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Cooley On Cars
Top 5: Affordable performance techCNET's Brian Cooley tells you about five high-performance technologies that were out of reach yesterday, but are available on your car today.
No more pressing your nose on the glass of the Lamborghini dealer: Performance tech once only in supercars is now in rental cars. IÃ?m B.C. with my Top 5 forms of performance tech that tickled down to us unwashed masses in recent years. 5 - Launch Control This was long the domain of million dollar F1 cars with so much power only a computer could get the maximum on the ground without wheel spin. Lately it has trickled down to Ã?Vettes and Shelbys with the same, er, problem...and you can even find it on the Mitsu Lancer Evo X. I donÃ?t know that it ever gets real popular, though. 4 - Adaptive Suspension A suspension that reads the road in real time and adapts to it first showed up in big volume around 1990 in the original Infiniti flagship, the Q45 -- though youÃ?d hardly know it since their first TV spots were infamous for having almost nothing to do with the car. Today adaptive suspension can be found in Euro market VW Golfs and Opel Astras, though it remains stubbornly mid-market in the U.S. coming down not much further than say an Acura MDX or Buick Lucerne. 3 - Dual Clutch Gearbox The self-shifting dual-clutch manual transmission sprang from the realization that, letÃ?s face it, a computer can work a clutch and gears way better than you ever will. Hence, the first production DCT in the 2002 Golf R32. Today itÃ?s come down to Ford FiestaÃ?s and Dodge DartÃ?s -- with poor results in my opinion -- but also in the Mitsu Lancer Evo X which at just $38k is also perhaps the best DCT car IÃ?ve ever driven. 2 - Turbochargers Turbos have been around since 1905 but not until 1975 did they ARRIVE in the Turbo: The Porsche 911 Turbo. All of a sudden Ã?turboÃ? was a household word even though the car that made it that way cost a $112 grand in todayÃ?s dollars. Now you go car shopping and trip over turbo engines, all the way down to a $19,000 Nissan Juke and many other small and affordable cars that use them more to achieve efficiency more than performance. Saying you have a turbo under the hood is no longer a brag. 1 - Pushbutton Start This most ubiquitous and sometimes perhaps the dumbest. The push button starter was an F1 thing, where there are no car keys... then a Ferrari thing where it was part of their F1 inspired manettino...all the time suggesting saving a half a second that might win you the race. Today its in RAV4s and Chevy Malibus and almost every other car. It says high tech without actually being so. Its just a button.