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The 15 Strangest and Coolest Car Features of 2016
As many of you know, my car-reviewing style is a little different from most reviewers. I spend approximately half my time with any car discovering strange and unusual features nobody else seems to notice, and I spend the other half actually driving the car. This means that, sometimes, I remember a car's strange features more than I actually remember the driving experience.
And so, to capitalize on that, I've decided to create a year-end review that's a little different from most year-end reviews. In this one, I'm going to show you the 15 strangest and coolest car features and quirks I encountered this year -- and oh boy, it's been a whopper of a year for automotive quirks. The full list is below, though you'll have to watch the video above to see them all in action.
15. Nissan S-Cargo Speed Chime
My crazy Japanese cargo van, the odd-looking late-1980s Nissan S-Cargo, sounds a chime when you hit 55 miles per hour. This would be completely acceptable and even encouraged, except for one small issue: The chime doesn't turn off until you drop back below 55 mph. As you can imagine, the chime -- which was included by law on all Japanese cars of the S-Cargo's period -- is tremendously annoying in today's world of 60- and 70-mph speed limits.
14. Tesla Roadster Emergency Entry System
Like many cars, the Tesla Roadster has electronic exterior door handles, a feature designed in part to be cool and in part to ensure the exterior design is free of giant pull handles that can ruin the lines of an otherwise smooth door. But what happens when you have an electronic door handle and a dead battery? The answer, in this case, is a keyhole located under the door, on the rocker panel, facing downwards. It's not graceful, but it works.
13. Aston Martin DB11 Soft-Close Hood
Many modern cars have soft-close doors, which can automatically latch themselves -- softly and silently -- if you nearly close them. Soft-close doors make sense because you're often opening and closing your doors... but what about a soft-close hood? The Aston Martin DB11 has it -- and it's one of the most incredible features I've seen this year, because it's a feature most owners will never even know exists. But for the few owners who experience this little detail, it adds unusual grace to the normally gritty process of closing the hood.
12. Chevy Corvette ZR1 Clear Hood
Like most rivals with more than 600 horsepower and a 6-figure price tag, the C6 Chevy Corvette ZR1 has a see-through hood so you can check out the engine. Unlike most rivals, however, the Corvette ZR1's hood opening reveals... the plastic engine cover. So basically, you have a cover over the engine (the hood) which includes a window -- undoubtedly not a cheap part to create -- just so you can see... another cover over the engine. It makes no sense. And thus, it's a great quirk.
11. TVR Tuscan Turn Signals and Brake Lights
The TVR Tuscan is a car of strange and bizarre quirks and features. One of the quirkiest (I say "one of" because it has an even more ridiculous quirk coming up) is the placement of its turn signals and brake lights. The brake lights are unusual, yes -- they're located under the rear bodywork, about as low as you can possibly get on the car without reaching the ground. But the turn signals are way stranger: They're hung from the roll hoop, directly behind the driver and passenger seats. Creative? Yes. Strange? Also yes.
10. Bentley Bentayga Quilted Leather Event Seat
One of the most opulent features I've seen all year is the Bentley Bentayga's "event seat" -- a quilted, power-folding rear seat that sticks out of the Bentayga's cargo area to allow you to go tailgating with some grace and elegance. Of course, by "tailgating," I mean taking a tea break as you survey your property. The Bentayga has a lot of unusual options, including an in-dash clock that costs more than a Porsche 911, but the event seat stands out as one of the most memorable.
9. Porsche Carrera GT Hidden Door Pocket
You probably know the Porsche Carrera GT for its insane design, its advanced construction, its seemingly limitless performance or its amazing race-car-derived engine. You probably don't know that it includes a hidden pocket inside the driver and passenger doors. This pocket is excellent if you want to seriously hide something, since nobody will ever find it -- unless, of course, they watch my videos.
8. Dodge Viper Hood Opener
One of the craziest things about my Dodge Viper -- and there are many, many crazy things -- is that you don't have to get inside the car to open the hood. Unlike every other modern car I've ever driven, there's no interior hood release or latch. Instead, you can just walk to a parked Viper, pull a lever in the grille and open the hood right up, even if you don't have the key.
7. Tesla Model X Screen Controlling Doors
Of course, I've heard of automated doors. These days, even boring ol' minivans have them. But boring ol' minivans don't have a giant center-mounted touchscreen for you to control them. As I demonstrated (and to my great amazement), you can use the screen to open all of the Tesla Model X's doors -- including the front doors, the crazy "falcon-wing" doors in back and the rear lift gate. The best part? After you press the button to open the door, the door also opens in real-time on the touchscreen.
6. Lamborghini Murcielago Seat Angle
For reasons completely beyond my comprehension (save for "It's an Italian car!"), the Lamborghini Murcielago's seats are angled inward. Let me make it a bit clearer: The Lamborghini Murcielago's seats do not point straight forward, like any other normal automobile you'll ever drive. They're angled ever so slightly inward, in a very slight but very noticeable V shape. The result is that if you sit in a Lamborghini Murcielago and look forward, you look slightly off to the side of the car. It makes no sense. But hey, it's an Italian car.
5. Dodge Viper Third Brake Light
One of the coolest things about the Dodge Viper's exterior is that the third brake light is actually the Viper logo. Press the brakes, and the logo transforms from a normal rear automotive logo to a backlit snake. What car is this? VIPER! What car is this? VIPER! What car is this? VIPER!
4. TVR Tuscan Interior and Exterior Door Handles
The placement of the door handles on the TVR Tuscan is the most absurd thing in an already wild and ridiculous automobile. Want to get in the Tuscan from the outside? It's not a latch or a handle mounted on the door, but rather a button under the side mirror. Want to get out of the Tuscan once you're in it? There's no door latch -- instead, you press an unlabeled button inexplicably mounted next to the stereo. What?!
3. Lamborghini Huracan Hexagons
Everything in the Lamborghini Huracan is 6-sided, including the door mirrors, the start-button cover, the climate-control vents and even the airbag cover. Supposedly, this is because carbon is the sixth element, and the Huracan makes ample use of carbon fiber. Whatever the reason, it's a little strange. Virtually anywhere you look inside the Huracan -- or, in many cases, outside of it -- you'll find something that's 6-sided.
2. Trabant Washer Fluid
There's no question about which feature made me laugh the most this year: the washer fluid in the Trabant. Built under Communist rule in East Germany, the Trabant is a completely ridiculous vehicle, offering only the most basic automotive equipment and virtually nothing else. The best proof of this is the windshield-washer fluid. To activate it, you manually pull and push a small lever located inside the cabin that delivers tiny, weak bursts of water on the windshield. When you see it in action, it's hard not to laugh.
1. Ford GT Doors
This one takes the cake. The Ford GT's doors are, in fact, the strangest feature I encountered this year -- and possibly ever. This is because the Ford GT door... has a roof. I have no idea why this is, but it makes getting in and out of the car hilariously difficult in a wide variety of everyday circumstances. It's almost as if Ford's engineers never even bothered to test the simple act of getting into the car in a parking lot. Then again, the Ford GT was easily among the best cars I drove this year -- and I suppose every near-perfect car needs at least one drawback.
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.