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Hooniverse Asks- What Modern Car Feature Makes You Ask “Where Have You Been All My Life?”

Robert Emslie January 31, 2013 Hooniverse Asks 113 Comments


The 1916 Cadillac Type 53 was the first car to maintain almost all the control placements – shifter and hand brake between the seats, key start, clutch, brake and accelerator pedals in front of the driver – that we all today consider to be fairly standard. Eventually – discounting some freaks – cars all started toeing that line, and once they did it took other means to differentiate one manufacturer’s products from that of another. Hence grew the features war.

Today, we live in a golden age of automotive features and convenience, where even the lowliest of transportation appliances offer qualities unheard of on all but the most high-end of luxury makes a mere 20 years ago. And there are features today that couldn’t even have been imagined not that long ago. Consider rear-view cameras, a feature that’s currently trickling down to even the most plebeian of rides – albeit under the threat of potential government mandate here in the States, how cool are those?

You are all living in the modern age, right? And as such, you’ve had the opportunity to sample some of these modern automotive conveniences. If so, what I want to know today is which of those has been the most life-altering to you. Have you found that having your buns warmed while driving to work is nirvana? Or, is Ford’s Sync the dashboard secretary of your dreams? What modern car feature truly has you asking where have you been all my life?

Image source: [DarkRoastedBlend]

Currently there are 113 comments on this article:

  1. OA5599 says:

    I'm going to cheat and say GPS. I call it a cheat because, even though I do own a vehicle with a factory nav, Google maps on my phone is my go-to tool when going-to someplace new.

    • JayP2112 says:

      I never get in the truck without Waze, even to work.
      Kinda like GPS, CB and traffic reports all in one. Works pretty damn well.

  2. Corvette_Poncho says:

    Heated seats. No car should be built without these…ever.

    • Tanshanomi says:

      I have to agree, and I don't even live in North Tundria. Our F150 has them, and it's amazing how comfort they add, even on just slightly chilly spring and autumn mornings.

      And to add insult, you can't split the heater flow in the Town Cow between the dash vents and the floor, so along with my butt, either my hand or my feet are cold, too.

      • OA5599 says:

        Town Cow already lets you send airflow through the dash OR the floor, so it should be a simple matter to find the right combination of duct tape and paperclips to bring them on together.

        And while I agree that heated seats can indeed be comfy a couple dozen days each year, if I had to give up one luxury feature, that's probably my most expendable. In fact, my driver's side heated seat has been broken for 3 or 4 winters now.

    • IronBallsMcG says:

      You are correct, sir!
      Hell, even my motorcycle has independently controlled heated seats for rider and pillion.

    • Synchromesh says:

      Sorry but that's one feature I can definitely live without. My car does have them and I pretty much never use them despite living in New England where winters are pretty real. When heating up the seat I have this feeling that I just peed myself and I'm sitting in it. Thanks but no thanks!

      Air-conditioned seats, on the other hand, would be far more useful in the summer!

      • HSA says:

        Agree. Yet I have to admit that the Finnish winters are not that cold: where I live, the temperature hasn't dipped lower than -31°C this winter. So I understand that somebody living in a colder place may have a different view. If I had to choose between the two, I'd take the air-conditioned seats.

    • $kaycog says:

      I like my heated seats, but I wish I had a heated steering wheel, as my hands get colder than my rear.

      • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat says:

        $kay, had the heated wheel on this AM.

        I should have worn long sleeves…it was 36F when I left, though the car is in the attached garage.

        • $kaycog says:

          I've only used the heated seats once. Like I said, my rear isn't cold, but my hands are………a lot, even if I have gloves on.

    • Sjalabais says:

      Agreed! I use them almost permanently. May be the reason why my battery hardly gets charged during winter.

  3. muthalovin says:

    When I drive my wife's Forester, it's power windows. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!!?

  4. 35mm says:

    1. Automatic climate control
    2. Rain sensing wipers.
    3. Heated seats.

    I was driving my moms car a while ago and after several miles I was thinking, why is it still so cold in here. Oh yea, I have to actually turn ON the heat. Then after a few minutes it started to get too hot. I then realized how spoiled I was.

  5. Maymar says:

    I like the aux input every new car has. That said, at this point, I'd be happy with a cd player that could eject. I'm doing pretty okay without the rest.

    • Tanshanomi says:

      I've become very spoiled by a Kenwood stereo that has a USB port. It can play music off a flash drive or integrally control my iPod, which lives semi-permanently hidden in the ashtray drawer.

      • Maymar says:

        Ooh, a USB port wouldn't be bad either. My only other reason to lean towards the AUX IN is that I keep most of my music on a Blackberry Playbook, and if the rental Mustang I had in the summer is anything to go off of, the BB doesn't work via USB or Bluetooth. Ideally though, I'd have all of the above.

  6. OA5599 says:

    I'm waiting for the pileup on whoever dares to suggest electronic nannies or the automatic transmission.

    • Devin says:

      There are some electronic nannies I wish I could get my hands on.

      <img src="http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lh1aa2LQwP1qaemvno1_400.jpg"&gt;

    • HSA says:

      I dare! And I know this is heresy of the first order in Hooniverse. Having been living in a country where the automatic transmission has always been considered a no-use, higly priced vanity. Commuting a 5 mile trip (1.5 miles of which called "highway") with 24 traffic lights, 17 (average over a week) of which are shining red. Yes, the automatic transmission is what I missed for the 20 first years behind the wheel. I don't want to tune the fuel-to-air mixture manually all the time, I don't want to adjust the timing advance manually – why should I change the gear ratio? Yes, I do understand that serious hooning calls for a manual transmission, for better efficiency and for better control to squeeze out the last tenths of a second from the lap time. But for daily driving? No more manuals for me, please. Never.
      And now having said that, it's time to run for my life.

      • Tanshanomi says:

        I drive in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic, and I approved this message.

      • skitter says:

        It's just a matter of perspective.
        You say that a manual transmission makes 24 traffic lights suck.
        I say it's the only thing that makes a lousy commute not suck.

        /46 miles per each way, I-85 out of Atlanta

      • Mad_Hungarian says:

        I have always said that if the automatic transmission had somehow been invented first, and then someone came up with the idea of a manual, the safety nuts would have gone MANIC. "Requires taking a hand off the wheel frequently to shift! Oh noooo. "High risk of rolling backward on hills!" Oh noooo. "Requires disengaging the engine from the transmission as you stop, losing engine braking!" Oh noooo. Particularly now that there is little or no MPG penalty for the not-so-slushy slushbox, the only reason to shift your own is for fun, and there aren't really very many places you are allowed to have fun anymore on public roads.

        • Vairship says:

          My brother once said that if someone invented trams/trolleys/light rail now, it would be banned instantly.
          "You say you've invented a vehicle that runs on …errr… rails, and can't swerve around any obstructions or pedestrians in its path? And it has metal wheels on metal rails, so it can't stop very well either? And you're planning on running this through busy city streets at up to 30 mph? Are you crazy?"

  7. P161911 says:

    A radio that allows AM and FM presets without switching over. Also, a radio with more than 5 or 6 presets.

    • stigshift says:

      I live in Tampa Bay. There is only one station worth listening to, our commercial free Community Radio, Way over on the left of the dial. Everything else is Clear Channel or Rush Limbaugh or sports. Thankfully, we have WMNF.

      • FunWithBuns says:

        I live in Orlando. It's all Clear Channel crap. Do you guys get 90.7 WMFE? It's the NPR channel. It's the only one worth anything anymore…

    • Vairship says:

      If you went upmarket to the lap of luxury that is a Chrysler PT Cruiser, you'd have 10 presets! ;-)

  8. Vavon says:

    The automatic gear-box, no proper GTI should be without one!

    <img src="http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7154/6845992259_5b86e4fbf1_b.jpg&quot; width="650/">

  9. Kyle says:

    Steering wheel controls for the radio on the BACK of the steering wheel, good looking out chrysler, simple, intuitive, hate not having it!

    • Mad_Hungarian says:

      Eww, drove me nuts with a rental Charger, stuff was happening all the time and I hadn't the foggiest idea how I was causing it. Finally my passenger dug out the owners manual and gave me a tutorial while I was driving.

      • Kyle says:

        for reals? there are a set up three buttons on each side, one up, one down, and a center push. one side is volume the other it channel change, with the center buttons being source and presets respectivly. did i forget everyonce in a while sure but confusing hardley. I drove a rental focus with SYNC and my ford touch and i thought I was going to murder someone.

  10. Irishzombieman says:

    60/40 split rear fold-down seats in a sedan. How did the world live without these?

    <img src="http://blogs.cars.com/.a/6a00d83451b3c669e201157159c9fb970b-800wi&quot; width=400>

    • P161911 says:

      I would add 40/20/40 split bench seats in trucks. I thought I would use my 1988 F-150 extended cab as a Daddy vehicle, wife and grandparents didn't go for that idea. Later I realized it would have never worked. It had a solid bench seat and I wouldn't have had room to drive with a rear facing car seat in place.

      • Irishzombieman says:

        Yes! My 96 extended cab Chevy worked great for exactly that. All three kiddos spent some time staring out that back window.

    • Tanshanomi says:

      A major contribution to the downfall of the much more more versatile station wagon.

      Just sayin'.

  11. PotbellyJoe says:

    USB and Bluetooth connected device management stuff. Whether it be Sync, or Cue, or whatever.

    It only makes a difference if the people with it know how to use it. However, for those people it means you never have to look at a phone, iPod, or any connected device again while driving.

    For those of use with a manual transmission it means hands are always on the wheel or shifter, how it should be.

  12. longrooffan says:

    Showing my age here but I'm going with self canceling turn signals…

    • smalleyxb122 says:

      Self-cancelling turn signals are a hassle. On my drive to work, there is an off ramp with a kink in the left turn lane that conspires to cancel my signal before I reach the light, thus requiring re-engagement of my signal. What a pain in the….I guess if the alternative is that I forget to turn my signal off a half dozen times a day, I’ll take the self-cancelling signals. Good call.

      Also, it's not showing so much your age as the age of the cars that you've driven.

      • Mad_Hungarian says:

        It took me a few minutes when I bought a '64 Corvair a couple of years ago to figure out there was no lane change feature. It is supposed to self cancel and every now and then it actually does.

    • Irishzombieman says:

      I've unfortunately gotten so used to them in my cars that I now drive miles and miles on my motorcycle before I realize that I've left the blinkers on.

    • apfeifer3 says:

      I like the lane change turn signals in my car. I flick the turn signal and it blinks 3 times then goes off.

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq says:

      The turn signals don't auto cancel in my '98 Volvo due to wear, it doesn't bother me all that much. More bothersome is that in the '67 I can't just press down a bit to have them blink for a lane change. They don't start blinking until they click. Anyway driving a newer older car this winter makes me appreciate a rear window defroster and a rear view mirror that dips, but probably not enough to add them. The only thing I missed so much I added ever was seat belts in the back. My uncle once added a center brake light to a Cavalier, he felt so strongly about those.

    • buzzboy7 says:

      Both my first cars didn't self cancel. Now I get into the scooby and try and self cancel them. Sometimes they fight back.

    • Maymar says:

      A couple years back, I rented a Town Car. Turns out, if you leave the turn signal on long enough, the car starts chiming at you. They know their demographic, I guess.

  13. SSurfer321 says:

    Power mirrors.

    It's such a PITA when somebody bumps the passenger mirror on my truck out of alignment.

    Get out of truck
    Run around to adjust mirror
    Run back
    Get in truck
    Review adjustment
    Repeat as necessary.

  14. HSA says:

    Automatic parking brake. Why on earth should I pull a lever to tell the car "Please stay here until I return"? And when starting again, why do I have to release that lever? The only car I have seen an automatic parking brake is – luckily – my DD. And no, the "P" position in the stick is not the same – automatic transmissions are a rarity in around here.

  15. rpdred6 says:

    automatic high-beam headlamps and tinted side mirrors to reduce headlight glare at night. The new Ford Taurus, a fantastic car, has them.

  16. Devin says:

    I like remote locks. I don't care about the romance of the old fashioned tumblers, remote locks mean that my stupid house keys aren't going to scratch my paint and I can get into the hatch with an armful of groceries, and I like that.

    • calzonegolem says:


      Also you know you aren't locking your keys in the car if you're standing outside pointing the remote at it.

    • muthalovin says:

      My truck has an alarm, but the remote gave up the ghost about a year ago. Since it is an old alarm, they no longer make remotes that work with it. It is a bitch to use the keys to unlock doors….

      But don't tell any would-be thieves this.

    • Tanshanomi says:

      I actually prefer the Ford keypad lock. No remote to keep track of.

      • Felis_Concolor says:

        Indeed; discovering the entry code for a friend's SHO Taurus has made life easier when he needs to quickly retrieve something from the car and can't be arsed to deal with keys in sub zero weather.

  17. krazykarguy says:

    I'm also going to go to pick some low-hanging fruit and call out intermittent wipers.

    I had an '00 Tacoma that DIDN'T have this feature (despite being a V-6 TRD SR5). Hated every moment of driving in light rain and having the wipers constantly wiping away nothing.

    Come to think of it, that stupid truck didn't even have a clock. Add that to the list of things Toyota forgot to add to the truck, including the rustproofing on the frame.

    • PotbellyJoe says:

      I used to sell Toyotas in that era, can't tell you how many sales surveys we got back 3 weeks into ownership about no clock.

      You would think it would be easy to add one, but my techs hated doing it since they had to get behind the dash.

      Apparently people that off-road trucks wear watches, haha.

    • buzzboy7 says:

      I think those had a recall for frame rust right?

      The wiper speeds do suck though. Our old P/U had slow and fast and sometimes even slow is just too much for the conditions.

  18. Alff says:

    200K mile service lives. Oh, and wiper defrosters – an absolute godsend on my 26 mile commute through snow or freezing rain.

    • krazykarguy says:

      I'm on the opposite side of that fence… my wiper park area defrosters seem anemic and useless. They get warm, so I know they are working, but they don't seem to ever have any effect.

      • Alff says:

        They work pretty well on my Subie but you still have to scrape the area clean before driving.

        • krazykarguy says:

          Odd. The car I was referencing was my Saab 9-2x Aero (the infamous Saabaru). So both our cars have Subaru defrosters…

          Scraping the areas clean has some effect. I actually turned them on without scraping or clearing the windshield to see if they were actually functioning, and they did melt the snow.

          When in motion, however, I have not seen a positive effect on the wiping action in cold weather.

  19. Stu_Rock says:

    Memory mirrors. I think they always come with memory seats, but it's the mirrors that matter. It's really convenient to be able to adjust the mirrors as necessary for backing into tight spaces, and then—poof!–they're back in the correct spot next time you drive the car.

    I bet they would be fantastic for cars shared between multiple drivers as well (you know, the whole reason they invented that feature).

    • OA5599 says:

      Mine does a second setting (per driver) for when you are in reverse. I have them aimed towards the ground so I can tell whether I'm over the stripe.

  20. mdharrell says:

    Dude. Talking digital dash. It talks! It's digital! It's a dash!

    [youtube F5zs6TU32pY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5zs6TU32pY youtube]

    Talking. Digital. Dash.

    My other cars are dead to me.

  21. engineerd says:

    Seriously, how did it take until 2010…over a hundred years after Gottlieb Daimler drover the first car…to come up with a capless fuel filler?

    <img src="http://www.ford.com/resources/ford/fiesta/2013/equipment/fie13_models_detailflip_easyfuelcapless.jpg"&gt;

  22. buzzboy7 says:

    This will show not my age but the age of the cars I drive. I moved from a 74 Beetle to a 62 Mercury to an 04 Subaru.

    Cable Clutch: They feel almost as direct as a mechanical clutch, but with so much less to go wrong or get sloppy.(though the subi does have a decent hydraulic clutch, they still aren't my favorite).
    Cruise Control: I have a hard time maintaining speed in the Subi and, I have no idea why.
    Adjustable Heat Vents: Hands, face, feet, defrost, where ever.
    Synchronized First Gear: It just slips right in at 5mph, how nice.
    Reliable and accurate fuel gauge: Need I say more?
    Electronic Ignition: I'll drive a carbureted car again as long as it doesn't have bloody points.

  23. Mad_Hungarian says:

    The automatically dimming inside mirror. No more of that constantly fliopping the little lever back and forth and driving off in the morning wondering how the mirror got out of whack and then realizing dammkit, you left it in the night position the day before.

    • Felis_Concolor says:

      Indeed; photochromic mirrors are so convenient, I bought one for the Pacer along with those included downward firing lights.

      The effect was subtle to me when I first experienced one ('93 Saturn SW2), then I realized just how useful that greenshift was and vowed to never go back to the lever.

      • Stu_Rock says:

        I have photochromic mirrors in my Buick. They drive me nuts. I ended up putting a dark gray filter over the rear-facing photosensor in order to get the damn thing to behave reasonably at night. Mine also sends a signal to the driver side mirror so that it dims as well. I disconnected that circuit.

        Even with the side mirror dimming disabled, there is a definite yellow shade in all the reflections. That doesn't bother me; sometimes I like to imagine that I'm driving in pre-1993 France.

        • Felis_Concolor says:

          Thanks for the memories there; the last time I visited France ('83), I wondered about all the yellow headlights and dad laughed, "it's to prevent blinding oncoming drivers – but it also means you can't see $#!+ at night."

  24. needthatcar says:

    Cup holders! Freaking cup holders! I drove a '91 Mustang for a long time – no cup holders. Then I finally got a daily driver with cup holders…my lands! Such luxury!

    • needthatcar says:

      Also, heated seats, cruise control, and the volume control buttons on my steering wheel that, despite the fact that I've had the car for 6 months and haven't started using them, I think I'll really like someday.

    • CABEZAGRANDE says:

      But, you had the "Fox-body cupholder", otherwise known as that channel between the e-brake lever and the passenger seat! No cupholders….pshaw :)

  25. Andrew says:

    Modern extreme performance (140ish tw) street tires. After driving on all-seasons or snows until 3 years ago, the first set was like a gift from whatever god the michelin man prays to.

  26. Felis_Concolor says:

    Adaptive cruise control; coupled with a USB memory stick strategically filled with Vollenweider, Judee Sill and numerous other "shut up and relax" artists, it removes the frustration of dealing with crowded interstate traffic when I get caught in those occasional rush hour cog-and-pulls and I haven't received enough warning to grab an alternate route.

  27. jeepjeff says:

    I don't use my A/C. Top-down motoring was the original option. Radio half-works and you cannot hear it over the NVH anyway. The heater can be nice in the mountains. Manual gearbox. Part-time 4WD dates to at least WWII. The shift-on-the-fly transfer case is awesome, but those date to at least the '70s. No locking hubs, just a better neutral in my transfer case. EDIT: also, suspension is too stiff and jouncy to even think of using the cup holders.

    I'm going to say EFI and Synchromesh gear box. I can drive from sea level to 7000' with minimum drop in power and no retuning. No warm-up time (or at least, I can fold the warm-up into the first couple minutes of the drive by just taking it easy). And Synchromesh gear boxes because I totally suck at rev matching and double clutching. I know. I'm just not as cool as a lot of you guys.

    EDIT#2: If they mandate back-up cameras, they'll have to put them in the Jeep Wrangler. That will make me very sad. It is the standard bearer for no-frills, bare-legal-minimum for motoring on the market. It's not a back-up camera vehicle.

  28. Perc says:

    I'm going to go ahead and nominate the automatic transmission. I got tired of moving cogs with a stick at the young age of maybe 23, and got my first automatic car at 24 or 25. Not looking back. Like HSA, I live in a country where most people drive stick regardless if they like it or not, just because it's the default choice. Some people are terrible at clutch control, especially at old age, but they still keep on buying stick shift cars even though they hate it.

    Sure, some automatics are annoying and clueless and never do what you want them to. But those are things that can be fixed by improving the automatic, not by going back to an inferior solution. Believe it or not, there has been progress since the 1981 Opel Kadett Automatic you used to borrow from your mother when you were 18. </rant>

    Also, cruise control. Such a simple thing nowadays when all it takes is some computer code and a couple of buttons on the steering wheel. Yet it's a relatively expensive option and sometimes hidden in some stupid equipment package with other things you might not want.

    • Devin says:

      Well, things might have improved since that '81 Kadett, but I still haven't found an auto I've actually liked.

      Different cogs for different… frogs? I didn't think that one through.

    • Stu_Rock says:

      I gave you a preemptive upvote for rationally disagreeing with the prevailing opinion on this site.

      You're not alone. A few months ago, some new neighbors moved in from Belgium, fresh off the plane. One's a mechanical engineer who has worked on several automotive projects. He asked me about why I have a Peugeot (he knows they left the US more than two decades ago). I told him that at some point in my life, I wanted to try owning a diesel car, a manual transmission car, and a French car, and the 505 checked off all three boxes.

      He responded one of the reasons he was looking forward to living in the US was that he could avoid all the diesel cars, the manual transmissions, and the French cars. He then complimented me on my Buick.

      • jeepjeff says:

        It's a prevailing opinion, but not by as much as it often sounds. The members of the MT Mafia (myself included) are louder than our numbers. Also, there's at least one regular contributor who is on record as being Anti-Manual and has stated he never wants to own another on.

        I try to keep the automatic hate to being clearly just my opinion, and I don't down-ding for automatic love. I think most of my fellow MT Mafioso run by the same rules. I've seen more than a couple inflammatory (in a defensive, preempt the M/TM fashion) pro-automatic posts that have not started flame wars. It's one of the reasons why I keep coming back here.

        • Devin says:

          I view automatics like I view Taylor Swift songs. I understand the appeal, I can see some of them being pretty good, but overall I'm not a fan and I don't particularly want them in my car.

          • jeepjeff says:

            I learned on an automatic, and that was the only time they were fine. After I learned to drive stick, automatics quickly became boring. Then I spent a couple years without a manual. This has scarred me for life. I bitterly hate the idea of owning another automatic (one of the major reasons I so fiercely love my Jeep: it's got a brilliant transmission).

            I sort of understand the appeal. They're really simple and the controls are pretty impossible to screw up if you're paying attention. They're certainly less of a workout in traffic, but they don't actually improve driving in traffic to enjoyable (so it's kind of optimizing a shitty situation into a crappy situation; and then they're not as much fun, IMO, everywhere else… I've been lucky enough to be able to arrange my life to avoid regularly driving in traffic ;).

  29. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat says:

    A few things, but some I'm going to try not to give up…

    Heated AND cooled seats
    Heated steering wheel
    Photochromatic mirrors
    Tilt-telescope steering
    One-touch both down AND up windows
    Larger than 5 qt. oil sump

    • Stu_Rock says:

      I have a big disagreement on the photochromic mirrors (see my comment above). If you're talking about a Cadillac, you probably even have the same mirror that I do. I can't stand it.

      • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat says:

        I don't see any reference to the photo-chromatic aspect of mirrors, just the memory part of them…which I also really like.

    • CABEZAGRANDE says:

      +1 on the cooled seats. NOTHING is better than being able to take a 4 hour drive on a 100+ degree day in a car with leather seats and not getting swamp ass.

  30. wisc47 says:

    As someone who owns a car with unassisted steering, I can tell you that power steering is highly underrated when it comes to parking, but that's it.

  31. Rover1 says:

    Radial Tyres, has anything else led to such a dramatic increase in roadholding, longevity, and safety?

  32. ummagumma82 says:

    Automatic windshield wipers. They're especially awesome when it's just stopped raining, but the roads are still wet so your windshield gets soaked by oncoming cars.

  33. pwned88 says:

    4 features come to mind, I'll list the cars I own(ed) that have them

    '10 Genesis Coupe
    -One-touch up&down power windows
    -Factory USB/bluetooth/AUX input for the stereo

    '93 Audi 100cs quattro (ain't that a mouthful)
    -passenger-side mirror auto-tilts down in reverse to see curb
    -4 separate driver seat settings that can be set to 4 individual keys (THIS WAS IN 1993!!!)

    Both cars bonus round:

  34. Krautwursten says:

    Normally I'm a wire kinda guy, but I adore the functionality modern smartphones have brought into cars, even older ones. Diagnose a ton of engine functions with an OBD2 bluetooth adapter, stream music to your (aftermarket) stereo wirelessly, bring up navigation or even GPS track your car on your phone (with a tracking unit). It's amazing really.

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