What tech to look for in a carWhat should a modern car have? There are the obvious things, such as fuel economy, practical interior space, and drivability, but what about great cabin tech? We'll tell you the three most important amenities to look for by the dashboard.
^M00:00:01 [ Music ] ^M00:00:07 >> Hello I'm Wayne Cunningham, Senior Editor with CNET's Car Tech Department and with me here is Antuan Goodwin also an Editor in CNET's Car Tech. >> Antuan: Hi Guys. >> Wayne: We're here to talk about what things to look for in a Tech car because there's a ton of new options coming out in cars. They estimate something over 50% of cars next year will have an iPod integration available and there's a bunch of other things like that that are pretty cool; so we drive a lot of these things, I've just been driving the Dodge Durango Hybrid recently--a big SUV with a Hybrid Powertrain and Dodge has got a surprising amount of tech that they're putting into the dashboard all available as options. There's a navigation system, it's hard drive based so it's pretty fast, Antuan you're driving the Challenger version--the Challenger recently the new one that's pretty cool. >> Antuan: Yeah the Challenger was--for a muscle car, actually for any car, extremely packed with tech and navigation, Blue Tooth, built in hard drive, iPod integration, voice command; it had everything that you could pretty much ask for out of Car Tech at this point. It's a little rough around the edges in a couple of points like no voice command button on the steering wheel, but those things aside, the level of integration was really good. >> Wayne: What's crazy too is that looks like a 1970's muscle car, the Challenger, and it is a great looking car too. I love the look of that thing in like bright sort of orangeish red--people are looking and checking you out all down the street especially with that loud engine. >> Antuan: Definitely. The only thing that really sounded better than the engine was the stereo when you were listening in to some good classic Rock. Yeah it definitely attracted a lot of attention. >> Wayne: Yeah well I remember having a Dodge Coronet in the early70's--well no I didn't have it in the early 70's, but it was a '71 and kind of the same...similar along the muscle car lines but it had AM radio which is a vast difference seeing an LCD screen set in the middle of the dashboard of this Challenger. >> Antuan: Definitely. So we've got a question coming in from Manatuck that says, "How long until all cars have OnStar-like services mandatory like seatbelts and airbags?" >> Wayne: Mandatory. OnStar is the type of service, we refer to it as telematics. It has a connection between the car and usually some central service provider and they can do things like unlock your doors for you or provide emergency response if you crash, like your car has all these sensors and so if you get into a crash it will send a signal to OnStar and they're operators will say like, "Oh send an ambulance to this address," you've probably seen the ads. >> Antuan: Yeah. >> Wayne: It will be interesting to see that type of service mandatory. I don't see it becoming mandatory actually, personally. There are some competitive services out there and most of the high-end cars have them like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus I guess. >> Antuan: Lexus has a link and I think is it Honda that has one as well in some of their Acuras? >> Wayne: Yeah there's an Acura link I think you call it. We've seen a lot of cars that we drive there. There's like an SOS button or the help button just in case things go wrong you can push this button, or the car has sensors and will go in and tell somebody or whoever it's connected to. It depends on you being within cell phone range of something too. Interestingly enough, Ford with their new Sync system is offering some similar features. They're kind of keeping things more on the car side. I mean this is almost like the classic-like server client type of arrangement. The OnStar is definitely--they have a lot of central services, they can feed you navigation and all that. Most of this generally isn't onboard on the car. Whereas Ford with the Sync they're kind of going more for everything on the client side, on the car side. Obviously we've seen Sync and it's great for playing music or using your phone. But if you have a paired phone they have a new feature coming out it's called the 911 Assist; and this feature--your car will actually sense if it gets into an accident and Sync will use your paired phone to call 911. It will actually be a little time or kind of alert you just in case you're still conscious. But if you're not conscious your phone will automatically call and alert authorities, try to get some help to you. So this is the way of doing it without having a big centralized office with operators on duty. >> Antuan: Yeah because that's probably the biggest thing that's keeping these telematic systems from being mandatory and integrated on most cars that's because the manufacturers don't want to pay a bunch of operators to sit around and wait for calls to come in. >> Wayne: There's a lot of overhead in maintaining service to that call center. >> Antuan: Definitely. Then you have to like build in some sort of cell phone technology into the car. So yeah decentralizing this and your phone will probably call the 911 response unit near where you are, you've already got that information there. It definitely seems like a good look. >> Wayne: I sort of like that system. Telematics are okay but I think they generally seem to me to be a way for manufacturers to kind of extract a monthly service fee from you. I've used OnStar a number of times and it's not my favorite. You can...they have some that will actually download turn by turn directions to your car and that's pretty cool, but generally I prefer to have the full navigation system sitting there on my dashboard so I can look up directions on my own. Lots of times with OnStar too if you call up, you'll get an operator, you'll have to talk to them which who wants to ask for directions--ask another person for directions, and then they feed you like this long list of turn by turn--like I was heading into LA and I was on the 5 with this one car and so I decided to hit the OnStar and get directions to my hotel; and the operator was like, "Well you're still like 100 miles outside of LA. I'll give you the directions but they're kind of complex." Gives me like a 20 turn by turn direction list and I'm just like okay and I thought it was really clean because he asked me, "Do you have anybody in the car with you to write this down?" It just felt like we're in the digital age buddy. We don't have people with pens and paper handy. >> Antuan: When OnStar was new and people didn't actually have the old GPS with the LCD screen built in, that was a big selling point. They were in the commercials showing people getting turn by turn instructions, but these days most of the cars that are going to--I guess most of the people that are interested in that kind of feature can go out and pick up a hundred, two hundred dollars GPS device or a lot of rental cars come with options that you can get those and what not so I think we're going to see a little bit less of that. Emphasis on getting instructions and stuff like that. >> Wayne: Oh yeah the big three features in car tech tend to be GPS; finding and getting the directions, then digital music options and Blue Tooth, some kind of Blue Tooth hands-free system for your phone and OnStar does serve a hands-free calling service calling as well, but this is another problem I have with OnStar. Usually if you're using their hands-free thing then you have a separate phone number for your car and one for your phone, but I'm always thinking that if someone is going to call me they're not going to know if I'm driving or not so they'll probably call my phone and I've got to call my car. It's just not as convenient of a system so I think the system of actually having the Blue Tooth rig in the car, hook it up to your cell phone so that's what you're using instead of going through a third-party service which somebody's going to call their number and it's going to feed from their service center to your car. That's a little goofy I think. We've got a pretty good question another one here. What are our favorite dream cars? What good cars have we been in, what stuff do we like? What's your favorite car that you've been in recently? >> Antuan: Well my entire life I've always wanted a BMW M3 and we recently had an opportunity to drive the convertible version of that one with the DCT, their dual clutch system, the automated manual and I guess I've always really liked I guess the previous generation of M3's. This generation, there's something about it that doesn't really click with me. It was a great car, I loved it, the tech was in it, but I really didn't get that experience that I felt like I was driving my dream car. On a similar tangent, Mercedes has always been kind of off of my radar as a BMW guy I didn't really like Mercedes. But then I had the opportunity. >> Wayne: Mercedes is like a luxury car. I think of it as a sports car. >> Antuan: And I'm a sports car guy. But then I had the opportunity to drive the C63MG for a while and that was a really, really an eye-opening car as far as just what I was expecting to get out of it. The whole experience of driving it was just incredible. A lot of power, a lot of really good tech and for a car that comes with an automated transmission and if I'm not mistaken it's a pretty standard automatic transmission, the shifts and the way that it just kept the car in the power band when you were in the sports mode was really impressive so. >> Wayne: Yeah I liked the car a lot too, the Mercedes Benz C63, and I think the one thing that probably won us both over was we went down to our garage here and popped the hood of that thing and revved the engine for a bit, held it like 5,000 rpm and just listened to that engine for a bit. We recorded it too because it just sounded really good; a 6.2 liter engine making a huge barking sound. We were both pretty impressed by that. I'm going to say actually one of my favorite cars of the year has been the Mitsubishi Evo--this is the MR version. This also has a dual-clutch transmission. You know the Evo it's so fun. It's got this great all-wheel drive system designed for rallying, ripping around on mud and gravel courses, this all-wheel drive system gives a great grip, it's kind of a four-wheel drifter car. The engine's got plenty of power, it's a small two-liter turbo charged inner cooled, but they wreak 300 horsepower out of this rig. It's close to, it's crazy fun. It's also got double-clutch transmission so manual style transmission, yet you're shifting with paddles but the shifter you can use that too but there's no clutch pedal. Now this is an intriguing thing in new car technology that's coming out are these dual-clutch transmissions and this is actually one of my favorite bits of new power train technology that's coming out, these transmissions. You don't find these in many cars like we mentioned; the BMW M3, DCT has it, probably the lowest price car that you can get a dual-clutch transmission on would be the Audi's with their DSG and I think Volkswagen has that. >> Antuan: Volkswagen does as well so you can get a Golf GTI with a DSG in it as well so that might actually cut you a little bit--couple thousand bucks. >> Wayne: Yeah I mean that's 30, 25, somewhere around there. >> Antuan: Somewhere around there. >> Antuan: Yeah and just a great thing about these transmissions actually they're pretty cool. What they do is they are a real manual transmission, even though there is no clutch pedal. And what they do is they have two shafts, two gear shafts, one with odd numbered gears and one with even numbered gears and they have a computer-controlled clutch which actually works them automatically. I've just been given the signal we've got to wrap up for a brief pause right now. We will be giving you a little video of the Dodge Challenger which we mentioned earlier. >> I'll be the first to admit it going back to the early 70's, not always a good idea but let's check out one of the most successful ventures back to then. A 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8. Can you dig? ^M00:12:35 [ Music ] ^M00:12:44 >> Brian Cooley: Supposed you wouldn't have had a 1971 [inaudible]. The head unit on this car is really good with navigation, Blue Tooth and armedia [assumed spelling]. The NAV screen as you can see is really colorful, nicely rendered, nice big touch-screen buttons. There is your single slot CD-DVD deck and you're not going to miss the fact that you only have one slot because to go with it you have 30 gig of hard drive space. A little under 7 thousand typical songs can fit on there. IPod connectivity, that's over here, standard aux jack is right there, above that, is a USB jack for getting media loaded on to this guy. In terms of getting sound out we've got a bass system with Boston acoustic speakers all around but the option is called the SRT package, gives you 13 speakers around the cabin, kicker branded, 320 watts of main power plus another 200 watts going dedicated to a sub. This I don't get. There is no voice command button on the steering wheel. You have to reach way the hell across the screen to get the car to listen to you. When I first saw this car on the show circuit it was in a prototype fashion I thought, "Wow they nailed it." Starting at the back you've got these kicked up hips, this kind of single lens rear tail like they just don't do anymore, and of course a real coupy look here, long doors, a frowny face sucker mouth, up here is very Challenger-esc, this is a true coupe but not as big a car as it looks. The SRT8 has the 6.1 liter hemi, wow, 425 horsepower, 420 foot pounds of torque, mileage is EPA rated at oh my God that's awful city, and how am I gonna pay for that highway? Unfortunately you get a gas guzzler tax as a result, 1700 dollars. You're going to get under 5.5 seconds, zero to sixty squirts out of this car, something very close to five seconds flat if you know how to work that gear box properly. The first thing you'll notice about this car that isn't retro is the handling and the ride. Great handling, comfortable ride. They didn't do that in the early 70's. Part of what makes that go is, oh my gosh, 20-inch wheels on this SRT8, big enough to put on a large SUV and not look funny. If you buy an SRT8 it comes stock with 5-speed automatic that has been decried as just not a great transmission. Luckily, there's an extra cost option for a few hundred bucks more for this guy. Six-speed manual with yep, our old buddy the pistol grip. It's a nice gear box, the shifts are nice and clean, the throw is about right, I do find that our clutch is a little bit odd. Take off happens at about 90% out of travel. This manual gearbox is a manly handful. It requires some brute force and it's a little bulky from gear to gear. If you're not paying attention also it will guide you naturally from first to fourth. This car has the torque to handle it but it's not real elegant. The torque band feels so broad and fat. You're always in the right gear. Whether you are or not, tremendous exhaust note just balzing [assumed spelling] it hard and you've got this sort of ready to rip RPM friendliness. They've done a great job on this mode. In addition to our normal and very excellent hand unit, check this out the EVIC, the electronic vehicle information center. When you get into that, you've got a whole bunch of what they call performance features. Here's a zero to sixty timer, eighth mile and quarter mile trap times, braking distance from speeds of zero, G-force campus--check that guy out, and a G-force record. ^M00:16:30 [ Music ] ^M00:16:35 >> All right. Let's see what it costs to go back into time fast. Challenger SRT about 40 grand. On top of that you're going to spend 1,000 for the upgraded audio system, 1200 or so gets you the U-connect high-end head unit with all the great NAV, Blue Tooth and media with a hard drive, and interestingly 700 dollars for the manual transmission. What do you think I would do? ^M00:16:59 [ Music ] ^M00:17:04 >> Wayne Cunningham: All right we're back, Wayne Cunningham with CNET Car Tech, Antuan Goodwin here next to me with CNET Car Tech as well. We've got a number of questions here that we're going to take. What do we have queued up here Antuan? >> Antuan: I'm going to take this first question from Nick Otina [assumed spelling] it says, "Along the same lines as headset requirements for cell phones while driving, do you think built-in interactive systems are a driving hazard?" And my opinion on that is yeah definitely they can be. But the good thing is that a lot of manufacturers' even the aftermarket manufacturers' have built-in safety measures where you can't be watching a DVD movie while driving. For example the Dodge Ram that we had a couple of weeks ago their U-connect system will allow you to watch TV off of a Series Satellite TV or you can also pop a DVD movie in and watch it right in the dash. But if you put your car in drive it will automatically switch you over to an audio source, like XM Radio or whatever music was stored on your hard drive. It would pull you back to that last source so that you can't really watch a movie or watch TV while driving. One of the aftermarket head units from JVC that we reviewed a couple of weeks ago also did that where your parking brake had to be pulled up in order to watch a DVD on the in screen. >> Wayne: Yeah they certainly do a lot of research on how to keep these systems safe so you can actually drive and not crash. One of my biggest and it answers a big question and it's definitely come up a lot, I've had discussions with different people and I've thought about this a lot and sort of my take on it is that the GPS systems for example are great and actually they're a lot better than trying to look at a paper map. I remember the days where you had the paper maps you'd unfold and I plenty of times in the past have had one unfolded in the passenger seat next to me and it's kind of like okay you're driving, okay coming up on a turn and let's see where am I again. That's dangerous. I think that's right out dangerous there. If you have a GPS system and it's telling you where the next turn is, if you miss a turn it recalculates. I think you're in a lot better shape than if you're using a paper map. Now of course it's problematic that if you're sitting there driving down the road and going, "Oh I'm thinking about going to a restaurant. What restaurant do I want to go to and ease into the system like that?" Which is why a lot of the systems lock out that type of address entry while you're driving. It's one of the safety features. A question of phone use though is another big thing. My opinion on that is I'd rather people were using a hands-free system instead of holding the phone up to their ear like this. >> Antuan: Because it takes two hands to steer a car. And regardless to whether you can do it with the one hand or not, it really is a lot safer with both hands on the steering wheel. For some reason, the whole act of holding the phone up with your hand, I don't know why, but it seems like it just takes that much more concentration for people to do. >> Wayne: Yeah and also the fact that if you're driving a manual especially. Like I've seen people drive a manual, like this morning, I saw this guy driving a BMW the roadster M and he was holding up a cell phone to his ear, driving through the city which means he was driving in start-stop traffic, 20 to 25 miles an hour and this was definitely a manual shift car so I don't know where he got a third hand to shift with. >> Antuan: I myself have been guilty of what I think is the worst offense and that's eating and driving. Don't eat and drive folks. >> Wayne: Yeah it's a tough one and I think adding things like iPod activity there you've probably got a little more hazard because you're driving down the road thinking like, "I want to listen to this album on my collection of like 150 albums on my iPod and so you're searching through it. And that's definitely different than the days when you had just a CD in the slot and that's all you listened to. Of course then if you're rummaging through a pile of CD's while you're driving which I think many of us have done before too, now that's probably a little more hazardous than just having an iPod connector up. >> Antuan: Definitely. We've got another question here from looks like Saul L. and it says, "Any advice on how to upgrade an older 2004 model for MP3 playback?" There are usually about four options which you have to choose from. The first option is going to be the simplest option that's going to be an FM transmitter. Plug it up to your MP3 player, find a blank station, you're good to go. It's pretty simple, lower sound quality though. You're going to get a little bit of degradation as that digital signal is transferred to an analog signal which is then transferred to a radio signal and that your stereo then has to decode through all the static that's already in the air. >> Wayne: Sometimes it doesn't even work at all. I've tried to use them in the city here in San Francisco. We have so many radio sources that I've just given up with some of these systems. >> Antuan: If you have a car like my car which is a 2004 model that has a tape player in it, you can get a tape adapter; plug it up to your MP3 player, pretty easy as well, but a step up in sound quality but still not good. >> Wayne: Cassette decks are hard to find these days. >> Antuan: Unless you're driving like a brand new Lexus. I was in one of the brand new Lexus GS. >> Wayne: Acura. >> Antuan: My Acura has it but I was also last week in a Lexus GS450 Hybrid, pretty close to the most advanced Lexus that you can buy and it had a tape deck in it with a Mark Levinson system. >> Wayne: Crazy. >> Antuan: Yeah so I guess Lexus buyers like tapes still. Of course the next steps up from that are if your head unit offers some sort of audio end that's going to be the best sound quality that you can get. The ultimate step up I guess for ease of use is to get a good head unit that has some iPod integration or MP3 playback integration. Like a lot of times you'll be able to find something where you can just USB plug in your MP3 player and it will pull your playlist down and you'll be able to play them right off. Another thing that you might want to check is see if it already played back MP3's off of a burned disc. A lot of times it's not a published feature but a lot of factory head units these days will allow you to burn your MP3's to a CD, pop it in your CD drive and it will let you search through the folder so check that before you go out and spend a lot of money if you don't have a budget. >> Wayne: Yeah I just want to step back; you mentioned the car stereos too. The fact that you can get an aftermarket car stereo, update just the head unit, the part in your car that plays the CD's and all that. These units that are coming out today you can get some pretty feature rich ones for under 300 bucks. I think for example, I think Sony's top of the line unit right now as far as a single bin unit, that's like a single slot that you can put in pretty much any car is about 250 bucks. That's for CD playback, MP3 playback, iPod integration, all of that and if you want to step past that and get a bigger unit that has GPS then you're starting to get into thousands of dollars but for a single unit it's actually a pretty cheap upgrade these days. Yeah and you know of course you might pay extra for installation unless you can do it yourself but yeah it's--these things are having a lot of features. It's an easy way, a good way to add some pretty high tech features to an older car. Let's see we've got another question here I thought was kind of intriguing. Olivia Harris says, "When I drive I try not to step on my accelerator too hard because the car gets loud and I feel like I am killing it. Does this decrease a car's long-term performance or does it not matter?" That involves driving habits I guess if you hit that accelerator hard, are you damaging the engine and what kind of stressors are you putting on it. Well modern cars you're not really, you can't over-rev the engine because they all have rev limiters. So if you're driving an automatic, it's not even a problem because the automatic will shift before the car goes over redline. If you're driving a manual, usually as it hits redline you'll get a fuel shut off, it will shut down fuel to the engine so you won't go over redline. So you're not heating up...cars are designed for acceleration. There's a lot of testing to make sure the engines can handle revving up and down. I mean they test these things in cold climates, hot climates, and by cold we're talking like under 30 degrees or hot, we're talking Mohave Desert hot so they're pretty well tested; and yeah you might hear the engine revving up. Some of us like that noise but they don't...this is necessarily killing your engine to rev it up. A lot of cars actually get the best horsepower around 5,000 rpm. Usually you have your torque at the low end, 2,000 rpm, get up to 5,000 rpm and that's where you get your horsepower. For example, most race car drivers they keep the revs up at 5, 6,000 rpm, even going through corners and all of that because that's where you have your maximum power. >> Antuan: And I mean most cars the actual limit of what the vehicle will do are usually just a little bit more than what the manufacturer will let you do. So if your car has like a redline of about 6,000 rpm, the engine is probably tuned to rev somewhere in the neighborhood of about 6500 7,000. They don't want you to be bleeding edge on what the car can do. The manufacturers build that kind of redundancy in so you can't really hurt the car so chances are if you can do it to the car without modifying it, the manufacturer has already thought about it. >> Wayne: Right. They don't want a lot of warranty repairs coming in. Maybe after your five or ten year warranty is up then it will start falling apart after or before that and not really a problem. Let's see what else have we got queued up here? >> Antuan: Let's see we've got one question right here from NY Tech and it says, "What do you think of NAV Traffic Services from Cirrus XM and how good are they?" I think we've used both of them, Cirrus and XM and now that they're merged, they're probably gonna be the same soon. I think they're pretty good. We live in a pretty big city out here in San Francisco and from my experience; the coverage on the highways is great. If there is an accident, if there is traffic, you will see it on the system. Once you start getting down on surface road, it's a little spotty. A lot of systems don't cover the surface roads. There's just really no system set up to keep track of what's going on on these little smaller roads that aren't major highways. If you spend a lot of time commuting on major highways, or if a lot of your traveling is on interstates, then you're going to get a lot of use out of it but if you live in small town where there's not a lot of traffic I guess to begin with, then you're not going to get a lot of use out of it. And if you spend a lot of time avoiding highways and staying on surface roads, then you'll probably never really run into a situation where. >> Wayne: Yeah but what I find is driving around the San Francisco Bay area, for example, you have lots of freeways, lots of traffic. When I'm driving a car without these traffic services and the GPS I feel a little bit like I'm missing something. I've driven enough cars with traffic services that if I'm driving up Highway 101 for example, a big freeway, big artery down the Peninsular below San Francisco, I get a little concerned if I'm not seeing some kind of traffic information on that GPS because there's plenty of times there'll be an accident down there and suddenly you're in the middle of an obnoxious traffic jam that if you had just known in advance, if that appeared on the GPS system you'd get around it. And the XM systems and Cirrus systems I've used to a good job in reporting that. >> Antuan: One of the systems that I just tested that was on our JBC head unit, I think it was called...I don't remember exactly what it was called but it was a double den one that was just recently tested, it came with a NAV Tech RDS and one of the cool things that I really liked about that system is it actually did those surface roads and I spent a lot of times on surface roads and I basically did this test where I looked to where I looked to see where traffic was on it and then I went to go find it. So I went to like this construction site here in Oakland, California. So I went and found it and it wasn't exactly perfect, and it was about a block off, but it was there and so it really is a good feature there actually just knowing that the surface roads were covered and that. >> Wayne: It's interesting that that one covers the surface roads, but that's probably a weird feature. That's not generally covered I mean XM and Cirrus they get their data from the local traffic authorities which do have monitoring systems for the major roads. Usually to get the surface roads, Dash navigation they have a GPS device that uses actually cars with that system installed the feedback information about traffic. So I wonder if that JBC is something or uses a similar network like that. >> Antuan: I wonder also and I'm also testing a SONY unit that basically uses the same system, and I'm wondering if it's actually keeping track of the traffic or if it's just keeping track of no accidents, construction and what not. I know that there are ways to actually look up with what traffic is scheduled, where accidents are reported, and I don't know if maybe it's not actually looking at the traffic maybe it's just looking at possible points of congestion. >> Wayne: Yeah probably incidence but maybe not traffic flow information and problems that you get on the freeways, but yeah with surface streets it probably doesn't tell you how fast the traffic is moving on average which they do for the freeways. I think we're about out of time today so we're going to wrap up here. Tomorrow, same time, same place, same station. Also, Wenzel, our editor form CNET will be here and she'll be talking about green powered gadgets so these are things that will lessen impact on the environment. I'm Wayne Cunningham. >> Antuan: And I'm Antuan Goodwin. >> Wayne: And we've been talking about Car Tech. ^M00:31:52 [ Music ] ^M00:31:55