10 Car Features That Were Once Luxury
Luxury cars have changed over the years, and options that were once exclusively limited to luxury can now be found in cars costing under $20,000. While these options might make your drive better or safer, they are no longer luxury items. Here are 10 features that were once luxury, but are now everywhere.
Adaptive cruise control
Old school cruise control has been around nearly as long as the automatic transmission, but active cruise control is a much newer and more expensive tech. The sensing technologies vary by the brand, but around 15 years ago, Jaguar, Mercedes, and BMW started offering adaptive cruise using radar. Lexus introduced a laser guided cruise system in 2000, followed by Infiniti, Audi, and Cadillac each year thereafter. Now you can find it on a high end Hyundai or Ford F-150, or go cheap and buy it in a Subaru Legacy or Mazda 3.
Infotainment center console
The modern iPad-like displays in the center of your dash can be traced back over 30 years to the 1974 Aston Martin Lagonda. While the wedge shaped Lagonda is well known for extensive use of 1970s design themes, it also featured the first center console computer. The electronically controlled engine in the ‘70s was notoriously unreliable, and made even more by simply being British. Fortunately, computers have come down in size and complexity, allowing the center console display in the uber-cheap Mitsubishi Mirage to distract you from the terrible car you’re driving.
The first backup camera was installed in the 1956 Buick Centurion concept car, highlighting future high-tech advances. Futurists had to wait quite a while for the Infiniti brand to show up, as they featured it in their 2002 Q45. As the flagship of the brand, it was not a cheap option, but now you can get a backup camera in a Chevy Cruze. The NHTSA requires backup visibility tech to be standard on all vehicles sold by 2018, so this one will soon be as “luxurious” as tires.
Blind spot monitoring
Sure, there are no blind spots if you correctly adjust your mirrors and then follow up by actually using them while driving. However, that seems to be asking a lot of the average driver. Enter the blind spot monitor, as manufacturers are happy to provide you a solution, for the right price. First introduced on the plus second generation Volvo S80, the simple sensor package is available now on even the cheap Toyotas.
What a cool looking idea. Walk up to a car, don’t bother fumbling for a key, just open the door, get in and drive. The system first appeared on the 1993 Corvette, because engineers were busy not working on the C4’s horsepower. A transmitter in the key fob unlocks the doors when the driver gets within a certain distance, leading to easier entry and no scratches around the door lock. This is a cheap electronic device, so as prices fell, it entered service in every sector of the market, including the cheapest of economy cars.
Heated side mirrors
In warmer climates, heated side mirrors seem like the answer to a question no one was asking. You might as well have heated spoilers. In colder climates however, it seemed like a genius invention that should have been around a lot earlier. Rather than trying to figure out how to work that worthless ice scraper effectively onto your side mirrors, just get inside and hit a button. Heating elements inside the mirror rapidly melt the ice. While they debuted in the ‘80s on premium Euro brands, today even the Jeep Wrangler has them. Which is dumb, but shows that it is no longer a luxury item.
Premium sound systems
Back in the day, you had to look to a high-end brand to expect any kind of decent sound system. Harman Kardon could only be found in BMWs and Land Rovers, now they are available in a Kia. Blaupunkt was limited Audi and Porsche, and is now in everything from VWs to the last of the Pontiacs. While this may have slightly reduced the prestige of the audio brand names over the years, the positive side of this proliferation is that even low budget cars have surprisingly good sound systems and many with equalizers. Which is good, because you’re going to want to crank it up to drown out the sad engine noises from your Versa.
HID headlights, LED lighting
Yes, this was once limited to exclusive brands. 1991 saw the introduction of alternating current HID headlights on the new BMW 7-Series. Then a bloat boat of a coupe, the expensive and underwhelming Lincoln Mark VIII, was the first production vehicle to hit the road with direct current HIDs. The combined high/ow beam HID wouldn’t show up until the 1999 Mercedes-Benz CL. HIDs have been blinding oncoming traffic ever sense, and you can find them in cars as pedestrian as the Honda CR-Z.
Multi valve engines
What Bugatti started, can now be found in the cheapest Chevy. Two valves per cylinder was the standard early on, but luxury and sports manufacturers found more complex ways to create more power. For more cash, of course. Bugatti developed the first production 3-valve head, and Maserati went full out ludicrous mode and made a 6-valve head in the ‘80s. Now, no one cares, as Ford had a 3-valve head in their trucks, and 4-valve in their Mustangs, as far back as the ‘90s.
While these features are no longer luxury items, they often make the drive a lot safer, better or more entertaining. Let us know your favorite in the comments below.