1: Volvo forward camera.
The R design shown here in a left-hander shows the TV screen at the centre of the Volvo drivers’ universe. Take your eyes off those nifty blue dials for 20 seconds and cast it over the simple console. Its elegance is the key to its simplicity, perhaps not more than you expect from the country who brought us ABBA, Ikea and Kosta Boda. There is a subtle little switch marked CAM, touch it and the screen springs into life and hey presto you are your own director. But Volvo also shows the view forward as part of the safety features and this too can be displayed. The cam has a super-wide view too so poke the nose of the car out into then traffic and you can see what’s around the corner without having put the whole bonnet out there to be collected by a city council bus. How genius is that? It’s all left over from the Ford ownership days and unlike the nastiness surrounding the GM sale of SAAB, Ford sent the Volvo tech and ideas off with good grace and good wishes and Volvo is all the better for it.
2: Honda Legend active noise cancelling.
The Legend is Hondas best kept secret. A fabulous car if you want a big comfy exec saloon. We all know the Japanese love their gadgets but by far the best feature is the Active Noise Cancelling which makes the cabin ghostly quiet when the car is in motion. A couple of microphones pick up the noise inside, measure it then pump the opposite wave through the surround sound system. The tech isn’t new but usually you normally have to pay a lot more than Legend money to get it. It sounds a little thing but on the highway you get Rolls Royce quiet without Rolls Royce price.
3: Peugeot Air Scarf
The 308 CC got a new seat design that has a discrete vent at neck level. Just like the heater in the dash that wafts gentle sub-Sahara at your feet in winter, the Air Scarf is like a flunky in a powdered wig breathing gently against your neck. Again, this tech isn’t new, it first appeared on the SLK 12 years ago but an SLK costs many more shekels than the 308. As the lovely lady at Peugeot pointed out, Peugeot was the first with a steel folding roof which the SLK then used so it seemed like a fair swap to nick the Air Scarf idea for the CC.
4: Holden IQ
Holden’s IQ was a stroke of genius that was no doubt dreamed up over a cold beer and some pretzels on a Friday arvo works do. The command centre gives you access to the car’s settings for lighting, security and navigation as well as the usual the audio adjustments. It incorporated the Bluetooth which by far is the easiest system to use. You can voice dial and use the address book all from the console without faffing around with downloading the address book into the infotainment system which is annoying and time consuming. Again this tech isn’t unique but bar far is the easiest system to use. You don’t need an advanced degree in astro-physics and the dexterity of a nubile circus contortionist. Very clever, very simple and very usable.
5: Toyota Hybrid Synergy-Drive
Oh don’t groan! It’s the most successful green-drive system so far. There are other systems, but when you think of either Hybrid or electric, you think of Prius. Toyota has other hybrids but Prius is the pin-up boy for the greenies of the world who want to be seen to be doing the right thing for the planet. Does it work? Yes it does what it says on the box and that is all you can ask for. It has to be on our list even if driving a honking great V8 is more fun, it’s much much more expensive and perhaps something the world can no longer afford. (he said as he wept hysterically)