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The automotive things we're thankful for

Car culture is alive and well. Here are some things from the automotive world we're most thankful for.

A fast car on a good road -- just one of the many things we're thankful for.

Audi

Happy Thanksgiving, Roadshow readers. (Well, Roadshow readers in America, at any rate.) Today's a day when we kick back and give thanks for all the great things that make life so enjoyable. And in our case, it means getting to do what we love day in and day out, reporting on new cars and test driving the latest and greatest machines.

But beyond our jobs, we're thankful for car culture as a whole, and the parts, big or small, that make the automotive world such an incredible place. Here are a few of the things our editors are thankful for.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Manual transmissions

In this increasingly automated world, a bit of manual tech can make for a refreshing change. Yes, these days, automatic transmissions of all stripes are quicker and more efficient than manuals, but sometimes you just want to do it yourself.

In fact, I almost always prefer three pedals and a stick shift to an automated setup, if only because I feel more engaged in the act of driving. It's a dying technology, to be sure, one that fewer and fewer new drivers bother to learn -- and fewer and fewer automakers bother to offer. Just this year, pure electric vehicles started to outsell manual-equipped cars.

Accuse me of being a Luddite all you want, but I'm still very thankful for the opportunity to grab my own ratios, and I think tripedalists tend to be better drivers, if only because they have to pay more attention -- it's much harder to be a distracted driver when you've got a clutch pedal and a gearshift lever to constantly operate.

-- Chris Paukert

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Studded snow tires

It's getting to be that time of year, folks. The most wonderful time of year, when the temperatures drop and the lakes start to freeze, and the green flag drops on another season of the greatest form of amateur racing on the planet. Yes, dear readers, it's almost ice racing season, a time when I'm especially thankful for studded snow tires.

Now, I use my studded snows (specifically: Nokian Hakkapeliittas) to let myself confidently pitch a car around a frozen race course at triple-digit speeds, but those tires are designed for use on the road, where they make whatever car they're attached to damn-near invincible in winter conditions. Any snow tire, even the most basic, chunky, ugly thing that you can find on sale at your local discount wholesale big-box retailer, will do a far better job in winter conditions than even the best, most expensive all-season tire you can buy. (Assuming you don't mind the road noise.) But, if you really need to go the extra mile when Mother Nature is saying you've already gone far enough, studded rubber is the way to go.

There are some things to take note of, most important being their legality. Studded snow tires are not allowed in many places, so check your local regulations. They're also worse for the environment than standard snow tires and typically more expensive, so don't partake unless you really need 'em. But, if you do, it's an awfully good feeling to know that basically nothing will stand between you and your destination this season.

-- Tim Stevens

Subaru

Affordable sports cars

Fewer and fewer sports cars exist today, and even fewer are truly attainable. Specifically, I'm thankful for the Toyota-Subaru partnership that has brought us the 86 and BRZ. I'll toss the Mazda MX-5 Miata in here, too.

While I've had my share of time behind cars that will eat up a race track or smush me into the driver's seat under acceleration, I can't help but recall how lovely it was to drive an 86 coupe. It's the kind of car that exists to remind drivers that there's no need for even 300 horsepower to have a whole lot of fun.

Just enough power, a light curb weight and wonderful feedback from the car is, and should be, enough to make anyone that enjoys a spirited drive thankful these machines exist.

-- Sean Szymkowski

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Convertibles

I moved from Detroit to Los Angeles in 2017, and the first thing I did when I got here was schedule a loan on a convertible (a Miata, obviously). With near-perfect weather 95% of the year, I would totally welcome a convertible into my garage. But you don't have to live in SoCal in order to enjoy a good droptop.

Removing a car's roof enhances the whole experience. You feel more connected to the world around you, with your senses of smell and sound all heightened. A 2020 Audi R8 is a fantastic car; a 2020 Audi R8 Spyder is even better. The Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 is such a sweetheart, but my money's on the Spyder.

I get angry when I see someone driving a convertible with the top up on a nice day. Why spend the extra money if you aren't going to put the top down? Convertibles are even lovely in colder climates, too -- I always loved cranking the heat and turning on the heated seats to drive topless on a crisp winter morning. Convertible driving might be better in LA, but I'll love these cars no matter where I live.

-- Steven Ewing

Porsche

Electrification

The growl of a properly tuned exhaust will always have a special place in my heart, but anyone who's ever experienced a Ludicrous launch in a Tesla Model S or even just the impressively linear acceleration of Audi's E-Tron will tell you that the eerily silent torque of the electric car is the future of automotive performance. I'm thankful for electrification's promise to bring quieter and more efficient cars to market without much, if any, performance compromise. Even at the low end, I think we can all agree that a torque-y Nissan Leaf performs better than the similarly sized Versa.

However, EVs aren't without their compromises. Their big battery packs make them both heavier and more expensive than comparably sized vehicles. The former issue is somewhat mitigated by the gobs of electric torque, while the price should eventually come down as new, more scalable battery technologies are developed. And then there's the issue of range. However, I think that the advantage of being able to fuel up while parked in your garage at home every night somewhat balances the convenience of fast pump gas. (Ahem, let's not forget the advantages of hydrogen fuel-cell EVs, if they ever take off in the States.) Of course, your mileage may vary.

In the meantime, electrification is making gasoline vehicles better through hybridization. Yes, there were a few early attempts that missed the mark, but today's performance hybrids are an impressive bunch, from the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari hypercars to Porsche's Panamera E-Hybrids, Acura's new NSX and the Polestar 1. Even the aftermarket is starting to experiment with unique electrification applications, like Vonnen's Shadow Drive for the Porsche 911. The electric motor is proving to be a very powerful and flexible tool in the hands of automakers that supports -- rather than supplants -- our love of combustion engines.

-- Antuan Goodwin

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Automatic headlights

Daytime running lights are pretty darn popular, as are screens in cars, and between the two, the sheer illumination can cause many drivers to think they have sufficient light on the road. But they don't, and that's why I'm a fan of automatic headlights.

Meant to help everyone, and not just the most distracted drivers in our midst, automatic headlights remove one thought from the driving equation and automate it nearly perfectly, kicking on the low beams when the sun gets low enough in the sky -- or when driving through a tunnel, or one of a thousand other instances where people might not think to turn the headlights on themselves.

We've all got a lot on our minds (and if you don't, please email me your secret). It's nice to have the car pick up some of the slack and make sure that everyone is driving as safely as possible. Unless, of course, you turn the automatic headlights off, in which case you're boned.

-- Andrew Krok

Jon Wong/Roadshow

V8 engines

I'm thankful for the V8 engine, even more so than I am for canned cranberries or pop-up turkey timers. When you join two banks of four cylinders to a common crankshaft, something absolutely magical happens: the powerplant becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Engines of the V-type, eight-cylinder configuration are famed for their smoothness, power-producing potential and sound quality. With benefits like these, it's no wonder this layout became so popular over the years, the obvious choice for maximum giddy-up. The humble V8 provides loads of cylinder displacement in a relatively small package, meaning you can have huge power in a tiny vehicle, all without the complexity and cost of forced induction. Case in point: any LS-swapped Mazda Miata.

Whether it's a long-lived but workaday Mopar 318 or that high-winding screamer crammed between a Shelby GT350's front fenders, a hopped-up small-block Chevy powering your favorite street rod or a side-valve unit from 1936, the V8 layout is practically guaranteed to please, no matter its price or purpose. And that is something to be thankful for, especially as time is, regrettably, running out for this engine configuration.

-- Craig Cole

Honda

Modern safety tech

I learned much of what I know about driving the hard way, by making dumb mistakes as a young man, any of which could have been my last. Modern automotive crash safety design and technology have saved my bacon on a number of occasions. From crumple zones to airbags to good old seat belts, These are car technologies I never hope I'll need, but am so thankful that they're there.

However, even as I've matured into a very safe and attentive driver, I still share the road with others of varying skill levels. So, I'm also thankful for more active safety technologies like the precollision braking and lane-keeping assist systems that are not only nice luxuries on my commute, but also help keep distracted or unskilled drivers from running into me. In a perfect world, everyone would put down their phones and pay as much attention to the road as I do, but until then, I continue to be thankful for technology.

The ultimate goal of vehicle safety engineers is full automation and -- even as an enthusiast who loves being engaged in the drive -- I'm cautiously thankful for the strides made towards self-driving cars. I love being in total control of my car, but I share my commute with hordes of "drivers" stuck staring at their phones and, frankly, it terrifies me. Fully autonomous driving and the promise of the complete elimination of accidents can't get here soon enough for these folks who can't break their addiction to their phones. Someone -- even if it's a machine -- should be watching the road.

-- Antuan Goodwin

Paolo Baraldi

Off-road racing

Every time I get into my off-road race car, I'm a bundle of nerves. But once the green flag drops, I am totally focused, seeing only the dirt in front of me. However, open off-highway vehicle areas are losing acreage at an alarming rate, seriously hindering our sport and pushing many of us south of the border where regulations aren't as stringent.

But it's more than just the euphoria I get from racing in the dirt. Manufacturers use off-road racing to test their products, putting them through the most brutal terrain the country has to offer. Chevrolet has been racing the Colorado ZR2 and the Silverado in the Best in the Desert Series, while Ford threw a Bronco R prototype into the dust at this year's Baja 1,000.

When battling the elements is just as much a part of the race as battling other drivers, off-road racing is crucial to the development of future trucks and SUVs. Additionally, car and truck builders are continuously pushing the envelope in terms of power and suspension travel.

-- Emme Hall

Indian Motorcycles

Motorcycles

Learning to ride a motorcycle is one of the best things I've ever done. Nothing else has offered the kind of mental reset and sense of freedom that ripping around town on two wheels does, and I can't imagine going back to life without this skill.

I've had ups and downs with bikes. I've discovered what I love (big, rowdy, twin-cylinder engines) and what I don't (long-distance rides). I've made tons of friends on two wheels, and lost a couple two-wheeled friends, too. But the welcoming and inclusive Southern California riding community is almost as important to me as riding itself.

Oh, and motorcycles look really, really cool.

-- Kyle Hyatt

Mercedes-Benz

The return of interior colors

I'm a flamboyant guy, especially when it comes to color combos and specs of cars. So it has been extremely heartening to see automakers embracing colors beyond the typical brown, tan or bright red for their interiors again, especially in the past couple years. But I'm not just talking about extravagant, bright hues -- some of the best new interior options are subtle ones.

For example, Porsche released an Aventurine Green leather option on the new 992 that matches an available exterior paint, and the Land Rover Defender has a "khaki" color that is really just a nice beige-ish green. Lincoln's new Corsair has a great blue that's darker than the Navigator's, while the C8 Corvette has an eye-searing bright-blue option. The updated Genesis G90 also has a really nice blue that covers everything, including the headliner and carpets. Even the Mazda3's maroon option is a breath of fresh air compared to all the other reds out there. I'm gonna go ahead and be also thankful for light grays like the one available on the Audi Q3 -- especially because it can be paired with bright-orange Alcantara accents.

Two-tones are really coming back in style, too, like the cream-and-brown scheme on BMW's 8 Series and the cream-and-blue on the X7. (Another favorite is the Lexus LC's white, orange and blue option, although that one isn't new.) And don't even get me started on the colors that super-high-end brands like Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin offer. Hot pink, baby blue, bright green... you name it, they'll do it. And people will actually order them. So I guess I'm thankful for the flamboyant, super-rich customers, too. Oh, and an honorable mention goes to new non-leather options, especially Volvo's plaid City Weave textile interior. It's just perfect.

-- Daniel Golson

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Heated and massaging seats

There's nothing I like more than hot-crossed, massaged buns. A long road trip is made easier by the comfort of a well-made driver's seat.

My favorite seats by far are the 30-way adjustable chairs in the new Lincoln Navigator. They are so comfortable and warm me up so completely that I found I had to pull over and take a nap. Other favorites include the seats used by Rolls-Royce, of course, and Mercedes-Benz.

However, it's not all luxury brands that offer up comfy seating options. While the Ford Ranger doesn't have a massaging option, the heating element does not quit, and the seat itself makes a road trip a breeze. Nissan's "Zero Gravity" seats don't make me weightless, but they're also super supportive and available in most of the company's vehicles.

-- Emme Hall

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Apple CarPlay

Another automotive feature I'll happily sing the praises of is Apple CarPlay. You just plug your iPhone in via USB cable and up pops a familiar interface that's mostly optimized for use while driving, meaning it's not overly distracting or hard to distinguish between different menus.

It's so refreshing to have a friendly, easily understood multimedia UI at hand. Whether you're behind the wheel of an F-150 pickup truck or a Honda Civic sedan, testing something from BMW or the latest Kia, CarPlay provides essentially the same experience in every car or truck. Familiarity may breed contempt, but it also makes life easier.

This system is a big leap forward in usability, though it's still not perfect. Apple's map interface can be kludgy at times and frequently the system will start playing random music or podcasts when plugged in. Um, why? But minor annoyances notwithstanding, CarPlay is still an excellent feature and something to be thankful for.

-- Craig Cole

Japan car culture
Chris Paukert/Roadshow

Varied types of car enthusiasts

I was fortunate enough to be in Japan for the outrageous Halloween festivities around Tokyo's legendary Shibuya Crossing. I expected a crush of humanity, crazy costumes and a good time, but what I didn't expect was one of the most wild and diverse impromptu modified car shows I have ever experienced.

Honestly, I don't generally go for lowriders, neon underbodies, drift cars or customs that are equal parts rolling sound system and automobile. They're not my scene, and they're also the majority of what I saw that night. But none of that mattered, because beyond the creativity and craftsmanship, I saw passion for cars of all types on ready display, and it made me inexplicably happy to meet to these enthusiasts and see their creations.

In a country where auto companies are increasingly worried that young people no longer care about cars and they aren't getting licenses like they did before, this was a hugely refreshing discovery. Beyond appreciating all of the cars in this spontaneous Fast and Furious-like gathering, Halloween in Shibuya made me think about how thankful I am that there are different types of car communities for different types of enthusiasts. Whatever lights your fire automotively is cool with me -- I'm just glad we all care about cars.

-- Chris Paukert

Crashed helmet
Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow

High-quality motorcycle helmets

Earlier this year, I had my first serious motorcycle crash. My very fancy (but also very well-engineered) Schuberth S2 helmet totally saved my life.

I'm thankful that it's easier than ever to buy an exceptionally well-designed motorcycle helmet that is both safe and comfortable, and you don't necessarily need to spend a ton of money in order to get it.

Safety standards like Snell and ECE make choosing something safe -- even if you don't know a lot about helmet design -- a pretty simple affair, so there's no excuse for anyone on a motorcycle to be wearing anything that won't protect them in a crash.

-- Kyle Hyatt

Audi

The open road

I'm not really one for traditional meditation, but I do believe in the goodness of centering oneself. That's what road trips do for me. A good car, the open road, my favorite album -- the experience can't be beat.

The other week, I had to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a Porsche Panamera GTS Sport Turismo (tough break, I know). I hit the road around 2 p.m. after a particularly stressful morning, and by the time I climbed over the Grapevine and headed up Interstate 5 toward the Bay Area, all my worries had seemingly vanished. I felt refreshed. Centered. At peace.

On more than one occasion, I've used a great drive in a great car as a form of personal therapy. I can clear my head. I can focus on something I truly enjoy. I know I'm not alone in this act among fellow car enthusiasts. And while I'm thankful for great road trips I take on my own, I'm doubly thankful for the camaraderie of canyon drives with good pals, too.

-- Steven Ewing