Back in my youth, accessories such as power door locks and windows, air conditioning, and a sunroof enabled an automaker to label its vehicle as being “fully loaded.” In a very short quarter century, automobiles have come to offer such features, save for the sunroof perhaps, as being part of the most basic trim level.
Today, elements often delivered as standard in modern cars were only very rarely available, if at all, even in the costliest, most luxurious vehicles back then – think heated front seats and a touchscreen display. Because of this, we can safely say that we’ve got it good in 2023, as occupants have never been more comfortable and better catered to.
Some features stand out above all others. They are the ones that we should not and cannot live without once we’ve experienced and lived with them for any amount of time. While rear ottoman seats are wonderful and a 25-speaker high-powered audio system is immersive, they are ultimately luxuries. The following five features are true must-haves for every Canadian car owner.
Heated Steering Wheel
Heated seats are quite common now in even the most basic new cars and SUVs. They provide a quick and satisfying heat boost to the buns on chilly days. Our hands, however, are often left out in the cold. We can wear gloves, but they can impede slightly on grip, make it more difficult to use the buttons and controls, and, more often than not, touchscreens become unresponsive to most inputs.
A heated steering wheel means gloves are not necessary, it keeps hands nice and toasty, and ensures that all manners of controls and menu selections will activate when touched.
Blind Spot Monitoring
It seems like most modern cars are not designed to see out of, as their “A” and “B” pillars are thicker than The Rock’s thighs. With blind spot monitoring, however, the old shoulder check has essentially been rendered useless.
Blind spot monitoring, thanks to its warning lights and/or audible chimes, let you know if there’s something in your blind spots, even if you can’t see it in your side mirrors. While drivers should not rely solely on this system, blind spot monitoring takes some of the stress out of changing lanes and merging. Also, points are awarded to tilting side mirrors that aid in parking and reversing manoeuvres. They are especially useful in the winter as most back-up cameras become far too filthy to capture a clear image of what lurks behind them.
Auto Up/Down Power Windows
This is one feature that quickly becomes a must-have after using it a few times, especially because we are obsessed with drive-thrus. With this feature, a single push of the power window switch lowers the window, freeing your hand from needing to hold down the switch. While it seems like a convenience feature, it’s actually a safety feature because it allows your hands to be where they need to be as often as possible – on the steering wheel. Now, your free hand will inevitably be reaching for the phone or wallet to pay for your order, while the other hand holds the steering wheel so you can avoid the oversized trash bin or cement divider lurking ahead. Driving from one window to the other is thus a ding-free trip and, finally, driving away from the pickup window is immediate, as one hand positions the drinks in the cupholders and the other can hold the wheel.
Power Lumbar Seats Adjustment
This one might be age-related but, if you’re lucky, you’ll get older one day, too. Lumbar support, especially the power kind, gently nudges itself against the seat occupant’s lower back or the spine’s lower five vertebrae between the sacrum and diaphragm. The expanding or inflatable cushion limits or prevents slouching or leaning forward while driving, maintaining a better posture and keeping comfort levels high, especially on longer drives.
When pushing a cart full of Costco last-minute unplanned must-haves with the kids running around and wanting to help out, few moments are more satisfying than reaching for the key fob and activating the power hatch from across the parking lot. This enables dad or mom to hand items to their well-intended kids so that they may drop them in the trunk. With little effort and without taking eyes off the children, the hatch can close while everyone is being secured in their respective seats. This feature is even more useful in the winter, as no frozen slush-covered handle needs to be touched. Quick tip: motion-activated power hatch functions are unreliable in winter, so a key-fob activated system is best.