How many of you remember the digital read-outs from the 1980s and early 1990s? You know, the ones from all those bad car commercials, where pixelated orange and green LCD graphics told you that it was 48 degrees outside, when in reality it was probably close to seven below. At a time when anti-lock brakes and fuel-injection were optional upgrades, these technologically advanced wonderments were what made cars like the Oldsmobile Regency 98 Touring Edition, Lincoln Mark VIII, and Subaru XT extra special.
The 2017 Prius Prime is equal parts smart, sophisticated, tech-savvy, efficient, and surprisingly sporty
Back then, there wasn’t a race to be the first car company with autonomous automobiles on the market, safety systems consisted of seatbelts and maybe an airbag or two, and navigation still required a flashlight and a damn atlas. Oh, how times have changed.
In the past few years alone, cars have seen a whole gamut of technological advancements, from autonomous braking and safety suites, to performance features and artificial intelligence. As scary as it may sound, we’ve reached the point where cars are learning from their drivers, and tweaking performance in order to offer a more beneficial driving experience.
The future is here today, and it looks like a fully-connected, infotainment-filled, high performance hybrid. Naturally, certain machines are still more technologically advanced than others, which is what make these ten vehicles feel like cars of tomorrow, today.
10. Honda Odyssey
Placing a minivan on a list like this may come as a surprise to some of you, but inside the 2018 Odyssey you’ll encounter all kinds of cool tech goodies. From the 10-speed automatic transmission with snow mode and the latest Honda Sensing safety suite, to group playlist capabilities, this van has it all.
There’s also the CabinTalk feature, which mutes any film, game, or song being played, and pipes the driver’s voice through the van’s speakers and any connected headphones. But the feature that technologically takes the title belt in the 2018 Honda Odyssey has to be the CabinWatch camera feature, which allows the front row to view the back of the cabin via the center stack touchscreen — take that, fussy kids. This tech touch supports drag and pinch-to-zoom capabilities, and saves your last area of focus automatically so you don’t have to retrace your steps every time you need to check in on a cantankerous toddler.
9. Chevy Bolt
General Motors’ first production electric vehicle is finally here, and it doesn’t disappoint. While the sporty little EV delivers a respectable 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque, its biggest tech strides lie in its ability to use the growing DC fast-charging infrastructure for grid-powered road trips.
Chevy has also put things like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and built-in Wi-Fi hotspots in the Bolt, along with futuristic digital read-outs and a central touchscreen that comes loaded with vibrant infotainment graphics. The Bolt is also compatible with the myChevrolet mobile app, which allows owners to remotely start, charge, or lock the their car from their smartphone.
8. Volvo S90
Volvo has tied everything from seat temp adjustments and SiriusXM controls, to autonomous safety and audio tuning equalizers within a 9-inch Sensus infotainment touchscreen. Fully loaded, you get technologically focused features like a head-up display, park assist, collision avoidance, pedestrian and animal detection, lane departure warnings, and semi-autonomous Pilot Assist, which will steer and brake for you.
Back inside, the Sensus touchscreen allows anyone in the front to swipe through menus, toggling systems on or off, while the reconfigurable digital gauge cluster keeps drivers thoroughly informed. This svelte sedan features a laundry list of center stack tech smarts, and arguably has the best 360-degree camera system on the market today.
7. Colorado ZR2
Here’s a much-anticipated upcoming off-roader that uses technology to give it a ton of class-exclusive features, including front and rear electronic locking differentials, and a Multimatic Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) damper setup. Ontario-based suspension specialists Multimatic Inc. provided GM with this last feature, thus making the Chevy Colorado ZR2 the first volume production off-road vehicle in history with Multimatic DSSV damper technology. By utilizing dual spool valves precision is increased, as are compression and rebound damping. Off-road, the ZR2 uses a third, piston-mounted valve for additional compression damping. If that’s Greek to you, it just means the ZR2 will kick ass off-road, straight from the dealer lot.
Meanwhile, the dampers out front feature a separate rebound valve that engages when the suspension approaches full extension, and offers six tuning curves for the front, as opposed to four at the rear.The Colorado ZR2 is also home to what GM calls “the most sophisticated four-wheel drive system in the segment,” with a class-exclusive set of electronic-locking differentials out front and in the rear. These drivetrain components come attached to an AutoTrac transfer case, which offers nine of the most technologically advanced drive settings on the planet.
6. Audi A4
The 2017 Audi A4 comes with a technologically loaded 12.3-inch screen that’s filled with crisp graphics and all sorts of useful information. The automaker’s “virtual cockpit” can easily be transferred to the digital driver display for improved Google Map readability, all while delivering 60 frames per second of quad core processing power.
This system also has some of the best camera views in the industry, is completely customizable, and the driver display also shows things like vehicle diagnostics and album information in gorgeous detail. The A4’s autonomous safety system also has the ability to utilize Google Maps and on-board sensors to make turns and drive autonomously in brief increments.
5. Lexus LC500
While the 5.0-liter V8 LC500 is a fantastic GT driver, it’s the hybrid V6 LC500h version that takes the cake for technologically advanced excellence. This model harbors the ability to utilize full EV mode up to 87 miles per hour, which allows its hybrid powertrain to deliver both maximum efficiency and performance gains with the help of a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Tightly tuned, this automatic gearbox powers through each gear with what Lexus calls “rhythmic shifting,” which fosters a linear build-up of power. This means the coupe is especially quick in Sport S + mode, where the 500h’s “multi stage shift device” hastily syncs three stationary gears with a secondary trio of gears. There’s also a 10th gear that functions like a CVT unit for highway driving. Heralded as the world’s first “Multi Stage Hybrid System,” this setup allows the two transmissions to safely work in tandem, while putting 354 horsepower to the pavement for five second zero to 60 times.
4. Ford Raptor
Ford’s new 10-speed automatic transmission and drive mode configurations allow the Raptor to transform from street monster to off-road animal with the flip of button or a twist of a knob. Rock crawling settings come with adjustable downhill descent control, the mud/sand configuration adjusts wheel slip for increased traction, and Baja mode increases revs and lowers turbo lag. There’s also Normal, Sport, and Comfort steering modes, and the transfer case features a clutch-based torque-on-demand system that melds AWD and 4×4 prowess.
But technologically, the biggest winner of the bunch is the Raptor’s “Adaptive Learn Mode,” which tracks your driving style and over time offers improved drivability and shift inputs. This means the twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 boasts a 22% improvement in torque-to-weight ratio over the old model, with 510 pound-feet of twist on tap. As far as cabin controls go, the second generation Raptor has a plethora of digital read-outs for tracking things like suspension geometry, power displacement, drive settings, undercarriage monitoring, and much more.
3. Prius Prime
The tables have officially been turned. Advancements in electrical systems, batteries, and ECU tuning have given hybrid buyers instantaneous power off the line and positive reinforcement at higher speeds. But a hybrid’s greatest strength still lies in its ability to offer outstanding fuel efficiency gains, something the Prius Prime does to the tune of 54 miles per gallon, with a total driving range of 640 miles.
Technologically speaking, the Prime’s charging capabilities are pretty slick too. This mandatory form of “refueling” gives owners the ability to plug their Prime into a standard household socket for a recharging cycle of just 5.5 hour, a feature that can be remotely controlled via Toyota’s “Prime Apps.” This means drivers can remotely manage charge schedules, find charging stations, track Eco minders, adjust climate controls, and initiate a vehicle finder from their smartphone.
There’s also a horizontally-mounted digital driver screen that is easy to read and carries a lot of cool tech, and a massive 11.6-inch vertical touchscreen in the center stack. This centrally located “tablet” supports pinching, scrolling, swiping, and dragging, and makes for a very responsive and intuitive take on touchscreen interfacing.
2. Land Rover Discovery
Land Rover’s new Terrain Response 2 system allows drivers to adjust everything from throttle sensitivity to gear changes with the turn of a knob, all while All-Terrain Progress Control holds various crawl speeds. The luxury SUV also comes with the latest 10-inch InControl Touch Pro touchscreen, which offers off-road monitoring stats and images, sharply illustrated menus, and the latest navigation and entertainment. It also has smartphone directions for when one must complete their journey on foot. Both iOS and Android connectivity are fully supported, both on-board Wi-Fi and a 17-speaker Meridian digital surround sound system are optional, and the Activity Key wristband allows key fob-free living.
But perhaps the most technologically dependent and unique feature on the latest Discovery is its available Intelligent Seat Fold option. This allows the reconfiguration of both second- and third-row seats via the toggling of switches in the rear cargo hold, from within the center touchscreen or remotely with a smartphone app, an industry first. You can also remotely control all three heated rows as well as ventilated options in both the first and second row. Meanwhile, adjustable air suspension permits easy access thanks to a 1.57-inch drop that’s automatically engaged when the vehicle is placed in park.
1. Acura NSX
Honda’s V6 supercar harnesses two turbochargers, a trio of electric motors, and nine shift points to power all four wheels, regardless of whether you are in Quiet, Sport, Sport-Plus, or Track mode. Technologically speaking, electronically calibrated steering, stability-control systems, adaptive dampers, and throttle mapping are all finely tuned to support agility at extreme speeds.
Rolling in Quiet mode automatically closes both exhaust bypass valves and the intake resonator, while Sport mode and up re-calibrates redline numbers in order to allow 60 to appear in just 3.1 seconds. Being all-wheel drive, the front-axle’s torque vectoring feature allows the duo of 36 horsepower electric front motors to steer the Ohio-built supercar into corners with uncompromising amounts of control. This technologically dependent feature is only enhanced by the supercar’s adaptive dampers, which feature two settings for Sport-Plus and Track modes, and a softer setup for Quiet and Sport.