It's easy to forget that Thanksgiving is about more than just turkey and cranberry sauce. The tradition began as a harvest festival in which pilgrims gave thanks for that year's crop. Today, it's an opportunity for us all to reflect on those things for which we're most grateful.
In this rather appreciative spirit, members of the Edmunds.com editorial team have gathered 'round the fire to pay tribute to the vehicle features that are closest to their hearts. Here are the features that made the cut, listed in alphabetical order.
"Before I lived with automatic headlights I thought they were frivolous, silly doodads for people who were too lazy or distracted to manage their own headlight operation. Now that I've consistently driven cars equipped with auto headlights, I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want them. I think of them as a safety feature as well as a convenience feature. If the sky suddenly darkens because of a storm or a tunnel, if it slowly darkens on my commute home and I don't notice it, automatic headlights have me covered." — Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor
Blind Spot Detection
"In Los Angeles, where the freeways are six lanes across, merging is a stressful practice. Radar-enabled blind spot detection is a great way to double-check that there is room to move over to the right or left. Icons on the side mirror, sometimes coupled with chimes, let the driver know if a car is lurking just out of sight." — Phil Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor
Built-In Performance Meters
"As the resident track monkey, I am most thankful for built-in performance meters. The Nissan GT-R that was in our long-term fleet offered an incredibly comprehensive array of meters (lateral/longitudinal Gs, acceleration, timers, etc.). Even the simple lap timer built into our long-term Z would be helpful for me. There are some apps for the iPhone that can perform these duties as well — 'Dynolicious' is particularly good — but it's generally a bad idea to have anything in the car that may break loose when on a racetrack." — Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor
"I test a lot of car gadgets and love the convenience of, say, a good iPod-integration app, a back-up camera system or Bluetooth hands-free that lets me make calls just by speaking names in my phone's address book. But come winter, there's nothing quite like getting into a cold car and cranking up the seat heaters. Maybe if I lived in a warm climate like the rest of the Edmunds editorial staff I'd pick a different feature. But since moving to the Pacific Northwest from SoCal four years ago, I've come to really appreciate automotive bun warmers on those freezing-cold mornings." — Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology
"I don't listen to the radio much, which is why I'm thankful for vehicles with iPod integration. Playing my music via an auxiliary cable isn't enough for me. I want to be able to control the iPod from the factory stereo, sort through my playlists, and see what song is playing on the display. With iPod integration, I can use the vehicle's steering-wheel-mounted controls and keep my eyes on the road. On Ford vehicles that have Sync, I can even search for an artist using voice commands. Plus, I never have to worry about losing the charge on my battery." — Ronald Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate
"Keyless entry and ignition means I can unlock the door, slip into the car and fire it up without fumbling in my black hole of a purse. It's super convenient, especially when my hands are full. It saves time, and it's even a security benefit in parking garages or dicey areas. I'll never go back to a regular key." — Joanne Helperin, Senior Features Editor
"The car feature I'm most thankful for is the power liftgate. Hatchbacks offer fantastic utility by creating useful and enclosed space in the back of your car, but weather and circumstance don't always coincide to make it convenient to get out of the car to open or close the hatch. When it's raining buckets, when the ground slopes to put the hatch out of reach, when you're dressed up and the back of the car is coated in road sludge, when your hands are already full of groceries, or when the baby's crying in the car seat and the dog wants out now — at that moment, like us, you'll be wildly thankful for this feature." — Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor
"Uncertainty is a pain, and anything that can serve to reduce its stain on the human experience is a good thing in my book. A rearview camera does just that — by providing you with a more complete picture of what lies behind you, it can make reverse maneuvers both safer and less stressful. Obviously, a camera can only capture so much, and nothing beats a firsthand look-see — this technology doesn't eliminate the need for you to crane your neck and take a quick gander at what's going on back there. Still, it does a lot to minimize the vagueness inherent with backing up." — Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor
Voice Recognition Software
"I'll always remember the first time I realized I could tell a car what to do. I took a road trip in a 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG, and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to cancel the navigation route I had requested. Then I saw a strange button on the steering wheel with a talking-head icon. On a whim, I pressed it, and voila! — a list of possible voice commands popped up on the navigation screen, one of which was 'Cancel route guidance.' I said it, and it was so. No menu-fiddling required. If this is the future of the automobile, I'm all about it." — Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor
XM Satellite Radio
"I'm thankful for the Major League Baseball (MLB) channels on XM Satellite Radio. Only 10 years ago, if you moved away from your favorite baseball team (or any sports team for that matter), you had no way of following them outside of purchasing a satellite dish and ponying up for the MLB channels. Today, I can drive around Los Angeles listening to a baseball game being played in my home town of Toronto, commentated by the local Toronto sportscasters. Another nice thing about the XM baseball channels is that the score, inning and outs are listed in the radio readout. You don't get that on AM radio." — James Riswick, Automotive Editor