What do automotive shoppers really want?
A few years ago, those who kicked the tires on new vehicles might have prioritized fuel efficiency, comfort or horsepower.
Today, it’s all about the tech.
“The race never ends to develop ‘must have’ vehicle technologies,” says Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction and human machine interface research at J.D. Power. “New technology continues to be a primary factor in the vehicle purchase decision.”
“However, it’s critical for automakers to offer features that owners find intuitive and reliable,” Kolodge says.
Automotive expert Nik Miles echoes Kolodge’s assessment: “Besides price, tech plays a major role when considering a new car – interestingly, for every age group – but it has to be easy to use.”
Miles is founder and host of OurAutoExpert.com, an online magazine featuring the latest in automotive news and reviews. “Even inexpensive vehicles are loaded with tech, whether it’s tech you see, such as cutting-edge infotainment systems, or tech you don’t see that keeps drivers safe,” Miles says.
The following is a quick look at a few promising teched-out vehicles this fall, and some gadgets you can add to any vehicle.
2021 Toyota Venza
Starting at $32,470, this new two-row crossover SUV features Toyota Safety Sense 2.5, a comprehensive suite of active safety systems that includes a pre-collision system with advanced pedestrian and bicyclist detection; road sign assist, which actively scans the sides of the road to detect select road signs and displays them on the dashboard; and emergency steering assist, which could help drivers avoid a pedestrian or other object in their lane.
The 2021 Toyota Venza features lane departure alert, lane tracing assist and dynamic cruise control (which allows the vehicle to maintain a preset distance from the one ahead).
In a first for the company, the vehicle supports an optional Star Gaze fixed panoramic moonroof. Similar to some airplanes that use this technology to block outside light (instead of a manual window shade), this is electrochromic glass that allows drivers to switch from transparent to frosted modes with the push of a button. This is a $1,400 option on the LTD grade of the vehicle (which includes a 12.3-inch touchscreen).
Ford Mustang Mach-E
Speaking of firsts, Ford is expanding its Mustang lineup for the first time in 55 years, with an all-electric model.
The Mach-E (from $44,995) is a four-door SUV that has similar hallmarks to the company’s iconic muscle car – in its design and performance – and can go from 0 to 60 in about three and a half seconds for the GT Performance Edition package (about $60,000).
Aside from a ton of power and torque, this electric vehicle (EV) crossover has an estimated range of at least 300 miles, with the available extended-range battery and rear-wheel drive. It can route customers to nearby public charging stations and will provide access to more than 12,500 public charge stations in the FordPass charging network.
Preorders are well underway, and the vehicle will hit the streets near the end of the year, the company says.
2021 Cadillac Escalade
When it comes to semiautonomous driving aids, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade (from $77,490) features an enhanced Super Cruise system, which includes “lane change on-demand,” allowing drivers to direct the system to perform a single lane change using the turn signal to indicate the desired direction of the move.
Speaking of lanes, an enhancement to “dynamic lane offset” means the Escalade can be nudged slightly into its lane when other vehicles pass very closely.
When activated on supported freeways and highways, Super Cruise uses a series of lidar-generated maps, high-precision GPS, cameras and radar sensors to monitor the road, as well as a system to ensure the driver is paying attention. Unlike Tesla’s Autopilot, Cadillac’s Super Cruise on the 2021 Escalade (or CT6 sedan) does not require motorists’ hands on the wheel, but their eyes must remain fixed on the road ahead.
Along with augmented reality (AR)-enabled navigation – which uses live street views with directional overlays to enhance driving directions – the Escalade has an industry-first curved OLED display, which is as thin as a sheet of paper. In total, there are more than 38 inches of screen tech, with twice the pixel density of a 4K television.