Anyone who's ever carved a turkey knows that a Thanksgiving meal can be made a whole lot better with the right trimmings. Whether you're shopping this Thanksgiving weekend or later on, the same is true of your potential new-car purchase; well-chosen safety, comfort and convenience features can go a long way toward making your vehicle a more pleasant and functional place in which to spend your time.
The forward march of technology has brought with it a host of new gadgets that you can use to dress up your car, and unlike days of old, many of these features aren't solely available on luxury models. These 10 amenities are our favorites. You'll find them in a diverse array of vehicles, from economy hatchbacks to minivans to premium sedans, and they all promise to improve your quality of life behind the wheel.
1. Back-up camera.
When reversing your vehicle, craning your neck and adjusting the mirrors can help you see what's behind you, but they won't give you a complete picture; you won't be able to spot objects that are low to the ground and immediately behind the vehicle. That's where a backup camera comes in. If you have young kids who might happen to be playing around your car as you're backing up, this technology could be a lifesaver.
2. Blind-spot warning system.
If you've ever started to change lanes only to frantically stomp on the brakes after realizing that there's a vehicle in your car's blind spot, you'll appreciate having a blind-spot warning system in your car's arsenal of safety features. This system alerts you when there's a car in your vehicle's blind spot, and issues a warning when you're about to make an unsafe lane change.
3. Bluetooth wireless audio streaming.
From an automotive perspective, Bluetooth is most commonly used to facilitate hands-free phoning while driving, but this same technology can also be used to wirelessly connect your mobile phone or portable music player with your car's sound system. Bluetooth wireless audio streaming comes in pretty handy if you own a mobile phone chock-full of music files and have no way to physically connect the device to your car's sound system.
4. Drowsiness detection system.
It's frightening but true: A study released by the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that a staggering 41 percent of drivers admit to having fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point. A drowsiness detection system helps you avoid having this happen to you. This system uses a steering sensor and smart software to monitor driver behavior, and issues a warning at the first signs of drowsiness.
5. Heated seats.
If you face cold or even cool winters, you'll love heated seats, which send waves of welcome warmth to your back and your thighs. Those with back problems will also find this technology pretty soothing, regardless of the weather.
6. Multi-zone entertainment system.
With a multi-zone entertainment system, more than one video or audio signal is sent to separate monitors or headphones, thus allowing each passenger in your vehicle to choose different types of entertainment. For example, the driver could listen to music on the speakers while a backseat passenger enjoys a movie via headphones and a rear monitor.
7. Premium audio.
Pretty much every model on the market offers an audio upgrade that allows you to step up to a more premium sound system. If you enjoy great music, you won't want to miss the opportunity to savor the very best sonics your vehicle has to offer.
8. Remote start.
With remote start, you can start your vehicle minutes before you actually enter. This allows you to warm up the interior ahead of time on cold days, and to cool down the cabin before you slide behind the wheel when the weather's hot.
9. Split-view monitor.
Rear entertainment systems are great for the kids, but if you've got more than one kid, this amenity can trigger some serious sibling warfare about programming. Split-view monitors solve this problem by allowing viewers to simultaneously watch images generated by two separate video sources on a single screen. Some models also offer these monitors in front, allowing the driver to use half of the monitor for navigation while the front passenger uses the other half for entertainment.
Want to place a call or navigate your iPod without taking your hands off the wheel? Offered exclusively by Ford, Mercury and Lincoln, Sync allows you to do just that; this ingenious system facilitates the near-seamless management of your mobile phone and your music via voice commands. Other Sync features include Turn-by-Turn Directions that deliver voice directions to your destination; 911 Assist that delivers an urgent message to an emergency operator if you're unable to speak; and a Vehicle Health Report that updates you on vehicle diagnostics, scheduled maintenance information and current recalls.