As 2010 rolls to a close, we look back at the cars we've reviewed over the last year to see which one should earn our Tech Car of the Year Award. From our survey of the cars we've reviewed, we're pleased to see that the adoption of cabin tech by automakers is becoming more prevalent and ever-more sophisticated, with features such as hard-drive-based navigation with traffic reporting becoming common.
Among the cars we've seen, we picked out five that show the most innovative technology. These cars use technology to enhance the cabin and driving experience, and push the automotive tech envelope. Please vote for the car you think should be the 2010 Tech Car of the Year, and discuss it in the comments. The Car Tech staff jury will place their own votes, and we will announce the winner on December 22. Voting closes on December 17, 2010.
A tech tour de force, the newest A8 combines the luxury of an executive sedan with a surprisingly nimble, sporting character, the result of adaptive suspension technology and Quattro all-wheel drive.
Audi anchors the cabin tech with a hard-drive-based navigation system that shows rich 3D maps, and it delivers exceptional audio from a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen system. Audi will add a Google Local Search connection early next year.
Infiniti made its flagship sedan more imposing for 2011, with a beefier look for the body and a big 5.6-liter V-8 under the hood. Lacking the length of competitors from Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, or Audi, the M56x is a car for drivers.
Infiniti's cabin tech has been excellent for a number of years, and the M56x continues this tradition without any radical changes. The maps render certain landmark buildings, the iPod screen shows cover art, and the audio system produces fine sound.
The MKZ Hybrid is a midsize sedan using a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine combined with an electric motor. It is the same system used in the Ford Fusion Hybrid, and it combines excellent fuel economy with good driving characteristics. Lincoln gives the instrument cluster a high-tech touch with LCDs showing configurable power displays.
But even without the hybrid system, the MKZ Hybrid would rate high for its cabin tech. It uses a THX audio system for excellent sound quality, one of the best voice command systems in the business, and data feeds from satellite radio for gas prices, traffic, and weather.
This car combines the cutting-edge cabin tech available in Mercedes-Benz's flagship sedan with a new hybrid power train that keeps its fuel economy in the 20s, a big improvement over the S550's consumption.
For navigation, the S400 Hybrid gets detailed 3D maps showing rendered buildings and traffic. Harman Kardon provides excellent audio, but features such as night vision and adaptive cruise control are real wow factors.
Nissan took the lead in the electrification of the automobile with the 2011 Leaf. The car's pure electric power train costs about 70 percent less to run than that of a comparable gas engine car. Drawbacks such as 100 miles of range and hours-long charging time limit the uses of the Leaf, but it works fine as a suburban runabout.
Along with its electric power train, the Leaf comes with a navigation system and other cabin tech features.