2014 Washington Auto Show: The 19 must-have car features


With about 700 new makes and models from more than 40 manufacturers on display in the Washington Auto Show this year, it behooves one to know what would be a efficient strategy to cover a two-story convention center in less than a day. One can always sort vehicles by miles per gallon (mpg); in other words, don’t look at anything in depth unless the car gives you at least 30 mpg or more. Another option is to filter by system: front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, 4-wheel-drive or all-wheel drive. Then rinse and repeat with pretty much every other type of feature.  Sedan, coupe, convertible, sport, SUV or truck. Premium gas, regular gas, diesel, gas, hybrid, electric or fuel cell. Manufacturers and dealerships, and their respective distances from the driver’s home. Sticker price.  Accessories.

In some way, all these factors apply. However, to fully consider them, you would need a spreadsheet program, and a few days to look into each and every make. Therefore, basing your initial sorting strategy on more general concerns – cost, efficiency and safety – results in a quicker way to parry the number down to a manageable set.

Over the past five years, car manufacturers have attempted to address the issues of cost, efficiency and safety to such a degree that varying technologies are converging on a set of similar solutions. What used to be the domain of luxury cars now comprises the standard for all models. From airbags to anti-lock brakes to cruise control to childproof rear door locks, it would be difficult to find a model without these “optional” features. In other words, something that used to be “nice-to-have” now becomes a “must-have.” As a result, the job of the manufacturers then is to sell you the “nice-to-have.” Technology such as “Autonomous Driving Technology” or “self-driving” cars becomes the new buzzwords for the future superhighway.

Here are some of the must-have and the nice-to-have features if you are shopping for a car (my own lists, in no particular order):

“Must-Have” Features:
Over 20/30 mpg (City/Highway)
3-point seat belts with automatic tensioning
Seat belt reminder
Front and side air bags
Anti-lock brakes
Traction control
LED headlights
Side-impact door beams
Child-proof rear door locks
Unit-body construction
Daytime running lights
Tire-pressure monitoring system
Cruise controls
Front and rear crumple zones
Multiple-way adjustable driver seat
Brake assistance
Air conditioning
Fog lights
Emergency trunk opener

“Nice-to-Have” Features:
Low emission technology
Lane departure warning
Blind spot detection and warning
Parking sensor and assistance
Keyless and/or remote engine start
Pre-collision system
Rearview camera
Adaptive cruise control
Lane departure warning
Collision warning and braking
Heated front seats
Advanced sound system

Still, at some point, we need to ask the following questions: When is it that the automobile becomes so high-tech that the driver ends up becoming the low-tech user? And ultimately, will the automobile take over the pleasure of driving from the driver?

The 2014 Washington Auto Show runs at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center until Feb. 2. For more information, go to washingtonautoshow.com.

Photos: 2014 Washington Auto Show
all photos by Kwai Chan / Meniscus Magazine

Video: 2014 Washington Auto Show
video by Mai D. Chan / Meniscus Magazine