Because of the need to compete, automakers are becoming increasingly innovative, differentiating themselves with gimmicks and gadgets that range from the practical to the absurd.
Nissan, for instance, recently announced that it’s developing technology that will release breathable Vitamin C into a vehicle’s cabin. The vitamin supplement is meant to keep skin moisturized, the interior smelling fresh and reduce the level of airborne bacteria and allergens.
Ten years ago, preventing the skin on your knees and elbows from cracking was hardly a driver concern. But compared to the other crazy technology in today’s cars, it actually doesn’t seem farfetched.
Below is a list of five cars, trucks and SUVs that do some crazy things -- everything from transform your car into nightclub on wheels to detect would-be serial killers hiding in the backseat. Cool? Ridiculous? You be the judge.
MSRP: $13,300 - $18,195
While most cars feature sound systems, the 2010 Kia Soul provides a lighting and sound experience that feels more like partying in Ibiza than sitting behind the wheel of an Affordable Small Car. Standard on the Soul! and Soul Sport is a CD/MP3/satellite radio that’s wired to eight speakers (including tweeters and a subwoofer) and a 315-watt external amplifier. If that wasn’t enough, its speakers glow and dance with the pulse of whatever club beat you’re fist pumping too. All that’s missing are glow sticks and a fog machine.
MSRP: $22,060 - $46,740
With a horsepower rating ranging from 248 to 400 and the ability to tow up to 11,300 pounds, the Ford F-150 is a workhorse. But this Full Size Pickup Truck also has brains to match its brawn. Optional for the F-150 is the Ford Work Solutions system -- which transforms its cabin to an office. The system includes an internet-connected in-truck computing system to track work, a printer to make invoices and even a tool management system to ensure no tools ever get left behind. What’s more, it’s available with Ford's Crew Chief system, which allows you to track the location of multiple vehicles so they can be dispatched efficiently.
MSRP: $39,200 - $50,950
Thanks to a host of standard safety features -- including whiplash-protection active head restraints in all five seating positions, the 2010 Volvo S80 is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety “Top Safety Pick.” As impressive as that is, however, the S80 wins praise among other Luxury Large Cars for a safety feature that holds no bearing on its performance in crash tests:Volvo’s Personal Car Communicator. This system uses a heartbeat sensor to detect intruders that may be hiding in your backseat, waiting for you to approach. If it senses one, you’ll be notified via a flashing light on the S80’s key fob.
MSRP: $44,200 - $49,200
All-new for 2011, the Lincoln MKT is a technophile’s dream. Among its long list of standard and optional features is a voice-activated navigation system, HD Radio with a surround-sound audio system, touch-screen rearview camera, and heated and cooled seats. Still, what takes the cake is Lincoln’s Active Park Assist. This system utilizes ultrasonic sensors to scan for suitable parking spots and parallel parks the MKT with minimum driver input. It also works up to three times faster than other automakers’ systems.
MSRP: $46,250 - $60,050
Along with a complete redesign, the sultry 2011 Infiniti M comes jam-packed with a host of impressive features like optional Blind Spot Intervention and Lane Departure Intervention systems. What takes the cake, however, is the Infiniti M’s “Forest Air” system. Available with the M’s optional Deluxe Touring Package or Sport Touring Package, “Forest Air” varies vent fan speed to replicate the feel of a breeze. It also detects cabin odors and uses a filter to neutralize them -- which should make jaunts with a smelly dog (or friend) more bearable.