It’s not fun realizing that your new ride is missing a few key features — especially when you find out they all come standard on someone else’s car. Take LED automotive lighting for example: While it has quickly become the standard on many automobiles, it’s typically still reserved for running lights and tail lamps, and novice car buyers will often think they’re getting diodes in every single sconce.
Meanwhile, every week a new car shows up for us to review, and regardless of how well the car may be made, we always find at least a few missing options that should be labeled as standard. Granted, automakers are offering more for less like never before, and cars are better than they have ever been in history, but the core base of stock add-ons is still not entirely up to snuff.
In the 1990s, air conditioning was still an option on certain cars, and for decades prior, it remained a high-end luxury add-on — a very expensive one at that. But as engineering advancements and manufacturing costs slowly declined, the mighty AC unit eventually became standard equipment, and you would be hard-pressed to find a car without today. Buyers dictate automotive trends, not the other way around, and if people expect to see a particular item as a standard feature, automakers will bend over backward in order to keep customers.
So after kicking a few ideas around one morning, my colleagues and I came up with these 11 features that we think should be standard on all cars in the next five years. Will our wishes be fulfilled? Probably not. But at least you know what to look for when it’s time to buy a new ride.
1. Proximity-based, power folding illuminated mirrors
Once an exclusive option from Mercedes-Benz, this key fob-activated welcome ceremony is something you see on all kinds of cars nowadays: Everything from the Nissan Maxima to the Kia Forte5 has it. But this isn’t just some nifty light show; the spotlight in the bottom of the mirrors illuminates the ground around the front doors so you can see the door handle and any treacherous ground underfoot.
We also feel it’s a nice touch when an automaker doesn’t force you to walk out into oncoming traffic in order to fold your passenger mirror in when parked on a busy street. We aren’t overly fond of having a mirror sheared off by a delivery van, but neither are we exceptionally keen on getting leveled by said vehicle. Simply put, it’s automatic and useful.
2. Heated headlights
Remember when Volvo had those goofy headlight wipers that would always break? In theory it was a grand idea, but in practice, it didn’t hold much weight. Snow and ice build-up in winter will quickly obfuscate your nightly vision, as even headlight washers run out of fluid eventually.
Enter the heated headlamp, a design so simple you have to wonder why no one thought of it sooner. All a headlamp needs is a porthole that allows engine heat into the lens and you’ve got a heated headlamp that melts winter away! Naturally, the entire unit would need to be heat-resistant so all the electrical components contained within wouldn’t melt, but if automakers can create autonomous cars, this should be a complete cake walk.
3. Surround view cameras
This is one of our favorite features on modern cars, and being able to toggle it on and off only makes driving that much easier and safer. While backup cameras are just now getting to the point where they are standard on all models, it’s the knowing that you are not going to clip the curb in front of you or rash a wheel that makes us feel more confident. Throw in a few parking sensors and some good graphics, and this feature will be more popular than beads at Mardi Gras.
4. Parking assist
Many Americans still prefer to park their own cars, which is why the previous contender would be such a huge hit. But some people like having the option of the vehicle parking for them, especially when a parallel parking spot has the square footage of phone booth.
Enter parking assist, a feature that is by no means standard, but should be considering how many bad parking jobs and damaged bumpers we see every day. The technology is there, it isn’t as expensive as it once was, and in five years, it will likely be on everything.
5. Keyless entry
Keyless entry is yet another commonplace and feasible option that we feel should be standard on all cars. Once considered a precious luxury feature reserved only for the elite, all kinds of inexpensive automobiles sport this practical little invention these days. So if it’s borderline basic equipment by this point, why aren’t all cars equipped with keyless entry?
6. Airbag weight sensors that work
7. In-seat storage bins
This is a simple and effective way of making the most of interior space. Dodge and Jeep currently are two of the only automakers that make and market an in-seat design, and while some European automakers utilize sliding under-seat bins, we still feel a completely enclosed, cushion-covered storage compartment is the way to go.
Featuring a pull tab toward the back of the lower seat cushion and a hinge at the front, passenger seats in any area of the vehicle can be opened to reveal additional storage space. This is another one of those “well duh” features that should be standard on everything. It doesn’t cost that much to engineer and manufacture, and it protects valuable goods like purses and avocados from the elements and from rolling around.
8. Self-dimming laser headlights
It may sound like a line straight out of an Austin Powers film, but if this next generation of lighting technology has already been tested, is 10 times stronger than modern LED lighting, and has been approved by the Europeans, what’s holding us back?
According to a recent report by Car and Driver, “By 2019, two major safety-testing agencies (NHTSA and IIHS) will factor headlamp performance into their overall ratings of new cars, and award honors to the most effective.” But with outdated regulations still in place and expensive production costs looming overhead, it looks like we will have to wait a while in order to see this futuristic feature in action on U.S. soil.
9. Heated/ventilated seats
By this point even an economy car should have heated front seats. The cost of adding heating elements has gotten so low that we’re surprised that more cars don’t come with butt warmers both in the front and in the back.
Sure, ventilated seats do add some cost, but the simplicity and availability of modern air-cooled seating makes it worth tacking on a little more to the asking price. Luxury automakers won’t be able to market it as “posterior pampering for privileged people” anymore, but since modern Kias are rocking this feature, it looks like the time has come for better seating options for all.
Don’t get me wrong, we love donuts just as much as the next guy, but only when they’re chocolate glazed and showered with sprinkles. The full-size spare is one of those automotive add-ons no one thinks about until they’ve got to hobble down the freeway at 25 miles per hour in order to get a fresh tire.
If you can afford a new car, you should be able to afford the extra full-size spare that comes with it, and if automakers can make the wheel and tire match whatever is already on the car then more power to them for doing the right thing.
11. Disc brakes
The fact that automakers are still producing cars with drums instead of discs is infuriating. We are at a point in history when calipers and rotors have become just as inexpensive, so why an automaker would insist on putting outdated brake technology like drums and shoes on a modern vehicle beats the hell out of us.
You can argue all day long about how the rear brakes don’t get abused like the fronts, or how sealed drums keep mud out when going off-road, but we all know the real reason why automakers put shoes on a car. It’s because replacing them sucks, and they want you take your car to the dealer. Just look at the amount of crap associated with putting new shoes on a car, and you too will see why even mechanics despise doing this brake job.