Keyless entry is so 1983. It takes more than chirping locks to impress prospective car buyers these days, and vehicles are continuing to offer more and more convenience and luxury gadgets. Check out our list of the most innovative and hi-tech features available in cars today.
1. Smart Navigation
3. Ionization Systems
4. Liftgate Speakers
5. Lane Departure Warning
6. Self-Healing Paint
7. Keyless Security
9. Self Parking
By now, in-car navigation systems might seem run-of-the-mill, but manufacturers are improving on their accuracy, range and capabilities. Foodies rejoice: Acura models from the tiny TSX to the MDX SUV boast an optional nav that offers Zagat restaurant ratings as well as real-time traffic and a rear-view camera. But you don't have to splurge on an Acura to get this functionality. For 2009, even the affordable Suzuki SX4 Sport will feature a standard integrated navigation system that includes weather forecasts and real-time traffic.
Nav systems may tell you where to go, but some of the newest technology lets you have fun on the trip. Ford's SYNC multimedia system, now offered on all 2008 models, has voice-activated technology that controls your audio system and cell phone through voice commands and is compatible with MP3 players and SIRIUS Satellite Radio. Best of all, Ford offers this function for the smallest of its litter, the Focus, as well as the large Mercury Mountaineer SUV, another Ford vehicle.
Don't worry, germ-o-phobes -- there's a car out there for you too. The extensive refresh on the 2009 Hyundai Sonata includes an anti-mold ionization system designed to prevent mold growth. Not expecting too much mold in your cabin? Most new cars offer a standard air-filtration system to keep the interior clean.
Jeep and Dodge know the pain of the silent tailgate party -- and they've done something about it. The Jeep Patriot and Dodge Caliber have flip-down speakers on their lift gates that project sound outside of the vehicle when the rear door is open. While this is a perfect invention for the upcoming homecoming game or camping trip, blasting "My Humps" on the highway may not be the best idea.
Lane Departure Warning
Infiniti has stuffed its brand-new EX35 SUV full of innovative cabin features -- and one of them rivals some of the safety systems in Volvos. The EX35's available lane departure prevention system uses sensors to survey the distance between you and the lane markers and sends an audible warning if you're drifting out of your lane. The system also applies brake pressure until you've regained your position. If the crossover is a little too large for you, Volvo sedans like the S40 and S60 offer a Blind-Spot Information System that uses digital cameras to monitor the traffic on either side of the car, then visually alerts you when a vehicle enters your blind spot.
The Infiniti EX35 and redesigned 2009 FX come with Scratch-Shield paint, a self-repairing resin clearcoat that stretches to repair scratches over the course of a few days. But don't start encouraging your friends to test it out. The paint works well for fine scratches from fingernails, not malicious gouging from keys.
The Volvo S80's Personal Car Communicator (PCC) is more like your very own personal security chief. As long as you have this tiny remote with you, your S80 automatically unlocks the doors as you approach and locks them again when you touch the door handle after exiting. Once the doors are locked, the PCC can even detect a heartbeat in your car to keep you safe from intruders that could be hiding inside it.
You no longer have to lug around that red Igloo cooler on road trips. If you opt for the brand-new Ford Flex with the second-row 40/40 bucket seats, you'll also receive a refrigerated console capable of cooling seven 12-oz. soda cans. Chrysler's Dodge Journey and Jeep Compass also have a chilled glove box that allows you to cool down drinks (Hello, soggy vehicle registration), as does Ford's Saab 9-3.
Some people are too nervous to try cruise control, but if you're more trusting, check out the Advanced Parking Guidance System in the Lexus LS. This technology uses ultrasonic sensors to park itself. It handles all the steering, but you'll still need to help it along by applying the brakes. The Infiniti EX35 and FX's Around View Monitor leaves more of the work to the driver -- it utilizes four cameras to provide an aerial shot of the vehicle, allowing better views of the parking space and objects surrounding it.