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Top tech cars of 2010 (photos)

This year saw significant recovery for the automotive industry, and renewed vigor with new model introductions. Many of the top tech cars come from expected quarters, but Hyundai took a leap forward, making high tech affordable.

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Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 10 Josh Miller/CNET

2011 Audi A8

A tech tour de force, the newest A8 combines the luxury of an executive sedan with a surprising 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.

Read the review.

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2 of 10 Josh Miller/CNET

2011 Audi A8

Top tech feature
The cabin tech interface adds handwriting recognition for alphanumeric inputs, a system that is much easier to use than the car's rotary knob. We found this new interface to work very well, recognizing our crabby handwriting and causing little distraction from the road.

Read the review.

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3 of 10 Josh Miller/CNET

2011 Infiniti M56x

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.

Read the review.

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4 of 10 Josh Miller/CNET

2011 Infiniti M56x

Top tech feature
Infiniti loads the M56x with ground-breaking technology to help avoid collisions. In city traffic, the car can handle the braking, coming to a full stop. This system is activated with the lower button on the steering-wheel spoke. Meanwhile, lane departure prevention and adaptive cruise control almost let the car drive itself.

Read the review.

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5 of 10 Josh Miller/CNET

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

The MKZ Hybrid is a mid-size 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.

Read the review.

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6 of 10 Josh Miller/CNET

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

Top tech feature
The MKZ Hybrid's power train is made up of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a 106-horsepower electric motor, delivering a combined 191 horsepower and EPA mileage of 41 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. While driving the MKZ Hybrid, it is possible to keep it cruising under electric power only at speeds of around 40 mph.

Read the review.

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7 of 10 James Martin/CNET

2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid

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.

Read the review.

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8 of 10 James Martin/CNET

2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid

Top tech feature
The hybrid power train is made up of a 3.5-liter V-6 engine, a 20-horsepower electric motor, and a 120-volt lithium ion battery pack. Although the electric motor cannot propel the car on its own, it gives the engine a significant boost when launching and allows for start-stop operation.

Read the review.

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9 of 10 Josh Miller/CNET

2011 Nissan Leaf

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.

Read the review.

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10 of 10 Wayne Cunningham/CNET

2011 Nissan Leaf

Top tech feature
The Leaf is the first mass-production vehicle to use a pure electric power train and a lithium ion pack. Owners will be able to charge it at home, eliminating the need to visit gas stations. As charging infrastructure is developed, the Leaf can be quick charged while being used for errand running.

Read the review.

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