As technology becomes more complex and the pace of living more hectic, there's a national movement afoot to simplify and streamline. Witness the success of Real Simple magazine, which every month details how to organize one's home, meals and life in general. So it's no surprise that carmakers have jumped on the bandwagon, taking vehicle organization to the next level. Forget about cupholders; today's cars boast everything from multipurpose consoles that hold laptops — some with cord management — to customizable storage modules and rubberized compartments that can be hosed down.
Below are some of the standout organizational solutions available as standard or optional features on today's vehicles.
Multipurpose center consoles
Several advanced seat center consoles provide organization solutions that accommodate techies. For example, the 2007 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX midsize crossover SUVs utilize a center bin that may be customized to hold CDs, personal items or even a laptop computer. A 12-volt power point charges electronics, and an available auxiliary audio input for iPods and other MP3 players makes integration seamless. Ford also engineered small slots in the side of the console for organizing the routing of power cords. The all-new 2007 Acura RDX armrest also holds a laptop.
The full-size 2007 Audi Q7 SUV includes a front center armrest with separate compartments for the driver and front passenger. The Nissan Quest minivan features a first-row folding tray on the driver seat with coin- and cupholders. The Toyota Sienna minivan's front center console may be removed and placed between the second-row captain's chairs.
Passenger compartment storage and super folding seats
Configuring the seats with ease is critical in organizing your minivan, crossover or SUV. Chrysler's Stow 'n Go seating system, available on long-wheelbase Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans, includes second- and third-row seats that fold completely flat into the floor. When the seats are upright, there's plenty of storage below the floor. The signature Easy-Out Roller seats may be removed quickly without difficulty, again freeing up cargo space.
The 2007 Cadillac SRX full-size SUV allows a rear cargo management system to be chosen in place of the third-row seat, providing three distinct storage areas and a removable bin. The Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV has an illuminated and carpeted storage area.
Overhead consoles and advanced gloveboxes
Utilizing overhead storage space provides car organization that's accessible by passengers from front to back. The Nissan Quest minivan uses an "airplane style" overhead console with three large storage bins, one small bin, four air vents, four lights and up to two 8-inch DVD entertainment screens (when properly equipped). Chevy's Uplander minivan has an overhead rail system providing interior customization — handy storage modules for small items may be snapped in where desired. A unique Uplander option is the PhatNoise 40-gig digital media system that stores thousands of songs and dozens of movies, eliminating the need to store CDs and DVDs. Lighting, HVAC controls and rear-seat DVD entertainment are also built into the system. Chrysler minivans also employ a sliding overhead rail system with two movable storage bins standard on Limited and available on Touring models.
Gloveboxes have been getting more attention, and dual boxes are being incorporated into more of today's vehicles. The Land Rover Range Rover full-size luxury SUV includes twin gloveboxes that may be opened electronically. Mercedes-Benz's M-Class gets a two-tier illuminated glovebox, while the 2007 Toyota RAV4 midsize SUV includes dual boxes with one-push opening and closing. Hyundai's Entourage minivan has an illuminated and locking glovebox, while the 2007 Dodge Nitro midsize SUV allows storage for small personal items in a dash bin to the left of the steering wheel.
Enhanced cargo loading/management, washable interior surfaces
Loading and unloading rolling or messy cargo requires special materials and unique tailgate configurations. In fact, some 44 of the 2007 models released to date have a rear cargo organizer as standard equipment.
The Dodge Nitro's "Load 'N Go" rear sliding storage tray takes it one further: It extends 18 inches beyond the rear bumper for simple cargo loading and unloading. Up to 400 pounds may be placed on the unit. A separate rear cargo tray is "reversible," creating a walled bin useful for carrying balls or other objects with the potential to slide. An asymmetrical tailgate designed into the Land Rover LR3 luxury SUV allows easy loading when both closed and open. The short half on the passenger side lets users load cargo easily when closed, and the long driver-side half provides a luggage/gear storage shelf when down.
The Honda Element compact SUV features a black urethane-coated utility floor, great for hauling muddy mountain bikes or wet snowboards. Waterproof seating upholstery (called FXC — "fabric for extreme conditions") keeps the chairs stain-free. Similarly, Toyota's FJ Cruiser crossover SUV includes a rubberized floor and water-resistant seats with sealed seams to keep everything intact when rinsed.
Cool and unique features
Some innovative vehicle organization techniques escape classification. For example, the Honda Odyssey minivan features a partially exposed Lazy Suzan (rotating storage tray) beneath the passenger floor. The Nissan Quest has a retractable dry-cleaning hook, and Range Rover SUVs have retractable cupholder covers. Storage nets in the Mercedes M-Class and Audi Q7's passenger footwells keep small cargo in place. Several brands boast a purse hook (albeit for a small purse) in the passenger footwell. And for luxury convenience, BMW X5 SUVs have a phone outlet built into the front armrest.
If you're not buying a new car just yet and want to organize your current ride, see "Is Your Car a Mess? Organize Your Car in Five Steps".
To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.