Technology is front and center at the 2014 New York International Auto Show. Sometimes it’s offbeat tech, such as a flying car, but this year the focus is more on driver assistance and infotainment services coming to a wider array of cars.
Even small cars are loading up on driver tech, such as forward collision warning and lane departure warning, because the technology is cheaper. They’re also in demand from boomers downsizing into the same cars Millennials buy; the older drivers don’t want to give up the tech they had on their big car or SUV, Extremetech reported.
The 2014 NYIAS also features quick redesigns of cars only a year or two old, such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Civic. Automakers are getting quicker at fixing what focus groups and reviewers tell them. Most new cars have upgraded infotainment systems; several are showing Apple’s CarPlay. More have LCD displays standard even with no navigation, to better display infotainment and to provide backup cameras in advance of the federal mandate, now set for 2018.
The show runs, as it does each year, for 10 days starting the Friday before Easter at New York City’s Javits Convention Center. Here are ExtremeTech’s picks for the best cars, based on their technology.
Kia Sedona: New UVO, business-class rear seating
A minivan is among our top tech cars because the 2015 Kia Sedona brings in the latest round of the excellent Kia UVO (your voice) infotainment / telematics system. This edition of UVO adds these self-explaining features: geo-fencing, speed alert, curfew alert, and driver score. As if a teen already mortified to be driving a minivan would want to drive about more and farther than necessary. No matter, this is actually a “midsize multi-purpose vehicle.” Right.
The dashboard buttons are big and well lettered. There is Audi-level driver tech: adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, surround view monitor. A smart tailgate as on the Hyundai Genesis opens when you walk up with the key on your person. The Kia UVO eServices can grab Pandora, iHeart Radio, Siri Eyes Free, and Google Local Search from the Google Play and iTunes stores for your smartphone and control by the head unit.
A minivan is the most comfortable way to haul seven or eight. Second-row Slide-n-Stow seats slide all the way forward against the front seats to maximize cargo. Now the Sedona may also be the best way to carry four adults. Opt for the middle row lounge seats with leg rests that pop out, just like seats at the front of the plane.
Nissan Rogue boasts camera-based rear view mirror
The redesigned 2014 Nissan Rogue blew away the competition, and as a result sales are up 75%. The competition is so far back in the rear view mirror that Nissan needed a better way to see them. Enter the Smart Rear Vew Mirror. It’s a camera mounted high up in the rear window of this compact SUV. It displays the view on a LCD screen built into the full width of the 4:1 aspect ratio inside rear mirror. Don’t like the view? Flip a switch on the back side and it reverts to a dumb old glass mirror.
For now, it’s a prototype, likely on future Nissans. It doesn’t take the place of the backup camera (mounted low). Pierre Loing, Nissan’s North American VP for product planning, mused on the possibility that it could be paired with rear-facing side cameras to provide a wrap-around view that leaves no blind spots. If there’s a single gee-whiz technology of the New York auto show, Nissan has it. Surprisingly this was on the Rogue rather than the swoopier, newer Nissan Murano midsize SUV (photo) launched at the show.
Hyundai Sonata: more tech for the roomiest midsize
A couple weeks after launching the amazing upscale Hyundai Genesis, Hyundai laid down the standard for tech and spaciousness — just not sales volume — in the midsize class with the 2015 Hyundai Sonata. Some of it comes down from the Genesis: that trunk that pops up when you walk up to it and all manner of driver aids. This will be the first Hyundai with CarPlay, which rolls the Apple experience directly to your car’s LCD screen: music, texting (as spoken messages), navigation. The same thing with Google phones should follow.
Hyundai leads the charge in bringing costly European car tech and features to the masses. Some other midsize cars have adaptive cruise control that cuts out at 20 mph. Hyundai will have stop-and-go adaptive cruise contorl. The back seat is big and the car is actually rated as a full-size. The back seats can be had with integrated sunshades. As with the previous version, the engine compartment was designed only for four-cylinder engines, one without, one with a turbocharger.
Ford Focus keys on efficiency
Small changes to the world’s best-selling nameplate are significant. The reworked 2015 Ford Focus compact sedan now offers a 1.0 liter, three-cylinder Ecoboost (turbocharged) engine. That’s for efficiency and the Focus will “raise the bar,” Ford says, but hasn’t announced mpg. Need more? Ford also is offering a revised Ford Focus Electric for 2015. Need performance? Add the SE Sport Package with a more sharply tuned suspension (read: make sure your partner goes along for the test ride), dual-clutch automatic gearbox, and paddle shifters.
Ford leads in putting big car features on cheap small cars. The Focus can be had with blinde spot detection and lane keep assist that nudges the car back into the lane. Every car gets a rear view camera and at least a 4.2-inch LCD. Ford MyKey will be standard on all Focuses. MyKey limits what a teen driver can do in terms of radio volume, speed, and things that he or she might not do in a parent was in the car. Then there’s Sync, much criticized but still a cheap way to get Bluetooth, a USB key, voice input. Just spend time reading the manual.
Some of these changes are for the China market that accounts for a third of Focus sales worldwide.
Subaru Outback a little sleeker, safer
The redesigned Subaru Outback is better in many small ways. It’s a little sleeker overall. Both four- and six-cylinder engines improve on already good fuel economy. Even the base model now includes a rear camera and color display. The A-pillars at the front of the car are a little thinner for better vision without compromising safety.
Like its bigger sibling, the Editors’ Choice Subaru Outback (for small SUV), the wagon-like Outback offers EyeSight, the dual camera system that provides adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and pre-collision braking. Compared to EyeSight on previous year models, the price is down $500, to $1895 in a package with onboard navigation.