Every new model year brings new bells and whistles from the auto industry. Here are the biggest changesand the unofficial rating for how it will affect you personally, either lame, game, or undecided.
Lame. Okay, so air bags were a good idea when they came out. They added safety with virtually no effort on the part of the driver. Even passenger side air bagsstill a good idea. But knee air bags? Seriously? Carmakers are even talking about making air bags to prevent back seat passengers from hitting the front seats. What will they think of next, giant padded walls inside the car to keep you from hurting yourself?
Game. Greater smartphone integration into all aspects of the car, from streaming your mp3s stored inside the phone straight into the car stereo, to projecting the navigation system in your phone onto the car’s DVD player. Now that’s smart: taking an already existing technology and adapting the car to use it without any additional effort on the part of the owner.
Lame. Apparently, the executive boardroom tables at Ford suck all the common-sense right out of the room. That’s because in spite of well-earned criticism for the MyFordTouch touch screen layout, they’ve decided to add it to more models for 2012. Touch screens work great for some things: smart phones, iPadsbut for turning up the heat in your car, it’s easiest just to have a knob. Or a switch.
Undecided. The auto-stop feature, which turns off your engine automatically at things like stop lights, is being added to more models than ever. In theory, it is designed to be imperceptibleto turn back on as soon as you go again. In practice, if it means having to wait for your car to turn on again, it could turn lame real fastor it could mean saving a few bucks on fuel with no perceived difference if it works as advertised.
Game. Secretariat would be proud. The fastest horse ever was always underestimated because of his smaller sizeand today’s engines are smaller and more powerful than ever. GM’s Buick Regal has a 4 banger that puts out 270 horsesjust about the same horsepower as a new 289 V8 produced in a 1965 Ford Mustang when they came out.