Whether it's some trick engineering or wild gadgetry, these are the best new cars for those with a thing for tech.
The amount of technology automakers pack into new cars today is simply astonishing. For many car buyers, as some vehicles turn into rolling computers, the latest gadgets or tech systems are a hugely important buying factor. And best of all, great tech doesn't have to come with a six-figure price tag anymore.
We decided to put on our technophile shades and seek out the best cars for technology lovers. Maybe it's a wonderful infotainment system, some nifty engineering under the hood or perhaps some seriously impressive driver-assistance system. Whatever it may be, analog motoring fans need not apply for the vehicles below.
I know this may seem like an obvious choice, and trust me I'm not opposed to taking the obvious choice, but my selection of the Model 3 as the best car for tech lovers has very little to do with its all-electric drivetrain, its touch-focused interior or even its rocket-loving CEO. My appreciation for the Model 3 in this regard has a lot more to do with its other features and nuances.
Take, for example, Dog Mode. As an owner of a pair of pups who both love a good car ride, I'm often stuck wondering what to do with them when I need to grab a gallon of milk or drop off a package. By keeping the air conditioning on and even displaying a big message on the touchscreen, Dog Mode means I can run that quick errand without worrying about my pups overheating -- or some thoughtful passer-by smashing out a window.
It goes a long way beyond that, like using the integrated cameras for Sentry Mode, easily navigating via Superchargers and, of course, all the various driver-assistance features offered by Autopilot. Certainly not everything is perfect, and the very idea of putting beta software in a car still gives me the willies, but if you want to be bleeding-edge, this is it.
-- Tim Stevens
I'm gonna try to avoid talking about how cute the Mercedes-Benz GLB is and instead focus on the small crossover's phenomenal tech. Like most other new Benzes, the GLB uses the excellent MBUX infotainment system, and there's a massive amount of cool features on offer, many of which may be unexpected given the GLB's $36,600 starting price.
Dual 7-inch screens are standard, with the central screen operated via touch or a pad on the center console. 10.25-inch screens are optional, with the gauge cluster showcasing a multitude of configurable displays and menus. It's easy to get lost, but satisfying once you get it set up just right. The GLB is also available with augmented-reality navigation, which seems gimmicky but can be super useful.
There's a whole lot more, too. The GLB has a Siri-like voice assistant that's activated by saying "Hey, Mercedes," that you'll either love or really hate. Mercedes' entire suite of driver-assist systems is available, including adaptive cruise with steering assist, and there's a fantastic 360-degree camera system. But my favorite feature is the optional 64-color ambient lighting system, which also includes light-up air vents. Some of the light themes change color while driving, and the air vents turn blue or red when you adjust the temperature. It makes the GLB even cuter.
-- Daniel Golson
Ah, the pickup truck. Once upon a time, trucks had a pretty simple job of hauling and towing and that was about it. Today more than ever, they accomplish the original goal easily, and they pack an incredible amount of technology to make these tasks even easier. One fine example is the GMC Sierra Denali and its numerous gizmos.
Truck buyers can jam a shocking amount of tech into this workhorse, and though it's not presented in the flashiest fashion, it's all there. Take for example a rear-camera mirror that replace the traditional rear-view mirror, or a slew of cameras that let drivers virtually see through the big trailer they're towing. Tell someone 10 years ago they'd be able to tow a boat and see through it.
Under the hood, the technology doesn't stop, and intricate software and computers work to power a system called Dynamic Fuel Management, which can shut down up to six cylinders in the truck's V8 engine to make the rig as efficient as possible. When you want power, it's there. If you need to just putz around, maybe the system calculates just a couple cylinders are enough. The super smart system can calculate what's needed 80 times per second. The GMC Sierra Denali helps define the pickup truck as far more than a workhorse these days.
-- Sean Szymkowski
Challenging Honda's Accord for overall goodness has been a perennially tough task. Some rivals have managed to deliver sportier dynamics, more cargo space, or what have you, but few have managed to outpoint Honda's venerable sedan in total merit. The 2020 Hyundai Sonata manages that Herculean task through a balance of virtues. However, it overindexes in one particular area: Tech. In fact, the Sonata far outpoints any other non-luxury midsize sedan on the market today.
Hyundai has had a handle on delivering snappy and intuitive infotainment systems for years now, in much the same way as it has delivered simple-but-effective telematics. The 2020 Sonata builds on that solid foundation with layers of additional tech that's both intuitive and impressive. Features like an available reconfigurable digital instrument cluster that incorporates the "why-didn't-anyone-think-of-this-before" Blind-View Monitor. The latter pumps side-camera feeds into the left and right sides of your gauge cluster to clearly see what's in your blind spot, effectively incentivizing turn-signal use. It's brilliant.
Plus, there are fun features like the Sonata's much ballyhooed Smaht Pahk out-of-vehicle parking assistant, phone-as-key, and one of the better conceived head-up displays on the market. Oh, and if electrification is your thing, the new Sonata Hybrid's a peach, with a 52-mpg combined efficiency rating and an available solar roof option (regrettably, you can't get Smart Park on the hybrid). In total, the rakish new Sonata gives the humble family sedan a genuinely high-tech sheen.
-- Chris Paukert
Updated for the 2020 model year, BMW's 7 Series flagship sedan features a hearty list of the latest and greatest infotainment, safety and drivetrain technologies. Inside the cabin, the iDrive 7 system features a sizable 10.2-inch touchscreen and redundant center console control that run navigation, a wonderful 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround audio setup, a Wi-Fi hotspot and Apple CarPlay. Gimmicky gesture controls are also standard, letting front passengers make sound system adjustments or accept and reject calls with various hand motions, while BMW's Intelligent Personal Assistant system get added this year, letting occupants adjust climate and entertainment settings with voice commands.
An upgraded Back-up Assist feature joins the 7 Series menu for 2020, enabling it to navigate out of parking spots. That's in addition to standard features like forward-collision warning with automatic braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, speed limit information and a surround-view camera. Adaptive cruise control and active lane-keeping assist are available as options.
For hybrid fans, the plug-in drivetrain in the 745e xDrive is greatly improved. Combining a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder with an electric motor yields a net system output of 389 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. With an EPA-estimated all-electric driving range of 16 miles, it slightly betters the previous 740e's 14-mile effort, but is substantially smoother in operation than the old powertrain.
-- Jon Wong
Two words, y'all: Super Cruise. And right now, you can only get this hands-free driving experience on the CT6. Working with the adaptive cruise control system, Super Cruise allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel on certain roads provided all conditions are met.
Super Cruise is geo-fenced, so it only works on highways that Cadillac has mapped. However, the company has recorded over 200,000 miles of highway, including the bane of my California existence, the drudgery that is I-5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Super Cruise will also slow down for sharp turns in the road while a camera-based monitoring system ensures that drivers stay alert.
No, the CT6 is not a self-driving car and will not steer around construction sites or avoid objects in the road, so you do need to stay alert. And while the CT6 is not long for this world, the new CT4, CT5 and Escalade will be available with Super Cruise, too.
-- Emme Hall
The S-Class has always been the crown jewel of technology in passenger cars. It's the car that Mercedes works hardest to ensure has the latest and greatest in the world of safety, performance and infotainment technology. If it's in an S-Class now, there's a good chance that it'll be in every car -- not just Mercedes -- in a few years.
Want examples? How about Magic Body Control, a proactive suspension system. It scans the road ahead for changes in surface, dips, potholes, bumps and corners, and then adjusts the car's suspension to suit. It'll even lean into a corner for you like some kind of giant, luxurious motorcycle.
How about in-car tech? Try its dual 12.3-inch widescreen displays -- one for your instrument cluster and the other for infotainment, navigation, etc. Not only are both screens reconfigurable, but they're also some of the best-integrated units in the business.
-- Kyle Hyatt
At the core of the Ram 1500's tech offering is the Uconnect infotainment system, which has space to spread out on the pickup's massive 12-inch infotainment screen. Uconnect's smartly organized and very customizable menus work well with the portrait orientation, particularly when viewing the navigation interface. You can download a variety of useful apps from the Uconnect Market or plug into Android Auto or Apple CarPlay to bring your own maps and apps.
The Ram 1500 also comes with SiriusXM 360L, the latest generation of satellite radio. With its redesigned interface, voice searchable catalog and smarter categorization, 360L promises less scrolling and more variety. The service seamlessly blends live satellite radio broadcasts with on demand streaming over the Ram's 4G LTE connection and now includes rich information for linking to related content, back catalog broadcasts, live sports scores and more.
Scattered around the cabin are more USB ports than you can shake a stick at. The Ram 1500 is one of the first vehicles to bring new USB Type-C ports into the cabin while also keeping the legacy Type-A ports around for compatibility. The big truck boasts 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity -- equally useful for worksite productivity and road trip entertainment -- while available 110-volt AC power keeps your gadgets, tools and tech charged on the go.
-- Antuan Goodwin
Wrapped in alien styling, the Toyota Prius Prime looks like it hails from Beta Centauri, but this fuel-sipping plug-in hybrid is purely terrestrial. Earthbound tech lovers are sure to appreciate its long list of equipment, however, this car's science-lab powertrain is the real star.
Since it's a plug-in hybrid, the Prius Prime offers a decent amount of electric-only driving range, up to 25 miles when its 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack is fully juiced. Surely, that's enough to cover some commuters' daily trips to the office and back. But if your home is a bit farther out in the suburbs, there's no need to worry. As in the standard Prius, a gasoline engine is part of the drivetrain equation, giving you instant power and no range anxiety. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder, it's paired with a couple electric motors that can drive the vehicle, recuperate energy through regenerative braking and function as a continuously variable transmission. How's that for high tech? The result of all this engineering sorcery is 133 MPGe combined when running solely on electrons and 54 mpg combined when operating as a traditional hybrid.
Standard features include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa compatibility. The Toyota Safety Sense P suite of driver aids is also included at no extra charge, which gets you amenities like lane-departure warning, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control. In the Limited-trim model, you can also get an 11.6-inch touchscreen, a premium JBL sound system and integrated navigation.
-- Craig Cole
You could certainly make the argument that lots of screens are a flytrap for driver distraction, but if you love all that digital real estate, Audi's got you covered. The company's MMI Touch Response system can be found in a number of vehicles, from the E-Tron SUV to the A8 flagship, but for the sake of this review, I'm picking the Audi S6, mostly because it's the car I most recently drove.
There's a 10.1-inch display in the center stack with colorful tiles for different menus, and really good haptic feedback that gives you more of a push-into-the-screen tactile experience. Everything is super responsive, and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are built in. This screen works in conjunction with the smaller, 8.6-inch display below, which houses things like climate controls and shortcuts for various driver-assistance functions, and can turn into a full handwriting pad for easier online search or destination input.
This tech alone would be enough to give the S6 high marks, but Audi also includes the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit display in front of the driver, with Google Earth mapping and access to all the vehicle's functions via steering wheel controls. Combine all this with an advanced suite of driving technologies like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, etc., and the S6 is one of the most advanced cars in its class.
-- Steven Ewing
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Kia's UVO infotainment system has always been one of my favorites, and it's survived these past several years with very few updates, yet it remains a winner. So let's attach that winning formula to yet another -- the foxy, boxy Kia Soul, which is brand spankin' new for the 2020 model year.
Most Souls make do with a 7-inch screen running UVO, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but upscale trims get a honkin' 10.2-incher that lets you see and do more without having to swap screens. On the safety front, just about everything is available, from automatic emergency braking to adaptive cruise control.
The Soul won't break your technophilic bank, either. Despite packing all that cool stuff, the Soul starts at about $18,000, with more expensive variants sliding in under $28,000, albeit just barely. That's thousands below the average new-car transaction price, and it's certainly not lacking for anything.
-- Andrew Krok