Maximizing Your Money: The Best and Worst New Car Features to Consider

The technology in new cars is rapidly evolving. It seems like one day, we were cranking up windows manually, and the next, they rolled up and down automatically. Fortunately, there are plenty of fancier features than power windows nowadays.

Consumer Reports is known for testing cars, appliances, and gadgets, and it recently put together a list of the latest new car features. Here are 10 of the best and worst features they have tested.

1. Automatic high beams

Car high-beams on an oncoming car
Car high-beams on an oncoming car | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

The automatic high beam feature switches between the low and high beams depending on the outside lighting, traffic, and speed. When an oncoming car is detected, the auto high beam feature will turn off in order to not blind the other driver. It can also be overridden if needed.

We have tested this feature in a number of press cars and feel that it’s a great one to have, as it comes in handy during the darkest of times (pun intended). Consumer Reports agrees, and they feel that it’s a necessary feature even if you have to pay extra for it.

2. Flush/retractable door handles

Retractable door handles on the Genesis G90
Retractable door handles | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

There are some new luxury cars in the market that have retractable door handles. It’s a cool feature that cars like the Tesla Model S and Genesis G90 use. Other than looking cool, these retractable door handles improve the car’s aerodynamics, which can, in turn, improve the car’s fuel efficiency or electric driving range.

Although they serve a good purpose, Consumer Reports notes that “they can be hard to grasp and complicate what should be a simple feature.” They also ice over more quickly than normal handles. In that case, we’re neutral about retractable door handles, but we still think they look fantastic.

3. Tire pressure monitors

Tire pressure monitors warn you when one of your car’s tires is underinflated with a light on the dashboard. Automakers have been implementing these monitors in cars since September 2007, and the technology has evolved ever since. Nowadays, some tire pressure systems provide a real-time readout of all four of the car’s tire pressures.

Consumer Reports thinks that tire pressure monitors are an integral part of the car as “proper tire inflation is key for safety, fuel economy, and even tire wear.” We agree as these little monitors have saved us much heartache by alerting us when tire pressures are too low.

4. Soft-touch and reflective surfaces

The reflective dash pieces in the Acura Integra
Reflective dash pieces | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Many cars in the market come with reflective trim pieces and soft-touch materials. Although these interior parts look nice, they can be easily scratched, collect dust, and be too reflective in the sunlight. If the car that you buy has these types of surfaces, make sure to keep them clean with a microfiber cloth.

5. New shifter designs

Push button shifter on the Lexus LC 500
Push button shifter on the Lexus LC 500 | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Not many automakers put the usual “P-R-N-D-L” automatic shifter in their cars anymore. As the years go by, we have seen increasing amounts of knobs and buttons replacing the actual shifters. These new shifter designs are aesthetically pleasing, but they can be confusing, especially if you’re trying to shift gears on the fly.

6. All-in-one touchscreens

An all-inclusive infotainment system
An all-inclusive infotainment system | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Most new cars today use all-in-one touchscreens. These screens not only control the infotainment system but also control the HVAC systems. These are aesthetically pleasing; however, they can be cumbersome to use when you have to toggle the A/C fan or heater. Consumer Reports noted that physical knobs and buttons for the HVAC controls would be better.

7. Phone apps on the dashboard

In-dash apps on Apple Carplay
In-dash apps on Apple Carplay | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Some infotainment systems today allow the driver to use phone apps via the Apple Carplay or Android Auto software. We use these phone integration software all the time and feel that it’s far superior to using a lot of the built-in apps, like navigation, in the car’s native system.

8. Phone-based door entry

The days of having to unlock your car with your key or a remote key fob are almost gone. Nowadays, brands like Kia, Genesis, BMW, and Tesla offer phone-based door entry apps. This means that you can enter your car with a press of a button on the phone app instead of a remote.

Consumer Reports says that this new technology is convenient, especially if it’s raining. It can also keep you from locking your keys in the car.

9. 360-degree and multi-angle camera views

A 360-degree view on an infotainment system.
360-degree camera view | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Rearview cameras have been mandatory features in cars since 2018. But nowadays, automakers are making them even more sophisticated by using multiple angles and more cameras around the car. As you can imagine, these cameras are helpful, but it should be noted that they still don’t replace physically looking around the car before moving it.

10. Larger wheels and tires

Large wheels and tires
A large wheel | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Many automakers outfit their new vehicles with large 19, 20, and 21-inch tires. Although they look cool, these wheels are heavy and are typically wrapped in low-profile tires with thin sidewalls. These rubber-band-like tires, in combination with the large wheels, resulting in a harsher, noisier ride.

Consumer Reports advises opting for the smaller tire size when possible for more comfort and better fuel efficiency.

The 10 best and worst new car features

These are the 10 best and worst new car features outlined by Consumer Reports. Although many of them provide much convenience, others are not that useful. Remember to pick your option wisely when shopping for a new car.