Modern cars are far more convenient than vehicles from any other era. We have keyless entry, power windows, Bluetooth and the automatic transmission -- all improvements over the technology of years past. But new features are constantly coming out that make life even more convenient. That's especially true of family-friendly SUVs, which continue to offer increasingly long lists of features that will make your life easier. We've listed some of our favorite SUV features below.
Blind Spot Detection
Blind spot detection systems may not seem like much, but they can save you from a costly accident -- and from turning your head to check your blind spot. A small light comes on when your blind spot is occupied, so you don't have to look for yourself. And in case you miss the light and put on your signal anyway, most blind spot detection systems will sound an alarm or flash a light to remind you that a lane change may not be such a good idea. It's a great feature to have on a car, but it's even better for a large vehicle such as an SUV, where it's easy to lose a vehicle in your blind spot.
Ford Hands-Free Lift Gate
Does your tailgate open without pulling a latch? Maybe so, as power tailgates are becoming more common in the automotive world. But Ford's new hands-free lift gate is an entirely new take on the automatic tailgate. Available on the latest Escape, the hands-free lift gate requires drivers to simply swipe their leg under the rear bumper for access. That action pops the tailgate open -- perfect if you're carrying large grocery bags or other items.
Nissan/Infiniti Around View
Few things in a large SUV are more helpful than a backup camera. That's especially true in a Nissan or Infiniti SUV thanks to an optional camera technology called Around View, which is one of our favorite SUV features. Using four cameras mounted around the vehicle, Around View stitches together one image that looks like you're seeing the car from the top down. The result is simple: no more curb rash, no more guessing whether you're in the lines of a parking spot and, most importantly, no more bumping into nearby objects.
Power Folding Third-Row Seat
So you have a third-row seat. That's great for families with lots of children or drivers who spend a lot of time doing carpool duty. But what happens when you want to stow the third row to throw some cargo in the back? Lots of confusing latches and levers? Not so if you have a power-folding third row, which is available on several large SUVs such as the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition. Just push a button and the seat folds into the floor without any effort. Of course, when it's time to get back to the carpool line, push the same button to fold the seat right back into place.
Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
If you've ever backed out of a tight parking spot during a busy weekend afternoon at the mall, you'll know the feeling. You can't see around the cars next to you, so you inch back ever so slowly as cars zoom past looking for the exit. That's where rear cross-traffic alert comes in. Pioneered by Ford but now available from other automakers, the system monitors cross traffic coming from behind you. If it detects a car, a chime sounds to let you know you should stop backing up and wait for it to pass. This is especially useful on an SUV, as larger vehicles often have bigger blind spots -- meaning the system will likely see an oncoming car long before you do.
Although a remote starter isn't expensive for automakers to install, not many vehicles offer the feature. We're not entirely sure why, as we absolutely love it. Yes, it may seem like a gimmick when you see someone start a car as they walk up to it in a parking lot. But it has a practical purpose: It allows you to run the heat or air conditioning for a few minutes before you jump inside. If you've ever lived in a climate with extreme temperatures, you'll know how much of a luxury that could be -- especially if you're loading your kids and their gear into an SUV.
Text Messaging Assistant
Texting while driving is certainly a bad idea -- especially if you're driving an SUV full of kids. Automakers understand that, which is why they've created text messaging assistant systems that can send and receive texts without distracting us from driving. While each system is different, Ford's MyFord Touch may be the most comprehensive, as it can read you a text message and send a reply -- all through voice commands. That means you never have to take your hands off the wheel. General Motors and Nissan are rolling out similar systems that will give Ford a run for its money.