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Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016 12:10 am

A new car is a magical gift


There’s something almost magical about those ubiquitous holiday commercials featuring new cars parked in the driveway on Christmas morning. The enormous red bow on top, the recipient in utter disbelief and the gift giver looking impossibly self-satisfied – it’s the closest a tech-savvy, car-loving adult can get to feeling like a kid again.

And this year, the techie gets even more bang for the new-car buck. The coming crop of new cars, trucks and crossovers for the 2017 model year brings an impressive wave of gizmos and gadgets that aim to make vehicles safer, more capable and more entertaining.

Here’s a quick look at an eclectic assortment of the most novel new-car features we’ll be seeing on 2017 cars and trucks.

That’s infotainment
As if the kids don’t already spend enough time in front of video screens, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan’s UConnect Theater rear entertainment system not only features dual 10-inch seatback-mounted touchscreen monitors, with wireless connectivity for streaming content from smartphones, but it further includes an assortment of built-in apps and games.

Meanwhile, the redesigned Honda Ridgeline midsize pickup truck can be fitted with weatherproof audio “exciters” that turn the cargo bed into one giant resonant speaker for playing any of the infotainment system’s audio sources, both while parked and at speeds under 10 mph.

Going unabashedly upscale, the 2017 Bentley Bentayga ultra-luxury SUV offers backseat riders a pair of Android tablet computers stored in the front seatbacks that can be detached and taken to the campsite, gym or office.

Seats don’t fail me now
The new Infinit QX30 luxury crossover SUV includes so-called “spinal support” front seats that are designed to match the curvature of the spine to reduce pressure on back muscles and minimize a motorist’s fatigue on longer commutes and road trips.

Not enough comfort? The new-for-2017 Lincoln Continental luxury sedan’s so-called Perfect Position Seats take their design inspiration from private jets and high-end-office furniture, and lead all comers with 30 separate adjustments. And that’s not including heated, cooled and massaging functions.

Say “cheese”
Rear-view backup cameras are common among new cars these days, with many models now offering multi-camera around-car views for easier and safer parking. The champion in this regard is the 2017 Ford Super Duty pickup truck, which spreads as many as seven video cameras around the truck. These include a high-mounted camera to keep an electronic eye on the cargo box (helpful for those hooking up gooseneck and fifth-wheel trailers), a Trailer Reverse Guidance camera, and a seventh camera that can be custom-placed by the owner.

Truly keyless entry
Push-button keyless entry is a welcome convenience, but it requires carrying a bulky proximity key in a pocket or backpack. This means a key can become lost while jogging or hiking and rules out swimming entirely unless there’s a place other than within the vehicle to secure it. Available with the 2017 Jaguar F-Pace luxury SUV is a new Activity Key that incorporates the electronic key chip into a wearable wristband that’s waterproof, ultra-durable and less likely to be lost or misplaced.

Safety first
Volvo’s latest twist on lane departure warning technology helps to prevent the vehicle from running off the road because of driver error or inclement weather conditions. Available in the new-for-2017 S90 flagship sedan and V90 station wagon, the system engages the brakes and steers the car back onto the road if the driver isn’t reacting quickly enough.

What’s more, the S90 and V90 come with an extension of the automaker’s City Safety system that works at slower speeds to engage the brakes automatically to avoid colliding with other cars, pedestrians and bicyclists. Now the system also notifies drivers of large animals like deer or elk near the road and will automatically brake if the driver isn’t reacting quickly enough to avoid taking out Bambi’s mother. 

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