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The Best Car Features You Never Knew You Wanted

By Andrew Chen | June 24, 2020

Choosing a vehicle to lease or buy can be a tough decision, especially because the baseline for quality and performance has been raised so much over the years, giving you lots of great cars to deliberate over. There's really no such thing as a "bad car" anymore! And in the end, it mostly comes down to cost and personal preference.

During the shopping phase, people are usually quick to decide on the major elements of their next vehicle -- make, model, color and power -- but often leave the smaller details or extra option packages as an afterthought. It's these additional features, which may seem unessential at first glance, that often shift your ownership experience from good to great, though.

Understandably, it's hard to place value on a comfort and convenience feature simply by looking at its name on a spec sheet, let alone make a decision to spend extra money for it. So I'm sharing my favorite vehicle features that one wouldn't expect to be life-changing, and explaining why I think each one is impactful and worth the additional cost.


Adaptive Cruise Control

Adaptive Cruise Control is a great feature

Cruise control has historically been associated with long distance drives and holding a steady speed. But with modern adaptive cruise control systems, the vehicle essentially maintains a safe distance between the car in front of you, no matter the speed. And in some cases, it even brings you to a complete stop. And when do you need to maintain a safe distance from the car ahead? Any time you’re driving!

Using adaptive cruise control to adjust speeds -- on the streets or on the highway -- dramatically reduces the stresses of maintaining a consistent gap between cars. I’ve had many commutes where I’ve barely touched either pedal in the car, letting adaptive cruise control bring me to a complete stop at traffic lights, and then resuming the drive with the press of a button on the steering wheel.

One of my favorite vehicles that offers adaptive cruise control is the Nissan Rogue with ProPILOT Assist. Couple the adaptive cruise with automatic lane keep assist, and your commute will be less tedious and much less painful.

Shop Nissan Rogue Inventory

360-degree Exterior Cameras

360-degree Exterior Cameras make parking even large vehicles a snap

Outward visibility is one of the most important safety requirements while driving, but the nature of being in the driver’s seat means you can’t see what’s immediately to the front, right side or rear of the vehicle.

Enter the 360-degree camera system, which gives you the superhuman ability to see all around the immediate vicinity of the car. You’ll never have to wonder if you’re close enough to the curb, or if you’re still inside a red zone.

Parallel parking also becomes a breeze as you maneuver the car with expert precision. It almost feels like a videogame as I use the overhead view to squeeze my car into spaces that seemed too small at first glance. And getting out of the car to check my parking job is definitely a thing of the past.

A 360-degree camera system not only enhances safety as you pull away from a parking space, but also gives you increased confidence when driving in tight areas at low speeds. This visibility-enhancing technology is offered as standard or optional equipment from a number of popular brands, like Toyota, Chevrolet, Mazda, Nissan, Hyundai, and more.

Automatic Brake Hold

Automatic brake hold makes long lights somewhat more tolerable

Nothing’s more frustrating than being trapped at the same red light for the third time in a row. You’re stressed and your leg is getting tired from holding down the brake pedal.

And because this scenario happens to me a lot on my commute, an automatic brake hold feature is a must-have in all of my future cars.

When activated, automatic brake hold keeps the vehicle stopped -- with the brake lights on -- until the accelerator pedal is pressed again. I never realized how much time I spent holding the brake pedal until I didn’t need to do it anymore. With the average red light lasting up to two minutes, stopping at 10 intersections means you’ve held down the brake pedal for around 20 minutes!

It’s another one of those features that seems insignificant on paper, but goes a long way in lowering the stresses of driving a vehicle. Audi, Volvo, Subaru and Nissan are a few of the brands that offer this type of vehicle holding feature.

Hands-free Power Liftgate or Doors

A Hands-free Power Liftgate or Doors is a must-have family feature

Sometimes, our hands just aren’t available to us, whether it’s because we’re carrying groceries, a child, a pet or all of the above. This is when the ability to wave a foot to automatically open a rear trunk or hatch becomes a godsend. And in the case of vehicles like the Chrysler Pacifica, your waving foot also operates the automatic rear sliding doors.

This feature is especially helpful when I’m by myself and carrying a heavy or awkward item. Instead of fumbling for my key fob or the door switch, a swift kick beneath the rear bumper raises the hatch and I can quickly offload my cargo.

It’s not necessarily a feature you’ll use all the time, but in those few instances that it does come in handy, you’ll wonder how you ever lived so long without it.

Shop Chrysler Pacifica Inventory

Automatic Soft Close Doors

Automatic Soft Close Doors make your car feel like a space ship

Closing a car door is simple enough, but it’s surprising how often we can mess it up. I can’t be the only one that has to re-close a half-shut door or spend a few seconds hip-checking the door gap.

Soft close doors, like the ones found on a BMW 7 Series or an Audi A8, automatically complete the closing process as soon as the door touches the latch. This means that once the door is in motion, it’s almost guaranteed to completely close, no matter how gently you touched it.

It’s a feature that, when not present, makes you realize how often you fail to close a car door properly on the first attempt. It’s also helpful when you’re trying not to make a lot of noise -- all car doors slam to some extent -- and when your elbow or hip is the next best option to swing the door because you’re carrying three cups of coffee.

These types of doors are definitely a luxury offering, and can typically be found on vehicles from premium brands like Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and Audi. The ones on the BMW 7 Series are particularly impressive.

Shop BMW 7 Series Inventory

Massaging Seats

Massaging Seats offer next level luxury is a great feature

This may sound too lavish, but when you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic after a long day of work, there’s nothing better than a driver’s seat with built-in back massagers.

The soothing touch of the various massage patterns, pressures and positions really helps to take your mind off of things. Your worries and stresses seem to fall away, and sitting in traffic suddenly doesn’t feel so terrible. Some vehicles offer massagers in the passenger seat as well, so your carpool buddy can also ride in relaxation.

Many luxury brands offer in-seat massagers including Porsche, Audi, Buick, Cadillac, and BMW. But the Mercedes-Benz S-Class offers some of the best in the business.

Shop Mercedes-Benz S-Class Inventory

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*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.