When it comes to choosing the options on a new car, the list can be baffling – and some of the items on there simply aren’t necessary or are a waste of money. But here are the ten luxury items we think you ought to be fitting, on top of your fresh motor’s regular equipment list…
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
Has a load of different names, this one, such as radar cruise control or even things like Distronic (Mercedes-speak), but it’s the same tech on them all – and it’s a godsend in the hyper-busy traffic flows of the modern world. ACC uses sensors to automatically maintain a safe distance to the car you are following, so its preferred operating environment is on dual carriageways or motorways. It can also take the sting out of snarl-ups if it has an additional function that is often called Stop&Go (or sometimes Traffic Jam Assist), which actually brings the car to a halt in traffic and then sets off again when the vehicles ahead move. All of the above is done without you having to fiddle with the Cancel and ‘+/-‘ buttons of plain old boring cruise control.
A sort of evolution of the above, you nowadays don’t even have to do your main beam yourself – as the car can use light-sensitive sensors and cameras to dip and activate main beam automatically for cars coming the opposite direction to you or even travelling in your direction in the distance ahead, preventing dazzling of other road users. The evolution of auto high-beam are the Matrix LED systems, which can dip portions of your light field to not dazzle other drivers, while maintaining as much main beam as they can in directions where it’s darker. Watching these dancing LEDs do their thing is suitably funky, while they will even turn the headlights in the direction of your car as you go around corners to make sure the road ahead is as well-lit as possible.
Heated Seats (and Steering Wheel)
Obvious one but they’re not standard fit on every car. They’re an absolute must if the vehicle you’re buying has leather upholstery, as cow hide gets very cold in the winter. These usually have three-stage adjustability, so you can set the seat back and base to as toasty a level as you want. The ultimate luxury, in our opinion, is the related heated steering wheel – once you’ve tried one of these, you’ll never go back. The heated wheel is not as commonplace an option as heated seats but if it’s there on your car’s ordering list, tick its box, pronto!
Top-Notch Sound System
There are so many names to choose from here, depending on which car company you’re buying from – Bowers & Wilkins, Bang & Olufsen, Meridian, Burmester, Harman Kardon, JBL, Naim… the list is nearly endless. But if there’s some option on the list for a 1,400-watt, 20-speaker system to slowly deafen you, order it. These top-end audio systems are absolutely majestic and your music will genuinely never sound better than in the car at full volume on one of these bad boys.
Love these. They can either just be fixed items that run the full length of the vehicle’s roof, or ones that open in a tilt and slide format to bring in a load of fresh air. Whichever you go for, they make even the darkest of cabins feel light and pleasant, and they add resale value to the car on the second-hand market.
Alcantara and/or Carbon Fibre
Only for the sporty, this. If you’re going for a high-end performance car and there’s a choice of Alcantara seats, or Alcantara trim for the steering wheel, or Alcantara door cards, we’d recommend getting it. The material is lovely to the touch and really heightens the ambience of a sports car’s cabin. Loads of exposed carbon fibre is a little more, um, Marmite and it depends on the quality of the weave used, but – done right – it does make a vehicle’s interior a special place to sit. Please see: E46 BMW M3 CSL for details.
Reversing Camera/Parking Assist
Not that we can’t park cars on our own, but it’s nice to have the option to take the hassle out of stashing your car in a space – and, as vehicles get ever physically bigger, it is becoming harder to know where the extremities of your car lie. Automated parking systems can now back you into parallel or perpendicular parking bays, and they’ll even extract you too if needs be, while the reversing camera is an absolute boon on larger vehicles like SUVs and MPVs; if the base of your rear windscreen is high in the air, it can be hard to judge the distance involved to anything that’s immediately behind your car. The best systems are the ones that have wash functions or which stow themselves out of sight when not required – as the permanently fixed ones become rather grubby with road spray, and therefore less useful during slimier winter months.
Of all the advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) on the market, this is the one that is most commonly an option and not standard fit. And it’s one of our favourites. It uses sensors and cameras in the side of the car to constantly monitor your blind spots (the clue’s in the name…). If you try and pull out when there’s something there, lights will flash at you, a noise will sound (often, but not on all cars) and – if there’s some form of steering assistant – the vehicle may even automatically revert you to your lane, preventing a nasty side-to-side accident. The ‘overtaking cars’ symbol or yellow warning light of BLIS (as it’s often known, as it was a Volvo device originally) is normally housed in the door mirrors of a car with it fitted, so there’s no excuse for missing it in action.
Not really necessary, just really cool. It’ll make you feel like a spy as you look at an enhanced image of the night-time landscape outside and to the front of your car on a display screen in the cabin. It is said to have much more range and visibility than mere headlights (even laser headlights with 600-metre range) can summon up, so it can be perceived as a safety device.
Remote Control Parking
Another totally cool gadget to blow your children’s minds – and probably those of a few adults, too. It’s basically a radio-control device for a full-sized car, which works at limited speeds and range… but which means you can drive a car without actually being in it, which is spooky. Its purpose it to get the vehicle into and out of tight parking spots where it’s hard (or even impossible) to open the door, so if you’ve got a very narrow garage and a wide car, or you’ve parked in a multi-storey and the buffoon next to you has parked two inches from your motor, you can use this to start the car up, slide it slowly out of its bay and then climb in once the doors are clear to open fully. Of course, you’ll simply use it on your drive, moving the car backwards and forwards on the key fob, just to show off to your neighbours…