Our honorable mentions may not have the sharp innovations of our featured cars, but they all share a clear focus on car tech, and they all handle it well in their own ways. Out of the hundreds of new cars to come out this year, we picked the following luxury sedan, electric car, minivan, value-priced car, and pickup truck as models that stand out and will likely influence some the car tech in next year’s vehicles.
Best luxury sedan: Lexus LS 460
The LS 460 (from $71,990) is Lexus’s biggest sedan, and it carries the biggest LCD screen too: a 12.3-inch expanse that can simultaneously display both navigation and entertainment-system statuses. Real estate counts, and this is a big lot. Among the information that you can display on that big screen are elements of the standard Enform App Suite, including IHeartRadio, Yelp, and Facebook. All those apps pump in their information through a smartphone, and the LS 460’s elegant joystick-style controller makes it easy to use all those apps without distracting the driver excessively.
Ford’s modified version of its Sync media interface and MyFord Mobile app for the new Focus Electric (from $57,400)is structured for the electron hoarder. The “emotive” instrumentation sprouts butterfles when the vehicle is driven virtuously and the regenerative braking system is used efficiently, while communication between the car and smartphone updates the state of the battery charge. It also locates the car and nearby charging stations, assists in route planning, presets interior temperatures so it can warm while hooked to a power source, and generates driving-efficiency profiles.
Of all the minivans, only the Odyssey (from $35,225)features an HDMI port into its available on-board video system. That means you can bring a Blu-ray player or other video-streaming device and play it on the Odyssey’s overhead 16.2-inch display. A 115-volt two-prong plug at the third-row seat lets you power such devices too. One other neat trick: The viewing screen can split to display video from both the van’s DVD player and the outside source. That’s almost too much entertainment.
Like every Scion, the tC (from $19,480) offers an on-board entertainment system that fills a dual-DIN hole in the dashboard. Although the standard Pioneer-branded head unit may not be cutting-edge, it does the simple things well, covering Bluetooth audio, HD radio, and iPod integration through USB. Plus, since you can rename the unit for Bluetooth reasons, there won’t be any confusion should you have multiple Toyotas or Scions in the family. But it’s the standard dual-DIN rack—which you can fill with all sorts of equipment without gouging the dashboard or disentangling a complex factory head unit—that makes this model best for roll-your-own tech fiends.
Ford’s Super Duty pickups (from $29,385) are built to work—and that means they must offer the electronics of a mobile office. You’ll find dozens of different cab configurations in this truck line, but most include center consoles large enough for laptops or hanging files. You can plug in any device using a conventional 110-volt/150-watt two-prong plug inside the center console or two 12-volt power-points. On trucks equipped with the Ford Sync media system, you have another two-prong plug on the dash. Also available is a configurable LCD Productivity Screen on the dash for monitoring fuel economy, towing performance, and drivetrain operation.