had just done a poo, and whose wet wipes and diapers were in the boot. And that little piece of tech came through for me.
Since then it’s proved handy when overloaded with things and kids. It also allows one independent 7-year old to close the tailgate on his own.
Jack Quick: Telescopic steering columns
When it comes to features on new cars, I have a pretty low bar as my personal car is a 2020 Suzuki Jimny which is one of the least technologically advanced new cars you can currently buy in Australia.
One feature my Jimny doesn’t have and I desperately want is a telescoping steering column, which would help make my driving position a bit more comfortable.
Besides the Jimny, there are few new cars that only have tilting steering wheels in Australia. Some of them sell quite well in their respective segments too.
Examples of new vehicles on sale in Australia without a telescoping steering column include the MG ZS, GWM Haval H6, LDV T60, and Mahindra Scorpio, among others.
The new vehicle with the best/most adjustable steering column I’ve experienced to date is the Ford Ranger and Everest. Given I have long legs and short arms this helps dial in my driving position to perfection.
William Stopford: Surround-view camera
When I was shopping for my current car, I made a list of all the features I wanted it to have. This included things like keyless entry, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The only feature my Hyundai Genesis didn’t have from that list was Android Auto, which remains an annoyance. It does, however, come with things I didn’t need but have come to appreciate, like a powered boot-lid, auto hold and soft-close doors.
A surround-view camera was on that list, and I thoroughly appreciate it – so much so that I feel like, to be frank, it has made me a worse parker.
After all, when you’re used to seeing a top-down view of your car, going back to a mere reversing camera and sensors or – egad! – none of the above is a real adjustment, at least with larger vehicles.
Adaptive cruise control I love, but I can get into a car without it and just drive without cruise control on – that probably helps keep you more alert, anyway – while with auto hold I guess I can just be a big boy and keep my foot on the brake pedal at a traffic light.
But a surround-view camera is so damn confidence-inspiring, it has become a must-have for me. Probably for the worse.
One arguably more important feature that wasn’t on my list was LED headlights, and my next car needs to have them (bonus points if they’re matrix LEDs) – the HIDs on my Genesis don’t compare.
James Wong: Adaptive cruise control
There are so many things that most modern cars offer these days that would be must-haves in my next car. I’ve also been spoiled with my current car as well as the countless cars I’ve tested in my time.
For me, adaptive cruise control is one of the things I can’t live without. Any time I’ve tested a car without adaptive cruise, I tend to drive my own car whenever I have to venture onto the freeway.
Most of my weekly commuting is to and from the office, in high traffic and with the typical lot of Melbourne drivers that have little regard for etiquette. Standard cruise control is basically unusable in these scenarios.
Even better, a vehicle with stop/go and Traffic Jam Assist will be a revelation if you haven’t used it before, essentially letting the car navigate bumper-to-bumper traffic at low speeds. It’s the thing you didn’t know you needed for the daily commute, trust me.