Chicago—December 4, 2007—The automobile industry continues to make great strides, bringing new, creative features to market each year. Whether related to safety, comfort or convenience, carmakers develop a wide variety of new features to attract new-car shoppers. With countless hours behind the wheel of new vehicles, the Cars.com reviewers identified what they consider the 10 most notable features that debuted in 2007.
"We're impressed every year with the new features that show up in cars, but this year the 2008 Infiniti EX35, which goes on sale at the end of December, definitely offered the most," said Cars.com managing editor Patrick Olsen. "It has our favorite new feature, Lane Departure Prevention."
The Top 10 new car features according to Cars.com include:
1. Lane Departure Prevention
Where you can find it: Infiniti EX35
Infiniti's Lane Departure Prevention builds on conventional lane-departure warning systems, which detect lane markings and sound a chime if you drift astray. LDP goes one step further by gently applying the brakes to certain wheels to nudge you back on course. Sound too intrusive? Cars.com tried it out in the EX35 and it keeps a remarkably low profile. Hit the turn signal or steer the wheel slightly, and the system deactivates. On straight roads, it intervenes with just a hint of deceleration, and the dashboard chime alerts you of its actions. For its effectiveness and low profile, LDP is the winner.
2. Scratch Shield Paint
Where you can find it: Infiniti EX35
The crusade for city-friendly transportation began years ago with plastic bumpers and dent-resistant doors. It reaches new heights with Infiniti's Scratch Shield paint. On the EX35, Scratch Shield combines a highly elastic resin with the clearcoat finish. The resulting surface is said to maintain a glossy appearance over the years, and it can actually undo minor damage in the course of a few days. While Scratch Shield won't repair dents or gashes, Infiniti says it can restore things like fingernail scratches under the door handles. Cars.com hasn't had a chance to see it in action, but is intrigued by the prospects.
3. Around View Monitor
Where you can find it: Infiniti EX35
Let's be clear on one thing: Infiniti's Around View Monitor isn't pretty. With cameras mounted on each side of the car, its fish-eye, top-down view distorts any three-dimensional object nearby. But is it effective? You bet. With a 360-degree view of exactly what's around your car, it reduces getting into narrow parking spots and crowded alleys to a science. Even the best front-and-rear sonar systems can't replicate this. You have to see it - and park it - to believe it.
4. Full-Size Hybrid SUVs/Trucks
Where you can find it: Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Silverado, Chevrolet Tahoe, Chrysler Aspen, Dodge Durango, GMC Yukon
To date, hybrid technology has graced only compact and midsize SUVs. Sharing a new 2-Mode Hybrid system, several GM and Chrysler Group full-size SUVs and a pickup truck deliver significant mileage gains - if early estimates prove accurate. Some environmentalists cry heresy over this development, but Cars.com can't see how fuel economy improvement in the vehicles that need it most could be a bad thing. The trucks give up almost none of their hauling and towing capabilities, remaining useful to the people who really need them and would buy full-size anyway, hybrid or not.
5. Integrated Booster Seats
Where you can find it: Volvo V70
This is one of those simple features that make so much sense you wonder why they're not present on more cars. In the new V70, the cushions of the outboard rear seats can easily be raised to one of two levels to better accommodate children, which means no more fumbling around with aftermarket booster seats. What's more, Volvo says the side curtain airbags in the V70 extend lower, which in conjunction with the raised seating position gives a child's head greater protection in a side-impact collision.
6. Heartbeat Sensor
Where you can find it: Volvo S80
Cars.com is dubious about the usefulness of a heartbeat sensor, but we were won over by the fact that such a futuristic feature is available in today's cars. The heartbeat sensor, which Volvo says can help you determine if someone is lying in wait inside your car, is part of the S80 sedan's Personal Car Communicator fob that can also do other things, like tell you if your car is locked or unlocked up to about 300 feet away.
7. Easy Third-Row Access
Where you can find it: Hyundai Veracruz
Getting into the third row in SUVs has gotten progressively easier in recent years, but the Veracruz has a three-step system that outshines the competition. Each part individually doesn't seem like much, but put all together it's a wonder no one else has thought of it. First, there-s a one-hand release latch that moves the second-row seat up, sliding it forward on rails. Secondly, there's a cubbyhole tucked inside the Veracruz wall, right where little ones will need it to help themselves into the car. Finally, the second-row seats come with a handle that lets third-row occupants pull the seats back toward them, helping kids trying to get into the second row. Simple ideas, but great implementation.
8. Sirius Satellite TV
Where you can find it: Chrysler minivans
Any parent can tell you that one of the big drags about taking kids on long trips is all the stuff you've got to carry with you. Chrysler's new Sirius Satellite TV makes this a bit easier by removing your DVD collection from the list. Your kids can watch one of three channels (the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network) on one or both of the rear swing-down screens; if it's just one, the other can show a DVD or video game. Given these three channels offer programming that can satisfy kids from infancy through their teen years, this is a big step forward.
9. Sync Hands-Free System
Where you can find it: Various Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models
Ford has addressed driver distraction with a voice activation system that takes the fumbling out of using cell phones and digital music players. Sync allows drivers to control Bluetooth phones and MP3 players and storage devices that have a USB input using simple voice commands - it even reads text messages from compatible phones. Sync is standard on most uplevel trims in a dozen Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models; it's a $395 option on base trim levels. That's a lot of tech for not a lot of dough.
10. Volvo Blind Spot Information System
Where you can find it: C30, S40, S80, V50, V70, XC70, XC90
Volvo prides itself on safety innovations, and this is the latest. The new S80, V70 and XC70 have an optional blind spot information system that alerts drivers to cars that are hard to spot using mirrors. Two cameras are attached to the side mirrors, and a pale orange light illuminates whenever changing lanes would lead to hitting someone in the dreaded blind spot. A single button turns the system on and off if you're in heavy traffic, but the faded hue of the lights doesn't distract from driving. It's a clever heads-up for the safety conscious.
Cars.com is the most comprehensive destination for those looking to buy or sell a new or used car. The site lists more than 2 million vehicles from more than 15,000 dealer customers, classified advertisers and private parties to offer the more than 8 million unique visitors who log on to the site each month the best selection of new and used cars online, as well as the content, tools and advice to support their shopping experience. Cars.com combines powerful inventory search tools and new-car configuration with pricing information, photo galleries, buying guides, side-by-side comparison tools, original editorial content and reviews to help millions of car shoppers connect with sellers each month.
Launched in June 1998, Cars.com is a division of Classified Ventures, LLC, (http://classifiedventures.com), which is owned by leading media companies, including Belo (NYSE: BLC), Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI), The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI), Tribune Company (NYSE: TRB) and The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO).