Although most car shoppers think it's a given that luxury cars are better equipped than their workaday counterparts, that isn't always the case. In fact, a growing number of traditional automakers are adding unique features to their models to provide an edge over the competition. The eight cars in this list do just that by offering surprising standard features that give buyers access to upscale items at a more reasonable price than on many high-end cars.
Cadillac XTS iPad
Yes, the Cadillac XTS's $44,995 base price may push it over to the luxury-vehicle realm, but the all-new sedan includes something not available in rivals costing twice as much: a free iPad. Cadillac recently announced that all buyers of its new 2013 XTS will receive an iPad with the purchase of the vehicle, providing tech-savvy drivers with a major reason to pick the sedan over competition from BMW and Mercedes. The iPad will come preloaded with Cadillac's CUE app, which lets buyers practice using the sedan's new information and entertainment system before getting behind the wheel.
Chrysler Town & Country DVD Player
For many parents with young children, a rear DVD player has become a must-have item that helps keep kids entertained in the back seat of the family hauler. Knowing this, Chrysler made the feature standard in all versions of its 2012 Town & Country minivan, which starts at $29,995 before destination. That gives the van a major leg up over rivals like the Honda Odyssey, which starts at $36,625 with a rear-seat DVD player, and the Toyota Sienna, which includes the feature as a $2,495 option on its $33,205 XLE model. As a bonus, the Town & Country also comes standard with leather upholstery, which is easier to clean than the standard cloth seating in the Odyssey and Sienna.
Ford Fusion SYNC
Despite an inexpensive starting price of just $22,495 before destination, even the most basic trim level of Ford's all-new 2013 Fusion sedan offers the automaker's convenient SYNC information and entertainment system as standard equipment. Featuring mobile phone integration, voice recognition and digital music player connectivity, SYNC offers nearly everything a tech-savvy car buyer could want. It also includes several novel features, including an AppLink function that runs smartphone apps and a feature that allows drivers to play their text messages aloud. Ford's SYNC brings a standard dose of high technology to the mundane mid-size sedan segment.
Honda CR-V Reversing Camera
While government legislation is pending that could make reversing cameras standard in all vehicles by the 2014 model year, Honda has jumped the gun and added the feature to all versions of its compact CR-V SUV for 2013. With a starting price of $22,495 before destination, that makes the CR-V the least expensive vehicle on the market to get a standard reversing camera; the helpful feature costs extra on the CR-V's rivals. But it's not just other compact SUVs that lack the convenient technology as standard equipment: even buyers who fork over more than $87,000 for BMW's high-performance X5 M SUV must pay an extra $1,900 for a reversing camera.
Nissan Altima 2.5S Intelligent Key
The technology used in Nissan's Intelligent Key was originally developed by Mercedes-Benz for its most luxurious sedans. The system allows a driver to leave the key fob in a pocket when unlocking, locking and starting his or her vehicle, and it is not just convenient; it's downright cool. It's included for free on the basic Altima 2.5 S, which starts at $22,710 before destination, despite remaining an option on the $65,000 Mercedes E550 Cabriolet. Not interested in the Altima? Intelligent Key is standard on most of Nissan's models, including the mid-size Maxima, the sporty 370Z and the fully electric Leaf hatchback.
Subaru BRZ Limited-Slip Differential
With its sporty lines and rear-wheel-drive layout, it's no secret that Subaru's BRZ coupe is designed for driving enthusiasts. But even with its high-performance appeal, the BRZ offers a standard feature virtually unknown in a vehicle at its $24,000 base price level: a limited-slip differential. Designed to enhance traction under hard cornering, limited-slip differentials are usually standard fare on sports cars at twice the BRZ's price point. The feature is also included on the BRZ's mechanical twin, Scion's newly released FR-S, making both cars bargains for enthusiasts interested in high-performance handling at a reasonable price.
Suzuki SX4 Crossover All-Wheel Drive
While base models of Suzuki's SX4 still come standard with front-wheel drive, the automaker's SX4 Crossover hatchback is the least expensive vehicle available today with standard all-wheel drive. With a base price under $17,000 before destination, that's good news for buyers in snowy northern climates, who would have to spend at least $1,500 more for the all-weather capability of Subaru's recently redesigned Impreza. The SX4 Crossover also comes loaded with a host of other standard features including remote keyless entry, heated power mirrors, a cargo cover and an auxiliary jack for iPods and other digital media players.
Toyota Prius c Hybrid Engine
With a starting price under $19,000 before destination, Toyota's Prius c offers something that no like-priced competitor can claim: a hybrid engine. Hybrid powertrains are offered in many luxury vehicles and even Toyota's own Prius, which starts just under $25,000, but car shoppers looking for a compact car on a budget haven't been able to swing the technology until now. But that's changed, with the inexpensive new hatchback offering a 73-horsepower hybrid 4-cylinder capable of 53 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway-meaning that eco-friendly buyers can now save both at the dealership and at the pump.
What it means to you: You don't necessarily have to buy a luxury car to get a car with standard high-end equipment.